Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev[a] (15 April 1894 – 11 September
1971) was a Soviet statesman who led the
Soviet Union during
part of the
Cold War as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of
Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of
Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964.
Khrushchev was responsible
for the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union, for backing the progress
of the early Soviet space program, and for several relatively liberal
reforms in areas of domestic policy. Khrushchev's party colleagues
removed him from power in 1964, replacing him with
Leonid Brezhnev as
First Secretary and
Alexei Kosygin as Premier.
Khrushchev was born in 1894 in the village of Kalinovka, which is
close to the present-day border between
Russia and Ukraine. He was
employed as a metal worker during his youth, and he was a political
commissar during the Russian Civil War. With the help of Lazar
Kaganovich, he worked his way up the Soviet hierarchy. He supported
Joseph Stalin's purges, and approved thousands of arrests. In 1938,
Stalin sent him to govern Ukraine, and he continued the purges there.
During what was known in the
Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic War
(Eastern Front of World War II),
Khrushchev was again a commissar,
serving as an intermediary between Stalin and his generals. Khrushchev
was present at the bloody defense of Stalingrad, a fact he took great
pride in throughout his life. After the war, he returned to Ukraine
before being recalled to
Moscow as one of Stalin's close advisers.
Stalin's death in 1953 triggered a power struggle, from which
Khrushchev ultimately emerged victorious. On 25 February 1956, at the
20th Party Congress, he delivered the "Secret Speech", which denounced
Stalin's purges and ushered in a less repressive era in the Soviet
Union. His domestic policies, aimed at bettering the lives of ordinary
citizens, were often ineffective, especially in agriculture. Hoping
eventually to rely on missiles for national defense, Khrushchev
ordered major cuts in conventional forces. Despite the cuts,
Khrushchev's rule saw the most tense years of the Cold War,
culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Khruschev's popularity was eroded by flaws in his policies. This
emboldened his potential opponents, who quietly rose in strength and
deposed the Premier in October 1964. However, he did not suffer the
deadly fate of previous Soviet power struggles, and was pensioned off
with an apartment in
Moscow and a dacha in the countryside. His
lengthy memoirs were smuggled to the West and published in part in
Khrushchev died in 1971 of a heart attack.
1 Early years
2 Party official
2.2 Kaganovich protégé
2.3 Involvement in purges
3 World War II
3.1 Occupation of Polish territory
3.2 War against Germany
4 Rise to power
4.1 Return to Ukraine
4.2 Stalin's final years
4.3 Struggle for control
5 Leader (1953–1964)
5.1 Domestic policies
5.1.1 Consolidation of power; Secret Speech
5.1.2 Liberalization and the arts
5.1.3 Political reform
5.1.4 Agricultural policy
5.3 Foreign and defense policies
5.3.1 United States and allies
22.214.171.124 Early relations and U.S. visit (1957–1960)
126.96.36.199 U-2 and Berlin crisis (1960–1961)
188.8.131.52 Establishing relations with Cuba
Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis and the test ban treaty (1962–1964)
5.3.2 Eastern Europe
7 Life in retirement
10 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Khrushchev was born on 15 April 1894,[b] in Kalinovka, a village
in what is now Russia's Kursk Oblast, near the present Ukrainian
border. His parents,
Sergei Khrushchev and Ksenia Khrushcheva, were
poor peasants of Russian origin, and had a daughter two years
Nikita's junior, Irina.
Sergei Khrushchev was employed in a number
of positions in the
Donbas area of far eastern Ukraine, working as a
railwayman, as a miner, and laboring in a brick factory. Wages were
much higher in the
Donbas than in the Kursk region, and Sergei
Khrushchev generally left his family in Kalinovka, returning there
when he had enough money.
Khrushchev and his first wife Euphrasinia (Yefrosinia) in 1916
Kalinovka was a peasant village; Khrushchev's teacher, Lydia
Shevchenko, later stated that she had never seen a village as poor as
Kalinovka had been. Nikita worked as a herdsboy from an early age.
He was schooled for a total of four years, part in the village
parochial school and part under Shevchenko's tutelage in Kalinovka's
state school. According to
Khrushchev in his memoirs, Shevchenko was a
freethinker who upset the villagers by not attending church, and when
her brother visited, he gave the boy books which had been banned by
the Imperial Government. She urged Nikita to seek further
education, but family finances did not permit this.
Sergei Khrushchev moved to the
Donbas city of Yuzovka (now
Donetsk, Ukraine); fourteen-year-old Nikita followed later that year,
while Ksenia Khrushcheva and her daughter came after. Yuzovka,
which was renamed Stalino in 1924 and
Donetsk in 1961, was at the
heart of one of the most industrialized areas of the Russian
Empire. After the boy worked briefly in other fields, Khrushchev's
parents found him a place as a metal fitter's apprentice. Upon
completing that apprenticeship, the teenage
Khrushchev was hired by a
factory. He lost that job when he collected money for the families
of the victims of the Lena Goldfields Massacre, and was hired to mend
underground equipment by a mine in nearby Rutchenkovo, where his
father was the union organizer, and he helped distribute copies and
organize public readings of Pravda. He later stated that he
considered emigrating to the United States for better wages, but did
not do so.
World War I
World War I broke out in 1914,
Khrushchev was exempt from
conscription because he was a skilled metal worker. He was employed by
a workshop that serviced ten mines, and he was involved in several
strikes that demanded higher pay, better working conditions, and an
end to the war. In 1914, he married Yefrosinia Pisareva, daughter
of the elevator operator at the Rutchenkovo mine. In 1915, they had a
daughter, Yulia, and in 1917, a son, Leonid.
Part One of Booknotes interview with
William Taubman on Khrushchev:
The Man and His Era, 20 April 2003, C-SPAN
Part Two of Booknotes interview with Taubman, 27 April 2003, C-SPAN
After the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917, the new Russian
Provisional Government in
Petrograd had little influence over Ukraine.
Khrushchev was elected to the worker's council (or soviet) in
Rutchenkovo, and in May he became its chairman. He did not join
the Bolsheviks until 1918, a year in which the Russian Civil War,
between the Bolsheviks and a coalition of opponents known as the White
Army, began in earnest. His biographer, William Taubman, suggests that
Khrushchev's delay in affiliating himself with the Bolsheviks was
because he felt closer to the Mensheviks who prioritized economic
progress, whereas the Bolsheviks sought political power. In his
Khrushchev indicated that he waited because there were many
groups, and it was difficult to keep them all straight.
In March 1918, as the
Bolshevik government concluded a separate peace
with the Central Powers, the Germans occupied the
Khrushchev fled to Kalinovka. In late 1918 or early 1919 he was
mobilized into the
Red Army as a political commissar. The post of
political commissar had recently been introduced as the Bolsheviks
came to rely less on worker activists and more on military recruits;
its functions included indoctrination of recruits in the tenets of
Bolshevism, and promoting troop morale and battle readiness.
Beginning as commissar to a construction platoon,
Khrushchev rose to
become commissar to a construction battalion and was sent from the
front for a two-month political course. The young commissar came under
fire many times, though many of the war stories he would tell in
later life dealt more with his (and his troops') cultural awkwardness,
rather than with combat. In 1921, the civil war ended, and
Khrushchev was demobilized and assigned as commissar to a labor
brigade in the Donbas, where he and his men lived in poor
The wars had caused widespread devastation and famine, and one of the
victims of the hunger and disease was Khrushchev's wife, Yefrosinia,
who died of typhus in Kalinovka while
Khrushchev was in the army. The
commissar returned for the funeral and, loyal to his Bolshevik
principles, refused to allow his wife's coffin to enter the local
church. With the only way into the churchyard through the church, he
had the coffin lifted and passed over the fence into the burial
ground, shocking the village.
Through the intervention of a friend,
Khrushchev was assigned in 1921
as assistant director for political affairs for the Rutchenkovo mine
Donbas region, where he had previously worked. There were
as yet few Bolsheviks in the area. At that time, the movement was
split by Lenin's New Economic Policy, which allowed for some measure
of private enterprise and was seen as an ideological retreat by some
Bolsheviks. While Khrushchev's responsibility lay in political
affairs, he involved himself in the practicalities of resuming full
production at the mine after the chaos of the war years. He helped
restart the machines (key parts and papers had been removed by the
pre-Soviet mineowners) and he wore his old mine outfit for inspection
Khrushchev's third wife was Ukrainian-born Nina Petrovna Kukharchuk,
whom he met in 1922
Khrushchev was highly successful at the Rutchenkovo mine, and in
mid-1922 he was offered the directorship of the nearby Pastukhov mine.
However, he refused the offer, seeking to be assigned to the newly
established technical college (tekhnikum) in Yuzovka, though his
superiors were reluctant to let him go. As he had only four years of
formal schooling, he applied to the training program (rabfak) attached
to the tekhnikum that was designed to bring undereducated students to
high-school level, a prerequisite for entry into the tekhnikum.
While enrolled in the rabfak,
Khrushchev continued his work at the
Rutchenkovo mine. One of his teachers later described him as a
poor student. He was more successful in advancing in the Communist
Party; soon after his admission to the rabfak in August 1922, he was
appointed party secretary of the entire tekhnikum, and became a member
of the bureau—the governing council—of the party committee for the
town of Yuzovka (renamed Stalino in 1924). He briefly joined
Leon Trotsky against those of
Joseph Stalin over the
question of party democracy. All of these activities left him with
little time for his schoolwork, and while he later claimed to have
finished his rabfak studies, it is unclear whether this was true.
Khrushchev met and married his second wife, Marusia, whose
maiden name is unknown. The two soon separated, though Khrushchev
helped Marusia in later years, especially when Marusia's daughter by a
previous relationship suffered a fatal illness. Soon after the
Khrushchev met Nina Petrovna Kukharchuk, a
well-educated Party organizer and daughter of well-to-do Ukrainian
peasants. The two lived together as husband and wife for the rest
of Khrushchev's life, though they did not register their marriage
until 1965. They had three children together: daughter Rada was born
in 1929, son Sergei in 1935 and daughter Elena in 1937.
Khrushchev was appointed Party secretary of the
Petrovo-Marinsky raikom, or district, near Stalino. The raikom was
about 400 square miles (1,000 km2) in area, and
constantly on the move throughout his domain, taking an interest in
even minor matters. In late 1925,
Khrushchev was elected a
non-voting delegate to the 14th Congress of the USSR Communist Party
Genrikh Yagoda (middle) inspecting the construction of the
Moscow-Volga canal, 1935.
Khrushchev is left behind Yagoda.
Lazar Kaganovich as early as 1917. In 1925, Kaganovich
became Party head in Ukraine and Khrushchev, falling under his
patronage, was rapidly promoted. He was appointed second in
command of the Stalino party apparatus in late 1926. Within nine
months his superior, Konstantin Moiseyenko, was ousted, which,
according to Taubman, was due to Khrushchev's instigation.
Khrushchev to Kharkov, then the capital of
Ukraine, as head of the Organizational Department of the Ukrainian
Party's Central Committee. In 1928,
Khrushchev was transferred to
Kiev, where he served as second-in-command of the Party organization
Khrushchev again sought to further his education, following
Kaganovich (now in the
Kremlin as a close associate of Stalin) to
Moscow and enrolling in the Stalin Industrial Academy. Khrushchev
never completed his studies there, but his career in the Party
flourished. When the school's Party cell elected a number of
rightists to an upcoming district Party conference, the cell was
attacked in Pravda.
Khrushchev emerged victorious in the ensuing
power struggle, becoming Party secretary of the school, arranging for
the delegates to be withdrawn, and afterward purging the cell of the
Khrushchev rose rapidly through the Party ranks, first
becoming Party leader for the Bauman district, site of the Academy,
before taking the same position in the Krasnopresnensky district, the
capital's largest and most important. By 1932,
Khrushchev had become
second in command, behind Kaganovich, of the
Moscow city Party
organization, and in 1934, he became Party leader for the city and
a member of the Party's Central Committee.
his rapid rise to his acquaintance with fellow Academy student
Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's wife. In his memoirs,
that Alliluyeva spoke well of him to her husband. His biographer,
William Tompson, downplays the possibility, stating that Khrushchev
was too low in the Party hierarchy to enjoy Stalin's patronage, and
that if influence was brought to bear on Khrushchev's career at this
stage, it was by Kaganovich.
