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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.
On March 6, 1953, the Soviet Union announced Stalin’s death and the need of new leadership. A struggle for power between different factions within the Communist Party began. Fearing that the powerful state security chief, Lavrenty Beria would eventually eliminate other elite party officials as he had so many others, Malenkov, Molotov, Bulganin, and others united under Khrushchev to denounce Beria and remove him from power. They imprisoned Beria and sentenced him to death. After the quick execution engineered by Khrushchev, he engaged in a power struggle with Malenkov, who was Stalin’s apparent heir. Khrushchev soon gained the decisive margin and in September 1953, he replaced Malenkov as First Secretary and nominated Marshal Nikolay Bulganin as the new Soviet Premier.<ref>Nikita Khrushchev Complex Personality - http://www.biography.com/people/nikita-khrushchev-9364384</ref>
==De-Stalinization and domestic policies==
By the end of 1955, due to the policy, pursued by Khrushchev, thousands of political criminals had returned home, and shared their experience in the Soviet labor camps. With several million political prisoners newly released, Khrushchev eased and freed the domestic political atmosphere.
==Khrushchev foreign and defense policies: on the brink of nuclear war==
When Khrushchev took control, the outside world still knew little of him, and he was initially not highly recognized. Short, heavyset, and wearing ill-fit suits, he was commonly seen as very energetic but not intellectual, and was dismissed by many as a buffoon who would not last long. Although his attacks on world capitalism were virulent and primitive, his outgoing personality and peasant humor were in sharp contrast to the image introduced by all earlier Soviet public figures. He also had very poor diplomatic skills, giving him the reputation of being a rude, uncivilized peasant in the West and an irresponsible clown in his own country. His methods of administration, although efficient, were also acknowledged as erratic since they threatened to abolish a large number of Stalinist-era agencies.
==Khrushchev’s forced removal from office==
Khrushchev’s rivals in the Communist party deposed him largely due to his erratic and cantankerous behavior, regarded by the party as a tremendous embarrassment on the international stage. The failures in agriculture, the quarrel with China, and the humiliating resolution of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, added to growing resentment of Khrushchev’s own arbitrary administrative methods, were the major factors in his downfall. On October 14, 1964, after a palace coup orchestrated by his “loyal” protégé and deputy, Leonid Brezhnev, the Central Committee forced Khrushchev to retire from his position as the party’s first secretary and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union because of his “advanced age and poor health”. The Communist Party subsequently accused Khrushchev of making political mistakes, such as mishandling the Cuban Missile Crisis and disorganizing the Soviet economy, especially in the agricultural sector. However, Khrushchev considered his own forced retirement a major breakthrough and successful achievement. He was not to oppose, there were no executions and his retirement was “negotiated” as between equals.<ref>Khrushchev’s last days in power - http://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/23/world/son-tells-of-khrushchev-s-last-days-in-power.html?pagewanted=all</ref> Following his ousting, Khrushchev spent seven years under house arrest. He died at his home in Moscow on September 11, 1971.
*[[Causes of World War II Top Ten Booklist]]
*[[The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact- Stalin’s greatest mistake?]]