Nikita Khrushchev (April 17, 1894 - September 11, 1971)

Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev (April 17, 1894 - September 11, 1971) was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from September 7, 1953 to October 14, 1964. Having joined the Russian Communist Party at the age of 24, he fought in the Soviet-Polish war of 1919-1921. He was an official member and full-time worker of the Bolsheviks from 1925 and he quickly rose through the party, becoming a Politburo member in 1939. Khrushchev would head a number of hopeless agricultural campaigns which aimed to cultivate lands in the harsher climate regions like Kazakhstan and Siberia[i]. He was scapegoated for the failures of the agricultural campaigns in Ukraine and dismissed by Stalin but then he would be brought back by him before Stalin's death in 1953. When Stalin died Khrushchev gained power by defeating Stalin's candidate Malenkov through political maneuvering and became the leader of the Soviet Union from 1955. Shortly after defeating his political opponent he soon found himself facing an attempted ouster from power by the people who had helped bring him there. In a move that was strikingly reminiscent to that of Stalin, Khrushchev removed his political opponents from the party, effectively allowing him to consolidate his power. His main domestic and foreign policies include the and De-Stalinization, 7 Year Plans, Peaceful Coexistence, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Hungarian Revolution. In 1964, Khrushchev was forced to retire by opponents led by Leonid Brezhnev. He died of heart attack on September 11 1971 in Moscow.

[i} http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/khrushchev-nikita.cfm
BBC Historical Figures: Khrushchev

The "Secret Speech"

Khrushchev delivering his "secret speech" to the 20th Congress

On February 24-25 1956, Khrushchev delivered his "secret speech" to the 20th Congress. This speech denounced Stalin stating that he had committed crimes towards the state by eliminating and persecuting innocent people, claiming them to be enemies of the state and putting them under his special banner “enemy of the people.” The speech mentioned that Stalin had shown countless times his intolerance, his brutality and his abuse of power throughout his entire time as leader. The speech even stated that "Instead of proving his (Stalin's) political correctness and mobilizing the masses, he often chose the path of repression and physical annihilation... against individuals who had not committed any crimes against the Party and the Soviet Government. Here we see no wisdom but only a demonstration of the brutal force which had once so alarmed V. I. Lenin". This denouncing of Stalin caused much shock within the Communist Party and in the West, although Khrushchev had failed to mention his own role in the Stalinist terror. The immediate consequence of the "Secret Speech" was the relaxation of repression, the release of thousands of political prisoners, the replacement of the NKVD by the KGB, thereby reducing the secret police, and the outlawing of torture. Khrushchev
Khrushchev delivering his speech to the 20th Congress

Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin’s concept of “enemy of the people” was particularly significant. By attacking this concept and past practice based upon it, it attacked a fundamental foundation of Soviet society – repression. Though Khrushchev must have made this speech as a political maneuver to gain more support by raising himself in the opinions of those who suffered due to Stalin and the “enemy of the people” label (they were many), but in the end he would have to revert back to those very means of repression in order to maintain Soviet hegemony in the Eastern Bloc and other dissenting regions. But regardless of the political maneuvering of Khrushchev, his “Secret Speech” had manifold effects upon dissent. The mere fact that a Soviet leader admitted that Soviet leaders could be wrong, and thereby that the Soviet party and its policies deriving from the inept leader could also be wrong, was a moral concession that perhaps should never have been made by a Soviet leader with his own and the party’s interests in mind, as dictated by the very nature of Soviet leadership and party – the undeniable reality that the fundamental elements of Soviet Communism was repression (best illustrated by the disintegration of USSR in 1991) and the state-enforced assumption that Communism could not be wrong.

The “Secret Speech” leaked to the satellite states courtesy of the CIA, and those that read it hoped that Khrushchev would allow them to pursue “different roads to socialism”. This led to dissent on
the Soviet-sanctioned measures of repression on the different satellites and disturbances and uprising in Poland and Hungary. From the RESOLUTION ADOPTED AT PLENARY MEETING OF THE BUILDING INDUSTRY TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY, a 16-point demand made by Hungarian university students on the Soviet Union, there is the same personal denunciation of Stalin that is idiosyncratically similar to the “Secret Speech”, especially point 13, which demanded the removal of a Stalin statue - “the symbol of Stalinist tyranny and political oppression”(1). Khrushchev at first seemed willing to negotiate with the Uprising’s demands and adhere to his self-declared policy of Peaceful Coexistence, but inevitably he reverted back to repression, which he so enthusiastically denounced. Khrushchev did not want to lose the gains that Stalin had won, but it took him a revolution to learn that Stalinist gains could only be kept by Stalinist means. Hungary was crushed brutally with Soviet military force, going back upon his policy of Peaceful Cooperation and violating even the Warsaw Pact articles 1 and 8:

“Article 1.
The contracting parties undertake, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations Organisation, to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force, and to settle their international disputes by peaceful means so as not to endanger international peace and security...

