After Stalin’s death on March 5th, 1953, a brief period of uncertainty spread across the Soviet Union. His rule was personalized which left his successors to deal with serious questions and issues with the state apparatus (Freeze, 408). When, Nikita Khrushchev gained power after Stalin’s death, he openly condemned Stalin’s use of terror and implemented policies to liberalize the Soviet Union and ease governmental control. During, the secret speech at the twentieth communist party Congress, Khrushchev condemned many of Stalin’s actions and aimed to break down the cult of personality. Another example of the condemnation of Stalin by Krushchev, in the an interview with an American writer, “Stalin really did commit unpardonable abuses of power. And it is for this that we have condemned him.”
As Khrushchev abandoned the mass political terror used under Stalin, during the period of de-Stalinization, he helped provide “the conditions for reducing the scope of controls” (Dallin qtd. in Ostrow, 118). While the loosening of control helps provide a precondition for the inevitable fracturing of the Soviet Union, the Khrushchev years provided “a period of stability under the administrative-command system of the Soviet socialist state” (Dallin qtd. in Ostrow, 118). The stability provided under the Khrushchev rule contributed to the legitimacy of the Soviet system. Khrushchev was able to maintain legitimacy while easing up on mass political terror because, “the memories and fears act to dampen rising expectations and to keep them from escaping control”(Bialer qtd. in Ostrow, 56). Many people remembered and were still afraid of the terror used during the Stalin era. History helped play a role in maintaining control with fear but also with keeping expectations at a relatively low level. Citizens of the Soviet Union never knew a luxurious lifestyle and with nothing to compare their lifestyle to except the past, expectations stayed modest. Any “comparison with the past can only heighten approval of ongoing improvements and temper expectations” (Bialer qtd. in Ostrow, 57).
Additionally, during this period of de-Stalinization, Khrushchev was able to beat out and solidify rule after Stalin and contribute to the legitimacy of the Soviet Union, “by reviving the party apparatus and reasserting its control over the state ministries, the military, and the new Committee for State Security” (Seventeen Moments). During, de-Stalinization, Khrushchev and the party aimed to move away from the cult of personality surrounding Stalin, strengthen government agencies, and end the use of terror.
“N. S. KHRUSHCHEV’S TALK WITH THE AMERICAN PUBLISHER G. COWLES.”The Current Digest of the Russian Press 14.17 (1962): 18-25. East View Information Services. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. <http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13789847>.
Ostrow, Joel M. Politics in Russia: A Reader. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, 2013. Print.
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “1954: Succession to Stalin” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Macalester College, n.d. Web. 26 Oct 2014. <http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1954succession&Year=1954>
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “1956: Krushchev’s Secret Speech” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Macalester College, n.d. Web. 26 Oct 2014. <http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1956secret&Year=1956>