While head of the
Moscow city organization,
construction of the
Moscow Metro, a highly expensive undertaking, with
Kaganovich in overall charge. Faced with an already-announced opening
date of 7 November 1934,
Khrushchev took considerable risks in the
construction and spent much of his time down in the tunnels. When the
inevitable accidents did occur, they were depicted as heroic
sacrifices in a great cause. The Metro did not open until 1 May 1935,
Khrushchev received the
Order of Lenin
Order of Lenin for his role in its
construction. Later that year, he was selected as First Secretary
Moscow Regional Committee which was responsible for Moscow
oblast, a province with a population of 11 million.
Involvement in purges
Nestor Lakoba, Khrushchev,
Lavrenti Beria and
Aghasi Khanjian during
opening of the
Moscow Metro in 1936.
Stalin's office records show meetings at which
Khrushchev was present
as early as 1932. The two increasingly built a good relationship.
Khrushchev greatly admired the dictator and treasured informal
meetings with him and invitations to Stalin's dacha, while Stalin felt
warm affection for his young subordinate.
Beginning in 1934, Stalin began a campaign of political repression
known as the Great Purge, during which millions of people were
executed or sent to the Gulag. Central to this campaign were the
Moscow Trials, a series of show trials of the purged top leaders of
the party and the military. In 1936, as the trials proceeded,
Khrushchev expressed his vehement support:
Everyone who rejoices in the successes achieved in our country, the
victories of our party led by the great Stalin, will find only one
word suitable for the mercenary, fascist dogs of the
Trotskyite-Zinovievite gang. That word is execution.
Khrushchev assisted in the purge of many friends and colleagues in
Moscow oblast. Of 38 top Party officials in
Moscow city and
province, 35 were killed—the three survivors were transferred to
other parts of the USSR. Of the 146 Party secretaries of
cities and districts outside
Moscow city in the province, only 10
survived the purges. In his memoirs,
Khrushchev noted that almost
everyone who worked with him was arrested. By Party protocol,
Khrushchev was required to approve these arrests, and did little or
nothing to save his friends and colleagues.
Party leaders were given numerical quotas of "enemies" to be turned in
and arrested. In June 1937, the Politburo set a quota of
35,000 enemies to be arrested in
Moscow province; 5,000 of these
were to be executed. In reply,
Khrushchev asked that
2,000 wealthy peasants, or kulaks living in
Moscow be killed in
part fulfillment of the quota. In any event, only two weeks after
receiving the Politburo order,
Khrushchev was able to report to Stalin
that 41,305 "criminal and kulak elements" had been arrested. Of
the arrestees, according to Khrushchev, 8,500 deserved execution.
Khrushchev had no reason to think himself immune from the purges, and
in 1937, confessed his own 1923 dalliance with Trotskyism to
Kaganovich, who, according to Khrushchev, "blanched" (for his
protégé's sins could affect his own standing) and advised him to
tell Stalin. The dictator took the confession in his stride, and,
after initially advising
Khrushchev to keep it quiet, suggested that
Khrushchev tell his tale to the
Moscow party conference. Khrushchev
did so, to applause, and was immediately reelected to his post.
Khrushchev related in his memoirs that he was also denounced by an
arrested colleague. Stalin told
Khrushchev of the accusation
personally, looking him in the eye and awaiting his response.
Khrushchev speculated in his memoirs that had Stalin doubted his
reaction, he would have been categorized as an enemy of the people
then and there. Nonetheless,
Khrushchev became a candidate member
of the Politburo on 14 January 1938 and a full member in March
In late 1937, Stalin appointed
Khrushchev as head of the Communist
Party in Ukraine, and
Khrushchev duly left
Moscow for Kiev, again the
Ukrainian capital, in January 1938.
Ukraine had been the site of
extensive purges, with the murdered including professors in Stalino
Khrushchev greatly respected. The high ranks of the Party were
not immune; the Central Committee of
Ukraine was so devastated that it
could not convene a quorum. After Khrushchev's arrival, the pace of
arrests accelerated. All but one member of the Ukrainian Politburo
Organizational Bureau and Secretariat were arrested. Almost all
government officials and
Red Army commanders were replaced. During
the first few months after Khrushchev's arrival, almost everyone
arrested received the death penalty.
William Taubman suggested that because
Khrushchev was again
unsuccessfully denounced while in Kiev, he must have known that some
of the denunciations were not true and that innocent people were
suffering. In 1939,
Khrushchev addressed the Fourteenth Ukrainian
Party Congress, saying "Comrades, we must unmask and relentlessly
destroy all enemies of the people. But we must not allow a single
Bolshevik to be harmed. We must conduct a struggle against
World War II
Occupation of Polish territory
When Soviet troops, pursuant to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, invaded
the eastern portion of Poland on 17 September 1939, Khrushchev
accompanied the troops at Stalin's direction. A large number of ethnic
Ukrainians lived in the invaded area, much of which today forms the
western portion of Ukraine. Many inhabitants therefore initially
welcomed the invasion, though they hoped that they would eventually
become independent. Khrushchev's role was to ensure that the occupied
areas voted for union with the USSR. Through a combination of
propaganda, deception as to what was being voted for, and outright
fraud, the Soviets ensured that their new territories would elect
assemblies which would unanimously petition for union with the USSR.
When the new assemblies did so, their petitions were granted by the
USSR Supreme Soviet, and Western
Ukraine became a part of the
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) on 1 November 1939.
Clumsy actions by the Soviets, such as staffing Western Ukrainian
organizations with Eastern Ukrainians, and giving confiscated land to
collective farms (kolkhozes) rather than to peasants, soon alienated
Western Ukrainians, damaging Khrushchev's efforts to achieve
War against Germany
Nazi Germany invaded the USSR, in June 1941,
Khrushchev was still
at his post in Kiev. Stalin appointed him a political commissar,
Khrushchev served on a number of fronts as an intermediary between
the local military commanders and the political rulers in Moscow.
Khrushchev to keep commanders on a tight leash, while the
commanders sought to have him influence Stalin. As the Germans
Khrushchev worked with the military in an attempt to defend
and save Kiev. Handicapped by orders from Stalin that under no
circumstances should the city be abandoned, the
Red Army was soon
encircled by the Germans. While the Germans stated they took
655,000 prisoners, according to the Soviets, 150,541 men out
of 677,085 escaped the trap. Primary sources differ on
Khrushchev's involvement at this point. According to Marshal Georgi
Zhukov, writing some years after
Khrushchev fired and disgraced him in
Khrushchev persuaded Stalin not to evacuate troops from
Khrushchev noted in his memoirs that he and Marshal
Semyon Budyonny proposed redeploying Soviet forces to avoid the
encirclement until Marshal
Semyon Timoshenko arrived from
orders for the troops to hold their positions. Early Khrushchev
biographer Mark Frankland suggested that Khrushchev's faith in his
leader was first shaken by the Red Army's setbacks. Khrushchev
stated in his memoirs:
But let me return to the enemy breakthrough in the
Kiev area, the
encirclement of our group, and the destruction of the 37th Army.
Later, the Fifth Army also perished ... All of this was
senseless, and from the military point of view, a display of
ignorance, incompetence, and illiteracy. ... There you have the
result of not taking a step backward. We were unable to save these
troops because we didn't withdraw them, and as a result we simply lost
them. ... And yet it was possible to allow this not to
Khrushchev was on the Southwest Front, and he and Timoshenko
proposed a massive counteroffensive in the
Kharkov area. Stalin
approved only part of the plan, but 640,000
Red Army soldiers
would still become involved in the offensive. The Germans, however,
had deduced that the Soviets were likely to attack at Kharkov, and set
a trap. Beginning on 12 May 1942, the Soviet offensive initially
appeared successful, but within five days the Germans had driven deep
into the Soviet flanks, and the
Red Army troops were in danger of
being cut off. Stalin refused to halt the offensive, and the Red Army
divisions were soon encircled by the Germans. The USSR lost about
267,000 soldiers, including more than 200,000 men captured,
and Stalin demoted Timoshenko and recalled
Khrushchev to Moscow. While
Stalin hinted at arresting and executing Khrushchev, he allowed the
commissar to return to the front by sending him to Stalingrad.
Khrushchev (left) on the
Khrushchev reached the
Stalingrad Front in August 1942, soon after the
start of the battle for the city. His role in the Stalingrad
defense was not major—General Vasily Chuikov, who led the city's
Khrushchev only briefly in a memoir published while
Khrushchev was premier—but to the end of his life, he was proud of
his role. Though he visited Stalin in
Moscow on occasion, he
Stalingrad for much of the battle, and was nearly killed
at least once. He proposed a counterattack, only to find that Zhukov
and other generals had already planned Operation Uranus, a plan to
break out from Soviet positions and encircle and destroy the Germans;
it was being kept secret. Before Uranus was launched,
much time checking on troop readiness and morale, interrogating Nazi
prisoners, and recruiting some for propaganda purposes.
Soon after Stalingrad,
Khrushchev met with personal tragedy, as his
son Leonid, a fighter pilot, was apparently shot down and killed in
action on 11 March 1943. The circumstances of Leonid's death remain
obscure and controversial, as none of his fellow fliers stated
that they witnessed him being shot down, nor was his plane found or
body recovered. As a result, Leonid's fate has been the subject of
considerable speculation. One theory has Leonid surviving the crash
and collaborating with the Germans, and when he was recaptured by the
Soviets, Stalin ordering him shot despite Nikita
for his life. This supposed killing is used to explain why
Khrushchev later denounced Stalin in the Secret Speech. While
there is no supporting evidence for this account in Soviet files, some
historians allege that Leonid Khrushchev's file was tampered with
after the war. In later years, Leonid Khrushchev's wingmate stated
that he saw his plane disintegrate, but did not report it. Khrushchev
biographer Taubman speculates that this omission was most likely to
avoid the possibility of being seen as complicit in the death of the
son of a Politburo member. In mid-1943, Leonid's wife, Liuba
Khrushcheva, was arrested on accusations of spying and sentenced to
five years in a labor camp, and her son (by another relationship),
Tolya, was placed in a series of orphanages. Leonid's daughter, Yulia,
was raised by Nikita
Khrushchev and his wife.
After Uranus forced the Germans into retreat,
Khrushchev served in
other fronts of the war. He was attached to Soviet troops at the
Battle of Kursk, in July 1943, which turned back the last major German
offensive on Soviet soil.
Khrushchev related that he interrogated
an SS defector, learning that the Germans intended an attack—a claim
dismissed by his biographer Taubman as "almost certainly
exaggerated". He accompanied Soviet troops as they took
November 1943, entering the shattered city as Soviet forces drove out
German troops. As Soviet forces met with greater success, driving
the Nazis westwards towards Germany, Nikita
increasingly involved in reconstruction work in Ukraine. He was
appointed Premier of the
Ukrainian SSR in addition to his earlier
party post, one of the rare instances in which the Ukrainian party and
civil leader posts were held by one person.
Khrushchev biographer William Tompson, it is difficult to
assess Khrushchev's war record, since he most often acted as part of a
military council, and it is not possible to know the extent to which
he influenced decisions, rather than signing off on the orders of
military officers. However, Tompson points to the fact that the few
Khrushchev in military memoirs published during the
Brezhnev era were generally favorable, at a time when it was "barely
possible to mention
Khrushchev in print in any context". Tompson
suggests that these favorable mentions indicate that military officers
Khrushchev in high regard.
Rise to power
Return to Ukraine
Almost all of
Ukraine had been occupied by the Germans, and Khrushchev
returned to his domain in late 1943 to find devastation. Ukraine's
industry had been destroyed, and agriculture faced critical shortages.
