Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev

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Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) led the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, serving as premier from 1958 to 1964. Though he largely pursued a policy of peaceful coexistence with the West, the Cuban Missile Crisis began after he positioned nuclear weapons 90 miles from Florida. At home, he initiated a process of “de-Stalinization” that made Soviet society less repressive. Yet Khrushchev could be authoritarian in his own right, crushing a revolt in Hungary and approving the construction of the Berlin Wall. Known for his colorful speeches, he once took off and brandished his shoe at the United Nations.

Nikita Khrushchev: The Early Years

Khrushchev was born on April 15, 1894, in Kalinovka, a small Russian village near the Ukrainian border. At age 14 he moved with his family to the Ukrainian mining town of Yuzovka, where he apprenticed as a metalworker and performed other odd jobs. Despite his religious upbringing, Khrushchev joined the communist Bolsheviks in 1918, more than a year after they had seized power in the Russian Revolution. During the subsequent Russian Civil War, Khrushchev’s first wife, with whom he had two children, died of typhus. He later remarried and had four more children.

In 1929 Khrushchev moved to Moscow, where he steadily rose through the Communist Party ranks. Eventually he entered the inner circle of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who by that time had consolidated control over the country and instituted a bloody purge of perceived enemies. Millions of people were killed or imprisoned in Gulag labor camps, and millions more died in famines brought on by the forced collectivization of agriculture.

Khrushchev Takes Over for Stalin

During World War II, Khrushchev mobilized troops to fight Nazi Germany in the Ukraine and at Stalingrad. After the war, he helped to rebuild the devastated countryside while simultaneously stifling Ukrainian nationalist dissent. By the time Stalin died in March 1953, Khrushchev had positioned himself as a possible successor. Six months later, he became head of the Communist Party and one of the most powerful people in the USSR.

At first, Khrushchev and other high-ranking officials ruled through a form of collective leadership. But in 1955 he organized the ouster of Premier Georgi Malenkov and replaced him with an ally, Nikolai Bulganin. Khrushchev foiled a Malenkov-led coup attempt in June 1957 and took over the premiership the following March.

Khrushchev Begins the De-Stalinization Process

Once a loyal Stalinist, Khrushchev gave a long speech in February 1956 that criticized Stalin for arresting and deporting opponents, for elevating himself above the party and for incompetent wartime leadership, among other things. This withering, albeit incomplete, indictment of Stalin was supposed to remain secret. By that June, however, the U.S. State Department had published the complete text. Starting in 1957, Khrushchev made some minor attempts to rehabilitate Stalin’s image. But he switched course once again in 1961, when the city of Stalingrad was renamed and Stalin’s remains were removed from Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square.

Emboldened by Khrushchev’s so-called “secret speech,” protestors took to the streets in the Soviet satellites of Poland and Hungary. The Polish revolt was resolved fairly peacefully, but the Hungarian revolt was violently suppressed with troops and tanks. In all, at least 2,500 Hungarians were killed in late 1956, and about 13,000 were wounded. Many more fled to the West, and others were arrested or deported.

On the domestic front, Khrushchev worked—not always successfully—to increase agricultural production and raise living standards. He also reduced the power of the Soviet Union’s feared secret police, released many political prisoners, relaxed artistic censorship, opened up more of the country to foreign visitors and inaugurated the space age in 1957 with the launch of the satellite Sputnik. Two years later, a Soviet rocket hit the moon, and in 1961 Soviet astronaut Yuri A. Gagarin became the first man in space.

Khrushchev’s Relationship With Foreign Leaders

Khrushchev had a complicated relationship with the West. A fervent believer in communism, he nonetheless preferred peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries. Unlike Stalin, he even visited the United States. Relations between the two superpowers deteriorated somewhat in 1960 when the Soviets shot down an American U-2 spy plane deep inside their territory. The following year, Khrushchev approved the construction of the Berlin Wall in order to stop East Germans from fleeing to capitalist West Germany.

Cold War tensions reached a high point in October 1962 when the United States discovered Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba. The world appeared to be on the brink of nuclear conflict, but, after a 13-day standoff, Khrushchev agreed to remove the weapons. In return, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who one year earlier had authorized the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, publicly consented not to attack Cuba. Kennedy also privately agreed to take American nuclear weapons out of Turkey. In July 1963, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union negotiated a partial nuclear test ban.

One of the sharpest thorns in Khrushchev’s side was fellow communist Mao Zedong, the leader of China. Starting around 1960, the two sides engaged in an increasingly vindictive war of words, with Khrushchev calling Mao a “left revisionist” who failed to comprehend modern warfare. The Chinese, meanwhile, criticized Khrushchev as a “psalm-singing buffoon” who underestimated the nature of Western imperialism.

Khrushchev’s Fall From Power

The break with China and food shortages in the USSR eroded Khrushchev’s legitimacy in the eyes of other high-ranking Soviet officials, who were already bothered by what they saw as his erratic tendency to undercut their authority. In October 1964 Khrushchev was called back from a vacation in Pitsunda, Georgia, and forced to resign as both premier and head of the Communist Party. Khrushchev wrote his memoirs and quietly lived out the remainder of his days before dying of a heart attack in September 1971. Nonetheless, his spirit of reform lived on during the perestroika era of the 1980s.

Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev was the leader of the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963. When Khrushchev backed down and removed Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba, his credibility was in tatters within the Soviet Union’s political hierarchy and it was only a matter of time before he was edged out of office.

Nikita Khrushchev was born in 1894 at Kalinovka near to the Ukraine border. He was the son of a mineworker. Such a background politicised Khrushchev and he fought for the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. After the Bolshevik success in this and with the war ending, Khrushchev became a miner. While working as a miner, he continued his education by attending high school. Khrushchev worked for the Communist Party in Kiev and then in Moscow. While in the capital, he gained a reputation for efficiency and in 1935 Khrushchev was appointed Secretary of the Moscow Regional Committee. He would have needed the support of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to have held such a post. Khrushchev further enhanced his reputation by being very closely associated with the building of the Moscow Underground – the construction of which was deemed an engineering success and a sign to the world of Soviet skills that were more closely associated with the West. While it was the engineers who were rightly credited with the success of this project, the managerial skills of Khrushchev within such a prestigious project were also recognised.

Between 1938 and 1947, Khrushchev was mainly involved in affairs that affected the Ukraine. During World War Two, Khrushchev assisted military commanders fighting there, primarily in the Kursk Salient. Khrushchev was Prime Minister of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic from the time the Nazis were expelled to 1947.

In 1947, Stalin selected Khrushchev to reorganise the Soviet Union’s agricultural production. There can be little doubt that Stalin trusted his ability and by the time of Stalin’s death in 1953, Khrushchev was a member of the Communist Party’s Presidium. On September 12 th 1953, he was appointed First Secretary of the Party. Such a position allowed Khrushchev to build up supporters throughout the Party’s administrative machinery and to develop his power base. He used his influence to get Bulganin, his nominee, elected as Premier in February 1955. Few doubted that while Bulganin was the political figurehead of the USSR, the man with the real power was Khrushchev.

In January 1956, Khrushchev made his boldest move for power. At the 20 th Party Congress he attacked Stalin and the ‘cult of personality’ he had developed. The 1956 Suez Crisis diverted the West’s attention away from the USSR for a short time while the USSR’s grip on the Warsaw Pact was increased when Hungary was invaded and the short-lived uprising brutally suppressed.

On March 27 th 1958, Khrushchev became Premier of the USSR while he continued to hold the post of First Secretary after Bulganin was effectively pushed to one side. Khrushchev gave the appearance of wanting to introduce a thaw in the Cold War and his appointment was greeted with cautious optimism in the West, especially after the austere rule of Stalin. However, his seeming feelers for peace were mixed with more hostile statements and Khrushchev became a hard man to predict – whether it was taking off his shoe and banging it on a table as he did at the UN to emphasise a point he was making or storming out of an international meeting in Geneva leaving others sitting there without the leader of the world’s second most powerful nation. Yet this was also the man who within his own country went out to meet the people – something Stalin never did. Whether his posturing on the international stage was mere showmanship is difficult to tell – however, it was certainly unusual in an age when diplomatic work was carried out invariably in a genteel manner and ‘by the book’.

Whether Khrushchev was a ‘hawk’ or a ‘dove’ is also difficult to tell. After the Cuban Missile Crisis most, if not all, assumed he was a ‘hawk’. However, this may not have been an accurate assessment. Khrushchev, along with many other members of the Politburo, was angered that America had placed military equipment, including B52 bombers, in Turkey. However, as Turkey was a member of NATO, from the West’s point of view, this was entirely legal and acceptable. To the Soviet Union it was provocative behaviour as Turkey shared a border with the USSR. When Khrushchev had the opportunity to counter this by placing medium range nuclear missiles in Cuba, he took it. He argued that they gave the Communist Caribbean island greater protection against another Bay of Pigs incident.

During the crisis, Khrushchev gave no indication of climbing down against J F Kennedy. When he did, it greatly weakened his political position at home despite his arguments that he had got America to promise never to invade Cuba. His colleagues in Moscow were also very concerned that the traditional positive relationship between the USSR and Communist China was also deteriorating and that border issues might spark off a Sino-Soviet war. Khrushchev was levered out of office in October 1964 and succeeded by Alexei Kosygin, as Prime Minister, and Leonid Brezhnez as Party Leader. Khrushchev spent the rest of his years in retirement and died in 1971.

Nikita Khrushchev Details the Cuban Missile Crisis

President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev meet in Vienna, Austria, June 3, 1961.

Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Claire Barrett
February 25, 2021

On Wednesday, February 3, the U.S. and Russia extended an uneasy truce over nuclear proliferation.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, “is the sole arms control treaty in place between Washington and Moscow following former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty,” reports CNBC.

