Information

Nikita Khrushchev elected Soviet leader


Six months after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev succeeds him with his election as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Born into a Ukrainian peasant family in 1894, Khrushchev worked as a mine mechanic before joining the Soviet Communist Party in 1918. In 1929, he went to Moscow and steadily rose in the party ranks and in 1938 was made first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party. He became a close associate of Joseph Stalin, the authoritative leader of the Soviet Union since 1924. In 1953, Stalin died, and Khrushchev grappled with Stalin’s chosen successor, Georgy Malenkov, for the position of first secretary of the Communist Party. Khrushchev won the power struggle, and Malenkov was made premier, a more ceremonial post. In 1955, Malenkov was replaced by Bulganin, Khrushchev’s hand-picked nominee.

In 1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin and his totalitarian policies at the 20th Party Congress, leading to a “thaw” in the USSR that saw the release of millions of political prisoners. Almost immediately, the new atmosphere of freedom led to anti-Soviet uprisings in Poland and Hungary. Khrushchev flew to Poland and negotiated a diplomatic solution, but the Hungarian rebellion was crushed by Warsaw Pact troops and tanks.

READ MORE: Communism Timeline

Khrushchev’s policies were opposed by some hard-liners in the Communist Party, and in June 1957 he was nearly ousted from his position as first secretary. After a brief struggle, he secured the removal of top party members who opposed him, and in 1958 Khrushchev prepared to take on the post of premier. On March 27, 1958, the Supreme Soviet–the Soviet legislature–voted unanimously to make First Secretary Khrushchev also Soviet premier, thus formally recognizing him as the undisputed leader of the USSR.

In foreign affairs, Premier Khrushchev’s stated policy was one of “peaceful coexistence” with the West. He said, “We offer the capitalist countries peaceful competition” and gave the Soviet Union an early lead in the space race by launching the first Soviet satellites and cosmonauts. A visit to the United States by Khrushchev in 1959 was hailed as a new high in U.S.-Soviet relations, but superpower relations would hit dangerous new lows in the early 1960s.

In 1960, Khrushchev walked out of a long-awaited four-powers summit in protest of U.S. spy plane activity over Russia, and in 1961 he authorized construction of the Berlin Wall as a drastic solution to the East German question. Then, in October 1962, the United States and the USSR came close to nuclear war over the USSR’s placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. After 13 tense days, the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end when Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the offensive weapons in exchange for a secret U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba.

The humiliating resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an agricultural crisis at home, and the deterioration of Soviet-Chinese relations due to Khrushchev’s moderate policies all led to growing opposition to Khrushchev in the party ranks. On October 14, 1964, Leonid Brezhnev, Khrushchev’s protégé and deputy, organized a successful coup against him, and Khrushchev abruptly stepped down as first secretary and premier. He retired to obscurity outside Moscow and lived there until his death in 1971.

READ MORE: The Cuban Missile Crisis Timeline


List of leaders of the Soviet Union

During its sixty-nine-year history, the Soviet Union usually had a de facto leader who would not necessarily be head of state but would lead while holding an office such as Premier or General Secretary. Under the 1977 Constitution, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, was the head of government [1] and the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was the head of state. [2] The office of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers was comparable to a prime minister in the First World [1] whereas the office of the Chairman of the Presidium was comparable to a president. [2] In the ideology of Vladimir Lenin, the head of the Soviet state was a collegiate body of the vanguard party (see What Is To Be Done?).

Following Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power in the 1920s, [3] the post of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party became synonymous with leader of the Soviet Union, [4] because the post controlled both the Communist Party and the Soviet government [3] both indirectly via party membership and via the tradition of a single person holding two highest posts in the party and in the government. The post of the General Secretary was abolished in 1952 under Stalin and later re-established by Nikita Khrushchev under the name of First Secretary. In 1966, Leonid Brezhnev reverted the office title to its former name. Being the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, [5] the office of the General Secretary was the highest in the Soviet Union until 1990. [6] [ incomplete short citation ] The post of General Secretary lacked clear guidelines of succession, so after the death or removal of a Soviet leader the successor usually needed the support of the Political Bureau (Politburo), the Central Committee, or another government or party apparatus to both take and stay in power. The President of the Soviet Union, an office created in March 1990, replaced the General Secretary as the highest Soviet political office. [7]

Contemporaneously to the establishment of the office of the President, representatives of the Congress of People's Deputies voted to remove Article 6 from the Soviet Constitution which stated that the Soviet Union was a one-party state controlled by the Communist Party which in turn played the leading role in society. This vote weakened the party and its hegemony over the Soviet Union and its people. [8] Upon death, resignation, or removal from office of an incumbent president, the Vice President of the Soviet Union would assume the office, though the Soviet Union dissolved before this was actually tested. [9] After the failed August 1991 coup, the Vice President was replaced by an elected member of the State Council of the Soviet Union. [10]


A humble beginning

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was born in southern Russia, in the village of Kalinovka, near the Ukrainian border. His father was a poor peasant who farmed in the summer and worked in the Ukrainian coal mines in the winter. When Nikita was a teenager, the family moved close to Yuzovka, Ukraine, to be nearer the mines. Although he was a bright student, Khrushchev attended school sporadically for several years because he was busy working. He took jobs herding cattle and working in a factory and finally became a mechanic in the coal mines. Working under dismal conditions in the factory and mine, Khrushchev saw first-hand that his country needed social and economic change to help the working classes.

