by Abedian Hossep

Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev is the first of the three major Bolshevik dictators to use his real name rather than conspiratorial fictitious name in public life, which indicates his popularity among his friends and people. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Lenin and Stalin, his entire connection with the communist movement has been in the period since the Bolsheviks took power, and his whole political career has taken place within a bureaucratic and ministerial system and not in the duration of the revolution (McNeal p 139). He was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable and most ambivalent political figure of the twentieth century. He was an outstanding statesman and politician, whose career had a deep impact on world's history, Soviet Union, and the entire communist movement (Pearce 12).

Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) was born in the village of Kalinovka, in Kursk Gaberniya. He grew up in a peasant family, where his father, Sergei, was obliged to spend more of his time, away from home, working in a coal mine in order to provide for his large family. For the same reason, like any other peasant boy, Nikita Sergeevich became acquainted with work at early age (McCauley p 8).

After Stalin's death, in 1953, there was a turmoil in the communist party for the election of the new director. There was two ideologies, which divided the Bolshevik party in to sectors. One side was the Stalin ideological followers, Malenkov, Beria, the Chairman of the Soviet secret service (KGB), and Molotov. These were the leaders whose main duties and sources of authority were laid from the state organization, in the bureaucratic ministerial structure, and not in the party apparatus. On the other hand newly elected presidium, party's central Bureau, which was consisted of Bulganin, Kaganovich and Mikoyan (Armenian). If, as seemed possible in 1953, any of the presidium members did not gained supremacy in the government the Lenin- Stalin tradition would have been broken. In this internal conflict Khrushchev (1953-1964) used the competition towards his favor and won the trust of his fellow presidium comrades, seized power, and became the General secretary of the Soviet Union for eleven years (Pearce p 15).

Immediately after he seized power, in June 26 1953, he declared war to Stalin's ghost and he gave his famous speech, which condemned and criticized Stalin for his actions. He referred Stalin as a conceited, brutal, and blunder leader, who crippled the communist party and the Soviet Union. The next morning Khrushchev asked General Moskalenko, commander of Moscow's air defense, and General Zhukov, The chief of the staff of the Red army, to arrest Beria and execute him in charges of being an enemy of the the people (Mededev 94).

Khrushchev's performance can be divided in to two main categories: The internal domestic reforms and the external international affairs. Internally Khrushchev's reforms were to upraise the Soviet economy, which was diminishing very rapidly, due to Stalin's great terror. His improvements were mainly concentrated on the agriculture industry and Petty Bursuaism . Externally he played an significant role on Chines-Soviet Union relations and Cuban crises.

Khrushchev's first step, on 1954-55,was called "Nomenclature" system, which would facilitate the placing of the right people in the local authorities or offices, who would make decisions according to each of the specific republic's problems. this reform created a better opportunity for the republics to practice more liberal economical system and preserve their cultural and ethnicity under the Soviet Union's rule (McCauley 32). By May 1957, 11000 enterprises, which were run by the twelve central governments' ministries, were placed under the jurisdictions of the republic's bodies (mainly individuals). However this method failed for two reasons: First, because these enterprises were only partly individualized. the second reason was that the whole industries were operating under the central economical system, and these enterprises were not self efficient or independent. Therefore their contribution to the whole economy could not be significant (McCauley 30). In December 1958 Krushchev decided to eliminate these Petty Bursuies and established hundred of Councils of the National Economies (Sovnarkhozy), which merely gave more independence to each state from the central Soviet economical ministry (McCauley 33)

In 1953, agricultural production had a growth of 2.5 percent, which would indicate that there was an urgent need to increase food output. Khrushchev knew that there were millions of hectares of virgin and idle land throughout the country, such as Kazakstan, Turkmenistan and many other states in the Soviet Union. Therefore he presented series of innovative ideas, for instance forming the Machine Tractor Stations (MTS) to cultivate and harvest crops in more quantities and efficiently. Hence production of the agricultural products increased by 50 percent annually, from 1954 to 1963 (McCauley 37).

