Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev

William Taubman
Sergei Khrushchev
Abbott Gleason
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Nikita Khrushchev
    Book Description:

    What was known about Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during his career was strictly limited by the secretive Soviet government. Little more information was available after he was ousted and became a "non-person" in the ussr in 1964. This pathbreaking book draws for the first time on a wealth of newly released materials-documents from secret former Soviet archives, memoirs of long-silent witnesses, the full memoirs of the premier himself-to assemble the best-informed analysis of the Khrushchev years ever completed. The contributors to this volume include Russian, Ukrainian, American, and British scholars; a former key foreign policy aide to Khrushchev; the executive secretary of a Russian commission investigating Soviet-era repressions and rehabilitations; and Khrushchev's own son Sergei.The book presents and interprets new information on Khrushchev's struggle for power, public attitudes toward him, his role in agricultural reform and cultural politics, and such foreign policy issues as East-West relations, nuclear strategy, and relations with Germany. It also chronicles Khrushchev's years in Ukraine where he grew up and began his political career, serving as Communist party boss from 1938 to 1949, and his role in mass repressions of the 1930s and in destalinization in the 1950s and 1960s. Two concluding chapters compare the regimes of Khrushchev and Gorbachev as they struggled to reform Communism, to humanize and modernize the Soviet system, and to answer the haunting question that persists today: Is Russia itself reformable?

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12809-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Contributors (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-7)

    Alone among Soviet rulers, Nikita Khrushchev left the Soviet Union better off than when he became its leader. (Arguably, Mikhail Gorbachev did likewise, except that the Soviet Union no longer existed when he left office). Yet until Khrushchev became first secretary of the Soviet Communist party in 1953, not much was generally known about him in the West or even in the Soviet Union outside of high party circles. He had worked in the mines in Ukraine, served in the Ukrainian party apparatus, and then risen to become Moscow party leader, Stalin’s viceroy in Ukraine, a high-ranking wartime political commissar,...

  5. 1 The Ukrainian Years, 1894–1949 (pp. 8-43)

    The Ukrainian pages of Nikita Khrushchev’s biography remain among the least studied, even though a considerable part of his life was associated with Ukraine. He began his political career there, and his appointment in early 1938 as leader of the Ukrainian party organization turned out to be a peculiar sort of salvation for him. The English journalist and diplomat Edward Crankshaw correctly noted that it was in Ukraine that Khrushchev became as much his own boss as was possible under Stalin, developed his abilities and talents, and saw with his own eyes the horrible suffering through which people were forced...

  6. 2 The Rise to Power (pp. 44-66)

    Nikita Khrushchev was elected secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at a committee plenum on December 16, 1949.¹ Shortly thereafter he vacated the post of head of the Ukrainian Communist party. The advancement occurred on Stalin’s initiative. A few days after his arrival in Moscow, at a celebration of Stalin’s seventieth birthday, Khrushchev sat to the leader’s immediate left on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater.

    Khrushchev also effectively became the first secretary of the party’s Moscow province committee, which he had already led between 1935 and 1938. His move reflected Stalin’s notion...

  7. 3 The Rivalry with Malenkov (pp. 67-84)

    Traditionally, Soviet history of the 1950s and 1960s has been closely connected with the activity of Nikita Khrushchev, and it is perfectly natural that he should appear as a central figure in all studies of the period. At the same time, representations of Khrushchev as the sole leader of the reformist wing in the party are one-sided. Khrushchev’s personal contribution to developing the reformist path may be gauged only on the basis of a comparative analysis of the views and positions of other politicians, and a determination of the influence each of them had on the course of political decision-making....

  8. 4 Repression and Rehabilitation (pp. 85-112)

    While the life and political activities of Nikita Khrushchev continue to be admired and respected by some, they have been harshly and passionately criticized by others. This ambivalence is connected with Khrushchev’s reformist activities of the 1950s and 1960s and primarily with his speech at the 20th Party Congress, which turned all Soviet history upside down, opened a new stage in its development, and ultimately led to the collapse of the Communist regime.

    Whatever Khrushchev’s intentions may have been, his act is still denounced by orthodox Communists, be they covert or overt Stalinists, and greatly admired by their opponents, the...

  9. 5 Khrushchev and the Countryside (pp. 113-137)

    In March 1953, immediately after the death of Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev became one of the secretaries of the CPSU Central Committee. In September, he was already proposing a plan for improving the condition of the countryside that would have done honor to any Communist functionary of the time. Simply recognizing the miserable condition of the countryside constituted a revolutionary step. Khrushchev was the first to say what everyone knew but no one even dared think: that people in the villages lived badly, in abject poverty; that they were even worse off than people in the cities; that they were worn...