In 1914, Khrushchev married Galina Yefronsinya. The Bolshevik Revolution occurred in 1917, when Khrushchev was twenty-three years old. During the revolution, the communist Bolsheviks took control of Russia's government. Communism is a system of government in which a single political party, the Communist Party, controls almost all aspects of people's lives. In a communist economy, private ownership of property and businesses is prohibited so that goods produced and wealth accumulated can be shared equally by all. Khrushchev apparently did not take part in the revolution but did join the Communist Party in early 1918.

Khrushchev served in the Red Army in 1919, successfully defending the new communist regime against forces trying to regain control of the government. Following the war, Khrushchev returned to work in the Ukrainian mines in 1920. By 1921, he was put in charge of political affairs at the mine. In the winter of 1921–22, his wife died from a famine, or a shortage of food, leaving him with two young children. He returned to his hometown of Yuzovka in 1922. Through the 1920s, he was able to attend educational institutions established by the Communist Party. These schools gave young workers basic education and political instruction. At Donbass Technical College, he was elected to a top Communist Party position.


Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971)

Nikita Khrushchev, at the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 1963. © Khrushchev was leader of the Soviet Union from 1955 until 1964, succeeding Joseph Stalin. He presided over the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was born in 1894 into a poor family near Kursk in south-western Russia. He received very little formal education. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1918 and served in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War.

In 1929, Khrushchev moved to Moscow to attend the Stalin Industrial Academy. In 1931, he began to work full-time for the Communist Party, rising through its ranks to become first secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee in 1938. The following year he became a member of the Politburo, the highest decision-making body of the Communist Party. During World War Two, Khrushchev worked as a political commissar in the army.

Stalin died in March 1953. Khrushchev became leader of the party shortly afterwards, but it took him several years to consolidate his position. In February 1956, he made a secret speech to the 20th Party Congress, denouncing Stalin. It caused a sensation in the Communist Party and in the West, although Khrushchev failed to mention his own role in the Stalinist terror.

The speech initiated a campaign of 'de-Stalinisation'. Khrushchev also attempted to improve Soviet living standards and allow greater freedom in cultural and intellectual life. In the mid-1950s, he launched his 'Virgin Lands' campaign to encourage farming on previously uncultivated land in the Kazakh Republic (Kazakhstan). He invested in the Soviet space programme, resulting in the 1957 flight of Sputnik I, the first spacecraft to orbit the earth.

In relations with the West, Khrushchev's period in office was marked by a series of crises - the shooting down of an American U2 spy-plane over the Soviet Union in 1960, the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and, most significantly, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Despite this, Khrushchev also attempted to pursue a policy of co-existence with the West. This change in doctrine, together with Khrushchev's rejection of Stalinism, led to a split with Communist China in 1960.

Significantly, Khrushchev was not prepared to loosen the grip of the Soviet Union on its satellite states in Eastern Europe and, in 1956, an uprising in Hungary against Communist rule was brutally suppressed.

By 1964, Khrushchev had alienated much of the Soviet elite and was forced to retire by opponents led by Leonid Brezhnev. Khrushchev died on 11 September 1971 in Moscow.


This Day In History: Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev Challenges U.S. To “Shooting Match”

This day in history, November 15, 1957, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev challenges the United States to a “shooting match” during the Cold War.

In a long and rambling interview with an American reporter, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev claims that the Soviet Union has missile superiority over the United States and challenges America to a missile “shooting match” to prove his assertion.

The interview further fueled fears in the United States that the nation was falling perilously behind the Soviets in the arms race.The interview elicited the usual mixture of boastful belligerence and calls for “peaceful coexistence” with the West that was characteristic of Khrushchev’s public statements during the late 1950s. He bragged about Soviet missile superiority, claiming that the United States did not have intercontinental ballistic rockets “If she had,” the Russian leader sneered, “she would have launched her own sputnik.”

He then issued a challenge: “Let’s have a peaceful rocket contest just like a rifle-shooting match, and they’ll see for themselves.” Speaking about the future of East-West relations, Khrushchev stated that the American and Soviet people both wanted peace. He cautioned, however, that although the Soviet Union would never start a war, “some lunatics” might bring about a conflict.

In particular, he noted that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had created “an artificial war psychosis.” In the case of war, it “would be fought on the American continent, which can be reached by our rockets.” NATO forces in Europe would also be devastated, and Europe “might become a veritable cemetery.” While the Soviet Union would “suffer immensely,” the forces of communism would ultimately destroy capitalism.


