Nikita Khrushchev - Politics Essay Example
The phenomenon of Nikita (Sergeevich) Khrushchev, an eccentric and energetic leader of the Soviet Union, shook the world up in the 1950s. He was appointed as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and became a formal head of the country in 1953, right after the hard times and years of misery brought about by rigid and anti-human regime of Josef Stalin. Khrushchev’s tenure is remembered as Khrushchev Thaw, and his most considerable historical contributions included launching a number of liberal social and economic reforms in the country with strict communist ideology, opened criticism of Stalin’s policy of repressions and his extraordinary activities on international arena.
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Born in 1894 in a small Russian village to a family of miner, since he was 9 Khrushchev had to work really hard to help his family: first as a shepherd, a locksmith, and later on as a pipe fitter in a coal mine. Therefore, the education he received was only basic. He actively participated in Bolshevik movement and the Great October Social Revolution as a military political worker. Inspired by a new revolutionary communistic ideology, Khrushchev became a member of the Soviet Communistic Party (the Bolsheviks), and within the second half of the 1920s he occupied different administrative positions in local Communist Party Committees in some cities of Donbass Region and in Kiev (Ukraine).
In 1931 Khrushchev was sent to Moscow by recommendation of the First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party, Lazar Kaganovich, who used to express his admiration for organizational abilities of Nikita Sergeevich. In Moscow Khrushchev attended the Stalin Industrial Academy, where he became the leader of a local party organization. Due to his reputation as a talented and effective political activist, he continued his rapid upward rise. In 1938 Khrushchev became the leader of Ukrainian Communist Party and was assigned by Josef Stalin to implement the Great Purge of Ukraine, which required structural reformations and principal changes in agricultural industry of the republic. Being very well-aware about the problems, needs and requirements of Ukrainian agrarian economy, Nikita Sergeevich put this campaign into action rather successfully.
In 1939 Khrushchev joined the highest managerial body of the Communist Party, the Politburo. During the World War II he was a head of political department of the Southern Front of Read Army, responsible for organization and coordination of the evacuation of Ukrainian industries and population to safer areas. After Soviet military forces had freed Ukraine from German invaders, Khrushchev was put in charge of the activities aimed on recovery and reconstruction of the republic. It was a great challenge, because everything had to be built from the beginning and re-established again in the conditions of famine and devastation. Khrushchev tried some innovative agricultural reforms and organizational campaigns, including collectivization or fighting with the traitors. But soon he received accusations from Stalin of improper utilization of huge agricultural potential of Ukraine.
In 1953, after Stalin’s death, Khrushchev entered fierce political fight for the leadership in the Communist Party. Eventually, he managed to surpass his main rivals, Lavrentiy Beria and Geogriy Malenkov, and to become the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, which formally meant being the leader of the country. Within the first month of his being in power, Khrushchev outlined the features of his policy, intending “…to increase the standard of living, give more emphasis to light industry and agriculture, and ease the burden of quotas on farmers. The leadership also allowed somewhat greater freedom in cultural and intellectual life,” (Wolchik, 2004).
Khrushchev was a king of political games and intrigues. Using some unofficial channels, he managed to remove Georgiy Malenkov, his political opponent and former assistant of Josef Stalin, from the position of Prime Minister, and assigned own supporter, Nikolay Buganin. In February 1956, at the 20th congress of the Communist Party, Nikita Sergeevich delivered his legendary “Secret Speech”, in which he denounced Stalin’s policy, revealed and admitted his numerous crimes against Soviet people. This speech became a serious upheaval in ideological principles of communist leaders of those times, and it resulted in total defeat of Khrushchev’s opponents and strengthening of his leadership.
In 1958 Khrushchev became the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister), so he took both political and economic control over the country into his hands. He proved to be quite an energetic reformer. First of all, he launched extensive campaigns on development of agriculture, including “The Virgin Lands Program” for Siberia. He completely reorganized agricultural sector and created a net of sovnarkhozy, collective state farms. Since he originated from Ukraine (the country’s supplier of wheat), he believed that agriculture had to be greatly supported and developed because “…the agricultural worker .. was more important, since he was the producer,” (McCauley 34).
It is impossible to underestimate the efforts of Khrushchev on improvement of social sphere. He launched a huge campaign directed on overcoming the existing housing crisis, stimulating national investors to sponsor construction of cheap panel blocks all around the country. He created a new clear system of judgment and so called “burlaw courts”, which was effective for many years. He slightly eased censorship and granted some more freedom of expression to writers and other cultural activists. But, of course, the domination of the Communist Party and communistic ideology was still very strong and enormous.