Even though millions of Ukrainians had been taken to Germany as
workers or prisoners of war, there was insufficient housing for those
who remained. One out of every six Ukrainians was killed in World
Khrushchev sought to reconstruct Ukraine, but also desired to complete
the interrupted work of imposing the Soviet system on it, though he
hoped that the purges of the 1930s would not recur. As
recovered militarily, conscription was imposed, and 750,000 men
aged between nineteen and fifty were given minimal military training
and sent to join the Red Army. Other Ukrainians joined partisan
forces, seeking an independent Ukraine.
Khrushchev rushed from
district to district through Ukraine, urging the depleted labor force
to greater efforts. He made a short visit to his birthplace of
Kalinovka, finding a starving population, with only a third of the men
who had joined the
Red Army having returned.
Khrushchev did what he
could to assist his hometown. Despite Khrushchev's efforts, in
1945, Ukrainian industry was at only a quarter of pre-war levels, and
the harvest actually dropped from that of 1944, when the entire
Ukraine had not yet been retaken.
In an effort to increase agricultural production, the kolkhozes
(collective farms) were empowered to expel residents who were not
pulling their weight.
Kolkhoz leaders used this as an excuse to expel
their personal enemies, invalids, and the elderly, and nearly
12,000 people were sent to the eastern parts of the Soviet Union.
Khrushchev viewed this policy as very effective, and recommended its
adoption elsewhere to Stalin. He also worked to impose
collectivization on Western Ukraine. While
Khrushchev hoped to
accomplish this by 1947, lack of resources and armed resistance by
partisans slowed the process. The partisans, many of whom fought
Ukrainian Insurgent Army
Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA), were gradually defeated, as
Soviet police and military reported killing 110,825 "bandits" and
capturing a quarter million more between 1944 and 1946. About
600,000 Western Ukrainians were arrested between 1944 and 1952,
with one-third executed and the remainder imprisoned or exiled to the
The war years of 1944 and 1945 had seen poor harvests, and 1946 saw
intense drought strike
Ukraine and Western Russia. Despite this,
collective and state farms were required to turn over 52% of the
harvest to the government. The
Soviet government sought to collect
as much grain as possible in order to supply communist allies in
Khrushchev set the quotas at a high level, leading
Stalin to expect an unrealistically large quantity of grain from
Ukraine. Food was rationed—but non-agricultural rural workers
throughout the USSR were given no ration cards. The inevitable
starvation was largely confined to remote rural regions, and was
little noticed outside the USSR. Khrushchev, realizing the
desperate situation in late 1946, repeatedly appealed to Stalin for
aid, to be met with anger and resistance on the part of the leader.
When letters to Stalin had no effect,
Khrushchev flew to
made his case in person. Stalin finally gave
Ukraine limited food aid,
and money to set up free soup kitchens. However, Khrushchev's
political standing had been damaged, and in February 1947, Stalin
Lazar Kaganovich be sent to
Ukraine to "help"
Khrushchev. The following month, the Ukrainian Central Committee
Khrushchev as party leader in favor of Kaganovich, while
retaining him as premier.
Soon after Kaganovich arrived in Kiev,
Khrushchev fell ill, and was
barely seen until September 1947. In his memoirs,
he had pneumonia; some biographers have theorized that Khrushchev's
illness was entirely political, out of fear that his loss of position
was the first step towards downfall and demise. However,
Khrushchev's children remembered their father as having been seriously
Khrushchev was able to get out of bed, he and his family
took their first vacation since before the war, to a beachfront resort
in Latvia. Khrushchev, though, soon broke the beach routine with
duck-hunting trips, and a visit to newly Soviet Kaliningrad, where he
toured factories and quarries. By the end of 1947, Kaganovich had
been recalled to
Moscow and the recovered
Khrushchev had been restored
to the First Secretaryship. He then resigned the Ukrainian premiership
in favor of Demyan Korotchenko, Khrushchev's protégé.
Khrushchev's final years in
Ukraine were generally peaceful, with
industry recovering, Soviet forces overcoming the partisans, and
1947 and 1948 seeing better-than-expected harvests.
Collectivization advanced in Western Ukraine, and Khrushchev
implemented more policies that encouraged collectivization and
discouraged private farms. These sometimes backfired, however: a tax
on private livestock holdings led to peasants slaughtering their
stock. With the idea of eliminating differences in attitude
between town and countryside and transforming the peasantry into a
Khrushchev conceived the idea of the
"agro-town". Rather than agricultural workers living in villages
close to farms, they would live further away in larger towns which
would offer municipal services such as utilities and libraries, which
were not present in villages. He completed only one such town before
his December 1949 return to Moscow; he dedicated it to Stalin as a
70th birthday present.
In his memoirs,
Khrushchev spoke highly of Ukraine, where he governed
for over a decade:
I'll say that the Ukrainian people treated me well. I recall warmly
the years I spent there. This was a period full of responsibilities,
but pleasant because it brought satisfaction ... But far be it
from me to inflate my significance. The entire Ukrainian people was
exerting great efforts ... I attribute Ukraine's successes to the
Ukrainian people as a whole. I won't elaborate further on this theme,
but in principle it's very easy to demonstrate. I'm Russian myself,
and I don't want to offend the Russians.
Stalin's final years
Khrushchev attributed his recall to
Moscow to mental disorder on the
part of Stalin, who feared conspiracies in
Moscow matching those which
the ruler believed to have occurred in the fabricated Leningrad case,
in which many of that city's Party officials had been falsely accused
Khrushchev again served as head of the Party in Moscow
city and province.
Khrushchev biographer Taubman suggests that Stalin
most likely recalled
Moscow to balance the influence of
Georgy Malenkov and security chief Lavrentiy Beria, who were widely
seen as Stalin's heirs.
At this time, the aging leader rarely called Politburo meetings.
Instead, much of the high-level work of government took place at
dinners hosted by Stalin. These sessions, which Beria, Malenkov,
Khrushchev, Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov, and
Nikolai Bulganin, who comprised Stalin's inner circle, attended, began
with showings of cowboy movies favored by Stalin. Stolen from the
West, they lacked subtitles. The dictator had the meal served at
around 1 a.m., and insisted that his subordinates stay with him
and drink until dawn. On one occasion, Stalin had Khrushchev, then
aged almost sixty, dance a traditional Ukrainian dance.
so, later stating, "When Stalin says dance, a wise man dances."
Khrushchev attempted to nap at lunch so that he would not fall asleep
in Stalin's presence; he noted in his memoirs, "Things went badly for
those who dozed off at Stalin's table."
Khrushchev began a large-scale housing program for Moscow. A
large part of the housing was in the form of five- or six-story
apartment buildings, which became ubiquitous throughout the Soviet
Union; many remain in use today.
Khrushchev had prefabricated
reinforced concrete used, greatly speeding up construction. These
structures were completed at triple the construction rate of Moscow
housing from 1946–1950, lacked elevators or balconies, and were
Khrushchyovka by the public, but because of their shoddy
workmanship sometimes disparagingly called Khrushchoba as a
portmanteau combining Khrushchev's name with the Russian word
trushchoba, meaning "slum". In 1995, almost
60,000,000 residents of the former
Soviet Union still lived in
In his new positions,
Khrushchev continued his kolkhoz consolidation
scheme, which decreased the number of collective farms in Moscow
province by about 70%. This resulted in farms that were too large for
one chairman to manage effectively.
Khrushchev also sought to
implement his agro-town proposal, but when his lengthy speech on the
subject was published in
Pravda in March 1951, Stalin disapproved of
it. The periodical quickly published a note stating that Khrushchev's
speech was merely a proposal, not policy. In April, the Politburo
disavowed the agro-town proposal.
Khrushchev feared that Stalin would
remove him from office, but the leader mocked Khrushchev, then allowed
the episode to pass.
On 1 March 1953, Stalin suffered a massive stroke, apparently on
rising after sleep. Stalin had left orders not to be disturbed, and it
was twelve hours until his condition was discovered. Even as terrified
doctors attempted treatment,
Khrushchev and his colleagues engaged in
intense discussion as to the new government. On 5 March, Stalin died.
Khrushchev and other high officials stood weeping by Stalin's
bedside, Beria raced from the room, shouting for his car.
Khrushchev reflected on Stalin in his memoirs:
Stalin called everyone who didn't agree with him an "enemy of the
people." He said that they wanted to restore the old order, and for
this purpose, "the enemies of the people" had linked up with the
forces of reaction internationally. As a result, several hundred
thousand honest people perished. Everyone lived in fear in those days.
Everyone expected that at any moment there would be a knock on the
door in the middle of the night and that knock on the door would prove
fatal ... [P]eople not to Stalin's liking were annihilated,
honest party members, irreproachable people, loyal and hard workers
for our cause who had gone through the school of revolutionary
struggle under Lenin's leadership. This was utter and complete
arbitrariness. And now is all this to be forgiven and forgotten?
Struggle for control
On 6 March 1953, Stalin's death was announced, as was the new
leadership. Malenkov was the new Chairman of the Council of Ministers,
with Beria (who consolidated his hold over the security agencies),
Kaganovich, Bulganin, and former Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov
as first vice-chairmen. Stalin's funeral was conducted on 9 March.
Those members of the Presidium of the Central Committee who had been
recently promoted by Stalin were demoted.
Khrushchev was relieved of
his duties as Party head for
Moscow to concentrate on unspecified
duties in the Party's Central Committee. The New York Times
listed Malenkov and Beria first and second among the ten-man
However, on 14 March, Malenkov resigned from the secretariat of the
Central Committee. This came due to concerns that he was
acquiring too much power. The major beneficiary was Khrushchev. His
name appeared atop a revised list of secretaries—indicating that he
was now in charge of the party. The Central Committee formally
elected him First Secretary in September.
Even before Stalin had been laid to rest, Beria launched a lengthy
series of reforms which rivalled those of
Khrushchev during his period
of power and even those of
Mikhail Gorbachev a third of a century
later. Beria's proposals were designed to denigrate Stalin and
pass the blame for Beria's own crimes to the late leader. One
proposal, which was adopted, was an amnesty which eventually led to
the freeing of over a million prisoners. Another, which was not
adopted, was to release
East Germany into a united, neutral Germany in
exchange for compensation from the West—a proposal considered
Khrushchev to be anti-communist.
Khrushchev allied with
Malenkov to block many of Beria's proposals, while the two slowly
picked up support from other Presidium members. Their campaign against
Beria was aided by fears that Beria was planning a military coup,
and, according to
Khrushchev in his memoirs, by the conviction that
"Beria is getting his knives ready for us."
On 26 June 1953 Beria was arrested at a Presidium meeting, following
extensive military preparations by
Khrushchev and his allies. Beria
was tried in secret, and executed in December 1953 with five of his
close associates. The execution of Beria proved to be the last time
the loser of a top-level Soviet power struggle paid with his
The power struggle in the Presidium was not resolved by the
elimination of Beria. Malenkov's power was in the central state
apparatus, which he sought to extend through reorganizing the
government, giving it additional power at the expense of the Party. He
also sought public support by lowering retail prices and lowering the
level of bond sales to citizens, which had long been effectively
obligatory. Khrushchev, on the other hand, with his power base in the
Party, sought to both strengthen the Party and his position within it.
While, under the Soviet system, the Party was to be preeminent, it had
been greatly drained of power by Stalin, who had given much of that
power to himself and to the Politburo (later, to the Presidium).
Khrushchev saw that with the Presidium in conflict, the Party and its
Central Committee might again become powerful. Khrushchev
carefully cultivated high Party officials, and was able to appoint
supporters as local Party bosses, who then took seats on the Central
Khrushchev presented himself as a down-to-earth activist prepared to
take up any challenge, contrasting with Malenkov who, though
sophisticated, came across as colorless.