Trump Embraces ‘Enemy of the People,’ a Phrase With a Fraught History

MOSCOW — The phrase was too toxic even for Nikita Khrushchev, a war-hardened veteran communist not known for squeamishness. As leader of the Soviet Union, he demanded an end to the use of the term “enemy of the people” because “it eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight.”

“The formula ‘enemy of the people,’” Mr. Khrushchev told the Soviet Communist Party in a 1956 speech denouncing Stalin’s cult of personality, “was specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

It is difficult to know if President Trump is aware of the historic resonance of the term, a label generally associated with despotic communist governments rather than democracies. But his decision to unleash the terminology has left some historians scratching their heads. Why would the elected leader of a democratic nation embrace a label that, after the death of Stalin, even the Soviet Union found to be too freighted with sinister connotations?

Nina Khrushcheva, the great-granddaughter of Mr. Khrushchev and a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York, said the phrase was “shocking to hear in a non-Soviet, moreover non-Stalinist setting.” Her great-grandfather, she said, “of course also used Soviet slogans and ideological idioms but still tried to stay away from sweeping denunciations of whole segments of the Soviet population.”

In Mr. Trump’s case, however, he is branding as enemies a segment of the American population — specifically representatives of what he calls the “fake news” media, including The New York Times.

He has used the phrase more than once, including Friday during an attack on the news media at a conservative gathering in which he said that some reporters were making up unnamed sources to attack him.

“A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people because they have no sources — they just make it up,” the president said, adding that the label applied only to “dishonest” reporters and editors. Hours later, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from several news organizations, including The Times, from attending a briefing in his office.

By using the phrase and placing himself in such infamous company, at least in his choice of vocabulary to attack his critics, Mr. Trump has demonstrated, Ms. Khrushcheva said, that the language of “autocracy, of state nationalism is always the same regardless of the country, and no nation is exempt.” She added that, in all likelihood, Mr. Trump had not read Lenin, Stalin or Mao Zedong, but the “formulas of insult, humiliation, domination, branding, enemy-forming and name calling are always the same.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The phrase “enemy of the people” first entered the political lexicon in 1789, with the French Revolution. The revolutionaries initially used it as a slogan that was hurled willy-nilly at anybody who opposed them. But, as resistance to the revolution mounted, the term acquired a far more lethal and legalistic meaning with the adoption of a 1794 law that set up a revolutionary tribunal “to punish enemies of the people” and codified political crimes punishable by death. These included “spreading false news to divide or trouble the people.”

The concept resurfaced in a more benign form nearly a century later in “An Enemy of the People,” an 1882 play by the Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen about an idealistic whistle-blower in a small town at odds with the authorities and locals who, to protect the economy, want to suppress information about water contamination. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 returned the term to the blood-drenched dramas of the French Revolution, with Lenin declaring in Pravda that the Jacobin terror against “enemies of the people” was “instructive” and needed to be revived, so as to rid the Russian people of “landowners and capitalists as a class.”

Stalin, who took over as Soviet leader upon Lenin’s death in 1924, drastically expanded the scope of those branded as “enemies of the people,” targeting not only capitalists but also dedicated communists who had worked alongside Lenin for years, but whom Stalin viewed as rivals.

Image

The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations in 1960. In a 1956 speech, he demanded an end to the term “enemy of the people.”

Credit. Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In essence, it was a label that meant death. It meant you were subhuman and entirely expendable,” said Mitchell A. Orenstein, professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “This is the connotation for anyone who lived in the Soviet Union or knows anything about the Soviet Union, which Donald Trump obviously doesn’t — or he doesn’t care.”

He said that it was hard to figure out whether Mr. Trump was aware of the resonance of the phrase or simply used it because “he knows it riles up people who have a certain degree of knowledge.”

“He is only alienating them, and they are the people he wants to alienate anyway,” Mr. Orenstein continued. “His base sees comparisons with Stalin as just more evidence of the liberal mainstream media going haywire.”

Moreover, by using such a loaded term in such a cavalier fashion, the president “is in the process of rendering it meaningless,” Mr. Orenstein said. “It becomes just na-na-na-na-na,” he added, because nobody really thinks Mr. Trump will bring back the guillotine.

Philip Short, a British author who has written biographies of Mao and Cambodia’s genocidal leader Pol Pot, said Mr. Trump delighted in “shaking things up, and this kind of language does just that.”

“We try to analyze it from an establishment point of view, but this leads nowhere,” he added. “I don’t know if Trump has ever read Stalin, but if he wants to destabilize people, he is doing it perfectly.”

William Taubman, the author of a biography of Khrushchev and emeritus professor of political science at Amherst College, said it was “shocking” that Mr. Trump would revive a term that had fallen into disrepute in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death in 1953. “It was so omnipresent, freighted and devastating in its use under Stalin that nobody wanted to touch it,” he said. “I have never heard it used in Russia except in reference to history and in jokes.”