Article 8. The contracting parties declare that they will act in the spirit of friendship and co-operation with the object of furthering the development of, and strengthening the economic and cultural relations between them, adhering to the principles of mutual respect for their independence and sovereignty, and of non-interference in their internal affairs.

The truth was that the relationships between the Soviet Union and its satellite states - with Soviet Union as the dominant partner - was an artificial one enforced with military strength of the former. Eastern and Western Europe alike were saddled with two government types, the West with Capitalistic Democracy, and the East with Communist Dictatorship, but whereas the peoples of the former were pacified of their lack of freedom of choice by material prosperity, the peoples of the latter were not pacified, but repressed. When Khrushchev denounced Stalin and more significantly his policies - the policies of repression of the Soviet Union and the satellite states - it sparked a hope among the satellite states that they would be allowed or able to achieve sovereignty and independence. The resulting Uprising in Hungary and the subsequent response of Soviet leadership resulted in the simultaneous, irreparable attack both on any last remaining credibility of Stalinism and the ideal of "Friendship and Co-operation Between the Soviet Union and Other Socialist States". The Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union was exposed for what it was, a military hegemony of the Soviet Union over its satellite states and a totalitarian dictatorship.

(1) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1956hungary-16points.html
(2) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1955warsawpact.html

The "Secret Speech"
BBC Historical Figures: Khrushchev

The "Seven Year Plan"

The Seven year plan was Khrushchev's attempt to show his power in the USSR and the USSR's ability to head the international Communist Movement by strengthening its economy, it was meant to run from 1959 to 1965. This plan was introduced to replace the second Five-Year Plan which encountered difficulties. The plan aimed for a increase in the national growth rate by 8.6% per annul, an increase the overall industrial growth by 80% over 1958 levels, the national income was also meant to rise by 62.5%, and all real incomes increase 40%. East Germany was to achieve its per capital production by the end of 1961, the plan asked for higher production quotas, and it called for an 85 percent increase in labor productivity. The plan helped fuel opposition against him, for it decentralized the process of planned economy by placing economic planning into the hands of regional economic councils rather than the central ministries in Moscow. It failed to achieve its objectives. The Soviet industry was not made more efficient. Furthermore, it failed to solve the USSR's agricultural problems, which is paradoxical since the USSR possessed one of the richest, most fertile lands in Europe which is Ukraine. Even though the Soviet economy at this time was not the disintegrating economy of the 1980s, it failed to achieve its ambitious goals and it showed signs of Soviet's economic decline.

Economic performance under Khrushchev in power
Krushchev's Decline and Fall
Post-War East Germany

The "Cuban Missile Crisis"

"A Perfect Couple" Castro and Khrushchev
John. F. Kennedy President of the United States
The "Cuban Missile Crisis" originated when Khrushchev placed intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba. He did this to prevent the United States to have a lead in developing and deploying nuclear missiles and he did this to protect Cuba from any other US assault, such as the failed Bay of Pigs in 1961. Once Khrushchev received Castro's consent he began quickly and secretly placing missile silos in Cuba, but on October 16, 1962 President John. F. Kennedy of the United States was shown recon photos of Soviet missile silos being built in Cuba. After much internal debate and Soviet denial of the existence of these silos, J.F.K announced on October 22 of the discovery of these silos and any nuclear attack by Cuba will be considered an attack by the Soviet Union. J.F.K also announced that Cuba will be placed under a naval quarantine to prevent any further shipment of nuclear missile material to Cuba. During the crisis both leaders exchanged letters and other forms of communications. In a letter sent to J.F.K on October 23rd Khrushchev said that he was using the missiles as deterrence to protect Cuba, J.F.K viewed this action as the Soviet Union attempting to secretly place weapons of future war/aggression in Cuba. On October 26 Khrushchev sent a letter to J.F.K stating that the missile silos will be dismantled and removed as long as the United States does not invade Cuba "All the means located there, and I assure you of this, have a defensive character, are on Cuba solely for the purposes of defense, and we have sent them to Cuba at the request of the Cuban Government". On the 27th Khrushchev sent another letter stating that the missiles will be dismantled as long as the United States dismantle theirs in Turkey "We are willing to remove from Cuba the means which you regard as offensive. We are willing to carry this out and to make this pledge in the United Nations. Your representatives will make a declaration to the effect that the United States, for its part, considering the uneasiness and anxiety of the Soviet State, will remove its analogous means from Turkey". The U.S government accepted the October 26th letter but ignored the 27th. On the 28th Khrushchev announced that he would dismantle the silos and return them to the Soviet Union, believing that the United States would not invade Cuba:

"1) You would agree to remove these weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision; and undertake, with suitable safeguards, to halt the further introduction of such weapons systems into Cuba.