Khrushchev arranged for
Kremlin grounds to be opened to the public, an act with "great
public resonance". While both Malenkov and
reforms to agriculture, Khrushchev's proposals were broader, and
included the Virgin Lands Campaign, under which hundreds of thousands
of young volunteers would settle and farm areas of Western
Northern Kazakhstan. While the scheme eventually became a tremendous
disaster for Soviet agriculture, it was initially
successful. In addition,
Khrushchev possessed incriminating
information on Malenkov, taken from Beria's secret files. As
Soviet prosecutors investigated the atrocities of Stalin's last years,
including the Leningrad case, they came across evidence of Malenkov's
involvement. Beginning in February 1954,
Malenkov in the seat of honor at Presidium meetings; in June, Malenkov
ceased to head the list of Presidium members, which was thereafter
organized in alphabetical order. Khrushchev's influence continued to
increase, winning the allegiance of local party heads, and with his
nominee heading the KGB.
At a Central Committee meeting in January 1955, Malenkov was accused
of involvement in atrocities, and the committee passed a resolution
accusing him of involvement in the Leningrad case, and of facilitating
Beria's climb to power. At a meeting of the mostly ceremonial Supreme
Soviet the following month, Malenkov was demoted in favor of Bulganin,
to the surprise of Western observers. Malenkov remained in the
Presidium as Minister of Electric Power Stations. According to
Khrushchev biographer William Tompson, "Khrushchev's position as first
among the members of the collective leadership was now beyond any
Consolidation of power; Secret Speech
Main article: Secret Speech
After the demotion of Malenkov,
Khrushchev and Molotov initially
worked together well, and the longtime foreign minister even proposed
that Khrushchev, not Bulganin, replace Malenkov as premier.
Khrushchev and Molotov increasingly differed on policy.
Molotov opposed the Virgin Lands policy, instead proposing heavy
investment to increase yields in developed agricultural areas, which
Khrushchev felt was not feasible due to a lack of resources and a lack
of a sophisticated farm labor force. The two differed on foreign
policy as well; soon after
Khrushchev took power, he sought a peace
treaty with Austria, which would allow Soviet troops then in
occupation of part of the country to leave. Molotov was resistant, but
Khrushchev arranged for an Austrian delegation to come to
negotiate the treaty. Although
Khrushchev and other Presidium
members attacked Molotov at a Central Committee meeting in mid-1955,
accusing him of conducting a foreign policy which turned the world
against the USSR, Molotov remained in his position.
By the end of 1955, thousands of political prisoners had returned
home, and told their experiences of the gulag labor camps.
Continuing investigation into the abuses brought home the full breadth
of Stalin's crimes to his successors.
Khrushchev believed that once
the stain of Stalinism was removed, the Party would inspire loyalty
among the people. Beginning in October 1955,
Khrushchev fought to
tell the delegates to the upcoming 20th Party Congress about Stalin's
crimes. Some of his colleagues, including Molotov and Malenkov,
opposed the disclosure, and managed to persuade him to make his
remarks in a closed session.
The 20th Party Congress opened on 14 February 1956. In his opening
words in his initial address,
Khrushchev denigrated Stalin by asking
delegates to rise in honor of the communist leaders who had died since
the last congress, whom he named, equating Stalin with Klement
Gottwald and the little-known Kyuichi Tokuda. In the early
morning hours of 25 February,
Khrushchev delivered what became known
as the "Secret Speech" to a closed session of the Congress limited to
Soviet delegates. In four hours, he demolished Stalin's reputation.
Khrushchev noted in his memoirs that the "congress listened to me in
silence. As the saying goes, you could have heard a pin drop. It was
all so sudden and unexpected."
Khrushchev told the delegates:
It is here that Stalin showed in a whole series of cases his
intolerance, his brutality, and his abuse of power ... he often
chose the path of repression and physical annihilation, not only
against actual enemies, but also against individuals who had not
committed any crimes against the party or the Soviet Government.
The Secret Speech, while it did not fundamentally change Soviet
society, had wide-ranging effects. The speech was a factor in unrest
in Poland and revolution in Hungary later in 1956, and Stalin
defenders led four days of rioting in his native Georgia in June,
Khrushchev to resign and Molotov to take over. In
meetings where the
Secret Speech was read, communists would make even
more severe condemnations of Stalin (and of Khrushchev), and even call
for multi-party elections. However, Stalin was not publicly denounced,
and his portrait remained widespread through the USSR, from airports
Kremlin office. Mikhail Gorbachev, then a Komsomol
official, recalled that though young and well-educated Soviets in his
district were excited by the speech, many others decried it, either
defending Stalin or seeing little point in digging up the past.
Forty years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev
Khrushchev for his courage in taking a huge political risk
and showing himself to be "a moral man after all".
The term "Secret Speech" proved to be an utter misnomer. While the
attendees at the Speech were all Soviet, Eastern European delegates
were allowed to hear it the following night, read slowly to allow them
to take notes. By 5 March, copies were being mailed throughout the
Soviet Union, marked "not for the press" rather than "top secret". An
official translation appeared within a month in Poland; the Poles
printed 12,000 extra copies, one of which soon reached the West.
Khrushchev's son, Sergei, later wrote, "[C]learly, Father tried to
ensure it would reach as many ears as possible. It was soon read at
Komsomol meetings; that meant another eighteen million listeners. If
you include their relatives, friends, and acquaintances, you could say
that the entire country became familiar with the speech ...
Spring had barely begun when the speech began circulating around the
Khrushchev minority in the Presidium was augmented by those
opposed to Khrushchev's proposals to decentralize authority over
industry, which struck at the heart of Malenkov's power base. During
the first half of 1957, Malenkov, Molotov, and Kaganovich worked to
quietly build support to dismiss Khrushchev. At a 18 June Presidium
meeting at which two
Khrushchev supporters were absent, the plotters
moved that Bulganin, who had joined the scheme, take the chair, and
proposed other moves which would effectively demote
Khrushchev and put
themselves in control.
Khrushchev objected on the grounds that not all
Presidium members had been notified, an objection which would have
been quickly dismissed had
Khrushchev not held firm control over the
military, through Minister of Defense Marshal Zhukov, and the security
departments. Lengthy Presidium meetings took place, continuing over
several days. As word leaked of the power struggle, members of the
Central Committee, which
Khrushchev controlled, streamed to Moscow,
many flown there aboard military planes, and demanded to be admitted
to the meeting. While they were not admitted, there were soon enough
Central Committee members in
Moscow to call an emergency Party
Congress, which effectively forced the leadership to allow a session
of the Central Committee. At that meeting, the three main conspirators
were dubbed the Anti-Party Group, accused of factionalism and
complicity in Stalin's crimes. The three were expelled from the
Central Committee and Presidium, as was former Foreign Minister and
Dmitri Shepilov who joined them in the plot. Molotov
was sent as Ambassador to Mongolia; the others were sent to head
industrial facilities and institutes far from Moscow.
Marshal Zhukov was rewarded for his support with full membership in
the Presidium, but
Khrushchev feared his popularity and power. In
October, the defense minister was sent on a tour of the Balkans, as
Khrushchev arranged a Presidium meeting to dismiss him. Zhukov learned
what was happening, and hurried back to Moscow, only to be formally
notified of his dismissal. At a Central Committee meeting several
weeks later, not a word was said in Zhukov's defense. Khrushchev
completed the consolidation of power by arranging for Bulganin's
dismissal as premier in favor of himself (Bulganin was appointed to
head the Gosbank) and by establishing a USSR Defense Council, led by
himself, effectively making him commander in chief. Though
Khrushchev was now preeminent, he did not enjoy Stalin's absolute
Liberalization and the arts
Nina Khrushcheva, Mamie Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and Dwight Eisenhower
at a state dinner in 1959
After assuming power,
Khrushchev allowed a modest amount of freedom in
the arts. Vladimir Dudintsev's Not by Bread Alone, about an
idealistic engineer opposed by rigid bureaucrats, was allowed to be
published in 1956, though
Khrushchev called the novel "false at its
base". In 1958, however,
Khrushchev ordered a fierce attack on
Boris Pasternak after his novel Doctor Zhivago was published abroad
(he was denied permission to publish it in the Soviet Union). Pravda
described the novel as "low-grade reactionary hackwork", and the
author was expelled from the Writer's Union. To make things worse
(from Khrushchev's perspective), Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize
for Literature, which, under heavy pressure, he declined. Once he did
Khrushchev ordered a halt to the attacks on Pasternak. In his
Khrushchev stated that he agonized over the novel, very
nearly allowed it to be published, and later regretted not doing
so. After his fall from power,
Khrushchev obtained a copy of the
novel and read it (he had earlier read only excerpts) and stated, "We
shouldn't have banned it. I should have read it myself. There's
nothing anti-Soviet in it."
Khrushchev believed that the USSR could match the West's living
standards, and was not afraid to allow Soviet citizens to see
Western achievements. Stalin had permitted few tourists to the
Soviet Union, and had allowed few Soviets to travel. Khrushchev
let Soviets travel (over 700,000 Soviet citizens travelled abroad in
1957) and allowed foreigners to visit the Soviet Union, where tourists
became subjects of immense curiosity. In 1957, Khrushchev
6th World Festival of Youth and Students to be held in
Moscow that summer. He instructed
Komsomol officials to "smother
foreign guests in our embrace". The resulting "socialist
carnival" involved over three million Moscovites, who joined with
30,000 young foreign visitors in events that ranged from discussion
groups throughout the city to events at the
According to historian Vladislav Zubok, the festival "shattered
propagandist clichés" about Westerners by allowing Moscovites to see
them for themselves.
In 1962, Khrushchev, impressed by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in
the Life of Ivan Denisovich, persuaded the Presidium to allow
publication. That renewed thaw ended on 1 December 1962, when
Khrushchev was taken to the
Manezh Gallery to view an exhibit which
included a number of avant-garde works. On seeing them, Khrushchev
exploded with anger, describing the artwork as "dog shit", and
proclaiming that "a donkey could smear better art with its tail".
A week later,
Pravda issued a call for artistic purity. When writers
and filmmakers defended the painters,
Khrushchev extended his anger to
them. However, despite the premier's rage, none of the artists were
arrested or exiled. The
Manezh Gallery exhibit remained open for some
time after Khrushchev's visit, and experienced a considerable rise in
attendance after the article in Pravda.
Under Khrushchev, the special tribunals operated by security agencies
were abolished. These tribunals (known as troikas), had often ignored
laws and procedures. Under the reforms, no prosecution for a political
crime could be brought even in the regular courts unless approved by
the local Party committee. This rarely happened; there were no major
political trials under Khrushchev, and at most several hundred
political prosecutions overall. Instead, other sanctions were imposed
on Soviet dissidents, including loss of job or university position, or
expulsion from the Party. During Khrushchev's rule, forced
hospitalization for the "socially dangerous" was introduced.
According to author Roy Medvedev, who wrote an early analysis of
Khrushchev's years in power, "political terror as an everyday method
of government was replaced under
Khrushchev by administrative means of
Nikita Khrushchev, Time Magazine's Man of the Year for 1957
Khrushchev opened a Central Committee meeting to hundreds of
Soviet officials; some were even allowed to address the meeting. For
the first time, the proceedings of the Committee were made public in
book form, a practice which was continued at subsequent meetings. This
openness, however, actually allowed
Khrushchev greater control over
the Committee, since any dissenters would have to make their case in
front of a large, disapproving crowd.
Khrushchev divided oblast level Party committees (obkoms)
into two parallel structures, one for industry and one for
agriculture. This was unpopular among Party apparatchiks, and led to
confusions in the chain of command, as neither committee secretary had
precedence over the other. As there were limited numbers of Central
Committee seats from each oblast, the division set up the possibility
of rivalry for office between factions, and, according to Medvedev,
had the potential for beginning a two-party system. Khrushchev
also ordered that one-third of the membership of each committee, from
low-level councils to the Central Committee itself, be replaced at
each election. This decree created tension between
Khrushchev and the
Central Committee and upset the party leaders upon whose support
Khrushchev had risen to power.