Ms. Khrushcheva said Mr. Trump had “been using a lot of this kind of political-ideological branding” favored by revolutionary leaders, deploying terms like “liberal sympathizer” and “language about gloom and doom in America that is much more forcefully negative than that even used by the Russians.”

He has also gone one step further than Chinese and Khmer Rouge communists in Cambodia, who generally preferred homegrown insults to those imported from the Soviet Union.

Mr. Short, the Mao and Pol Pot biographer, said Chinese and Cambodian communists, all fiercely nationalistic, rarely if ever used “enemy of the people” in domestic political struggles because it was an alien import. Instead, Pol Pot attacked enemies as “ugly microbes” who would “rot society, rot the party and rot the country from within,” while Maoists coined insults like “the stinking ninth category” to denounce experts and intellectuals.

Mao, Mr. Short said, “used Chinese expressions and spoke like a Chinese, not a Russian.”

“He did not use the Soviet jargon much,” Mr. Short said. “But Mr. Trump does, which is extraordinary.”

Mao did on occasion use “enemy of the people,” but he directed it not at his domestic foes but at the United States, declaring in 1964 that “U.S. imperialism is the most ferocious enemy of the people of the entire world.”

“Politicians normally use phrases that resonate with their own people,” Mr. Short said. “Mao and Pol Pot did not just regurgitate Stalinist terms. What is extraordinary about Trump is that he has taken up a Stalinist phrase that is entirely alien to American political culture.”


Nikita Khrushchev

Born Apr. 5 (17), 1894, in the village of Kalinovka, Kursk Province died Sept. 11, 1971, in Moscow. Soviet state and party figure. Member of the CPSU from 1918.

Khrushchev was the son of a miner. Over a period beginning in 1908 he worked at various plants and mines of the Donbas. He fought in the Civil War of 1918&ndash20 and subsequently engaged in administrative and party work in the Ukraine. He studied at the Industrial Academy in Moscow in 1929. In 1931, Khrushchev undertook party work in Moscow. In 1935 he became first secretary of the Moscow oblast committee and the Moscow city committee of the ACP(B). From 1938 to March 1947 he was first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the Ukraine.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941&ndash45, Khrushchev was a member of the military councils of the Southwestern Axis and the Southwestern, Stalingrad, Southern, Voronezh, and First Ukrainian fronts. He was made a lieutenant general in 1943.

From 1944 to 1947, Khrushchev served as chairman of the Council of People&rsquos Commissars (renamed the Council of Ministers in 1946) of the Ukrainian SSR. In December 1947 he was again elected first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the Ukraine. In December 1949 he became a secretary of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) and first secretary of the Moscow oblast committee. He was elected a secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU in March 1953, and in September of that year he was elected first secretary of the Central Committee from 1958 to 1964 he held the additional post of chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

Khrushchev was a delegate to the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Seventeenth through Twenty-second Congresses of the CPSU and was elected a member of the party&rsquos Central Committee at the Seventeenth through Twenty-second Congresses. He became a candidate member of the Politburo of the Central Committee in 1938, served as a member of the Politburo from 1939 to 1952, and became a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1952.

Khrushchev was relieved of his duties as first secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU and as a member of the Central Committee&rsquos Presidium at a plenum of the Central Committee on Oct. 14, 1964. As a leader, Khrushchev showed signs of subjectivism and voluntarism.


Trump Embraces ‘Enemy of the People,’ a Phrase With a Fraught History

MOSCOW — The phrase was too toxic even for Nikita Khrushchev, a war-hardened veteran communist not known for squeamishness. As leader of the Soviet Union, he demanded an end to the use of the term “enemy of the people” because “it eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight.”

“The formula ‘enemy of the people,’” Mr. Khrushchev told the Soviet Communist Party in a 1956 speech denouncing Stalin’s cult of personality, “was specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

It is difficult to know if President Trump is aware of the historic resonance of the term, a label generally associated with despotic communist governments rather than democracies. But his decision to unleash the terminology has left some historians scratching their heads. Why would the elected leader of a democratic nation embrace a label that, after the death of Stalin, even the Soviet Union found to be too freighted with sinister connotations?

Nina Khrushcheva, the great-granddaughter of Mr. Khrushchev and a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York, said the phrase was “shocking to hear in a non-Soviet, moreover non-Stalinist setting.” Her great-grandfather, she said, “of course also used Soviet slogans and ideological idioms but still tried to stay away from sweeping denunciations of whole segments of the Soviet population.”

In Mr. Trump’s case, however, he is branding as enemies a segment of the American population — specifically representatives of what he calls the “fake news” media, including The New York Times.

He has used the phrase more than once, including Friday during an attack on the news media at a conservative gathering in which he said that some reporters were making up unnamed sources to attack him.

“A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people because they have no sources — they just make it up,” the president said, adding that the label applied only to “dishonest” reporters and editors. Hours later, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from several news organizations, including The Times, from attending a briefing in his office.

