The Colorful Khrushchev
The Colorful Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev …176
Sergei Khrushchev …184
Nikita Khrushchev …195
N ikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) was twenty-three years of age during the Bolshevik (Communist) Revolution in Russia in 1917. In the 1920s, Khrushchev was able to attend educational institutions established by the Communist Party to instruct young people in basic education and communist doctrine. A bright student and natural leader, Khrushchev began his rise in the Communist Party. By 1935, he held one of the top positions in the party: First Secretary of the Moscow city party. That same year, he was elected to the Soviet Central Committee, the organization that oversaw all the important administrative duties of the Communist Party. By 1939, he became a full member of the Politburo, the policy-making group of the Central Committee.
Khrushchev served in the Soviet army during World War II (1939–45) and rose to the rank of lieutenant general. Following World War II, Khrushchev was back in his native Ukraine in southern Russia, both as leader of the Ukraine Communist Party and as overseer of rebuilding the Ukraine's postwar economy. By the late 1940s, he had returned to Moscow and was one of the inner circle of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953). He regularly dined with Stalin but managed to escape Stalin's regular purges of Soviet leaders. Stalin died in March 1953. A power struggle ensued between Khrushchev and Stalin's successor, Georgy Malenkov (1902–1988). By 1955, Khrushchev was firmly in power.
Khrushchev became the most colorful leader in Soviet history. Although he had come from a poor peasant background and had struggled to gain an education, he had learned rapidly from experience. He attacked all tasks with energy, enthusiasm, and directness. His mannerisms were boisterous, often rude, independent, and unconventional. Underneath the show was a warm, good-natured man who genuinely cared for the Soviet people and was more interested in the land and agriculture than in military weapons. With his rise to power, the terror tactics of Stalin's thirty-year dictatorship ended.
In the first excerpt here, the "Crimes of Stalin Speech," Khrushchev dared to reveal the murderous trail and paranoid life and activities of Stalin. The several-hour speech was met by shock, amazement, and thunderous applause. The second excerpt, from an article in American Heritage, by Sergei Khrushchev (1935–), is a firsthand look at Khrushchev's years in power, 1953 until 1964, through the eyes of his son. Sergei, as talented in the use of words as his father, shows a very human and practical Khrushchev carefully balancing the security of his country through the Cold War (1945–91). The final excerpt is from "Peace and Progress Must Triumph in Our Time," in which Nikita Khrushchev reported to the people of Moscow on his trip to the United States. The Soviets were very curious about what Americans were like, and Khrushchev related his impressions. In the address, he also called repeatedly for peaceful coexistence between the super-powers and for armament-reduction discussions.