Khrushchev Cometh


After Stalin’s death on March 1, 1953 a power struggle ensued within the Soviet Presidium of the Central Committee.  Three individuals in particular, Georgii Malenkov, Lavrentii Beria, and Nikita Khrushchev, would form what was to be called a “collective leadership”.  Malenkov became the chairman of the Council of Minister, Beria remained the head of the secret police, and Khrushchev was made the head secretary of the Central Committee. After a series of conspiracies and alliances against Beria and Malenkov in the two years that followed, Khrushchev would emerge victorious from the power struggle by “reviving the party apparatus and reasserting its control over the state ministries, the military, and the new Committee for State Security (KGB).”

Despite only being the First Secretary of the Communist Party (and also the Chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1958), Khrushchev had a considerable amount of power and influence.  His secret speech in February of 1956, which denounced many of Stalin’s actions as Premier (including the Purges, unpreparedness for the Nazi invasions during WWII, and deportation of various nationalities), caused noticeable unrest in the communist world; particularly in Georgia, Hungary, and Poland.  His desire to rely primarily on missiles for national defense would eventually result in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961.

Khrushchev is also remembered for his attempt t0 “de-Stalinize” the Soviet Union and bringing about a less repressive era in Russia. His support for the newly launched Soviet space program allowed the Soviets to become a formidable opponent to the U.S. in the space race during the cold war.  In 1964 Khrushchev was removed as First Secretary by his colleagues in the Presidium due to the perceived failures of his domestic policies and was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.

Sources Cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 409-422. Print.

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7 Responses to “Khrushchev Cometh”

  1. November 4, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    It seems like Khrushchev was a much needed change for the Soviet Union. Gone were the times of extreme fear of leadership and Khrushchev brought about some hope to the Eastern European countries. With his denouncement of Stalin, it seemed like he was going in the complete opposite direction of the former leader’s idea of imposing Soviet power. However, this proved to be wildly untrue with his crushing defeat of the revolting Hungarian people.

  2. November 5, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Initially Khrushchev appeared to be just what the Soviet Union needed. A new leader who wanted to finally advance into the future. He stated a focus on becoming more transparent and he definitely lived up to that promise with his “Secret Speech”. However, few of his other goals came true. He still wanted to enforce Soviet Power as the Cuban Missile Crisis showed, and the nation never fully de-Stalinized in his time. All in all, it initially seemed that Russia would do a 180 and see massive change under Khrushchev, but in reality, only a few things completely changed.

  3. A. Nelson
    November 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    This post offers a good overview of Khrushchev’s tenure. How does the article from the Current Digest (about the practical implications of De-Stalinization and the Virgin Lands campaign) illuminate the dynamics you allude to here?

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