By using the phrase and placing himself in such infamous company, at least in his choice of vocabulary to attack his critics, Mr. Trump has demonstrated, Ms. Khrushcheva said, that the language of “autocracy, of state nationalism is always the same regardless of the country, and no nation is exempt.” She added that, in all likelihood, Mr. Trump had not read Lenin, Stalin or Mao Zedong, but the “formulas of insult, humiliation, domination, branding, enemy-forming and name calling are always the same.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The phrase “enemy of the people” first entered the political lexicon in 1789, with the French Revolution. The revolutionaries initially used it as a slogan that was hurled willy-nilly at anybody who opposed them. But, as resistance to the revolution mounted, the term acquired a far more lethal and legalistic meaning with the adoption of a 1794 law that set up a revolutionary tribunal “to punish enemies of the people” and codified political crimes punishable by death. These included “spreading false news to divide or trouble the people.”

The concept resurfaced in a more benign form nearly a century later in “An Enemy of the People,” an 1882 play by the Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen about an idealistic whistle-blower in a small town at odds with the authorities and locals who, to protect the economy, want to suppress information about water contamination. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 returned the term to the blood-drenched dramas of the French Revolution, with Lenin declaring in Pravda that the Jacobin terror against “enemies of the people” was “instructive” and needed to be revived, so as to rid the Russian people of “landowners and capitalists as a class.”

Stalin, who took over as Soviet leader upon Lenin’s death in 1924, drastically expanded the scope of those branded as “enemies of the people,” targeting not only capitalists but also dedicated communists who had worked alongside Lenin for years, but whom Stalin viewed as rivals.

Image

The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations in 1960. In a 1956 speech, he demanded an end to the term “enemy of the people.”

Credit. Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In essence, it was a label that meant death. It meant you were subhuman and entirely expendable,” said Mitchell A. Orenstein, professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “This is the connotation for anyone who lived in the Soviet Union or knows anything about the Soviet Union, which Donald Trump obviously doesn’t — or he doesn’t care.”

He said that it was hard to figure out whether Mr. Trump was aware of the resonance of the phrase or simply used it because “he knows it riles up people who have a certain degree of knowledge.”

“He is only alienating them, and they are the people he wants to alienate anyway,” Mr. Orenstein continued. “His base sees comparisons with Stalin as just more evidence of the liberal mainstream media going haywire.”

Moreover, by using such a loaded term in such a cavalier fashion, the president “is in the process of rendering it meaningless,” Mr. Orenstein said. “It becomes just na-na-na-na-na,” he added, because nobody really thinks Mr. Trump will bring back the guillotine.

Philip Short, a British author who has written biographies of Mao and Cambodia’s genocidal leader Pol Pot, said Mr. Trump delighted in “shaking things up, and this kind of language does just that.”

“We try to analyze it from an establishment point of view, but this leads nowhere,” he added. “I don’t know if Trump has ever read Stalin, but if he wants to destabilize people, he is doing it perfectly.”

William Taubman, the author of a biography of Khrushchev and emeritus professor of political science at Amherst College, said it was “shocking” that Mr. Trump would revive a term that had fallen into disrepute in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death in 1953. “It was so omnipresent, freighted and devastating in its use under Stalin that nobody wanted to touch it,” he said. “I have never heard it used in Russia except in reference to history and in jokes.”

Ms. Khrushcheva said Mr. Trump had “been using a lot of this kind of political-ideological branding” favored by revolutionary leaders, deploying terms like “liberal sympathizer” and “language about gloom and doom in America that is much more forcefully negative than that even used by the Russians.”

He has also gone one step further than Chinese and Khmer Rouge communists in Cambodia, who generally preferred homegrown insults to those imported from the Soviet Union.

Mr. Short, the Mao and Pol Pot biographer, said Chinese and Cambodian communists, all fiercely nationalistic, rarely if ever used “enemy of the people” in domestic political struggles because it was an alien import. Instead, Pol Pot attacked enemies as “ugly microbes” who would “rot society, rot the party and rot the country from within,” while Maoists coined insults like “the stinking ninth category” to denounce experts and intellectuals.

Mao, Mr. Short said, “used Chinese expressions and spoke like a Chinese, not a Russian.”

“He did not use the Soviet jargon much,” Mr. Short said. “But Mr. Trump does, which is extraordinary.”

Mao did on occasion use “enemy of the people,” but he directed it not at his domestic foes but at the United States, declaring in 1964 that “U.S. imperialism is the most ferocious enemy of the people of the entire world.”

“Politicians normally use phrases that resonate with their own people,” Mr. Short said. “Mao and Pol Pot did not just regurgitate Stalinist terms. What is extraordinary about Trump is that he has taken up a Stalinist phrase that is entirely alien to American political culture.”


Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Leader Essay

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was first secretary of the Communist Party and de facto leader of the Soviet Union between 1953 and 1964 he concurrently served as premier from 1958 to 1964. Colorful and highly controversial, Khrushchev was a reformer whose shrewd intellect was frequently overshadowed by his impulsive personality. He abolished the most ruthless aspects of the political system and tried with limited success to catch up with and overtake the U.S. economy. In foreign affairs he forcefully maintained the unity of the Eastern bloc and veered between “peaceful coexistence” and several dangerous confrontations with the United States. He was, without question, one of the most important figures of the cold war.

Khrushchev was born in April 1894 in Kalinovka, Russia, near the border with Ukraine. His parents were illiterate peasants, and young Nikita was more familiar with hard labor than formal education. The family relocated to Ukraine in 1908, where he worked various factory jobs and got involved in the organized labor movement. In 1917 he joined the revolutionary Bolsheviks and he later fought for the Red Army. After the war he obtained some Marxist training at a technical college and was assigned a political post in the Ukraine. Over the next 20 years Khrushchev would rise rapidly through the ranks of the Communist Party, and in 1939 he became a full member of the Politburo. His success was largely due to his loyalty to Stalin. During World War II he helped organize the defense of the Ukraine and the relocation of heavy industry into the Russian interior, and he was at Stalingrad when the Red Army turned the tide of the war against Germany.

After the war Khrushchev remained an influential member of the Politburo, and when Stalin died in March 1953, he battled with Georgy Malenkov, Lavrenty Beria, and Nikolai Bulganin for the leadership. Malenkov was made premier and initially seemed to be the true successor, but as first secretary of the Communist Party, Khrushchev possessed the real power. By early 1955 he had emerged as the clear leader of the Soviet Union.

Once in firm control, Khrushchev embarked on ambitious economic reforms. Khrushchev also continued the policy of spending heavily on the military. Under his leadership, the Soviet Union kept pace in the nuclear arms race with the United States and developed a space program that had significant successes. The launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 and the first manned space flight in 1961 were great technical triumphs for the Soviet Union.

Khrushchev also decided, in a very risky move, to expose the horrors of the Stalinist era and to promote political reforms. In February 1956 he gave a speech to the 20th Party Congress that denounced Stalin’s “cult of personality,” documented various crimes of the old regime, and introduced the policy of “de-Stalinization.” The speech sparked hopes that Khrushchev would tolerate autonomy and perhaps even democracy within the Eastern bloc. These hopes proved illusory when a popular 1956 uprising in Hungary was suppressed by a brutal military intervention authorized by Khrushchev.


Nikita S. Khrushchev

The end of the Stalin era brought immediate liberalization in several aspects of Soviet life. Party leader Nikita S. Khrushchev is best known for his denouncement of Stalin's tyrannical reign and attempts at cooperation with non-Communist nations. Khrushchev's tenure was marked with continual maneuvering against his political enemies. His critics condemned his plans of increased agricultural output, raising the standard of living and reorganization of the party as hairbrained schemes. Khrushchev served as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) from 1953 to 1964, and Soviet prime minister from 1958 to 1964.

Party control of cultural activity became much less restrictive with the onset of the first "thaw" in the mid-1950s. Khrushchev attempted reforms in both domestic and foreign policy, with mixed results. During his term, world politics became much more complex as the insecurities of the Cold War persisted Khrushchev ultimately was undone by a combination of failed policy innovations in agriculture, party politics, and industry.

Nikita and his wife Yevrosinya in 1916.

Khrushchev was born into a peasant family near the village of Kursk in 1894. His grandfather had been a farm laborer and his father a peasant. Nikita did not have a formal education and left school at an early age to work in the fields and later as a pipe fitter in the coalmines of Donets Basin (modern Ukraine). Khrushchev joined the Bolsheviks in 1918 and was a junior Red Army political officer during the Civil Wary (1918 - 1921). After the Civil War, he returned to Ukraine and served in the Donets coal mine as an assistant manager.

Khrushchev moved to Moscow in 1929 and attended the Stalin Industrial Academy. He began working as the secretary of Communist Party groups in Moscow in 1931. Khrushchev caught the eye of Lazar Kaganovich, first secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee, who oversaw his early career. In 1938, Nikita became to first secretary for the party in Ukraine and a member of the Politburo in 1939. From this time till the end of WWII, Khrushchev served as a commissar overseeing the activities of army officers. He obtained the rank of lieutenant general.

At the Stalingrad front (RIA CC)

Initially, Khrushchev was a strong supporter of Joseph Stalin and was appointed secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1949. Stalin died in March 1953 and Khrushchev became the party leader. He inherited a shambles as the party had been seriously damaged by Stalin's constant purges of the upper leadership.

When Stalin died, leaving no heir, several party leaders held more authority than Khrushchev. At first Stalin's colleagues tried to rule jointly, with Malenkov holding the top position of prime minister. The first challenge to this arrangement occurred in 1953, when the powerful Beria plotted a coup. However, Beria, who had made many enemies during his bloody term as security chief, was arrested and executed by order of the Presidium. His death reduced the power of the KGB, although the party's control over state security ended only with the demise of the Soviet Union itself.

