Nikita Khrushchev (1894 –1971)

  • born April 15, 1894 in Kalinovka, a village in what is now Russia's Kursk Oblast, near the present Ukrainian border His parents, Sergei Khrushchev and Ksenia Khrushcheva, were poor peasants of Russian origin.
  • a skilled metal worker during WWI,  he married the daughter of a mine elevator operator (who would die in the Civil War); elected to the worker's council (or soviet) in Rutchenkovo, he joins the Bolsheviks in 1918; in 1919 he was mobilized into the Red Army as a political commissar to a construction platoon, then a construction battalion.
  •  In 1921, the civil war ended, and Khrushchev was demobilized and assigned as commissar to a labor brigade at  the Rutchenkovo mine in the Donbas region of the Ukraine where he was highly successful; in mid-1922, he was appointed party secretary of the technical college (tekhnikum) in Yuzovka, and even though he never received a formal education, he became a member of the bureau — the governing council — of the party committee.
  • In mid-1925, Khrushchev was appointed Party secretary of the Petrovo-Marinsky raikom or district in which Rutchenkovo (now named Stalino) resided; in late 1925, Khrushchev was elected a non-voting delegate to the 14th Congress of the USSR Communist Party in Moscow.


Khrushchev became a protégé of Lazar Kaganovich, Stalin’s man in the Ukrainian Communist leadrership.

  • He was transferred to  Kharkov, then the capital of Ukraine and then to Kiev
  • In 1929 he enrolls in Stalin Industrial Academy. Khrushchev never completed his studies there, but his career in the Party flourished. When the school's Party cell elected a number of rightists to an upcoming district Party conference, the cell was attacked in Pravda. Khrushchev emerged victorious in the ensuing power struggle, becoming Party secretary of the school, arranging for the delegates to be withdrawn, and afterward purging the cell of the rightists.
  • By 1932, Khrushchev had followed Kakanovich to Moscow and had become second in command of the Moscow city Party organization.  That same year he met Stalin.
  • In 1934, he became Party leader for the city and a member of the Party's Central Committee.
  • In 1934 while head of the Moscow city organization, Khrushchev superintended construction of the Moscow Metro.
  • In 1935 selected as Party leader for Moscow oblast, a province with a population of 11 million


1935-37 Khrushchev implemented Joseph Stalin's purges

  • Of the 38 top Party officials in Moscow city and province, 35 were killed; of the 146 Party secretaries of cities and districts outside Moscow city in the province, only 10 survived.
  • He became a candidate member of the Politburo in January 1938 and a full member in March 1939
  • Stalin appointed Khrushchev as head of the Communist Party in Ukraine in 1939 and Khrushchev continued extensive purges there.


War Years

  • In 1939 Khrushchev accompanied Soviet troops, pursuant to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, during the invasion of eastern  Poland while the Wehrmacht took the Western Poland,
  • Kiev falls to the Germans and 600,000 troops are taken prisoner…
  • Counter attack at Kharkov fails and 250,000 are lost or killed . Khrushchev is recalled to Mosow and then reassigned to Stalingrad in August 1942 and participates in the offensive.
  • His son Leonid, a fighter pilot, was shot down and killed in action on March 11, 1943
  • In 1943 he returns to Ukraine where one of every six people had died in the fighting.
  • To increase agricultural production, Khrushchev empowered the kolkhozes to expel ‘unproductive’ residents.
  • Between 1944 and 1946 he put down the partisan Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) killing 110,825 "bandits" and capturing a quarter million more


Post War

  • In 1946 Khrushchev resisted Stalin's orders to implement another induced famine in the Ukraine, and in 1947 he was removed as party leader in favor of Kaganovich, but by the end of 1947 he had ehabilitatedr.
  • December 1949 return to Moscow and the Central Committee
  • Much of the high-level work of government took place at dinners hosted by Stalin. These sessions, which Beria, Malenkov, Khrushchev, Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Bulganin, who comprised Stalin's inner circle, attended, began with showings of cowboy movies favored by Stalin. Stolen from the West, they lacked subtitles. The dictator had the meal served at around 1 a.m., and insisted that his subordinates stay with him and drink until dawn. On one occasion, Stalin had Khrushchev, then aged almost sixty, dance a traditional Ukrainian dance. Khrushchev did so, later stating, "When Stalin says dance, a wise man dances.”
  • In 1950 Khrushchev began a large-scale housing program for Moscow,  five- or six-story apartment buildings, which became ubiquitous throughout the Soviet Union; many remain in use today. Khrushchev had prefabricated reinforced concrete used, greatly speeding up construction. But the buildings lacked elevators or balconies, and were nicknamed Khrushcheby by the public, a pun on the Russian word for slums, trushcheby.
  • On March 1, 1953, Stalin suffered a massive stroke, apparently on rising after sleep. Stalin had left orders not to be disturbed, and it was twelve hours until his condition was discovered.
  • Khrushchev allied with Malenkov and on June 26, 1953 Beria was arrested at a Presidium meeting, following extensive military preparations by Khrushchev and his allies. Beria was tried in secret, and executed in December 1953 with five of his close associates. The execution of Beria proved to be the last time the loser of a top-level Soviet power struggle paid with his life.
  • Khrushchev presented himself as a down-to-earth activist prepared to take up any challenge, contrasting with Malenkov who, though sophisticated, came across as colorless.  While both Malenkov and Khrushchev sought reforms to agriculture, Khrushchev's proposals were broader, and included the Virgin Lands Campaign, under which hundreds of thousands of young volunteers would settle and farm areas of Western Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan, initially politically effective, a fiasco in later reality
  • At a Central Committee meeting in January 1955, Malenkov was accused of involvement in atrocities, and the committee passed a resolution accusing him of involvement in the Leningrad case, and of facilitating Beria's climb to power.


