The Great Russian Melting

Cover of "The Thaw" Image URL:
Cover of “The Thaw”
Image URL:

“The Thaw,” written by Il’ia Ehrenburg in 1954, is a novel which follows the lives of three different types of Soviet men, including the stark contrast of the life of an industrial manager and an artist.  What makes “The Thaw” so special is that Ehrenburg intentionally breaks from the Stalinist belief that communism was the best form of government for a country and that Communists were the best, most important members of society (“The Thaw”).

Life was getting better, for alcohol was now becoming more available after Stalin’s death (Vrobyev).  The Thaw turned out to be one of the most important things that happened to Russia in the post-Stalin era. Prisoners were released from the Gulag work camps, festivals were held, works by foreign authors were allowed into the country, international trade opened up again, and the Soviet Union began competing in international competitions under Nikita Kruschev’s rule (“Kruschev Thaw”).

As we all know, the new openness to international competition the Soviets were enjoying inevitably led them to the Olympics, leading to one of the most iconic and well known moments in all of sports, when the United States faced off against the Soviet Union in ice hockey.  See the final minute here.



However, it was not all good during the post-Stalin reforms.  Kruschev had to deal with two revolts and attempts to remove

Kruschev and Kennedy, 1961. Image URL:,_Nikita_Khrushchev_1961.jpg
Kruschev and Kennedy, 1961. Image URL:,_Nikita_Khrushchev_1961.jpg

him from power.  Despite all this, Kruschev managed to open the Soviet Union’s borders and made it much more globally involved.  There was an American magazine distributed in the USSR, and a Soviet magazine was distributed in the United States.  He lessened media censorship, allowing works by foreign and banned authors back into the country.  Music experienced its own little renaissance and resurgence.  Perhaps most importantly, Kruschev’s efforts to restore the Soviet Union to a nation of pride and unity, instead of one ruled with an iron fist, provided a slight cessation of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, and delayed the Cold War.  Kruschev even went and visited Camp David (the President’s “vacation home”) in 1959 (“Kruschev’s Thaw”).

After Stalin’s death, life got significantly better under Kruschev’s rule, thanks in no small part to his numerous reforms and attempts to ease tensions with the United States.  Kruschev can arguably be considered the most American-friendly leader the Soviet Union/Russia has ever had.










Works Cited:

“Khrushchev Thaw.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.

Subject Essay “The Thaw” by James von Geldern, pulled from 17 Moments in Russian History.  Source URL:

Youtube Video “Final Minute of the ‘Miracle on Ice.'” Published 5 February 2010.  Video URL: