Nikita Khrushchev

Soviet Union
1953 - 1964
Heart attack, 1971
Communist
Nikita Khrushchev
Никита Хрущёв
A portrait shot of an older, bald man with bifocal glasses. He is wearing a blazer over a collared shirt and tie. In his hands, he is holding a set of papers.
First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
September 14, 1953 – October 14, 1964
President
Premier
Preceded by Joseph Stalin
Succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev
Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
In office
March 27, 1958 – October 14, 1964
First Deputies
Preceded by Nikolai Bulganin
Succeeded by Alexei Kosygin
Chairman of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian SFSR
In office
February 27, 1956 – November 16, 1964
Deputy Andrei Kirilenko
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev
Full member of the Presidium
In office
March 22, 1939 – November 16, 1964
Member of the Secretariat
In office
December 16, 1949 – October 14, 1964
Member of the Orgburo
In office
December 16, 1949 – October 14, 1952
Candidate member of the Politburo
In office
January 18, 1938 – March 22, 1939
Personal details
Born (1894-04-15)April 15, 1894
Kalinovka, Dmitriyevsky Uyezd, Kursk Governorate, Russian Empire
Died September 11, 1971(1971-09-11) (aged 77)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s)
  • Yefrosinia Khrushcheva (1916–1919, died)
  • Marusia Khrushcheva (1922, separated)
  • Nina Kukharchuk (Khrushcheva) (1923–1971, survived as widow)
Religion None
Signature A scrawled "Н Хрущёв"

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev[a] (April 15 [O.S. April 3] 1894 – September 11, 1971) led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964. Khrushchev was responsible for the partial de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union, for backing the progress of the early Soviet space program, and for several relatively liberal reforms in areas of domestic policy. Khrushchev's party colleagues removed him from power in 1964, replacing him with Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin as Premier.

Khrushchev was born in the Russian village of Kalinovka in 1894, close to the present-day border between Russia and Ukraine. He was employed as a metalworker in his youth, and during the Russian Civil War was a political commissar. With the help of Lazar Kaganovich, he worked his way up the Soviet hierarchy. He supported Joseph Stalin's purges, and approved thousands of arrests. In 1939, Stalin sent him to govern Ukraine, and he continued the purges there. During what was known in the Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic War (Eastern Front of World War II), Khrushchev was again a commissar, serving as an intermediary between Stalin and his generals. Khrushchev was present at the bloody defense of Stalingrad, a fact he took great pride in throughout his life. After the war, he returned to Ukraine before being recalled to Moscow as one of Stalin's close advisers.

In the power struggle triggered by Stalin's death in 1953, Khrushchev, after several years, emerged victorious. On February 25, 1956, at the 20th Party Congress, he delivered the "Secret Speech," denouncing Stalin's purges and ushering in a less repressive era in the Soviet Union. His domestic policies, aimed at bettering the lives of ordinary citizens, were often ineffective, especially in the area of agriculture. Hoping eventually to rely on missiles for national defense, Khrushchev ordered major cuts in conventional forces. Despite the cuts, Khrushchev's rule saw the tensest years of the Cold War, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Some of Khrushchev's policies were seen as erratic, particularly by his emerging rivals, who quietly rose in strength and deposed him in October 1964. He did not suffer the deadly fate of some previous losers of Soviet power struggles, but was pensioned off with an apartment in Moscow and a dacha in the countryside. His lengthy memoirs were smuggled to the West and published in part in 1970. Khrushchev died in 1971 of heart disease.
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