2) We, on our part, would agree--upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments--(a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against an invasion of Cuba. I am confident that other nations of the Western Hemisphere would be prepared to do likewise. "(1)

Further negotiations also occurred on this date, including the United States demand that Soviet light bombers be removed from Cuba, and what specifications are there for US not attacking Cuba. From the Cuban Missile Crisis there started a period of detente between the two Superpowers until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Cuban Missile Crisis
Khrushchev and Kennedy Letters - translation
Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges

Khrushchev's Foreign Policies

After Stalin, Khrushchev started his policy of peaceful co-existence with capitalism with hopes of preventing nuclear war and of allowing the Soviet Union to develop its economy. To initially ease tensions between the Eastern and Western Blocs, Khrushchev recognized the neutrality of Austria. Khrushchev demonstrated that the Soviet Union wished for a smooth relationship between the eastern and the western blocs by having meetings with President Eisenhower in 1955 and US President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and US tour in 1959. After the "close call" with the Cuban Missile Crisis both J.F.K and Khrushchev created the "hot line" between Washington and Moscow, in 1963 to prevent miscommunication and reduce the likelihood of nuclear war through diplomacy. Also, on this year the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which forbids nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere. Khrushchev also attempted to gain better relations with satellite countries and non-aligned countries. Khrushchev attempted to gain "goodwill" of these nations, instead of shunning the current governments and support only the local communist parties, which outlined the original Soviet policy. In the 50's Khrushchev spread Soviet influence over the international alignments of India and Egypt, other Third World countries, and Cuba's entry into the socialist camp in 1961. Unfortunately for Khrushchev, due to his policy of "de-stalinization" and allowing Yugoslavia to follow its own version of communism, discontent opened up in Eastern Europe in realization of the acts of the Stalinist era. In October 1956 Poland started riots which brought about a change in polish communist party leadership, which the Soviet Union reluctantly recognized. An uprising against Soviet control broke out in Hungary which the Soviet army crushed early November 1956, resulting in numerous casualties. To further show the Soviet conservatives and the militant Chinese that he was a firm defender of communism, Khrushchev in 1958 challenged the status of Berlin; when the West denied to incorporate western Berlin into East Germany, Khrushchev approved the creation of the Berlin Wall between east and west Berlin in 1961. To further gain support from communist camps, Khrushchev canceled a summit meeting with American President Eisenhower after the U-2 incident. China, under Mao Zedong, became discontent due to Khrushchev's "de-stalinization", low levels of Soviet aid, weak Soviet support for China in its disputes with Taiwan and India, and Khrushchev's "peaceful coexistence" with the western bloc, which Mao viewed as betrayal of Marxism-Leninism communism. So China, in 1960, declared that "imperialism" (Capitalism) can be defeated in a nuclear war by communism and so Mao put China under a nuclear arms program. This dispute between China and the Soviet Union resulted in a split of communism, the Moscow and Beijing communism. Due to this split Albania left the Moscow communism and became an ally of China, Romania distanced itself from the Soviet Union in international affairs, and communist parties around the world were split between these two forms of communism.

Hungarian Revolution

On November 4th, 1956 the Soviet leadership, under Khrushchev, deployed the Red Army to Hungary in response to increasing rise in Hungarian nationalism that originated as a result of the relaxation in control over the Hungarian government. Under the notion of "de-Stalinization", Khrushchev relaxed Moscow's control over its satellite states in order to gain political support for himself by contrast to the repressive regime before him. The results in Hungary, however, were unexpected, as on October 23rd, 1956 an overwhelming amount of people, led by Imre Nagy who called for a multiparty political system and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, took to the streets in anger against the oppressive Soviet regime. On October 31, according to Pravda, a Soviet newspaper, "[T]he Soviet Government is prepared to enter into the appropriate negotiations with the government of the Hungarian People's Republic and other members of the Warsaw Treaty on the question of the presence of Soviet troops on the territory of Hungary.", showing that the Soviet government had been willing to negotiate with the revolutionary forces and allow for the peaceful development of relations between the two nations. However, on the same day this statement was made, the Soviet leadership reversed their stance on the matter, favoring instead the use of armed force to quell the revolution in Hungary. By this point the Hungary Revolution was making great strides, as it already had a person at the helm of the revolution and was in a position to start the process of becoming a neutral state. Even though the Hungarian Revolution harmed Soviet standing in world opinion, it showed that the Soviet Union would use force to maintain control over its sphere of influence.

Russia - The Khrushchev Era

What was the “Secret Speech” and how did it effect the policies of the Soviet Union?
What was the "Cuban Missile Crisis" and what effect did it have on the international stage?
What were the goals of the "Seven Year Plan" and what was its significance?
To what extent was de-Stalinization a driving force behind the rise in nationalism in the Soviet satellite states?
To what extent did Peaceful Coexistence bring about a relaxation in tensions between the Eastern and Western Blocs?