Malenkov and his officers attempted to address the wide sweeping problems within the Soviet Union by implementing a new policy called the New Course. The goal was to increase the standard of living for Soviet citizens, increase the output of agriculture and industry and reduce the quotas placed upon workers on collective farms.

After Beria's execution, Khrushchev became Malenkov's primary contender for control of the party. The Presidium elected Khrushchev to the position of first secretary. This was the same position that Stalin held but the title of general secretary had been dropped after his death in September 1953. Malenkov and Khrushchev locked horns over their difference in national priorities. Malenkov was intent on increasing production of consumer goods while Khrushchev was equally committed to the development of heavy industry. As it happened, light industry and agriculture did not do well and Malenkov resigned as prime minister in February 1955. This event made Khrushchev the most powerful individual within the collective party leadership.

Khrushchev delivered his secret speech on February 24,1956, at the Twentieth Party Congress. He dramatically denounced Stalin's tactics as crimes, revealed that Stalin had arbitrarily liquidated thousands of party members and military leaders, thereby contributing to the initial Soviet defeats in World War II, and had established what Khrushchev characterized as a pernicious cult of personality. Khrushchev ended his rousing presentation with, Long live the victorious banner of our Party - Leninism!

Khrushchev's speech enabled him to distance himself from Stalin supporters, namely Molotov, Malenkov and Lazar Kaganovich. One of the most immediate results of Khrushchev's de-Stalinization speech and policy was the increased release of political prisoners. This program had begun shortly after Stalin's death in 1953.

Khrushchev intensified his campaign against Stalin at the Twenty-Second Party Congress in 1961, winning approval to remove Stalin's body from the Lenin Mausoleum, where it had originally been interred. De-Stalinization encouraged many in artistic and intellectual circles to speak out against the abuses of the former regime. Although Khrushchev's tolerance for critical creative works varied during his tenure, the new cultural period, known as the thaw, represented a clear break with the repression of the arts under Stalin.

Khrushchev's policies and de-Stalinization were popular but the leader was not without enemies. His critics in the Presidium, who did not appreciate Khrushchev's reversal of Soviet foreign policy with regards to Eastern Europe, voted to have him ousted in June 1957. Khrushchev countered this effort by demanding that the matter be taken before the Central Committee of the CPSU, where he enjoyed strong support. The Central Committee overturned the Presidium's decision and expelled Khrushchev's primary opponents (Malenkov, Molotov, and Kaganovich), who Khrushchev labeled the antiparty group. Further proving his distain for Stalinist tactics, Khrushchev did not have his enemies imprisoned. Instead, he gave them jobs in minor offices of the party.

Nina Kukharchuk (Khrushchev's wife), Mamie Eisenhower (Eisenhower's wife), Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight Eisenhower at a state dinner in 1959.

Khrushchev became prime minister in March 1958. Despite his rank, Khrushchev never exercised the dictatorial authority of Stalin, nor did he ever completely control the party, even at the peak of his power. His attacks on members of the "antiparty group" at the Twenty-First Party Congress in 1959 and the Twenty-Second Party Congress in 1961 suggest that his opponents retained support within the party. His desire to undermine opposition and mollify critics explained the nature of many of his domestic reforms and the vacillations in his foreign policy toward the West.

After Stalin died, the collective leadership of the Soviet Union began changing its foreign policy towards the West. Malenkov broke the ice by speaking out against nuclear war. At first, Khrushchev stated that civilization would not be destroyed in a nuclear war, only the demon capitalism. This was, of course, a rather bizarre statement, one that Khrushchev later turned away from.

In 1955, Khrushchev recognized permanent neutrality for Austria. Later in 1955, Khrushchev promised President Dwight D. Eisenhower the Soviet's commitment to peaceful coexistence with capitalism. Regarding the developing nations, Khrushchev endeavored to gain the friendship of their national leaders, instead of following the established Soviet policy of shunning the governments while supporting local communist parties. Soviet influence over the international alignments of India and Egypt, as well as of other Third World countries, began in the middle of the 1950s. Cuba's entry into the socialist camp in 1961 was a coup for the Soviet Union.

With the good came the bad. The basic ideals of de-Stalinization were the end of official state terror against the population and the decreased role of the KGB. At the same time, Soviet control of the Communist Party remained intact. This led to riots in Poland, which brought about a change in their communist party leadership in 1956. A popular uprising against Soviet control then broke out in Hungary, where the local communist leaders, headed by Imre Nagy, called for a multiparty political system and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet army crushed the revolt early in November 1956, causing numerous casualties. Although the Hungarian Revolution hurt Soviet standing in world opinion, it demonstrated that the Soviet Union would use force if necessary to maintain control over its satellite states in Eastern Europe.