Washington and Moscow currently possess the lion’s share of the world’s nukes — and the New START seeks to impose limits to the nuclear arsenals of both nations. The latest limitations are among a series of treaties that began in the latter half of the 20th century and have roots in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Americans are used to the narrative that on October 16, 1962, President John F. Kennedy and his team of advisors were blindsided by the news that the Soviet Union, without provocation, were installing nuclear-armed medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles off the Florida coast in Cuba. A gambit,” writes The Atlantic, “that forced the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.”

After a tense 13 days, the Soviets blinked, and a nuclear holocaust was averted. Or so the American account goes.

In a three-part memoir, Khrushchev Remembers, first published in 1971, the former Soviet leader counters this perception — detailing life under Stalin and the key years of the Cold War.

In his memoir, excerpted in LIFE magazine in January 1971, Khrushchev writes that the 1962 crisis was a “triumph of Soviet foreign policy and a personal triumph.”

“No Russian leader — until now — ” writes the editors of LIFE “has addressed history with intimate and personal reminiscences spanning his life and that of the Soviet Union itself.”

And while the New York Times reports that “it would take a small book to list the omissions, distortions, and plain mistakes in Khrushchev Remembers,” the memoir remains one of the first elucidating texts about the missile crisis that came out from behind the Iron Curtain.

At the time of the crisis, the nuclear balance heavily favored the United States. By that year the U.S. possessed “about nine times as many nuclear weapons as the U.S.S.R.,” writes The Atlantic. Furthermore, the quality and deployment capability of the U.S. arsenal was also far superior to that of the Soviets, a fact that Khrushchev was keenly aware of.

In the memoir, Khrushchev recalled that while on a visit to Bulgaria in May 1962, “[O]ne thought kept hammering away at my brain: what will happen if we lose Cuba?”

His solution — “[I]nstall nuclear warheads in Cuba without letting the United States find out they were there until it was too late to do anything about them”— was a tit for tat trade off and sent the world hurtling towards Armageddon.

By 1962 the Soviet leader had deemed Kennedy’s deployment of the Jupiter missiles in Turkey an “intolerable provocation,” later telling American journalist Strobe Talbott that Americans “would learn just what it feels like to have enemy missiles pointing at you we’d be doing nothing more than giving them a little of their own medicine.”

“According to the version of events propagated by the Kennedy administration,” writes The Atlantic, “(and long accepted as historical fact), Washington unequivocally rebuffed Moscow’s offer and instead, thanks to Kennedy’s resolve, forced a unilateral Soviet withdrawal.”

However, in the end, Kennedy had secretly accepted the quid pro quo missile swap that Khrushchev himself proposed on October 27. A fact that only came to light in the late 1980s and after Khrushchev’s death in 1971.

Both leaders, clearly shaken by the apocalyptic possibilities avowed for greater nuclear deterrence. In 1972, both Washington and Moscow signed the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and then seven years later, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) I and SALT II, in an attempt to curb nuclear proliferation.

The agreement signed this February simply follows a history of point, counterpoint agreements that were set in place by the 1962 crisis.

Nikita Khrushchev

Eisenhower and Khrushchev during the Soviet politician's trip to the US in September 1959.

Born a Russian peasant in 1894, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev would rise from the most austere circumstances to take a leading role in some of the most transformational events in modern history. Though he is often best remembered in the West for his eccentric and often profane outbursts, it was his innate political cunning that allowed him to rise to such lofty heights.

In his youth, Nikita Khrushchev worked as a manual laborer, and only received a total of four years of formal schooling. After the start of the Russian Civil War, Khrushchev joined the Bolsheviks and served in the Red Army as a commissar in charge of political indoctrination. He worked his way into the inner circles of the Party, and was one of the few to survive Joseph Stalin’s bloody political purges. During World War II, a failed offensive at Kharkov proposed by Khrushchev nearly cost him his life, but he was instead sent to Stalingrad, where the historic Russian victory helped redeem his reputation.

After the war, Khrushchev managed the Soviet reconstruction of war-torn Ukraine. When Stalin died suddenly in 1953, Khrushchev was among the few high ranking officials in a position to seize power. He did so in September, and quickly organized the execution of his political rivals. Denouncing Stalin’s reign as a “cult of personality,” Khrushchev worked to reform some of the draconian policies of Stalinism and liberalize Soviet domestic affairs and foreign relations.

The death of Stalin and Khrushchev’s rise to political power roughly coincided with the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. The Eisenhower administration was staunchly anti-communist, however it was unwilling to intervene militarily when the Kremlin crushed a popular uprising in Hungary in 1956. Similarly, Khrushchev was unwilling to risk open warfare with the West, proposing that the Soviet Union and other noncommunist nations could “peacefully coexist.” In July 1959, US Vice President Richard Nixon visited Moscow where, at an exhibition of Western technology and consumer products, he engaged in the famous “kitchen debate” with the Soviet premier, defending the merits of American capitalism. After this exchange, it was decided on by both the Eisenhower administration and the Kremlin that Nikita Khrushchev would visit the United States.