Leader 1955-64


The Thaw:

  • February 14, 1956, "Secret Speech": Khrushchev tells  the delegates to the 20th Party Congress in closed session about Stalin's crimes and then consolidates his power by removing Malenkov and his faction.
  • In 1962, allows publication of  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Khrushchev begins to shut down the gulag system.   
  • Under Khrushchev, the special tribunals operated by security agencies were abolished. There were no major political trials under Khrushchev.


Red Plenty:

  • He claimed that the Soviet model would make the people richer in the future: Khrushchev ‘s motto: “Catch up with and surpass America!”
  • On 4 October 1957 the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 into orbit
  • On 12 April 1961Yuri Gargarin was  the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth .
  • In 1959, during Nixon's visit to the Soviet Union, Khrushchev took part in what later became known as the Kitchen Debate in which Nixon and Khrushchev had an impassioned argument in a model kitchen at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, with each defending the economic system of his country.
  • 1959 Khrushchev was invited to visit the United States and did so that September, spending thirteen days. Khrushchev arrived in Washington, DC on September 15, 1959. The first visit by a Soviet premier to the United States resulted in an extended media circus.
  • Khrushchev founded several academic towns, such as Akademgorodok. The premier believed that Western science flourished because many scientists lived in university towns such as Oxford, isolated from big city distractions, and had pleasant living conditions and good pay. He sought to duplicate those conditions in the Soviet Union. Khrushchev's attempt was generally successful, though his new towns and scientific centers tended to attract younger scientists.
  • One adviser to Khrushchev was Trofim Lysenko, who promised greatly increased agricultural production with minimal investment. Such schemes were attractive to Khrushchev, who ordered them implemented. Lysenko managed to maintain his influence under Khrushchev despite repeated failures; as each proposal failed, he advocated another. Lysenko's influence greatly retarded the development of genetic science in the Soviet Union
  • In June 1962, food prices were raised, particularly on meat and butter (by 25–30%). This caused public discontent. In the southern Russian city of Novocherkassk (Rostov Region) this discontent escalated to a strike and a revolt against the authorities. The revolt was put down by the military. According to Soviet official accounts, 22 people were killed and 87 wounded


Foreign Policy

  • 1956 Hungarian Uprising: A mass demonstration in Budapest on October 23 turned into a popular uprising. In response to the uprising, Hungarian Party leaders installed reformist Premier Imre Nagy. Soviet forces in the city clashed with Hungarians and even fired on demonstrators, with hundreds of both Hungarians and Soviets killed. Nagy called for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of Soviet troops, which a Khrushchev-led majority in the Presidium decided to obey, choosing to give the new Hungarian government a chance. Khrushchev assumed that if Moscow announced liberalization in how it dealt with its allies, Nagy would adhere to the alliance with the Soviet Union. However, on October 30 Nagy announced multiparty elections, and the next morning that Hungary would leave the Warsaw Pact.  On November 3, two members of the Nagy government appeared in Ukraine as the self-proclaimed heads of a provisional government and demanded Soviet intervention, which was forthcoming. The next day, Soviet troops crushed the Hungarian uprising, with a death toll of 4,000 Hungarians and several hundred Soviet troops. Nagy was arrested, and was later executed.
  • After the Berlin airlift, Khrushchev authorized East German leader Walter Ulbricht to begin construction of what became known as the Berlin Wall, which would surround West Berlin. Construction preparations were made in great secrecy, and the border was sealed off in the early hours of Sunday, August 13, 1961
  • In January 1960, despite tensions with the West, Khrushchev ordered major cuts in conventional forces. He sought to eliminate many conventional weapons and defend the Soviet Union with missiles.  He believed that unless this occurred, the huge Soviet military would continue to eat up resources, making Khrushchev's goals of improving Soviet life difficult to achieve.  In 1955, Khrushchev abandoned Stalin's plans for a large navy, believing that the new ships would be too vulnerable to either conventional or nuclear attack.


Fall from Power

  • In 1962 Superpower tensions culminated in the Cuban missile crisis (in the USSR, the "Caribbean crisis") of October 1962, as the Soviet Union sought to install medium range nuclear missiles in Cuba, about 90 miles (140 km) from the U.S. coast.
  • Drought struck the Soviet Union in 1963; the harvest of 107,500,000 short tons (97,500,000 t) of grain was down from a peak of 134,700,000 short tons (122,200,000 t) in 1958. The shortages resulted in bread lines.
  • Overthrown in October 1964 coup and not killed; instead, he was pensioned off with an apartment in Moscow and a dacha in the countryside.