Since the 1940s,
Khrushchev had advocated the cultivation of corn
(maize) in the Soviet Union. He established a corn institute in
Ukraine and ordered thousands of acres to be planted with corn in the
Virgin Lands. In February 1955,
Khrushchev gave a speech in which
he advocated an Iowa-style corn belt in the Soviet Union, and a Soviet
delegation visited the U.S. state that summer. While their intent was
to visit only small farms, the delegation chief was approached by
farmer and corn salesman Roswell Garst, who persuaded him to insist on
visiting Garst's large farm. The Iowan visited the Soviet Union
in September, where he became great friends with Khrushchev, and Garst
sold the USSR 5,000 short tons (4,500 t) of seed corn. Garst
warned the Soviets to grow the corn in the southern part of the
country, and to ensure there were sufficient stocks of fertilizer,
insecticides, and herbicides. This, however, was not done, as
Khrushchev sought to plant corn even in Siberia, and without the
necessary chemicals. While
Khrushchev warned against those who "would
have us plant the whole planet with corn", he displayed a great
passion for corn, so much so that when he visited a Latvian kolkhoz,
he stated that some in his audience were probably wondering, "Will
Khrushchev say something about corn or won't he?" He did,
rebuking the farmers for not planting more corn. The corn
experiment was not a great success, and he later wrote that
overenthusiastic officials, wanting to please him, had overplanted
without laying the proper groundwork, and "as a result corn was
discredited as a silage crop—and so was I".
Khrushchev sought to abolish the Machine-Tractor Stations (MTS) which
not only owned most large agricultural machines such as combines and
tractors, but also provided services such as plowing, and transfer
their equipment and functions to the kolkhozes and sovkhozes (state
farms). After a successful test involving MTS which served one
large kolkhoz each,
Khrushchev ordered a gradual transition—but then
ordered that the change take place with great speed. Within three
months, over half of the MTS facilities had been closed, and kolkhozes
were being required to buy the equipment, with no discount given for
older or dilapidated machines. MTS employees, unwilling to bind
themselves to kolkhozes and lose their state employee benefits and the
right to change their jobs, fled to the cities, creating a shortage of
skilled operators. The costs of the machinery, plus the costs of
building storage sheds and fuel tanks for the equipment, impoverished
many kolkhozes. Inadequate provisions were made for repair
stations. Without the MTS, the market for Soviet agricultural
equipment fell apart, as the kolkhozes now had neither the money nor
skilled buyers to purchase new equipment.
One adviser to
Khrushchev was Trofim Lysenko, who promised greatly
increased production with minimal investment. Such schemes were
attractive to Khrushchev, who ordered them implemented. Lysenko
managed to maintain his influence under
Khrushchev despite repeated
failures; as each proposal failed, he advocated another. Lysenko's
influence greatly retarded the development of genetic science in the
Soviet Union. In 1959,
Khrushchev announced a goal of overtaking
the United States in production of milk, meat, and butter. Local
officials, with Khrushchev's encouragement, made unrealistic pledges
of production. These goals were met by forcing farmers to slaughter
their breeding herds and by purchasing meat at state stores, then
reselling it back to the government, artificially increasing recorded
In June 1962, food prices were raised, particularly on meat and butter
(by 25–30%). This caused public discontent. In the southern Russian
Novocherkassk (Rostov Region) this discontent escalated to a
strike and a revolt against the authorities. The revolt was put down
by the military. According to Soviet official accounts, 22 people were
killed and 87 wounded. In addition, 116 demonstrators were convicted
of involvement and seven of them executed. Information about the
revolt was completely suppressed in the USSR, but spread through
Samizdat and damaged Khrushchev's reputation in the West.
Drought struck the
Soviet Union in 1963; the harvest of 107,500,000
short tons (97,500,000 t) of grain was down from a peak of
134,700,000 short tons (122,200,000 t) in 1958. The
shortages resulted in bread lines, a fact at first kept from
Khrushchev. Reluctant to purchase food in the West, but
faced with the alternative of widespread hunger,
the nation's hard currency reserves and expended part of its gold
stockpile in the purchase of grain and other foodstuffs.
Khrushchev (right) with cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin,
Pavel Popovich and
Valentina Tereshkova, 1963
While visiting the United States in 1959,
Khrushchev was greatly
impressed by the agricultural education program at
University, and sought to imitate it in the Soviet Union. At the time,
the main agricultural college in the USSR was in Moscow, and students
did not do the manual labor of farming.
Khrushchev proposed to move
the programs to rural areas. He was unsuccessful, due to resistance
from professors and students, who never actually disagreed with the
premier, but who did not carry out his proposals. Khrushchev
recalled in his memoirs, "It's nice to live in
Moscow and work at the
Timiryazev Agricultural Academy. It's a venerable old institution, a
large economic unit, with skilled instructors, but it's in the city!
Its students aren't yearning to work on the collective farms because
to do that they'd have to go out in the provinces and live in the
Khrushchev founded several academic towns, such as Akademgorodok. The
premier believed that Western science flourished because many
scientists lived in university towns such as Oxford, isolated from big
city distractions, and had pleasant living conditions and good pay. He
sought to duplicate those conditions in the Soviet Union. Khrushchev's
attempt was generally successful, though his new towns and scientific
centers tended to attract younger scientists, with older ones
unwilling to leave
Moscow or Leningrad.
Khrushchev also proposed to restructure Soviet high schools. While the
high schools provided a college preparatory curriculum, in fact few
Soviet youths went on to university.
Khrushchev wanted to shift the
focus of secondary schools to vocational training: students would
spend much of their time at factory jobs or in apprenticeships and
only a small part at the schools. In practice, what occurred is
that schools developed links with nearby enterprises, and students
went to work for only one or two days a week; the factories and other
works disliked having to teach, while students and their families
complained that they had little choice in what trade to learn.
While the vocational proposal would not survive Khrushchev's downfall,
a longer-lasting change was a related establishment of specialized
high schools for gifted students or those wishing to study a specific
subject. These schools were modeled after the foreign-language
schools that had been established in
Moscow and Leningrad beginning in
1949. In 1962, a special summer school was established in
Novosibirsk to prepare students for a Siberian math and science
Olympiad. The following year, the
Novosibirsk Maths and Science
Boarding-School became the first permanent residential school
specializing in math and science. Other such schools were soon
established in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev. By the early 1970s, over
100 specialized schools had been established, in mathematics, the
sciences, art, music, and sport. Preschool education was
increased as part of Khrushchev's reforms, and by the time he left
office, about 22% of Soviet children attended preschool—about half
of urban children, but only about 12% of rural children.
The anti-religious campaign of the
Khrushchev era began in 1959,
coinciding with the twenty first Party Congress in the same year. It
was carried out by mass closures of churches (reducing the
number from 22,000 in 1959 to 13,008 in 1960 and to 7,873 by
1965), monasteries, and convents, as well as of the
still-existing seminaries (pastoral courses would be banned in
general). The campaign also included a restriction of parental rights
for teaching religion to their children, a ban on the presence of
children at church services (beginning in 1961 with the Baptists and
then extended to the Orthodox in 1963), and a ban on administration of
Eucharist to children over the age of four. Khrushchev
additionally banned all services held outside of church walls, renewed
enforcement of the 1929 legislation banning pilgrimages, and recorded
the personal identities of all adults requesting church baptisms,
weddings or funerals. He also disallowed the ringing of church
bells and services in daytime in some rural settings from May to the
end of October under the pretext of field work requirements.
Non-fulfillment of these regulations by clergy would lead to
disallowance of state registration for them (which meant they could no
longer do any pastoral work or liturgy at all, without special state
permission). According to Dimitry Pospielovsky, the state carried out
forced retirement, arrests and prison sentences on clergymen for
"trumped up charges", but he writes that it was in reality for
resisting the closure of churches and for giving sermons attacking
atheism or the anti-religious campaign, or who conducted Christian
charity or who made religion popular by personal example.
Foreign and defense policies
Khrushchev (rowing the boat) with the Swedish Prime Minister Tage
Khrushchev took control, the outside world still knew little of
him, and initially was not impressed by him. Short, heavyset, and
wearing ill-fitting suits, he "radiated energy but not intellect", and
was dismissed by many as a buffoon who would not last long.
British Foreign Secretary
Harold Macmillan wondered, "How can this
fat, vulgar man with his pig eyes and ceaseless flow of talk be the
head—the aspirant Tsar for all those millions of people?"
Khrushchev biographer Tompson described the mercurial leader:
He could be charming or vulgar, ebullient or sullen, he was given to
public displays of rage (often contrived) and to soaring hyperbole in
his rhetoric. But whatever he was, however he came across, he was more
human than his predecessor or even than most of his foreign
counterparts, and for much of the world that was enough to make the
USSR seem less mysterious or menacing.
United States and allies
Early relations and U.S. visit (1957–1960)
Khrushchev (right) with U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon, 1959
Khrushchev with Agriculture Secretary
Ezra Taft Benson
Ezra Taft Benson (left of
Khrushchev) and U.S. Ambassador to the
United Nations Henry Cabot
Lodge (far left) during his visit on 16 September 1959 to the
Agricultural Research Service
Agricultural Research Service Center
Khrushchev sought to find a lasting solution to the problem of a
divided Germany and of the enclave of
West Berlin deep within East
German territory. In November 1958, calling
West Berlin a "malignant
tumor", he gave the United States, United Kingdom and France six
months to conclude a peace treaty with both German states and the
Soviet Union. If one was not signed,
Khrushchev stated, the Soviet
Union would conclude a peace treaty with East Germany. This would
leave East Germany, which was not a party to treaties giving the
Western Powers access to Berlin, in control of the routes to the
city. This ultimatum caused dissent among the Western Allies, who
were reluctant to go to war over the issue. Khrushchev, however,
repeatedly extended the deadline.
Khrushchev sought to eliminate many conventional weapons, and defend
Soviet Union with missiles. He believed that unless this
occurred, the huge Soviet military would continue to eat up resources,
making Khrushchev's goals of improving Soviet life difficult to
achieve. In 1955,
Khrushchev abandoned Stalin's plans for a large
navy, believing that the new ships would be too vulnerable to either
conventional or nuclear attack. In January 1960,
advantage of improved relations with the U.S. to order a reduction of
one-third in the size of Soviet armed forces, alleging that advanced
weapons would make up for the lost troops. While conscription of
Soviet youth remained in force, exemptions from military service
became more and more common, especially for students.
The Soviets had few operable ICBMs; in spite of this Khrushchev
publicly boasted of the Soviets' missile programs, stating that Soviet
weapons were varied and numerous. The First Secretary hoped that
public perception that the Soviets were ahead would result in
psychological pressure on the West and political concessions. The
Soviet space program, which
Khrushchev firmly supported, appeared to
confirm his claims when the Soviets launched
Sputnik 1 into orbit, a
launch many westerners, including United States Vice President Richard
Nixon were convinced was a hoax. When it became clear that the
launch was real, and
Sputnik 1 was in orbit, Western governments
concluded that the Soviet
ICBM program was further along than it
Khrushchev added to this misapprehension by stating in
an October 1957 interview that the USSR had all the rockets, of
whatever capacity, that it needed. For years,
make a point of preceding a major foreign trip with a rocket launch,
to the discomfiture of his hosts. The United States learned of
the primitive state of the Soviet missile program from overflights in
the late 1950s, but only high U.S. officials knew of the
deception. In January 1960,
Khrushchev told the Presidium that
Soviet ICBMs made an agreement with the U.S. possible because
"main-street Americans have begun to shake from fear for the first
times in their lives". The perceived "missile gap" led to a
considerable defense buildup on the part of the United States.
During Nixon's visit to the
Soviet Union in 1959,
part in what later became known as the Kitchen Debate. Nixon and
Khrushchev had an impassioned argument in a model kitchen at the
American National Exhibition in Moscow, with each defending the
economic system of his country.