Khrushchev’s visit was unprecedented he was the first Soviet dictator to visit the United States, and his arrival sparked a media circus. Traveling the country for eleven days, Khrushchev met with influential people, toured American farms and factories, but was enraged when he discovered that he was not allowed to visit Disneyland. Khrushchev’s visit culminated in a summit with President Eisenhower at Camp David, where negotiations were held on nuclear disarmament. At an impasse in the debate, President Eisenhower invited Khrushchev to visit his family farm, located just 18 miles from Camp David in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the premier walked the historic grounds, saw Ike's cattle operation, and met the president’s grandchildren.

Though the negotiations ended in stalemate, President Eisenhower was nonetheless invited to conduct a similar tour of the Soviet Union the following year. This visit never happened in May of 1960, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and its pilot captured alive, thus revealing the spying operation that the United States had been conducting. Relations between East and West soured. After sending Sputnik, the first satellite, into space, the Soviet Union had developed a ballistic missile program. In 1962, the world nearly plunged into nuclear war when some of these missiles were transported to Cuba, 90 miles off the American coastline.

In part due to the collapse of relations between the Soviet Union and Communist China and the failure of his proposed agricultural reforms, Khrushchev was forced out of power in October of 1964, spending his remaining years as an outcast in Moscow and at his summer home.

Though he faded into obscurity, Nikita Khrushchev’s legacy extends far past his own times. He fought his way up from the humblest of circumstances to the highest level of Soviet leadership by interminable guile and determination, only to be pushed out of the very party that he had helped to establish. He died in 1971, but the political reformations he led would set the stage for subsequent generations of Russian reformers as the age of the Soviet Union came to a close.

Nikita Khrushchev - HISTORY

First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 1953-1964. Certainly the most colorful Soviet leader, Khrushchev is best remembered for his dramatic, oftentimes boorish gestures and "harebrained schemes" designed to attain maximum propaganda effect, his enthusiastic belief that Communism would triumph over capitalism, and the fact that he was the only Soviet leader ever to be removed peacefully from office--a direct result of the post-Stalin thaw he had instigated in 1956.

A miner who had joined the Bolsheviks in 1918, Khrushchev was able to receive a technical education thanks to the October Revolution and became a true believer in the benefits of the workers' state. Rising through the Party's ranks, he became a member of the Central Committee in 1934 and of the Politburo in 1939. After Stalin's death in 1953, Khrushchev became the Party's First Secretary in the collective leadership that emerged after it had eliminated Lavrenti Beria and his faction. Subsequently, he used Stalin's established technique to divide and conquer his rivals, replace them with his own people, and emerge as the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union, with the difference that he did not kill these people, but had them assigned to such faraway and harmless posts as Ambassador to Mongolia.

In 1956, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, Khrushchev stunned the delegates with his so-called "secret speech", during which he denounced the excesses of the Stalin era and Stalin's personality cult for six hours. Until the speech, it was still considered taboo to say anything negative about Stalin. Khrushchev's speech seems somewhat mild in hindsight, now that the scale of the horrors of the Great Purges and the Gulag are well known. At the time, however, his revelations (limited only to Stalin's crimes against the Party, not the country at large) were earth shattering.

Khrushchev honestly believed in the superiority of Communism, and felt that it was only a matter of time before it would destroy the Capitalist system once and for all. He set bold (and ultimately unattainable) goals of "overtaking the West" in food production, initiating massive programs to put vast tracts of virgin lands in Kazakhstan and Siberia under the plow with the help of thousands of urban Komsomol volunteers who brought little but their enthusiasm with them to the open steppes. Despite being hailed as an expert on agriculture, Khrushchev miscalculated when, after a trip to Iowa in 1959, he became a huge enthusiast of corn and decided to introduce it to his country, most of which has an unsuitable climate. On the industrial front, Khrushchev relaxed Stalin's emphasis on military production somewhat, resulting in a wider array of consumer goods and an improved standard of living for ordinary Soviet citizens.

Another one of the achievements of Khrushchev's post-Stalin "thaw" was a relaxation of the political climate, in particular censorship. "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", Solzhenitsyn's tale of life in the Gulag camps, was published in 1961 at Khrushchev's personal behest, and an entire dissident movement of writers and intellectuals appeared. While they were persecuted and had to function underground, this was still a major change, since any dissidents whatsoever simply would not have remained alive under Stalin.

In foreign affairs, Khrushchev also enthusiastically set lofty but often-unattainable goals, and enjoyed dramatically snubbing the West. He flew to a summit in London in a half-completed prototype of a passenger jet to demonstrate the advanced state of Soviet aviation (duly impressing his hosts, who did not have a comparable plane yet at the time). Communism's appeal spread rapidly throughout the decolonizing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America as the Soviet Union lavished aid for splashy projects such as dams and stadiums. The stunning propaganda coup scored by the Soviet Union in launching the first satellite, Sputnik, was followed by greater and greater achievements, such as the first dog, the first man, and the first woman in space. Many in the West began to fear that the Soviets really were catching up and soon would overtake them.