Another fallout of Khrushchev's new policy of coexistence with the West was a schism in Sino-Russian relations. The Chinese Communist Party, under the dictate of Chairman Mao Zedong, considered Khrushchev's policies as a betrayal to Marxist - Lenin doctrine. China resented the weak support they received from Moscow regarding their disputes with Taiwan and India.

In 1960, China set forth its own nuclear arms program and declared that communism would defeat imperialism. Soon after, satellite nations took up sides. Albania and Romania sided with Beijing and other communist parties around the world proclaimed loyalty to Moscow or Beijing. The huge communist bloc had been shattered.

Soviet - U.S. relations had their ups and downs during the Khrushchev years. For his part, Khrushchev wanted peaceful coexistence with the West, not only to avoid nuclear war but also to permit the Soviet Union to develop its economy. This was demonstrated through Khrushchev's meetings with President Eisenhower in 1955 and John F. Kennedy in 1961. The Soviet leader's U.S. tour in 1959 proved to many his sincerity. In 1955 Khrushchev reopened diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia, whose leader Josip Broz Tito had broken with Stalin in 1948. Khrushchev became known for his unconventional behavior. One of his best-known antics was when, to emphasize a point, he removed his shoe and began banging it on a table during a United Nations meeting in 1960.

While Khrushchev was making overtures to the West, he needed to show that he was still a strong defender of socialism. In 1958, he challenged the status of Berlin when the West would not yield to his demands that the western sectors be incorporated into East Germany. Khrushchev approved the erection of the Berlin Wall between the eastern and western sectors of the city in 1961. To maintain national prestige, Khrushchev canceled a summit meeting with Eisenhower in 1960 after Soviet air defense troops shot down a United States reconnaissance aircraft over Soviet territory. Cold War distrust and fear grew as the West felt threatened by Soviet advances in space and the widening gap that Soviet military build up created.

There is usually two sides to every coin. While the West was in fear of the Soviets, the USSR felt threatened by the rearming of West Germany by the U.S. The West's superior economic strength also threatened the Soviet Union. To offset the United States military advantage and thereby improve the Soviet negotiating position, Khrushchev in 1962 tried to install nuclear missiles in Cuba, but he agreed to withdraw them after Kennedy ordered a blockade around the island nation.

After coming close to war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union and the United States took steps to reduce the nuclear threat. In 1963 the two countries established a "hot line" between Washington and Moscow to provide instant communication that would reduce the likelihood of accidental nuclear war. The line was tested but never used. In the same year, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which forbade nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere.

Khrushchev attempted many sweeping and controversial reforms that deviated from the era of Stalin's terror and oppression. In the area of agriculture, Khrushchev attracted the attention of the collective leadership, which introduced important innovations in this area. Peasants were encouraged to grow more on their private plots, payments for crops grown on collective farms were increased and the state invested more heavily in agriculture in general.

In the mid-1950s, Khrushchev introduced his Virgin Lands project. It opened huge tracts of land for farming in the northern part of the Kazak Republic and neighboring areas in Russia. At first, these new farmlands suffered from droughts, but eventually provided outstanding harvests. Some of Khrushchev's other agricultural policies failed miserably. His plan to grow corn and increase meat and dairy output failed dramatically. The same was true of his effort to reorganize the collective farms into larger units. This accomplished nothing more than widespread confusion and disorganization.

Khrushchev's attempts at reform in industry and the decentralization of industrial control also failed. In 1957, he did away with the industrial ministries in Moscow and replaced them with regional economic councils. Khrushchev believed that these localized groups would be more attentive to local needs and, thus, production would increase along with conditions. Instead, this shift in control resulted in disruption of production and inefficiency.

In 1962, Khrushchev decided to further decentralize the nation by dividing it up along economic rather than administrative lines. The result was complete disarray and confusion among party leaders. The division of oblasts (provinces) into smaller industrial and agricultural sectors contributed to the country's growing economic hardships forcing Khrushchev to abandon his seven-year economic plan two years early in 1963.

As industry slowed to a grind and only minor progress was being made in agriculture, Khrushchev lost prestige and power. The leader's efforts to smooth relations with the West irritated many. This, along with the schism with China and the Cuban Missile Crisis, had harmed the Soviet Union's international stature.

In October 1964, while Khrushchev was vacationing in Crimea, the Presidium voted him out of office and refused to permit him to take his case to the Central Committee. Khrushchev retired as a private citizen after his successors denounced him for his hare-brained schemes, half-baked conclusions, and hasty decisions.

Khrushchev failed to achieve most of his near impossible goals. His attempts at thawing out Cold War relations with the West were noble but almost impossible while maintaining a communist regime and vowing to protect with force socialist ideals. Khrushchev had a profound effect on the youth of the time, many of whom would go on to serve under Mikhail Gorbachev and witness the final demise of the Soviet system. Khrushchev must also be remembered for his public disavowal of Stalinism and the greater flexibility he brought to Soviet leadership after a long period of monolithic terror.

Photo at top of post: Khrushchev in East Berlin, 1963 (Bundesarchiv, CC)


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