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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.
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