Khrushchev's enthusiasm for flashy gestures had not been liked by more conservative elements from the very start many Soviets were greatly embarrassed by his antics, such as banging a shoe on the podium during a speech to the UN General Assembly. There were elements in the Party who were actively looking for an opportunity to oust him. Their opportunity came with the Cuban Missile Crisis. In yet another case of showmanship that he was unable to back up with deeds, in 1962 Khrushchev deployed nuclear missiles in newly Communist Cuba, within easy striking distance of most major American population centers. Thanks to intelligence received from Oleg Penkovsky, a Soviet double agent, the United States was aware that the missiles were still only partially developed and did not pose an immediate threat. President John Kennedy called Khrushchev's bluff, and the latter was forced to remove the missiles from Cuba, with great loss of face both at home and abroad. Khrushchev never regained his prestige after the incident, and was quietly ousted two years later by opponents in the Politburo--significantly, with no bloodshed. He spent the rest of his life in peaceful retirement, and was the only Soviet leader not to be buried in the Kremlin wall after his death.

Guided History


In the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev’s leadership from 1955-1964 is remembered as a period of “thaw” during the Cold War. Khrushchev’s foreign policy of pursuing peaceful coexistence with the United States and its allies was a dramatic change from previous leaders’ attitudes. In 1956, after Khrushchev had succeeded Joseph Stalin and was beginning to consolidate power, Khrushchev began a process of “de-Stalinization” to weaken his enemies in the Communist Party and strengthen his position as leader. Shortly after this, Khrushchev continued to alter Party policy with his change in approach to foreign policy. This policy of a peaceful coexistence was meant to improve relations between the Soviet Union and the United State and had major implications for the preceding events of the Cold War. Khrushchev’s policy marks a drastic change in Soviet policy and it is, therefore, necessary to understand the effects felt domestically and abroad.

I am analyzing the period from 1956 to 1964. During this time, Khrushchev implemented his policy of peaceful coexistence, but seemed to deviate from it during a number of flashpoints in history. My question is “to what extent did Khrushchev’s foreign policy for a peaceful coexistence alter the Soviet people’s perception of Soviet-American relations?” There is debate as to the extent to which Khrushchev’s foreign policies were the cause of his downfall and eventual cessation of Soviet leadership–many argue that his failed domestic policies were more significant. One of my main sources will be from Khrushchev himself it is his article titled, “On peaceful Coexistence” that justifies his policy and explains the reasons for it. Another major source will be from Rósa Magnúsdóttir’s article “‘Be Careful in America, Premier Khrushchev!’: Soviet Perceptions of Peaceful Coexistence with the United States in 1959” that analyzes Soviet letters during this time frame. The letters are written by Soviet civilians addressing Khrushchev’s policy. Overall, I will attempt to determine the effect of Khrushchev’s peaceful coexistence policy on his role as the leader of the Soviet Union.

Introductory Information.

Khrushchev, Nikita. “On peaceful coexistence.” foreign affairs 38, no. 1 (1959): 1-18. (accessed April 1, 2013).

  • Written by Nikita Khrushchev himself explaining the reasons for his policy of peaceful coexistence. He argues that from the Lenin-era, the Soviet Union has always pursued this policy because it is in the nature of Communism and merely a natural extension of it. In this article, Khrushchev continually defends the superiority of Communism, arguing that it will eventually prevail, through peaceful revolution, in the Capitalist world. Khrushchev promises the further growth and strengthening of the Soviet economy, seeing it as the only logical product of a Communist system. Furthermore, Khrushchev cites his reduction in military and military bases as sufficient proof that his policy is legitimate and ends by saying, “peaceful coexistence is the only way which is in keeping with the interests of all nations.”

Kennan, George. “Peaceful Coexistence: A Western View.” Council on Foreign Relations 38, no. 2 (1960): 171-190. (accessed April 1, 2013).

  • This article was written by George Kennan, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union. It gives an account of the United States’ perspective of Khrushchev’s policy of peaceful coexistence. Kennan takes a negative and disapproving view, calling Khrushchev’s policy a “distortion” of history, as he fails to acknowledge the Lenin- and Stalin-era violence in the Soviet Union.

Primary Sources.

  • In her article, Rósa Magnúsdóttir analyzes a collection of letters from the Soviet public regarding their opinions about Khrushchev’s new policy of peaceful coexistence. The letters were written just after Khrushchev’s visit to the United States, which the Soviet citizens generally viewed very positively. First, Magnúsdóttir explains the nature of peaceful coexistence and its goals. Then, she describes how the letters’ writers typically highlight Communism’s superiority over Capitalism, but evoke an admiration for the American way of life. The Soviet authors seem to believe that their country’s intentions are misunderstood and that, in fact, Khrushchev is correct in claiming it is the nature of Communism to pursue peaceful coexistence. Overall, however, Magnúsdóttir argues that there is an overwhelming sense of “self-censorship” that goes on in the letters, which makes them severely susceptible to bias.

Wedgwood Benn , David. “On Re-Examining the Khrushchev Era: A Review Article Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman.” Europe-Asia Studies 56, no. 4 (2004): 615-621. (accessed April 5, 2013).

  • This article briefly discusses the notion that although remembered fondly by many non-communists now, Khruschev was horribly unpopular during his time in power. Wedgewood Benn attributes this mass-disapproval to Khrushchev’s involvement in the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both events were seen as being shameful for the Soviet Union.