Many noteworthy achievements of Khrushchev’s epoch are connected with so called “Cold War”, a “peaceful competition” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which was initiated by Khrushchev during his visit to the United States in 1958. In those times he launched a giant campaign directed on surpassing America in the amounts of agricultural productions. Also, extensive support of the development of Soviet scientific and intellectual potential was Khrushchev’s another significant contribution. In particular, in 1956-1957 he financed Soviet Space Programs, and therefore, Soviet scientists were the first to launch a space craft on the orbit of earth, the famous Sputnik, as well as to send the first man to space.
Nikita Sergeevich developed a policy of peaceful coexistence with foreign countries, which was rather contrasting to “closed foreign policies” of his predecessors. He established good diplomatic relations with many nations of the world. He used to go abroad, take part in numerous international meetings and conferences where he earned a reputation of a very intolerant and exotic personality. His famous acts of banging the table with his shoes or his fists and shouting in Russian during important international congresses became legendary. Therefore, despite his openness and interest, Khrushchev’s foreign activities were marked with definite antagonism of many foreign authorities.
In 1962 Khrushchev became obsessed with the idea of placing Soviet nuclear weapons on the territory of Cuba. He thought that it would give an opportunity to the Soviets to reply very fast on possible nuclear attacks from the side of the U. S. The missiles were secretly transported to Cuba, but soon they were discovered by American government, and all the affair was understood as a political provocation. After dramatic and long negotiations Khrushchev had to dismantle the missiles, but this big international conflict seriously affected the image of impulsive Soviet leader, both in his country and abroad.
Besides, by 1964 the economy of the country had started suffering stagnation and it was obvious that Khrushchev’s reformations had come to a standstill. In October 1964 his rivals asked him to resign, accusing him of making numerous economic and political mistakes, wrong administrative practices, acting with disrespect to the interests of the Communist Party and misbalancing the dogmas of soviet ideology. Khrushchev was dismissed and spent the rest of his life in retirement.
Undoubtedly, Khrushchev made a lot of fundamental improvements at national level, but, at that, a great number of his innovative ideas about improving the life of Soviet people were not implemented properly or completely failed. Specialists speculate about possible reasons of his failures. A historian Martin McCauley underlines that governmental officials were not ready to assume new roles and “…the bureaucracy was powerful enough to ensure that most of his reforms were not implemented” (McCauley 12). Another writer Alec Nove criticizes the idea of establishing sovnarkhozy and giving them certain economic freedom in terms of non-market centralized economy (McCauley 13).
Khrushchev’s personal traits, such as openness, honesty and objectivism, were appreciated by his contemporaries. Russian historian Alexei Kudyashov comments about Khrushchev’s personality as the following: “..a contradictory and complex character, ambitious and energetic, irascible and direct, while also being capable of rudeness and brutality. In addition to all this, he was extremely vulnerable and sentimental” (Kudyashov 58). Undoubtedly, Khrushchev’s attainments and efforts had an enormous influence on Soviet youth, the leaders of which eventually came to power together with Gorbachev.
As the head of the country, Khrushchev left a lot of unsolved problems, but the responsibility for those must not be shouldered on him alone. Despite of all the obstacles and misunderstandings, he managed to solve a series of pressing problems and acted as a real national leader prioritizing social interests of his people. Nikita Khrushchev remains in history as a reformative enthusiastic politician, who made attempts to inject some elements of democracy into the system, choosing not the way of repressions and dictatorship, but the way of reformations and liberalization. “Khrushchev tried to breathe new life into the soviets and wished to develop their representative side…” (McCauley, 21)
Kudryashov, Sergei. “Khrushchev: The Man and His Era.” History Today Vol. 54 (1). Jan. 2004: 57-58.
McCauley, Martin. “Khrushchev and Khrushchevism.” Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1987.
Nikita Khrushchev. Spartacus Educational. Educational Portal. 12 Nov. 2005 <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RUSkhrushchev.htm>.
Nikita Khrushchev: 1894-1971 Public Broadcasting Service. Red Files. GSD&M. 29 Nov. 2007 <http://www.pbs.org/redfiles/bios/all_bio_nikita_khrushchev.htm>.
Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev. UXL Newsmakers. Farmington Hills, MI: UXL (Gale), 2005. 147-149.
Wolchik, Sharon. “Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich.” MSN Encarta. 24 Aug. 2004. 29 Nov. 2007 <http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761574624/Nikita_Khrushchev.html>.