  10. 6 Industrial Management and Economic Reform under Khrushchev (pp. 138-159)

    For a generation after Nikita Khrushchev’s removal from power, the conventional wisdom among Western—and, much later, Russian—scholars regarding Khrushchev’s handling of industrial management and economic policy was relatively simple: the Khrushchev period was all but a dead loss as far as economic reform was concerned; the failure to undertake reforms was largely the result of Khrushchev’s lack of enthusiasm for, if not outright hostility toward, such ideas; and this failure to introduce more economically rational forms of management must be regarded as a lost opportunity.¹ Abraham Katz’s assessment of the period accurately reflects this viewpoint. Summing up the...

  11. 7 Cultural Codes of the Thaw (pp. 160-176)

    The story of Thaw politics is about culture. The story of Thaw culture is about politics. Neither can be told without the other. Culture provides the conceptual nomenclature for the Thaw in prose writer Ilya Ehrenburg’s 1954 novel.² Politics provides the four crucial dates, a kind of pulse that drives and accentuates the cultural events: 1953, 1956, 1961, 1964.

    In between these four dates lie the three major episodes of the cultural Thaw. In the first episode, set in motion by Stalin’s death, the key figures are the writers Olga Berggolts, Vladimir Pomerantsev, Leonid Zorin, and Ehrenburg himself.³ Their thematic...

  12. 8 Popular Responses to Khrushchev (pp. 177-208)

    For a host of reasons, the serious study of interrelationships between the people and the elite, between the masses and the leaders, has long been difficult, if not impossible, in Russia. Only quite recently have historians been able to turn their attention to the destruction, restoration, and new downfall of the imperial mentality, the sociopolitical preconditions for the Stalin cult, the split between mass consciousness and the behavior of Soviet citizens, the dulling of the collective intellect and internal resistance to the regime, and individual rejection of that regime.¹

    Shifts in public consciousness after the death of Stalin, especially after...

  13. 9 The Making of Soviet Foreign Policy (pp. 209-241)

    It has always been my impression that the 1950s and early 1960s were one of the most exciting and fascinating periods in international affairs and East-West relations in particular. In large measure the driving force behind the changes that occurred in that period was Nikita Khrushchev. I became Khrushchev’s assistant for foreign affairs in April 1958. I first joined the diplomatic service at the end of 1944. I was a junior diplomat at the Soviet embassy in London, worked as secretary and interpreter for the Soviet judges at the Nuremberg trials, and at the beginning of 1947 joined the secretariat...

  14. 10 The Military-Industrial Complex, 1953–1964 (pp. 242-274)

    It is difficult to write about one’s father. It is a hundred times more difficult to write about such a father as Nikita Khrushchev, whose contradictory character blended pragmatism and the Communist idealism of the twentieth century. Far from everything that happened between 1953 and 1964 was reported or ended up in archival folders, and at times the most valuable things disappeared. But the formation of a new military ideology happened right before my eyes. On the one hand, the name Nikita Khrushchev is associated with the arms race, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban missile crisis. At the same...

  15. 11 The Case of Divided Germany, 1953–1964 (pp. 275-300)

    Nikita Khrushchev’s personal diplomacy provides a vast range of episodes for his biographers, from triumphs for the policy of peace to “hare-brained schemes” and impulsive, dangerous zigzags.¹ Since the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, some historians have contended that Khrushchev was ahead of his time, a precursor to Gorbachev and the “new political thinking.” Yet the Berlin Wall, whose construction was sanctioned by Khrushchev in August 1961, was long a grim emblem of a Europe and Germany torn asunder by the Cold War.

    In this chapter I will argue that divided Germany was a grave...

  16. 12 Khrushchev and Gorbachev: A Russian View (pp. 301-320)

    All countries change, but they do so in different ways. Some adapt quickly and relatively easily to the circumstances of the times. Others do so slowly and with difficulty, sometimes dragging out urgently needed changes for centuries. Some undertake changes willingly, even enthusiastically, while others put up desperate resistance, as if being led off to execution.

    This is how things appeared at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, when Peter I decided to “open a window onto Europe” and to build his state after the example of England and Holland. To this end he...

  17. 13 Khrushchev and Gorbachev: An American View (pp. 321-334)

    This comparison of the reformist strategies of Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev, strategies that had a lot in common, aims to shed light on the reformability or otherwise of the Soviet system in the post-Stalin period. To the extent that their strategies were similar we may be able to identify those parts of the system that were the most obvious targets for reform. To the extent that they were different we may perhaps conclude that Gorbachev thought he was learning from Khrushchev’s mistakes. And to the extent that they both found their strategies leading to a steady shrinking of their...

  18. Notes (pp. 335-378)
  19. Index (pp. 379-391)

You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in to your personal account or through your institution.