Du Quenoy, Paul. “The Role of Foreign Affairs in the Fall of Nikita Khrushchev in October 1964.” The International History Review 25, no. 2 (2003): 334-356. (accessed April 1, 2013).

  • In his article, Paul De Quenoy argues that Khrushchev’s foreign policy was a significant factor that led to his downfall in 1964. He notes the hypocrisy of Khrushchev’s policy despite his calls for peace, Khrushchev did not substantially reduce the amount of nuclear weapons the Soviet Union possessed. Similarly to Wedgewood Benn, De Quenoy points to the Berlin Crisis and Cuban Missile Crisis as points of contention between the Soviet people and the Communist party. Overall, he suggests the frequent flashpoints during Khrushchev’s reign that should be attributed towards his downfall.

Print Sources.

Service, Robert. A History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-First Century. Third Edition ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

  • The 17th and 18th Chapters of Service’s book is focused on the Khrushchev-era in the Soviet Union. He notes that Khrushchev’s claim of Lenin’s will to follow a peaceful coexistence in the beginning phase of Communism is not quite accurate. Instead, Service argues, “Lenin had mentioned such an idea only glancingly. Furthermore, Service claims that Khrushchev “no longer faced serious domestic challenge” to his policy of peaceful coexistence, but instead offers other domestic conditions, such as politics, economics, and culture, for being the cause of his downfall.

Kocho-Williams, Alastair. Russia’s International Relations in the Twentieth Century. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis, 2013.

  • In his book, Kocho-Williams focuses on the Khrushchev-era in Chapter 8. He argues that Khrushchev’s policy of peaceful coexistence would be better defined as a policy of “enforced coexistence” rather than seeking to ease tensions. Again, Kocho-Williams cites the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis as being major failures in Khrushchev’s policies. He argues that the series of embarrassments in the 1950s and 1960s were the main reasons why Khrushchev was ousted in 1964. Kocho-Williams highlights Khrushchev’s trip to the United States as a positive time in public opinion, but pinpoints the ‘Shoe Banging’ incident as the damning negative shift.

Media and Background Sources.

“Khrushchev and Peaceful Coexistence” by John D. Clare

  • Depicted is a cartoon of Khrushchev destroying a snow man, which represents the Cold War. A smiling, large and strong Khrushchev bravely begins to melt the snowman, putting an end to the Cold War. This is how the Soviet public viewed Khrushchev’s policy of peaceful coexistence in the beginning of his leadership they viewed his efforts positively and were optimistic about the outcome.
  • This is a video of Khrushchev’s ‘Shoe Banging’ incident at the UN in 1960 (starts at 4:45). This incident brought a lot of shame to the Soviet people, who felt their leader made a fool of himself on the world stage.
  • This is an interview with Sergei Khrushchev, Nikita Khruschev’s son, about the Soviet perspective during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the interview, Sergei defends his father’s actions and further promotes peaceful negotiations.

Brusilovskaia, Lidiia. 2009. “The Culture of Everyday Life During the Thaw.” Russian Studies In History 48, no. 1: 10-32. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 8, 2013).

Nikita Khrushchev (PJW)

Nikita Khrushchev (April 15, 1894 - September 11, 1971) led the Soviet Union as First Secretary from 1953 to his overthrow in late 1956.

Following the death of Joseph Stalin, Khrushchev emerged as a potential leader and eventually won the power struggle against Georgy Malenkov. His grip on power was tenuous though he initially had the support of major Stalinists, his "Secret Speech" denouncing Stalin and his cult of personality, as well as subsequent proposed liberal reforms, turned the faction against him. The nuclear strike against China in 1955 during the Taiwan Straits Crisis, though no fault of his own, further damaged both his image and that of the communist world, further turning opinion against him.

In response to the formation of NATO, Khrushchev announced the creation of the Warsaw Pact, a political, military, and economic alliance of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. In the summer of 1956, this contributed to severe riots in Poland though crushed, they later inspired a severe wave of protests, riots, and eventual rebellion in Eastern Europe in the fall. At the same time, the United States and its western allies invaded Egypt after it nationalized the Suez Canal.

Khrushchev demanded the United States withdraw or face a retaliatory strike when they refused, Khrushchev did not follow through with his ultimatum, not desiring war and recognizing the Soviet Union could not match the American nuclear arsenal. His foreign failures combined with the success of rebels in Hungary and the assassination of a key ally, Georgy Zhukov, resulted in the Stalinists seizing power and forcing Khrushchev's resignation.

Funny photos of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and foreign relations

The USSR had warm relations with Cuba, and Khrushchev had even warmer relations with Fidel Castro.

And Nikita was so happy to see Fidel in Moscow in 1963 that he even invited him on the top of Lenin&rsquos Mausoleum - a rare honor.

However, Fidel doesn&rsquot seem so happy.

In 1959, Khrushchev had a tour of the U.S. He became friends with American farmer Roswell Garst and was amazed by the vast amounts of corn&hellip

Seriously, there are dozens of photos with Khrushchev and corn cobs in the U.S.

