This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. The largest state in Central Europe is the Polish Commonwealth, which includes the historical Second Polish Republic, eastern Germany, and following the Second Polish Soviet War of 1944 - 45, the former Soviet republics of Byelorussia and Ukraine.
Warsaw, Polish Devo, Polish Commonwealth
30 June 1946
"All that we know for certain," said War Minister Stanisław Skwarczyński, "is that Stalin died some time in the last forty-eight hours."
There was a long pause while the other three men tried to digest his statement. It was a lot to digest, too. Stalin had been absolute ruler of the Soviet Union for over fifteen years, during which time he had remade the country in his own image: mendacious, paranoid, ruthless and brutal. They were still discovering new mass graves in the former Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine after a year's effort.
President Jósef Beck finally said, "Do we know what he died of?"
"We don't know," said Skwarczyński, "but we can guess. In April Pravda announced the discovery of a massive conspiracy among the country's doctors to assassinate Stalin. Since then, reportedly, the only man Stalin trusted with his medical care was a geneticist named Lysenko. The fact that Lysenko has disappeared since Stalin's death may be a sign that he was involved somehow."
"What sort of condition is the country's government in?" asked Prime Minister Edward Raczyński.
"Ever since the latest round of purges began last summer," said Skwarczyński, "we've had a difficult time keeping track of who is still in power and who isn't. The Cheka, which is currently called the Ministry of State Security, was last known to be under the control of V. Abakumov, though of course that may have changed by now. The post of Foreign Minister has been held for the last five months by A. Gromyko. The Red Army is currently under the command of General V. Gordov. Pravda seems to have ceased publication for the time being, and all the radio stations have been playing funeral marches nonstop since yesterday morning, though no actual announcement has been made, so we have nothing official to go on. Our listening posts in Karelia and Belarus have picked up coded radio traffic indicating that several military units are converging on Moscow, though the identities of those units are unknown at present. It seems safe to say that some sort of power struggle is going on, though we're not sure who the players are, and of course we have no idea how it will turn out. As soon as we hear anything definite, I'll pass it along."
Beck was thoughtful as he said, "Do any of you have any suggestions about what our official reaction should be?"
First Marshal Heinz Guderian said, "We could offer the Soviets our congratulations and our sincere wish that their late leader stay dead."
"Along with a wooden stake and a hammer to help make sure," added Skwarczyński.
"Seriously, though," said Raczyński, "we can't really have an official reaction until someone in the USSR admits that he's dead."
"I'll tell you what we can do," said Beck. "We can go ahead with our own Victory Day celebration. I think the timing here is just too good to pass up. We may not be able to comment on Stalin directly, but we can remind everybody, including the Bolsheviks, that this is the ninth anniversary of Röhm's death. A man who seized control of his country, murdered his political opponents, terrorized the people he ruled, ruined his country's economy, launched an unprovoked attack on Poland, suffered defeat, and died with his countrymen cursing his name, and with his crimes exposed for all the world to see. That is how Röhm is remembered by posterity, and I doubt whether anyone will fail to draw the appropriate analogy."