Khrushchev's external international reforms and policies are many, but mainly it can be recognized as priority the reestablishment of good relations with communist China, which was almost fainting during Stalin. Because of ideological differences between Mao Tse-Tung and Stalin, which created a misbalance between the two great powers. Khrushchev immediately recognized this problem and traveled to China, in October 1954, while Malenkov and foreign minister Molotov remained in Moscow. He and Mikoyan, Armenian who was the minister of trade and later on he became the Vice Chairman of the presidium, visited Mao and maintained stability and economical relations with each other. However on the 19th anniversary of Lenin's birthday, April 1960, the Chinese communist party published a lengthy analysis of Leninism and claimed that they were the true communists. By this announcement once more Soviet-Chinese relations got drowned (Medvendev 180-192).

The other significant impact that Soviet Union had during the Khrushchev's era was the Cuban crises. It was during these crises when Khrushchev had his second famous speck at the United Nations in September 1962. He clearly announced that if the United States did not remove its economical embargo from Cuba and its missals from Turkey, Soviet Union will not discharge its missals from Cuba; and if the U.S. troops invade Cuba then there will be a war (Khrushchev's memo 181). Just after the announcement president John F. Kennedy replied: " We must not tug at the end of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the harder we both poll, the tighter the knot will become". Later Khrushchev wrote in his memo that: " Kennedy was a smart man. He knew if America could not be friend with us, at least it should not incite conflict... I understood him and he understood me" (Khrushchev 183).Cuban crises never got resolved, but both sides reached to certain agreements that speared our lives in this world (Medvedev 215).

The demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 highlighted the efforts that president Gorbachev took in order to reform the Soviet system. He had attempted very bold and daring reforms by influencing the communist party, the soviet economy and the Soviet cultural policies. However it should be considered that if it was not for the Khrushchev's reforms, earlier in the century, Gorbachev would not been able to introduce "glasnost" or "perestroika" to the dark Stalin Soviet system.


  1. BOLSHEVIK TRADITION : Robert McNeal, 1965.

  2. KHRUSHCHEV : Roy Medvedev, 1983.

  3. KHRUSHCHEV ERA : Martin McCauley, 1995.

  4. KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS : The Glasnost Tapes, Forwarded by : Strob Talbott 1991.



Nikita Khrushchev, born April 17, 1894 in the village of Kalinovka in Kursk province, was an infamous political Russian leader. Son of a coal miner and grandson of a serf who served in the tsarist army, Khrushchev had little hint of a prominent future. This all changed during the struggle between Reds, Whites, and the Ukrainian nationalists for possession of the Ukraine in 1918 where Khrushchev initially joined the Russian Communist Party (Britannica, 843). Through his hard work and knowledge of mine and factory conditions, he was noticed by Stalin's close associate, Lazar M. Kaganovich, the secretary general of the Ukrainian Party Central Committee. Khrushchev's first big step into the political world was when Kaganovich invited him to the 14th Party Congress in Moscow as a nonvoting delegate (Americana, 422).

By the late 1920's, Khrushchev was an active party organizer. In 1929 he went to study at the Stalin Industrial Academy in Moscow. Returning to his full time party work in 1931, Khrushchev succeeded Kaganovich (1935) in becoming the first secretary of the Moscow party organization, otherwise known as the mayor of Moscow (Britannica, 844).

By 1938 he was made a candidate member of the Central Committee's Politburo, and then promoted by Stalin to full member status the following year.

Khrushchev's first wartime assignment came in 1941 where he was a lieutenant general during the German occupation. Here he was to evacuate as much of the Ukraine's industry as possible to the east. After the liberation of Ukraine in 1944, the worst famine of Ukrainian history hit in 1946. Khrushchev's main goal was to restore the grain production and to distribute food supplies, while Stalin insisted on greater production in other areas from Ukraine (Malle, 20). This was Khrushchev's first acquaintance with the agricultural problems facing the Soviet Union. Eventually Stalin called Khrushchev back to Moscow to resume with his old job as the head of the Moscow City Party, while also appointing him to secretary of the All-Union Central Committee (Britannica, 844).

Within the next couple of years (1949-1953), Khrushchev and many other prominent Soviet leaders found working under Stalin far from pleasant. His palace politics caused members to feel like pawns in his game of chess. With Stalin's death on March 5, 1953, a different tune came into play. Although there was a struggle in the beginning between Khrushchev and Stalin's heir apparent, Georgy Malenkov, Khrushchev managed to overtake Malenkov's position as the party's first secretary in September 1953 (Internet). By 1955 Khrushchev was also able to remove Malenkov from premiership in favor of Marshal Nikolay A. Bulganin, his hand-picked nominee.

