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Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev in 1962

Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev (Никита Сергеевич Хрущёв), (April 17, 1894 - September 11, 1971) was a Soviet politician and the First Secretary of the CPSU from September 7, 1953 - October 14, 1964, who led the Soviet Union after Joseph Stalin.

Born in Kalinovka, Kursk Province, Russia, Khrushchev trained for and worked as a pipe fitter in various mines. During the revolution he fought in the Red Army. He rose in the party apparatus to the Politburo. During World War II, he served with the equivalent rank of Lieutenant General.

After Stalin's death, Khrushchev shocked delegates to the 20th Party Congress on February 23, 1956 by publicly denouncing the "cult of personality" that surrounded Stalin, and accusing Stalin of mass murder during the Great Purges. This effectively alienated Khrushchev from the more conservative elements of the Party. He became Premier on March 27, 1958 after a long and complex series of maneuvers, notably the crucial removal of Stalin's obvious successor, Beria, head of the KGB.

Khrushchev was regarded by his political enemies as a boorish, uncivilized peasant, with a reputation for interrupting speakers to insult them. In one famous incident at a United Nations conference on October 12, 1960, Lorenzo Sumulong, the Filipino delegate, asked Khrushchev how he could protest Western capitalist imperialism while the Soviet Union was at the same time rapidly assimilating Eastern Europe. Khrushchev became enraged and informed Sumulong that he was, "a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of imperialism," then removed one of his shoes and banged it on the table several times for emphasis. The Politburo was mortified.

During a Big Four summit in Paris on May 16, 1960, Khrushchev demanded an apology from US President Dwight D. Eisenhower for U-2 spy plane flights over the Soviet Union. This ended the conference.

At another occasion, Krushchev said in reference to capitalism, "We will bury you." It seems that the sense of this remark was not, "We will destroy you," but merely "We will outlive you."

Khrushchev was deposed in 1964, due largely to the Cuban missile crisis and Khrushchev's personal mannerisms, both of which were regarded by the Party as tremendous embarassments on the international stage. After seven years of house arrest, Khrushchev died at his home in Moscow on September 11, 1971. He is interred in the Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, Russia.

Key actions as leader of the Soviets

Bob Hoskins played Khruschchev in the movie Enemy at the Gates (2001). Here Khruschchev is shown in his Political Kommisar days for the Battle of Stalingrad. His eldest son dies in the battle.

Preceded by:
Georgy Malenkov
List of leaders of the Soviet Union Succeeded by:
Leonid Brezhnev