And then, in 1960 he launched a corn campaign in the USSR and wanted to sow enormous amounts of it. But the plan failed.

And here is Khrushchev making fun of the girth of an Iowa man. Why not?

In 1960, he made a legendary speech at the UN and is purported to have shaken his shoe (which is a myth, he only promised to show everyone &lsquoKuzma&rsquos mother&rsquo)

And he was fortunate to meet Jacqueline Kennedy. Isn&rsquot he shy? Or did he hesitate whether to kiss her hand or to shake as a real communist.

In 1955, Khrushchev did a big tour across India. Nice dress!

Another legendary photo made in India - a mutual feeding with the Kashmir prime minister according to local hospitality traditions

A photo with Chinese leader Mao Zedong during Khrushchev&rsquos 1958 visit to China. Hot!

In 1960, Khrushchev made a visit to Hungary, a country that was part of the Eastern bloc. He was a welcomed guest.

And he felt almost like home&hellip (he grew up in a village)

Khrushchev plays shuffleboard with Hungarian leader János Kádár

Another big communist friend who deserves hugs was Walter Ulbricht, the leader of East Germany (well, his successor, Erich Honecker, also earned a legendary kiss from Leonid Brezhnev that was immortalized on the Berlin wall)

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Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev [ a ] (April 15 [O.S. April 3]� – September 11, 1971) led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the 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 partial 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 the Russian village of Kalinovka in 1894, close to the present-day border between Russia and Ukraine. He was employed as a metalworker in his youth, and during the Russian Civil War was a political commissar. 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 1939, 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.

In the power struggle triggered by Stalin's death in 1953, Khrushchev, after several years, emerged victorious. On February 25, 1956, at the 20th Party Congress, he delivered the "Secret Speech," denouncing Stalin's purges and ushering 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 the area of 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 tensest years of the Cold War, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Some of Khrushchev's policies were seen as erratic, particularly by his emerging rivals, who quietly rose in strength and deposed him in October 1964. He did not suffer the deadly fate of some previous losers of Soviet power struggles, but 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 1970. Khrushchev died in 1971 of heart disease.
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Documents containing the thoughts and opinions of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The earliest document is from 1955 and the latest is from 1968. Most are from Russian archives, along with a few Bulgarian and Romanian documents. The collection includes comments on Stalin, the post-Stalin Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and the 1956 uprisings in Poland and Hungary. The documents also broadly cover his opinions on various states, nations, the Soviet Union, and socialism.See also 1956 Polish and Hungarian Crisis and Post Stalin Succession Struggle. (Image: Khrushchev and Kennedy meet in Vienna, June 1961, Department of State Photograph from the JFK Library)

Record of Conversation between N.S. Khrushchev and Prime Minister of Cuba Fidel Castro

Dictated by Cde. N. S. Khrushchev on 10 October 1960

Khrushchev reports on the proceedings at the United Nations in New York and his delegation's travel plans for returning to Moscow. He mentions his approval of plans to purchase buildings in New York for Ukrainian and Belorussian missions to the UN. He also suggests that they purchase an American car to bring back for the benefit of Soviet auto designers. He concludes with criticisms of the United States and New York.

Letter from Khrushchev to Ulbricht, in Response to Ulbricht's Previous Letter Regarding a Peace Treaty

Khrushchev writes to Ulbricht discussing negotiations with Kennedy and other Western powers with both German states.

Notes on the Conversation of Comrade N.S. Khrushchev with Comrade W. Ulbricht on 1 August 1961

Transcription of a meeting in Moscow between Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and East German leader Walter Ulbricht on August 1, 1961. They discuss plans to close the border between East and West Berlin. The document shows Khrushchev’s and Ulbricht’s deliberations about the reasons for sealing the border in Berlin, the timing for sealing the border and some of the difficulties they expected to arise therefrom.

Ministry of the Interior Bulletin on Anti-Bulgarian Activity of Greece and Turkey

The Ministry of Internal Affairs reports its intelligence findings on the military cooperation between the US, Greece and Turkey.

Comments of N. S. Khrushchev, 11 December 1961

Krushchev dictates his ideas for a general memorandum that he will give to Kroll. The memorandum will describe the situation in Germany and the possible development of Soviet-West German relations. It should demonstrate to West Germany the economic and political advantages of improving its relationship with the Soviet Union. Khrushchev describes the potential for West Germany's allies to capitalize on Cold War tensions in Germany and concludes that better relations with the Soviet Union will make West Germany a more active force in East-West relations and lead to a more stable balance of power.

Information from a Bulgarian Secretariat Commission on the Results of the Investigation Regarding the Regime at the Lovech’ Labor Camp

Commission’s findings confirm the allegations of prisoner abuse in the two major labor camp sites – Lovech (for male detainees) and Skravena (for female detainees). The report concludes that camp living conditions and the physical abuse of detainees constitute a divergence from the party policy on combating crime. The report further recommends that the two labor camps be closed down and that the former leadership of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs take full responsibility for the negative consequences of camps’ existence.