Khrushchev's time in power showed all of Russia and other countries his talent as a leader. Giving public speeches, attending press interviews, presiding over receptions, and being a guest all over the world, he made quite a name for himself. At the 20th Party Congress in Moscow on February 24-25, 1956, Khrushchev made a memorable and startling speech. During this oration he bitterly attacked "Stalin's cruelty, megalomania, and self-glorification, deriding his military capacities and his leadership during World War II" (Britannica 1953, 638). This, not published in the USSR, but revealed by the US. State Department caused upheaval within the composition of the party's presidium (the former Politburo) in June 1957. Within the next year (March 1957) Khrushchev even managed to succeed Bulganin as prime minister while remaining as first secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union. This made Khrushchev the first leader since Stalin to control both the party and the state, a very powerful position (Britannica 1958, 749).

By the late 1950's, Khrushchev spent much of his time focusing on the agricultural problems that he encountered early in his years under Stalin. He addressed the UN general assembly on September 18, 1959 introducing to them four main reforms. These included agriculture, education, judicial system/criminal law, and a new seven year plan (Rockett, 125). By the early 1960's Khrushchev was interested in improving the Soviet-US relations. He sent a message to congratulate President Kennedy on his inauguration, and he also released two US airmen who were held in Russia because their planes were shot down near the Soviet Arctic coast in July 1960. However, tension grew when Khrushchev maintained a belligerent posture throughout the early phases of the Berlin crisis, although many postulated that it was all the pressure placed upon him from the militarists and Stalinist in the high Soviet circles (Americana, 423).

Khrushchev, an already powerful and prominent man in Soviet history, really made a name for himself at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union. Here he proposed a new party program. He placed his "personal stamp on Communist aims and theory, condemned Stalinism, and the Albanian leaders for their adherence to it, and castigated the so called "antiparty" group that included Vyacheslav M. Molotov" (Britannica 1961, 689). The de-Stalinization campaign started to take a symbolic turn with the removal of Stalin's embalmed body from it's place next to Lenin in the mausoleum in the Red Square (Britannica, 844).

With all this upheaval that was caused, Khrushchev was still renamed premier in April 1962 by the supreme Soviet (Internet). With the agricultural problems that still existed, Khrushchev announced sweeping reforms that included plans to form regional boards and national management committees.

By 1963 at the age of sixty-nine, and after about ten years in power, there was talk of Khrushchev's retirement from newspaper reports. However, on October 14, 1964 at a meeting of the party Central Committee Khrushchev was removed from power (Internet). The indictment was read by the chief party theoretician, Mikhail A. Suslov. Khrushchev's proteges Leonid I. Brezhnev and Aleksei N. Kosygin succeeded him as the secretary of the party and the premier, respectively (Americana, 423). Within time a document of twenty-nine political "errors" was issued. A couple of things it included was the instigation of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis (placing missiles in Cuba and almost bringing the world to the brink of war), the fostering of a "cult of personality," and the domestic failures especially within the agricultural sector (where he tried to restructure the Communist Party into separate agricultural and industrial branches dislodging many entrenched officials) (Britannica, 845).

Khrushchev pasted away September 11, 1971 at the age of seventy-seven. There was no state funeral for him, but he was merely buried in the Novodevichi Cemetery in Moscow. Although sometimes criticized, the years under Khrushchev are characterized nicely by the "energy, ambition, and unpredictability of [his] own personality, his willingness to experiment and take risks, and the relative openness and unaffected nature of his political style" (Americana, 423). Khrushchev will be a man that is long remembered.



  • Malle, Silvana. The Economic Organization of War Communism, 1918-1921. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

  • Rockett, Rocky L. Ethnic Nationalities in the Soviet Union. New York: Praeger, 1981.


  • "Nikita Khrushchev." Encyclopedia Deluxe Library Edition. Volume 16. 1994.

  • "Nikita Khrushchev." The New Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia Ready Reference. Volume 6. 1989.

  • "Nikita Khrushchev." Britannica Book of the Year 1957-1965.


Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev

by Julie Tang, February 1998




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