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Nikita Khrushchev assumed leadership of the Soviet Union during the period following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. Khrushchev served as a General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as a Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1958 to 1964. When in 1964, Nikita Khrushchev was forced to leave his post and the Party leadership, a special “troika” representatives consisting of Alexey Kosygin, Leonid Brezhnev and Anastas Mikoyan initially replaced him. Brezhnev eventually assumed the central role among the three and, under Brezhnev’s rule, the Soviet expanded its sphere of influence to include much of Southeast Asia, Africa, parts of Central America and the Caribbean. Until his death, in 1971, the government closely monitored Khrushchev.
Despite all, for the Soviet Union and indeed for the entire world communist movement, Nikita Khrushchev was the great catalyst of political and social change. In his seven years of power as first secretary and premier, he broke both the fact and the tradition of the Stalin dictatorship and established a basis for liberalizing tendencies within Soviet communism. His experience with international realities confirmed him in his doctrine of peaceful co-existence with the noncommunist world – in itself a drastic break with established Soviet communist teaching. He publicly recognized the limitations as well as the power of nuclear weapons, and his decision to negotiate with the United States for some form of nuclear-testing control was of vast importance. Despite his repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, his acceptance of “different roads to socialism” led to growing independence among European communist parties, but his Russian nationalism and his suspicion of Mao Zedong’s communism helped create an unexpectedly deep gap between China and the Soviet Union. By the time he was removed from office, he had set up guidelines for and limitations to Soviet policy that his successors were hard put to alter.