Tuesday, March 27, 2007

TDIH: Introducing Mr. Khrushchev

On this day in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became Soviet premier and 1st sect of the Communist Party. As you may remember, Old Joe Stalin had died March 5, 1953 leaving a handful of men in power, with Khrushchev clearly leading the Communist Party.

Instead of a Stalin-like dictatorship, Khrushchev was known for a policy that ended the most inhumane practices of Stalin's reign. The Soviet Union, of course remained a one-party totalitarian state, but conditions in the USSR were much improved with Khrushchev rejecting Stalin's extremes. However, he did create new factions in the party as well as schisms in the U.S. Communist Party which had lost a great deal of members during the McCarthy days and proceeding Stalin's death. Beginning in 1953 he became the First Secretary of the Communist Party (premier) and from 1958 to 1964 he was Chairman of the Council of Ministers. In 1964, Khrushchev was removed from power by members of his own party and spent the rest of his life, a few years, mostly banished from Party activity and under close watch by the KGB.

As someone very fascinated by the relationship between Kennedy and Khrushchev as well as someone intrigued by the personality and character of Khrushchev, I can't help but think that Khrushchev is a highly overlooked individual in history. He of course was overshadowed by Stalin, Brezhnev, and later in the legacy sense, Gorbachev.

There is certainly something to be said for the fact that whenever I am watching a questionable news story unfold (for instance the WMDs that were originally reported in Iraq), I can't help but think of what Mr. Khrushchev once said during those dark days of October 1962: "Someday history will tell the whole profound truth about what is happening today." Positive legacy, or not, there is no denying the very influential role this man played in the history of the Cold War.


Jared said...

My favorite part about Khrushchev is the beating of the shoe yelling "We will bury you!" at the UN. Though I can't say I enjoy current threats against American society (read Islamic terrorism), I am glad the Soviet regiem is gone.

Tara A. Rowe said...

The beating of the shoe...oh what a time! I was thinking about how quickly had to eat his words about burying the United States.

xenophon said...

I recall watching the shoe incident at the UN when I was a little boy.

In those days we were subjected to scary propaganda from all directions. Kruschev assured the world the Soviets had 1,000 bombers, all armed with nukes that could hit any spot in the US. He was lying. But I, a little boy, didn't know that.

The Pentagon at the time declared a weaponry gap between the Soviets and us and it was necessary to spend enormous sums to catch up. They were lying too, but I didn't know that either.

Later during the horrible week of the Kennedy assasination, the TV, and all the adult authority figures in my life assured me that Kennedy's murder was the first step of a surprise, no holds barred Soviet pre-emptive nuclear war, and everybody I needed and loved was going to be burned to death in front of me.

It was a really bad week for me.

Kruschev's career is really unappreciated in the west. He was Stalin's troubleshooter in the Great Patriotic War.

In the dark days, when the German army was moving fast and captured two million Red Army prisoners and murdered all of them, when Stalin told generals not to retreat or they would be shot, and they retreated anyway, it was Kruschev who went to the scene and made sure they got shot.

It was Kruschev who led a small group of determined leaders who held together the Stalingrad front under extreme pressure, and turned the tide of war against the Nazi invaders. After that battle the Red Army stopped retreating and started adavancing, and the German army stopped advancing and started retreating until the war ended.

After Stalin's death Kruschev might have been equally brutal, there was nothing stopping him. But he chose to repudiate Stalin's homocidal ways.

He was the first to blink in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. For that the world owes him a debt of gratitude.

Kruschev wasn't so bad. He had it well within his power to be really bad, but he chose not to be.

He certainly wasn't a benign jolly grandpa figure, he had it within his power to destroy the world, but he chose not to.