Khrushchev was invited to visit
the United States, and did so that September, spending thirteen days.
Khrushchev arrived in Washington, DC on his first visit to the United
States on 15 September 1959. The first visit by a Soviet premier to
the United States resulted in an extended media circus.
Khrushchev brought his wife, Nina Petrovna, and adult children with
him, though it was not usual for Soviet officials to travel with their
families. The peripatetic premier visited New York City, Los
Angeles, San Francisco (visiting a supermarket), Coon Rapids, Iowa
(visiting Roswell Garst's farm), Pittsburgh, and Washington,
concluding with a meeting with U.S. President Eisenhower at Camp
David. During luncheon at the
Twentieth Century-Fox Studio in Los
Khrushchev engaged in an improvised yet jovial debate with his
Spyros Skouras over the respective merits of capitalism and
Khrushchev was supposed to visit Disneyland, but the
visit was canceled for security reasons, much to his
disgruntlement. He did, however, visit
Eleanor Roosevelt at
her home in Hyde Park, New York. While visiting IBM's new
research campus in San Jose, California,
Khrushchev expressed little
interest in computer technology, but he greatly admired the
self-service cafeteria, and, on his return, introduced self-service in
the Soviet Union.
Khrushchev's U.S. visit resulted in an informal agreement with U.S.
Dwight Eisenhower that there would be no firm deadline over
Berlin, but that there would be a four-power summit to try to resolve
the issue, and the premier left the U.S. to general good feelings.
Khrushchev returned from the U.S. convinced that he had achieved a
strong personal relationship with Eisenhower (who in fact was
unimpressed by the Soviet leader) and that he could achieve détente
with the Americans. He pushed for an immediate summit, but was
frustrated by French President Charles de Gaulle, who postponed it
until 1960, a year in which Eisenhower was scheduled to pay a return
visit to the Soviet Union.
U-2 and Berlin crisis (1960–1961)
Khrushchev and Zoya Mironova at the United Nations, September 1960
A constant irritant in Soviet–U.S. relations was the overflight of
Soviet Union by American U-2 spy aircraft. On 9 April 1960, the
U.S. resumed such flights after a lengthy break. The Soviets had
protested the flights in the past, but had been ignored by Washington.
Content in what he thought was a strong personal relationship with
Khrushchev was confused and angered by the flights'
resumption, and concluded that they had been ordered by
Allen Dulles without the U.S. President's knowledge. On 1 May, a U-2
was shot down, its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, captured alive.
Believing Powers to have been killed, the U.S. announced that a
weather plane had been lost near the Turkish-Soviet border. Khrushchev
risked destroying the summit, due to start on 16 May in Paris, if he
announced the shootdown, but would look weak in the eyes of his
military and security forces if he did nothing. Finally, on 5
Khrushchev announced the shootdown and Powers' capture, blaming
the overflight on "imperialist circles and militarists, whose
stronghold is the Pentagon", and suggesting the plane had been sent
without Eisenhower's knowledge. Eisenhower could not have it
thought that there were rogue elements in the Pentagon operating
without his knowledge, and admitted that he had ordered the flights,
calling them "a distasteful necessity". The admission stunned
Khrushchev, and turned the U-2 affair from a possible triumph to a
disaster for him, and he even appealed to U.S. Ambassador Llewellyn
Thompson for help.
Khrushchev was undecided what to do at the summit even as he boarded
his flight to Paris. He finally decided, in consultation with his
advisers on the plane and Presidium members in Moscow, to demand an
apology from Eisenhower and a promise that there would be no further
U-2 flights in Soviet airspace. Neither Eisenhower nor Khrushchev
communicated with the other in the days before the summit, and at the
Khrushchev made his demands and stated that there was no
purpose in the summit, which should be postponed for six to eight
months, that is until after the 1960 United States presidential
election. The U.S. President offered no apology, but stated that the
flights had been suspended and would not resume, and renewed his Open
Skies proposal for mutual overflight rights. This was not enough for
Khrushchev, who left the summit. Eisenhower accused Khrushchev
"of sabotaging this meeting, on which so much of the hopes of the
world have rested". Eisenhower's visit to the Soviet Union, for
which the premier had even built a golf course so the U.S. President
could enjoy his favorite sport, was canceled by Khrushchev.
Khrushchev made his second and final visit to the United States in
September 1960. He had no invitation, but had appointed himself as
head of the USSR's UN delegation. He spent much of his time
wooing the new
Third World states which had recently become
independent. The U.S. restricted him to the island of Manhattan,
with visits to an estate owned by the USSR on Long Island. The
notorious shoe-banging incident occurred during a debate on 12 October
over a Soviet resolution decrying colonialism. Infuriated by a
statement of the Filipino delegate
Lorenzo Sumulong which charged the
Soviets with employing a double standard by decrying colonialism while
dominating Eastern Europe,
Khrushchev demanded the right to reply
immediately, and accused Sumulong of being "a fawning lackey of the
American imperialists". Sumulong resumed his speech, and accused the
Soviets of hypocrisy.
Khrushchev yanked off his shoe and began banging
it on his desk. This behavior by
Khrushchev scandalized his
Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy, Vienna, June 1961
Khrushchev considered U.S. Vice President Nixon a hardliner, and was
delighted by his defeat in the 1960 presidential election. He
considered the victor,
Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, as a far
more likely partner for détente, but was taken aback by the newly
inaugurated U.S. President's tough talk and actions in the early days
of his administration.
Khrushchev achieved a propaganda victory
in April 1961 with the first manned spaceflight and Kennedy a defeat
with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. While
threatened to defend Cuba with Soviet missiles, the premier contented
himself with after-the-fact aggressive remarks. The failure in Cuba
led to Kennedy's determination to make no concessions at the Vienna
summit scheduled for 3 June 1961. Both Kennedy and
Khrushchev took a
hard line, with
Khrushchev demanding a treaty that would recognize the
two German states and refusing to yield on the remaining issues
obstructing a test-ban treaty. Kennedy on the other hand had been led
to believe that the test-ban treaty could be concluded at the summit,
and felt that a deal on Berlin had to await easing of East–West
tensions. Kennedy described negotiating with
Khrushchev to his brother
Robert as "like dealing with Dad. All give and no take."
The maximum territorial extent of countries in the world under Soviet
influence, after the
Cuban Revolution of 1959 and before the official
Sino-Soviet split of 1961
An indefinite postponement of action over Berlin was unacceptable to
Khrushchev if for no other reason than that
East Germany was suffering
a continuous "brain drain" as highly educated East Germans fled west
through Berlin. While the boundary between the two German states had
elsewhere been fortified, Berlin, administered by the four Allied
powers, remained open. Emboldened by statements from former U.S.
Charles E. Bohlen
Charles E. Bohlen and United States Senate
Committee on Foreign Relations Chairman
J. William Fulbright
J. William Fulbright that East
Germany had every right to close its borders, which were not disavowed
by the Kennedy Administration,
Khrushchev authorized East German
Walter Ulbricht to begin construction of what became known as
the Berlin Wall, which would surround West Berlin. Construction
preparations were made in great secrecy, and the border was sealed off
in the early hours of Sunday, 13 August 1961, when most East German
workers who earned hard currency by working in
West Berlin would be at
their homes. The wall was a propaganda disaster, and marked the end of
Khrushchev's attempts to conclude a peace treaty among the Four Powers
and the two German states. That treaty would not be signed until
September 1990, as an immediate prelude to German reunification.
Establishing relations with Cuba
Diplomatic relations between the
Soviet Union and Cuba were officially
restored in May 1960. Alexandr Alexeyev was named Soviet
Ambassador to Cuba two years later, in May 1962.
Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis and the test ban treaty (1962–1964)
Superpower tensions culminated in the
Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis (in the
USSR, the "Caribbean crisis") of October 1962, as the Soviet Union
sought to install medium range nuclear missiles in Cuba, about 90
miles (140 km) from the U.S. coast. Cuban Prime Minister
Fidel Castro was reluctant to accept the missiles, and, once he was
Khrushchev against transporting the missiles in
secret. Castro stated, thirty years later, "We had a sovereign right
to accept the missiles. We were not violating international law. Why
do it secretly—as if we had no right to do it? I warned Nikita that
secrecy would give the imperialists the advantage."
On 16 October, Kennedy was informed that U-2 flights over Cuba had
discovered what were most likely medium-range missile sites, and
though he and his advisors considered approaching
diplomatic channels, could come up with no way of doing this that
would not appear weak. On 22 October, Kennedy addressed his
nation by television, revealing the missiles' presence and announcing
a blockade of Cuba. Informed in advance of the speech but not (until
one hour before) the content,
Khrushchev and his advisors feared an
invasion of Cuba. Even before Kennedy's speech, they ordered Soviet
commanders in Cuba that they could use all weapons against an
attack—except atomic weapons.
As the crisis unfolded, tensions were high in the U.S.; less so in the
Soviet Union, where
Khrushchev made several public appearances, and
went to the
Bolshoi Theatre to hear American opera singer Jerome
Hines, who was then performing in Moscow. By 25 October, with
the Soviets unclear about Kennedy's full intentions, Khrushchev
decided that the missiles would have to be withdrawn from Cuba. Two
days later, he offered Kennedy terms for the withdrawal.
Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles in exchange for a U.S.
promise not to invade Cuba and a secret promise that the U.S. would
withdraw missiles from Turkey, near the Soviet heartland. As the
last term was not publicly announced at the request of the U.S., and
was not known until just before Khrushchev's death in 1971, the
resolution was seen as a great defeat for the Soviets, and contributed
to Khrushchev's fall less than two years later. Castro had urged
Khrushchev to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on the U.S. in the
event of any invasion of Cuba, and was angered by the outcome,
Khrushchev in profane terms.
After the crisis, superpower relations improved, as Kennedy gave a
conciliatory speech at
American University on 10 June 1963,
recognizing the Soviet people's suffering during World War II, and
paying tribute to their achievements.
Khrushchev called the
speech the best by a U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt, and, in
July, negotiated a test ban treaty with U.S. negotiator Averell
Harriman and with Lord Hailsham of the United Kingdom. Plans for
a second Khrushchev-Kennedy summit were dashed by the U.S. President's
assassination in November 1963. The new U.S. President, Lyndon
Johnson, hoped for continued improved relations but was distracted by
other issues and had little opportunity to develop a relationship with
Khrushchev before the premier was ousted.
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and
Khrushchev at Bucharest's Băneasa Airport
in June 1960.
Nicolae Ceauşescu can be seen at Gheorghiu-Dej's right
Khrushchev (left) and East German leader Walter Ulbricht, 1963
Khrushchev (holding the teddy bear) on his visit to
East Germany with
Nikolai Podgorny (clapping his hands)
The Secret Speech, combined with the death of Polish communist leader
Bolesław Bierut, who suffered a heart attack while reading the
Speech, sparked considerable liberalization in Poland and Hungary. In
Poland, a worker's strike in
Poznań developed into disturbances which
left more than 50 dead in October 1956. When
Moscow blamed the
disturbances on Western agitators, Polish leaders ignored the claim,
and instead made concessions to the workers. With anti-Soviet displays
becoming more common in Poland, and crucial Polish leadership
Khrushchev and other Presidium members flew to
Warsaw. While the Soviets were refused entry to the Polish Central
Committee plenum where the election was taking place, they met with
the Polish Presidium. The Soviets agreed to allow the new Polish
leadership to take office, on the assurance there would be no change
to the Soviet-Polish relationship.
The Polish settlement emboldened the Hungarians, who decided that
Moscow could be defied. A mass demonstration in Budapest on 23
October turned into a popular uprising. In response to the uprising,
Hungarian Party leaders installed reformist Premier Imre Nagy.
Soviet forces in the city clashed with Hungarians and even fired on
demonstrators, with hundreds of both Hungarians and Soviets killed.
Nagy called for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of Soviet troops, which
a Khrushchev-led majority in the Presidium decided to obey, choosing
to give the new Hungarian government a chance.
