The Illusion of Khrushchev


Khrushchev started out his reign as an a ruler that was for the people. He worked to raise the standard of living for the people and increase agricultural production. He worked to revive and de-censor the arts.  He started to open up the country to foreign visitors and he sent the first man into space.  Khrushchev showed a lot of promise, a welcomed change after the death of Stalin. Although he showed promise in the beginning, that quickly dissipated.

Although he did visit other countries, that did not stop those relationships from future tension.  Khrushchev visited the United States, something that Stalin never did.  This venture did not hold strong for long. Relations between the two nations deteriorated somewhat when the Soviets shot down an American U-2 spy plane in 1960.  A year later he gave his approval to Germany to build the Berlin Wall and closed his border to East Germany to stop the flow of emigrants. Soon after, Khrushchev ignited great tension when he put nuclear missiles on Cuba.  Not only was there tension abroad but his people were suffering as well. Khrushchev could not properly accommodate all those living in urban areas. The country side was quickly plowed to make way for apartments, and the Khrushchev slums emerged. After half a decade, Khrushchev managed to stray from his initial potential and transformed into another Soviet leader who was combative and lost the support of the his people.

Khrushchev turned out to be a major disappointment. He started out strong which is part of the reason why I think he failed so miserably.
His Secrete Speech had the United States and European countries rooting and applauding Khrushchev. Then things turned sour. He started going against his early endorsements. He started an anti-religious war against the Orthodox Church. Soviet citizens, especially young people, were punished for visiting temples and for resorting to church services such as, funerals, baptism, and church wedding. When he was finally ousted, the people and the world rejoiced. Khrushchev really dropped the ball when it came to American. He could have had an ally and instead he created a lot of hardship for the future. He ended up being an empty shell of potential.

4 thoughts on “The Illusion of Khrushchev

  • April 3, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    I think that Khrushchev’s reign was too much too quickly following the totalitarian reign of Stalin for such a long time in Russia. The people got a taste of the good life during the Khrushchev early years but the USSR was definitely not ready to continue giving and giving. Do you know what impact the international events you mentioned (U-2 Incident, Cuban Missile Crisis, etc.) had on the Soviet people and how they responded to it?

  • April 3, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Lots of important points to consider here. Khrushchev definitely was a divisive leader with a mixed legacy. But I think we need to distinguish between what would have made him an effective leader for the Soviet Union and what the US might have wanted in that state to state relationship. For the Soviets, his legacy had some important positives in addition to the negatives: First of all, while he retained authoritarian control he liberalized the regime’s relationship with the people, taking (for the most part) terror out of the equation (this is the essence of de-Stalinization) and making his own bloodless ouster possible. He did raise expectations among the people that life would get better and that socialism would “beat” capitalism in providing for its citizens. And of course, that didn’t work. And when it didn’t his credibility as a leader also suffered. But I like to see this era as being more complex than just failed reform and empty promises.

  • April 4, 2017 at 1:47 am

    I like that you went over the progression of Khrushchev, especially as it relates to his foreign policy. I don’t think his inability to establish a good relationship with the US was a failure necessarily, especially considering the relationship that he inherited. Khrushchev made a lot of meaningful changes to break the cycle of violent power grabs, so I don’t think he was combative considering his predecessors. Your post was definitely thought provoking!

  • April 4, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Wow. This really gives you a picture of how Khrushchev dropped the ball. I wrote about how promising he was in the beginning and how he had amazing ideas for liberal reforms. But maybe he took it too far? Waging a war on Orthodoxy and tearing down countryside was extreme.

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