Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (1894-1971) was the leader of the Soviet Union through part of the Cold War. During his life he held the post of the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1953-64) as well the premier of the Soviet Union (1958-64) He came to power in the tumultuous aftermath of Josef Stalin's death and is best known in Soviet history for his policy of de-Stalinization which sent shockwaves throughout the communist world and had widespread repercussions in later years.
Khrushchev was unlike his fellow Soviet leaders like Lenin in that he did not come from a middle class background. Instead Khrushchev was the son of a coal miner and a grandson to a serf who had served in the Tsarist army. In his childhood he obtained a village education and later moved to an industrial town known then as Yuzovka in the Donets Basin, where he began work at age 15 as a pipe fitter. Later he became active in workers organizations and eventually a member of the Russian Communist Party (also known as the Bolshevik party).
In 1919, Khrushchev joined the Red Army and served as a junior political commissar in the Russian Civil War during the campaigns against the White Army and Polish armies in 1920. After this, Khrushchev went back and received a full education and party instruction from the new Soviet workers school in the town of Yzovka.
In 1925, Khrushchev began full time work as a party secretary of a district of Yuzovka. Due to his distinguished service, he soon came to the notice of one of Stalin's associates, which eventually led to Khrushchev doing full-time party work in Moscow by 1931. During the 1930s, Khrushchev consolidated power among the party cadres in Moscow, and supervised the construction of the Moscow subway system for which he was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1935. Later in 1935, he effectively became the governor of the city, and in 1934 was elected as a full member to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
During his career under Stalin, he was a fervent supporter of the leader and participated in the purges of party leadership, being only one of three provincial secretaries to survive the Great Purge of 1930s. Later during the 1940s, as Stalin played political games, Khrushchev worked diligently to bring himself more prestige. The period from 1949 to 1953 was when Khrushchev moved more into agriculture and ideas the went against collectivization.
Leadership of the Soviet UnionEdit
In March of 1953, Stalin died, and Khrushchev engaged in a power struggle for the leadership of the Soviet Union with Stalin's heir apparent Georgy Malenkov which he ultimately won after a few years of political wrangling and solidifying his power.
In February of 1956, Khrushchev took the dangerous and monumental step of beginning De-Stalinization. He began this with his famous "secret speech" in which he denounced the actions of Stalin and how the USSR had been run during his rule. Also Khrushchev exposed the executions of the Great Purge and the excesses of the Soviet police's repression. This idea of De-Stalinization would have far reaching consequences as Poland and Hungary having revolutions against their government, and Khrushchev allowing the European communist satellite countries a great deal of freedom. The leadership of these countries had freedom but not the people.
During his time in office, Khrushchev also presided over the launch of Sputnik as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the downing of an American U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union.
Later Life & DeathEdit
In 1964, after a palace coup, Khrushchev retired from his position as leader of the Soviet Union. For seven years afterwards, he lived quietly in Moscow as a pensioner of the Soviet government, and appeared only publicly to vote in Soviet elections. On September 11th 1971, Khrushchev died in Moscow.