Moscow announced liberalization in how it dealt with its
allies, Nagy would adhere to the alliance with the Soviet Union.
However, on 30 October Nagy announced multiparty elections, and the
next morning that Hungary would leave the Warsaw Pact. On 3
November, two members of the Nagy government appeared in
the self-proclaimed heads of a provisional government and demanded
Soviet intervention, which was forthcoming. The next day, Soviet
troops crushed the Hungarian uprising, with a death toll of 4,000
Hungarians and several hundred Soviet troops. Nagy was arrested, and
was later executed. Despite the international outrage over the
Khrushchev defended his actions for the rest of his
life. Damage to Soviet foreign relations was severe, and would have
been greater were it not for the fortuitous timing of the Suez crisis,
which distracted world attention.
In the aftermath of these crises,
Khrushchev made the statement for
which he became well-remembered, "We will bury you" (in Russian, "Мы
вас похороним!" (My vas pokhoronim!)). While many in the
West took this statement as a literal threat,
Khrushchev made the
statement in a speech on peaceful coexistence with the West. When
questioned about the statement during his 1959 U.S. visit, Khrushchev
stated that he was not referring to a literal burial, but that,
through inexorable historical development, communism would replace
capitalism and "bury" it.
Khrushchev greatly improved relations with Yugoslavia, which had been
entirely sundered in 1948 when Stalin realized he could not control
Yugoslav leader Josip Tito.
Khrushchev led a Soviet delegation to
Belgrade in 1955. Though a hostile Tito did everything he could to
make the Soviets look foolish (including getting them drunk in
Khrushchev was successful in warming relations, ending the
Informbiro period in Soviet-Yugoslav relations. During the
Hungarian crisis, Tito initially supported Nagy, but Khrushchev
persuaded him of the need for intervention. Still, the
intervention in Hungary damaged Moscow's relationship with Belgrade,
Khrushchev spent several years trying to repair. He was hampered
by the fact that China disapproved of Yugoslavia's liberal version of
communism, and attempts to conciliate Belgrade resulted in an angry
Khrushchev with Mao Zedong, 1958
After completing his takeover of mainland China in 1949, Mao Zedong
sought material assistance from the USSR, and also called for the
return to China of territories taken from it under the Tsars. As
Khrushchev took control of the USSR, he increased aid to China, even
sending a small corps of experts to help develop the newly communist
country. This assistance was described by historian William Kirby
as "the greatest transfer of technology in world history". The
Soviet Union spent 7% of its national income between 1954 and 1959 on
aid to China. On his 1954 visit to China,
Khrushchev agreed to
return Port Arthur and
Dalian to China, though
Khrushchev was annoyed
by Mao's insistence that the Soviets leave their artillery as they
Mao bitterly opposed Khrushchev's attempts to reach a rapprochement
with more liberal Eastern European states such as Yugoslavia.
Khrushchev's government, on the other hand, was reluctant to endorse
Mao's desires for an assertive worldwide revolutionary movement,
preferring to conquer capitalism through raising the standard of
living in communist-bloc countries.
Relations between the two nations began to cool in 1956, with Mao
angered both by the
Secret Speech and by the fact that the Chinese had
not been consulted in advance about it. Mao believed that
de-Stalinization was a mistake, and a possible threat to his own
Khrushchev visited Beijing in 1958, Mao refused
proposals for military cooperation. Hoping to torpedo
Khrushchev's efforts at détente with the U.S., Mao soon thereafter
provoked the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, describing the Taiwanese
islands shelled in the crisis as "batons that keep Eisenhower and
Khrushchev dancing, scurrying this way and that. Don't you see how
wonderful they are?"
The Soviets had planned to provide China with an atomic bomb complete
with full documentation, but in 1959, amid cooler relations, the
Soviets destroyed the device and papers instead. When Khrushchev
paid a visit to China in September, shortly after his successful U.S.
visit, he met a chilly reception, and
Khrushchev left the country on
the third day of a planned seven-day visit. Relations continued
to deteriorate in 1960, as both the USSR and China used a Romanian
Communist Party congress as an opportunity to attack the other. After
Khrushchev attacked China in his speech to the congress, Chinese
Peng Zhen mocked Khrushchev, stating that the premier's foreign
policy was to blow hot and cold towards the West.
by pulling Soviet experts out of China.
Anastas Mikoyan (far right) in Berlin
Universal Newsreel about Khrushchev's resignation
Beginning in March 1964,
Supreme Soviet presidium chairman and nominal
head of state
Leonid Brezhnev began discussing Khrushchev's removal
with his colleagues. While Brezhnev considered having Khrushchev
arrested as he returned from a trip to Scandinavia in June, he instead
spent time persuading members of the Central Committee to support the
ousting of Khrushchev, remembering how crucial the Committee's support
had been to
Khrushchev in defeating the
Anti-Party Group plot.
Brezhnev was given ample time for his conspiracy;
Moscow for a total of five months between January and
The conspirators, led by Brezhnev, First Deputy Premier Alexander
KGB Chairman Vladimir Semichastny, struck in October
Khrushchev was on vacation at Pitsunda,
Abkhaz ASSR with
his close ally Anastas Mikoyan. On 12 October, Brezhnev called
Khrushchev to notify him of a special Presidium meeting to be held the
following day, ostensibly on the subject of agriculture. Even
Khrushchev suspected the real reason for the meeting, he
flew to Moscow, accompanied by the head of the Georgian KGB, General
Aleksi Inauri, but otherwise taking no precautions.
Khrushchev arrived at the VIP hall of Vnukovo Airport;
Semichastny waited for him there, flanked by
KGB security guards.
Khrushchev of his ouster and told him not to
Khrushchev did not resist, and the plotters' coup went off
Khrushchev felt betrayed by Semichastny, as he considered
him a friend and ally until that very moment, not suspecting that he
had joined his enemies within the Party.
Khrushchev was then
taken to the Kremlin, to be verbally attacked by Brezhnev, Suslov and
Shelepin. He had no stomach for a fight, and put up little resistance.
Semichastny was careful not to create the appearance of a coup;
I didn't even close the
Kremlin to visitors. People were strolling
around outside, while in the room the Presidium was meeting. I
deployed my men around the Kremlin. Everything that was necessary was
done. Brezhnev and Shelepin were nervous. I told them: Let's not do
anything that isn't necessary. Let's not create the appearance of a
That night, after his ouster,
Khrushchev called his friend and
Presidium colleague Anastas Mikoyan, and told him:
I'm old and tired. Let them cope by themselves. I've done the main
thing. Could anyone have dreamed of telling Stalin that he didn't suit
us anymore and suggesting he retire? Not even a wet spot would have
remained where we had been standing. Now everything is different. The
fear is gone, and we can talk as equals. That's my contribution. I
won't put up a fight.
On 14 October 1964, the Presidium and the Central Committee each voted
to accept Khrushchev's "voluntary" request to retire from his offices
for reasons of "advanced age and ill health." Brezhnev was elected
First Secretary (later General Secretary), while Alexei Kosygin
Khrushchev as premier.
Life in retirement
Khrushchev was granted a pension of 500 rubles per month and was
assured that his house and dacha were his for life. Following his
removal from power, he fell into deep depression. He received few
visitors, especially since his security guards kept track of all
guests and reported their comings and goings. In the fall of
1965, he and his wife were ordered to leave their house and dacha to
move to an apartment and to a smaller dacha. His pension was reduced
to 400 rubles per month, though his retirement remained comfortable by
Soviet standards. The depression continued, and his doctor
prescribed sleeping pills and tranquilizers. One of his grandsons was
asked what the ex-premier was doing in retirement, and the boy
replied, "Grandfather cries." He was made a non-person to such an
extent that the thirty-volume
Great Soviet Encyclopedia
Great Soviet Encyclopedia omitted his
name from the list of prominent political commissars during the Great
As the new rulers made known their conservatism in artistic matters,
Khrushchev came to be more favorably viewed by artists and writers,
some of whom visited him. One visitor whom
Khrushchev regretted not
seeing was former U.S. Vice President Nixon, then in his "wilderness
years" before his election to the presidency, who went to Khrushchev's
Moscow apartment while the former premier was at his dacha.
Beginning in 1966,
Khrushchev began his memoirs. He dictated them into
a tape recorder and recorded indoors, after attempts failed to record
outdoors due to background noise, knowing that every word would be
heard by the KGB. However, the security agency made no attempt to
interfere until 1968, when
Khrushchev was ordered to turn over his
tapes, which he refused to do.
Khrushchev was hospitalized with
heart ailments when his son Sergei was approached by the
KGB and told
that there was a plot afoot by foreign agents to steal the memoirs.
Sergei Khrushchev turned over the materials to the
KGB since the KGB
could steal the originals anyway, but copies had been made, some of
which had been transmitted to a Western publisher. Sergei instructed
that the smuggled memoirs should be published, which they were in 1970
under the title
Khrushchev Remembers. Under some pressure, Nikita
Khrushchev signed a statement that he had not given the materials to
any publisher, and his son was transferred to a less desirable
job. Upon publication of the memoirs in the West, Izvestia
denounced them as a fraud. Soviet state radio carried the
announcement of Khrushchev's statement, and it was the first time in
six years that he had been mentioned in that medium. In the Great
Khrushchev was given a short characterization:
"In his activities, there were elements of subjectivism and
In his final days,
Khrushchev visited his son-in-law and former aide
Alexei Adzhubei and told him, "Never regret that you lived in stormy
times and worked with me in the Central Committee. We will yet be
Khrushchev died of a heart attack in a hospital near his home in
Moscow on 11 September 1971, aged 77. He was denied a state funeral
with interment in the
Kremlin Wall and was instead buried in the
Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. Fearing demonstrations, the
authorities did not announce Khrushchev's death until the hour of his
wake and surrounded the cemetery with troops. Even so, some artists
and writers joined the family at the graveside for the interment.
Pravda ran a one-sentence announcement of the former premier's death;
Western newspapers contained considerable coverage. Veteran New
Moscow correspondent Harry Schwartz wrote of Khrushchev,
Khrushchev opened the doors and windows of a petrified structure.
He let in fresh air and fresh ideas, producing changes which time
already has shown are irreversible and fundamental."
A khrushchyovka is destroyed, Moscow, January 2008.
Many of Khrushchev's innovations were reversed after his fall. The
requirement that one-third of officials be replaced at each election
was overturned, as was the division in the Party structure between
industrial and agricultural sectors. His vocational education program
for high school students was also dropped, and his plan for sending
existing agricultural institutions out to the land was ended. However,
new agricultural or vocational institutions thereafter were located
outside major cities. When new housing was built, much of it was in
the form of high rises rather than Khrushchev's low-rise structures,
which lacked elevators or balconies. He began to change the
economic base of the country, away from heavy industry beginning
light, consumer industries. People were required to register to
attend, and church-going would bar you from party membership, from
promotion, from better housing and your children would not be able to
get into the better schools.
Historian Robert Service summarizes his contradictory personality
traits. According to him,
at once a Stalinist and an anti-Stalinist, a communist believer and a
cynic, a self-publicizing poltroon and a crusty philanthropist, a
trouble-maker and a peacemaker, a stimulating colleague and a
domineering boor, a statesman and a politicker who was out of his
Some of Khrushchev's agricultural projects were also easily
overturned. Corn became so unpopular in 1965 that its planting fell to
the lowest level in the postwar period, as even kolkhozes which had
been successful with it in
Ukraine and other southern portions of the
USSR refused to plant it. Lysenko was stripped of his
policy-making positions. However, the MTS stations remained closed,
and the basic agricultural problems, which
Khrushchev had tried to
address, remained. While the Soviet standard of living increased
greatly in the ten years after Khrushchev's fall, much of the increase
was due to industrial progress; agriculture continued to lag far
behind, resulting in regular agricultural crises, especially in 1972
and 1975. Brezhnev and his successors continued Khrushchev's
precedent of buying grain from the West rather than suffer shortfalls
and starvation. Neither Brezhnev nor his colleagues were
personally popular, and the new government relied on authoritarian
power to assure its continuation. The
Red Army were given
increasing powers. The government's conservative tendencies would lead
to the crushing of the "Prague Spring" of 1968.
