|“||Yes, I know what Kennedy claims, and he's quite right. But I'm not complaining... We're satisfied to be able to finish off the United States first time round. Once is quite enough. What good does it do to annihilate a country twice? We're not a bloodthirsty people.||„|
|~ Nikita Khrushchev|
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (15 April 1894 – 11 September 1971) was a Soviet politician who was the leader of the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War as the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, as well as the chairman of the Council of Ministers (or premier) from 1958 to 1964.
During his rule as General Secretary, Khrushchev was known for the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union and for backing the progress of the early Soviet space program, as well as several relatively liberal reforms in areas of domestic policy.
Nikita Khrushchev was born in the village of Kalinovka, in western Russia in 1894. When he was young, he was employed as a metal worker. Khrushchev was a political commissar during the Russian Civil War. With the help of Lazar Kaganovich, he worked and ranked up the Soviet hierarchy. During his earlier years, he supported Joseph Stalin's purges and approved thousands of arrests. In 1938, Stalin sent him to govern the Ukrainian SSR, 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. Nikita 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.
Khrushchev's anti-religious campaign began in 1959, when Khrushchev ordered the forcible closure of churches, monasteries and convents and banned pastoral courses. He later completely banned the Eucharist, church bells, pilgrimages and any services held outside church walls. During Khrushchev's term in power, the state carried out forced retirement, arrests and prison sentences on clergymen on trumped up charges, in reality for resisting the closure of churches and for giving sermons attacking atheism or the anti-religious campaign, or who conducted Christian charity or who made religion popular by personal example. There are also reports of arrested clergymen being tortured in prison.
After the rise of the revolutionary government of Imre Nagy following the Hungarian Revolution against Soviet rule, Khrushchev opened negotiations with Nagy. However, during the negotiations, Khrushchev refused to accept Nagy's terms and ordered Yuri Andropov to invade Hungary, before having Ivan Serov arrest the Hungarian delegation when they arrived to negotiate the withdrawal of Soviet troops. During the Soviet assault, Budapest was destroyed, and many civilians were killed by Soviet troops. After the Soviet victory, thousands of Hungarians were arrested and executed, many of them innocent.
Khrushchev was also known to have made a deal with Fidel Castro to put the missiles in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Later, he apologized to John F. Kennedy, agreeing to not start a war. Khrushchev's party colleagues removed him from power in 1964, replacing him with Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin as Premier.
Many of Khrushchev's innovations were reversed after his fall. The requirement that one-third of officials be replaced at each election was overturned, as was the division in the Party structure between industrial and agricultural sectors. His vocational education program for high school students was also dropped, and his plan for sending existing agricultural institutions out to the land was ended. However, new agricultural or vocational institutions thereafter were located outside major cities. When new housing was built, much of it was in the form of high rises rather than Khrushchev's low-rise structures, which lacked elevators or balconies.
Though Khrushchev's strategy failed to achieve the major goals he sought, Aleksandr Fursenko, who wrote a book analyzing Khrushchev's foreign and military policies, argued that the strategy did coerce the West in a limited manner. The agreement that the United States would not invade Cuba has been adhered to. The refusal of the western world to acknowledge East Germany was gradually eroded, and, in 1975, the United States and other NATO members signed the Helsinki Agreement with the USSR and Warsaw Pact nations, including East Germany, setting human rights standards in Europe.
The Russian public's view of Khrushchev remains mixed. According to a major Russian poll, the only eras of the 20th century that Russians evaluate positively are those under Nicholas II, and under Khrushchev. A poll in 2003 of young Russians found that they felt Nicholas II had done more good than harm, and all other 20th-century Russian leaders more harm than good—except Khrushchev, about whom they were evenly divided. Subsequent polls, however, have found Lenin, Stalin and Brezhnev the most popular Russian leaders of the century.