Nikita Krushchev


His story is something like a fairy tale. A humble young
peasant boy, born to a world of famine and poverty with 100
million peasants just like him, works and fights his way up
the political ladder of Russia to one day become its most
powerful force, simultaneously holding the offices of
Premier of the U.S.S.R. and First Secretary of the
Communist Party. It seems incredible, but it should be
remembered that Nikita Khrushchev did not accomplish this
feat without much sacrifice and hard work on his part.
Coming from virtually nothing, he struggled for many years
to rise among the ranks in Revolutionary Russia before he
achieved the position of a widely-loved ruler and powerful,
determining force in international affairs. And although,
in the end, he was cast down from this climactic position,
it was not before this loquacious and personable man had
employed his keen and incisive mind toward making many
gains for and improvements in twentieth-century Russia.
To truly understand how humble and common his beginnings
were, one must understand the situation in Russia toward
the end of the nineteenth century. Serfdom had only
recently been abolished, and, as a result, there was a
severe shortage of land and widespread poverty and
illiteracy. Only the strongest and cleverest were able to
make a living from their new-found freedom; most just
struggled to survive. It was among this majority, on April
17, 1894, that Nikita Sergeievich Khrushchev was born. As a
boy, he lived in Kalinovka, a poor villiage in the Ukraine,
in an izba, a mud hut with a thatched roof, with his
grandfather, a large family, and the family's animals. His
father, it is said, lived his life with the ambition to buy
a horse, but he never saved enough money to do so. In the
end, the family was forced to give up their home and move
to Yuzovka in another part of the Ukraine.
Throughout his childhood, Nikita was forced to work to
survive. His education amounted to only two or three years
in the village school, for he was forced to go to work
herding cows when he was nine. Following that, he was em-
ployed as many things, including a farm hand, a factory
worker, and finally a miner in the coal pits. It was at
this time that his determination to better himself was
first made apparent, for, rather than letting himself be
destined forever to work in the pits, he offered his
services in all areas of the job, including the development
of pit-heads, elevators for the mines. This was also the
time in which the young Khrushchev's rebellious nature
began to surface, but rather than to striking or
union-organizing, it was applied toward politics. It all
began with a visit to the mines in 1917 by a man called
Kaganovich, who was sent to recruit miners for the
Revolution. Nikita, who was 23 and viewed this man as both
a romantic figure and an opportunity to break from his
social boundaries, joined his Bolshevik group and, by doing
so, took his first of many steps in his forthcoming rise to
political power.
Soonafter, Khrushchev, a loyal but not very active
Bolshevik member, became involved with the Communist party
as well. Prior to this point, he had been exempt from
military service due to his indispensibility in the local
coal industry. Also, he had been responsible for a family,
as he had married his wife, Galina, during his years in the
coal mines, and now had two children (Leonid and Julia),
which made him want to remain near Yuzovka. However, in
1919, that rebellious, power-seeking inner sense of
Nikita's got the best of him, and he went off to join the
Red Army. When the war ended, Khrushchev, whose main
objective had been to emerge as a politician until he found
how difficult it was to compete with the "higher-born," at
least had succeeded in proving himself to be a loyal and
useful figure. Soonafter, he returned home with the task of
organizing a local Communist party.
When he arrived back in Yuzovka, however, he found the
area, along with much of the Ukraine, suffering due to a
great famine. Peasants were forced to eat bark, grass,
leather and one another to survive, and many died,
including Khrushchev's wife. It was a very sad and
difficult time for Nikita, but he retaliated against his
depression by devoting himself wholeheartedly toward the
reorganization of Russia. At once he set about to restore
local factories and increase coal production, steps he
considered vital in order to get the economy going. It took
much toughness and courage to get men to work under such
conditions, but Khrushchev, gifted with a talent for
organizing and motivating people, was able to succeed. In
1921, he sent his children to live with his parents and
enrolled in a mining technology school, where he further
developed himself in engineering and politics and learned
how to read. A quick learner, Khrushchev finished school in
four years, literate and with a comprehensive knowledge of
Leninist views. He married again, this time to a
schoolteacher named Nina Petrovna, and, at the age 31,
encountered the first of a series of very rapid steps to
the supreme position he would one day hold as Premier of
the U.S.S.R.
In 1925, Khrushchev was appointed to his first full-time
and very important Party position, Party Secretary of
Petrovsko, a district of about 400 square miles in the
Ukraine. For the two years that he held that office, Nikita
encouraged peasants to work and reopened factories,
unemployment dropped and bands of mutinous peasants which
roamed the countryside were wiped out. In addition, bands
of wild Russian children, called besprisorni, were rounded
up and either put to work or shot. By the end of his term
there, he had grown enough in importance to be a non-voting
member of the All Union Party Congress-in other words, in
just seven years, Krushchev had earned his way into the top
1300 of over one million Party members.