Decree of the Presidium of the
Supreme Soviet "On the transfer of the
Khrushchev transferred Crimea from
Russian SFSR to
Though Khrushchev's strategy failed to achieve the major goals he
sought, Aleksandr Fursenko, who wrote a book analyzing Khrushchev's
foreign and military policies, argued that the strategy did coerce the
West in a limited manner. The agreement that the United States would
not invade Cuba has been adhered to. The refusal of the western world
East Germany was gradually eroded, and, in 1975, the
United States and other NATO members signed the Helsinki Agreement
with the USSR and Warsaw Pact nations, including East Germany, setting
human rights standards in Europe.
The Russian public's view of
Khrushchev remains mixed. According
to a major Russian pollster, the only eras of the 20th century that
Russians evaluate positively are those under Nicholas II, and under
Khrushchev. A poll of young Russians found that they felt
Nicholas II had done more good than harm, and all other 20th-century
Russian leaders more harm than good—except Khrushchev, about whom
they were evenly divided. Subsequent polls, however, have found
Brezhnev and Lenin the most popular Russian leaders of the
century. In 2017, American actor
Steve Buscemi played Khrushchev
in the satirical film The Death of Stalin, directed and co-written by
Armando Iannucci. It was adapted from the French novel written by
Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin.
Khrushchev biographer William
Tompson related the former premier's reforms to those which occurred
Throughout the Brezhnev years and the lengthy interregnum that
followed, the generation which had come of age during the 'first
Russian spring' of the 1950s awaited its turn in power. As Brezhnev
and his colleagues died or were pensioned off, they were replaced by
men and women for whom the
Secret Speech and the first wave of
de-Stalinization had been a formative experience, and these 'Children
of Twentieth Congress' took up the reins of power under the leadership
Mikhail Gorbachev and his colleagues. The
Khrushchev era provided
this second generation of reformers with both an inspiration and a
1954 transfer of Crimea
History of the
Soviet Union (1953–64)
^ /ˈkrʊʃtʃɛf, ˈkruːʃ-, -tʃɒf/; Russian: Ники́та
Серге́евич Хрущёв, IPA: [nʲɪˈkʲitə
sʲɪrˈɡʲejɪvʲɪtɕ xrʊˈɕːɵf] ( listen)
^ Soviet reports list his birth date as 17 April (5 April old style)
but recent discovery of his birth certificate has caused biographers
to accept the 15 April date. See Tompson 1995, p. 2.
^ Old style: born 3 April 1894.
^ Maier, Simon; Kourdi, Jeremy (2011). The 100: Insights and lessons
from 100 of the greatest speakers and speeches ever delivered.
Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd. p. 154.
^ a b Tompson 1995, p. 2.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 20.
^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 18.
^ "Crimea: A Gift To
Ukraine Becomes A Political Flash Point".
NPR.org. 27 February 2014.
^ Tompson 1995, pp. 2–3.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 27.
^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 26.
^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 30.
^ Tompson 1995, pp. 6–7.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 37–38.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 8.
^ Carlson 2009, p. 141.
^ Tompson 1995, pp. 8–9.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 38–40.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 47.
^ a b Taubman 2003, pp. 47–48.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 48–49.
^ a b c d Taubman 2003, p. 50.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 12.
^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 52.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 54–55.
^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 55.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 14.
^ a b Taubman 2003, pp. 56–57.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 58–59.
^ Tompson 1995, pp. 16–17.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 63.
^ a b Taubman 2003, pp. 64–66.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Whitman 1971.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 66.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 68.
^ a b c Taubman 2003, p. 73.
^ a b Tompson 1995, pp. 31–32.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 78.
^ Tompson 1995, pp. 33–34.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 94–95.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 105–06.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 98.
^ a b c Taubman 2003, p. 99.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 57.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 99–100.
^ a b c Taubman 2003, p. 100.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 103–04.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 104.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 69.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 114–15.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 116.
^ a b c Taubman 2003, p. 118.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 60.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 135–37.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 72.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 149.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 150.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 163.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 162–64.
Khrushchev 2004, p. 347.
Khrushchev 2004, pp. 349–50.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 164–68.
^ a b Taubman 2003, pp. 168–71.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 81.
^ a b c Birch 2008.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 157–58.
^ Tompson 1995, p. 82.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 158.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 158–62.
^ Taubman 2003, pp. 171–72.
^ a b Taubman 2003, pp. 177–78.
^ Tompson 1995, pp. 81–82.
^ a b Tompson 1995, p. 73.
^ a b c Tompson 1995, p. 86.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 179.
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^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 181.
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^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 195.
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^ a b Taubman 2003, p. 203.
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Khrushchev 2000, p. 27.
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Khrushchev 2006, pp. 16–17.
Khrushchev 2006, pp. 18–22.
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^ a b c Taubman 2003, pp. 211–15.
Khrushchev 2006, p. 43.
^ a b Tompson 1995, p. 99.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 226.
^ Irina H. Corten (1992). Vocabulary of Soviet Society and Culture: A
Selected Guide to Russian Words, Idioms, and Expressions of the
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Khrushchev 2006, pp. 167–68.
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Wikisource has original works written by or about:
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Post Soviet leaders
Communist Party of Ukraine:
Petro Symonenko (1993– )
Socialist Party of Ukraine: Oleksandr Moroz (1992–2012), Petro
Ustenko (2012– )
Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine:
Natalia Vitrenko (1996– )
History and main
Kiev Arsenal January Uprising
All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Donetsk-Krivoi Rog Soviet Republic
Odessa Soviet Republic
Armed Forces of South Russia
Peace of Riga
Galician Soviet Socialist Republic
1954 transfer of Crimea
Leaders of Ukraine
Ukrainian People's Republic
Symon Petliura (Holovnyi Otaman)
West Ukrainian People's Republic
Ukrainian People's Republic1
Ukrainian National Council2
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic3
Oleksandr Turchynov (Acting)
1Presidents of the
Ukrainian People's Republic
Ukrainian People's Republic in
exile. 2 Chairman of the Ukrainian National
Council. 3First Secretary of the Communist Party of
the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Prime Ministers of Ukraine
List of Prime Ministers of Ukraine
Ukrainian People's Republic
Council of Ministers
Government (in exile)
Cabinet of Ministers
1 denotes acting
Ukrainian SSR before 1938
Chairman of VUTsVK
First Secretary of the
Communist Party of the
Ukrainian SSR (1918–1938)
People's Secretariat / Sovnarkom
Yuriy Kotsiubynsky (Austria)
Waldemar Aussem (Germany)
Mikhail Levitskiy (Czechoslovakia)
Mikhail Frunze (Turkey)
Mieczislaw Loganowski/Oleksandr Shumsky (Poland)
Yevgeniy Terletskiy (Baltics)
Leaders of the ruling Communist parties of the Eastern Bloc
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Party of Labour of Albania
Bulgarian Communist Party
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Hungarian Working People's Party
Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party
Polish Workers' Party
Polish United Workers' Party
Romanian Communist Party
League of Communists of Yugoslavia
Josip Broz Tito
(1980–1990, rotating leadership)
Battle of Stalingrad
Axis order of battle
Red Army order of battle
Stalingrad in World War II
German 4th Panzer
Romanian 3rd and 4th
3rd Guards Cavalry
Alexander Edler von Daniels
Erwin König (apocryphal)
Erich von Manstein
Wolfram von Richthofen
Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach
Other Axis members
Viktor Pavičić (Croatia)
Italo Gariboldi (Italy)
Gusztáv Jány (Hungary)
Red October Steel Factory
The Motherland Calls
Sword of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad in popular culture
See also Battle of the Caucasus
Battle of Kursk
Battle of Nikolayevka
Second Battle of Kharkov
Third Battle of Kharkov
Time Persons of the Year
Charles Lindbergh (1927)
Walter Chrysler (1928)
Owen D. Young
Owen D. Young (1929)
Mohandas Gandhi (1930)
Pierre Laval (1931)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932)
Hugh S. Johnson
Hugh S. Johnson (1933)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1934)
Haile Selassie (1935)
Wallis Simpson (1936)
Chiang Kai-shek /
Soong Mei-ling (1937)
Adolf Hitler (1938)
Joseph Stalin (1939)
Winston Churchill (1940)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941)
Joseph Stalin (1942)
George Marshall (1943)
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1944)
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (1945)
James F. Byrnes
James F. Byrnes (1946)
George Marshall (1947)
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (1948)
Winston Churchill (1949)
The American Fighting-Man (1950)
Mohammed Mosaddeq (1951)
Elizabeth II (1952)
Konrad Adenauer (1953)
John Foster Dulles
John Foster Dulles (1954)
Harlow Curtice (1955)
Hungarian Freedom Fighters (1956)
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle (1958)
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1959)
George Beadle / Charles Draper / John Enders / Donald
A. Glaser /
Joshua Lederberg /
Willard Libby /
Linus Pauling / Edward
Purcell / Isidor Rabi /
Emilio Segrè /
William Shockley / Edward
Teller / Charles Townes /
James Van Allen
James Van Allen / Robert Woodward (1960)
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy (1961)
Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII (1962)
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson (1964)
William Westmoreland (1965)
The Generation Twenty-Five and Under (1966)
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson (1967)
Apollo 8 Astronauts:
William Anders /
Frank Borman / Jim Lovell
The Middle Americans (1969)
Willy Brandt (1970)
Richard Nixon (1971)
Henry Kissinger /
Richard Nixon (1972)
John Sirica (1973)
King Faisal (1974)
Susan Brownmiller /
Kathleen Byerly /
Alison Cheek /
Jill Conway /
Betty Ford / Ella Grasso / Carla Hills / Barbara Jordan
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King /
Susie Sharp /
Carol Sutton / Addie Wyatt (1975)
Jimmy Carter (1976)
Anwar Sadat (1977)
Deng Xiaoping (1978)
Ayatollah Khomeini (1979)
Ronald Reagan (1980)
Lech Wałęsa (1981)
The Computer (1982)
Ronald Reagan /
Yuri Andropov (1983)
Peter Ueberroth (1984)
Deng Xiaoping (1985)
Corazon Aquino (1986)
Mikhail Gorbachev (1987)
The Endangered Earth (1988)
Mikhail Gorbachev (1989)
George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush (1990)
Ted Turner (1991)
Bill Clinton (1992)
Yasser Arafat /
F. W. de Klerk
F. W. de Klerk /
Nelson Mandela /
Yitzhak Rabin (1993)
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II (1994)
Newt Gingrich (1995)
David Ho (1996)
Andrew Grove (1997)
Bill Clinton /
Ken Starr (1998)
Jeffrey P. Bezos (1999)
George W. Bush
George W. Bush (2000)
Rudolph Giuliani (2001)
The Whistleblowers: Cynthia Cooper /
Coleen Rowley / Sherron Watkins
The American Soldier (2003)
George W. Bush
George W. Bush (2004)
The Good Samaritans:
Bill Gates /
Melinda Gates (2005)
Vladimir Putin (2007)
Barack Obama (2008)
Ben Bernanke (2009)
Mark Zuckerberg (2010)
The Protester (2011)
Barack Obama (2012)
Pope Francis (2013)
Ebola Fighters: Dr. Jerry Brown / Dr.
Kent Brantly / Ella
Watson-Stryker / Foday Gollah /
Salome Karwah (2014)
Angela Merkel (2015)
Donald Trump (2016)
The Silence Breakers (2017)
Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin
Inheritance of acquired characteristics
Collectivization in the Soviet Union
Suppressed research in the Soviet Union
Politicization of science
Shevchenko National Prize
Shevchenko National Prize winners
ISNI: 0000 0001 1028 1676
BNF: cb11909712z (data)