Speech of N. S. Khrushchev at a friendly dinner in Yevksinograd (Varna), 16 May 1962

Speaking in Bulgaria, Khrushchev discusses the cult of personality of Stalin and the great purges that occurred under Stalin's leadership. He contrasts Lenin and Stalin and the role of the communist party under each. He addresses the history and current situation of the Communist Party of Albania and the Soviet split with Albania and Yugoslavia.

Conversation of Cde. N. S. Khrushchev and acting United Nations Secretary General U Thant, 28 August 1962

Khrushchev and Thant discuss the possibility of a visit by Khrushchev to the UN General Assembly. Khrushchev says a visit is not likely until the Americans, French, British and Germans are ready to negotiate a solution to the Berlin question. Khrushchev outlines the Soviet position and says that the Soviet Union will sign a unilateral peace treaty with the GDR if their conditions are not met. He says that the SU would agree to UN intervention and to a multilateral peace treaty, which would avert international conflict and war. Khrushchev suggests that the UN headquarters be transferred to West Germany due to high costs and discrimination in New York. He identifies additional issues for discussion: the admittance of the People's Republic of China into the UN, the Taiwan-China issue, and disarmament. Thant and Khrushchev discuss the obstacles to resolution of the German question, including public opinion in America. They also discuss American dominance in the UN Secretariat, free trade, and the Common Market, among other topics.

Letter from Khrushchev to John F. Kennedy

Khrushchev expresses outrage at Kennedy’s establishment of quarantine in Cuba.

Notes of Conversation between A.I. Mikoyan and Fidel Castro

Soviet Ambassador to Cuba Alexeev reports on the conversation between Mikoyan and Fidel Castro. The Cuban leader expresses his disappointment that the Cuban leadership was not consulted on the issue of withdrawing Soviet weapons from Cuba and on the Cuban Missile Crisis in general, and emphasizes the negative impact it has had and confusion it has caused on the Cuban people.

Report on Talk between Nicolae Ceauşescu and Nikita Khrushchev, Moscow, 8 June 1963 (excerpt)

Ceauşescu was sent in the USSR by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej to establish a meeting between Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Nikita Khrushchev. During the meeting, Nikita Khrushchev said to Nicolae Ceauşescu: “By sending missiles to Cuba, we ourselves put our head in a bind. I know comrade Gheorghiu-Dej was upset that I had not informed about sending missiles to Cuba. And he has been rightly upset."

Documents Concerning Conversations in Moscow between Cuban Communist Official Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev

The report of a conversation in Moscow between Cuban Communist Official Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev, discussing Soviet-Cuban relations and public announcements of support.

Statements of Cde. N. S. Khrushchev at a CPSU CC Presidium meeting, 25 April 1963

Khrushchev criticizes the management of ideological work in the cultural industries: film, radio, television, publishing, and theater. He states that science and ideology should be separated into two departments. A discussion about the organization of the Ministry of Culture follows, including the need to establish greater coordination among the republics. Khrushchev criticizes the indulgence of the Writer's Union and emphasizes the need for reform. He recommends the creation of a council of representatives from all the republics to oversee ideological work.

Conversations between the Delegation of the Romanian Workers Party and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Pitzunda, 15 March 1964 (excerpts)

Khrushchev and Mikoyan discuss the Cuban Missile Crisis in this excerpt from a conversation with a Romanian delegation in Pitzunda, Georgia (now Abkhazia). They discuss the Sino-Soviet Split, and Khrushchev complains that "the Chinese qualified us as adventurers, while on other issues they call us cowards," and explains his reasoning for defending Cuba.

Notes from Meeting of Romanian Delegation with Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow, 17 July 1964 (excerpts)

Khrushchev, Kosygin, and Romanian representative Bodnăraş discuss the history of Soviet-Romanian relationships, Soviet espionage in Romania, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Note on the Conversation between the Romanian Party and Government Delegation led by Ion Gheorghe Maurer and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev

Note reporting on negative comments made by Khrushchev about Mao Zedong.

Memorandum of Conversation between the Romanian Party and Government Delegation Led by Ion Gheorghe Maurer and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev

Representatives from Romania and the Soviet Union discuss the current industrial and economic situation, as well as foreign relations with China.

The Polyansky Report on Khrushchev’s Mistakes in Foreign Policy, October 1964

Excerpt from a report prepared by Politiburo member Dmitry Polyansky on Khrushchev's foreign policy mistakes, presented at 14 October 1964 CPSU Central Committee plenum. Polyansky included a scathing denunciation of Khrushchev’s “adventurism” in sending the missiles to Cuba, causing the “deepest of crises [that] brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war.” Ridiculing Khrushchev’s claims of having achieved a successful “penetration” of Latin America, Polyansky dismissed his contention that the crisis had in fact ended with a Soviet victory.

Stenographic Protocol of the II Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (excerpts)

Gomulka addresses the justification for Khrushchev's removal and describes some of the recent foreign policy problems experienced as a result of Khrushchev's actions.

Watch the video: Nikita Khrushchev The Man Behind the Missile Crisis (October 2022).

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