His next step was to go to Moscow, where he studied
engineering and worked actively in the Party cell of the
Moscow Industrial Academy. Working closely with important
political figures, even including Stalin's wife, Khrushchev
continued to rise in importance and popularity. By 1932, he
had reached a point where he was second in command of the
Party for all of Moscow. With this power, he attempted to
more or less renovate Moscow. Its living conditions were
deplorable and dreary. There was a severe shortage of food,
families lived huddled two or three to a room, buildings
were falling apart. As Peter the Great had done many years
before, Nikita attempted to "drag Russia into the twentieth
century." He made many reforms, including the construction
of the Moscow Metro, and as a result was soon appointed to
the Central Committees of the All-Union Communist Party and
the Supreme Soviet.
It should be noted that, having always concentrated on
technical rather than political accomplishment, Khrushchev
was able to escape the Great Purge, a period in the
thirties in which those considered "enemies of the people"
according to Stalin were to be arrested, deported or even
executed. Rather, he was even rewarded for his service to
the country. In 1938, Khrushchev returned to the Ukraine as
first secretary of he Ukrainian Communist Party and focused
his attention primarily on agriculture, in which he gained
a reputation as an expert. When he gained full membership
in the Politburo in March of 1939, Khrushchev became one of
the most powerful men in the U.S.S.R.
With World War II came more accomplishments and recognition
for Khrushchev. He supervised the annexation of Polish
territory, helped supervise the evacuation of Ukranian
industry when Germany attacked, and eventually helped to
expel the Germans from the Soviet Union. After the war, he
was brought again to Moscow, where he served in the
Secretariat and the Politburo and was again head of the
Moscow regional committee. It was those positions, and his
reputation as an agricultural expert, that soon propelled
him to power.
Upon Stalin's death, Khrushchev kept a place in power as
"collective leadership" came into being, which consisted
primarily of him, Beria, Bulganin, Malenkov, Kaganovich and
Molotov. There were many problems with this concept at
first, and leadership changed hands frequently. Finally, in
1957, Khrushchev himself was nominated for the top position
as Premier, despite the others' attempts to gain the
position for themselves. When problems arose due to this
appointment, Khrushchev, who had previously kept a low
profile and not involved himself much in the power
struggle, suddenly, at the 20th Party Congress that year,
gave his famous six-hour "secret speech" denouncing the
"crimes of the Stalin era." By doing so, many old-time
Party leaders felt that he had gone too far; there were two
attempts on his life later that year. However, Khrushchev
remained strong and exposed a plot by Malenkov, Molotov and
Kaganovich to oust him from leadership; in doing so, he
solidified his power, becoming both Premier and Party
Secretary in 1958.
It should be noted now that Khrushchev, although acting as
supreme ruler of the Soviet Union, possessed certain
personal characteristics that made him lesser in the eyes
of the world. He was a stout, "bullet-headed" man who liked
to joke and talk, and, though his important positions had
trained him to carry himself as a supreme ruler would, he
was still rough and a countryman at heart. He often dressed
in simple peasant smocks or plain shirts, clothing he
considered to be representative of what Communist stood
for, and he didn't see any harm in getting drunk in public.
By many he was nicknamed "the peasant ruler of backward
Russia," and laughed at. An example of this was
Khrushchev's first trip outside the boundaries of Russia, a
visit to Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia in the late 50's that
had been to make peace after the damage Stalin had vainly
sought to inflict. The Premier, believing that he was
making such a grand jesture of reconciliation-having great
Russia bow down to insignificant Yugoslavia, was instead
greeted by an arrogant ruler who intended to mock, ridicule
and disgrace him. Tito began by walking out during a speech
in which Khrushchev was apologizing for the actions of
Stalin. He then proceeded to parade the Russian ruler, who
was used to bullet-proof cars, around in a convertible.
Finally, at what was to be an informal dinner, Tito had all
his officials wear full evening dress when he knew that the
Russians would arrive wearing their simple summer suitings,
as an attempt to embarrass them and make them look foolish.
Khrushchev, though, surprised everyone by overcoming this
childishness and concentrating on the business at hand,
much to Tito's dismay. Events like this helped to gain this
grandfather-like ruler both popularity and great respect.
Although for several years Khrushchev's popularity existed
in Russia also, several crucial incidents caused it to
deteriorate just as quickly. One such event was the "U-2
Incident" in 1960, when an American spy plane was shot down
over the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower, who was
considered by Khrushchev to be a trusted friend, took
responsibility for the affair and, by doing so, greatly
embarrassed the Soviet Premier. Then, just a few years
later, when the Soviet Union was caught positioning
missiles in Cuba, Khrushchev was forced to remove them and
leave Cuba. Incidents like this began to mount, and many
Party members sought to remove him. Finally, in October
1964, he was forced out of office. His remaining years were
spent in "quiet retirement" in the outskirts of Russia. He
died on September 11, 1971.
Although those who Khrushchev had once struggled to and
succeeded in overcoming were able to remove him from power
in the end, the vast changes this peasant-turned-Premier
had unleashed in the U.S.S.R. could not be undone, and his
years in power have had a lasting effect on the Soviet
Union ever since. 


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