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[[File:Nikita_Khrushchev_in_WW2.jpg|thumbnail|250px|left|Nikita Khrushchev during World War II]]
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.
Khrushchev became famous and mostly recognized for his rejection of the “personality cult” that Stalin had fostered during his own thirty-year rule. Khrushchev also attempted revival of the Communist campaign to suppress all remnant religious institutions in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Khrushchev supported the invasion and crackdown on Hungary in 1956, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the deployment of Soviet weapons in Cuba in 1962.
In this regard, Khrushchev is something of an enigma
and complex personality. In terms of his foreign policy and his position on religion and on Marxist-Leninist doctrine , he was clearly a hardliner. However, he was a reformer in the sense that, although not allowing any criticism of Marxist-Leninism, Khrushchev did allow criticism against Stalin and even permitted some anti-Stalinist literature to be published and disseminated in USSR’s society. Khrushchev did hope to raise Soviet citizens’ standard of living so they could benefit from the transference of the ownership of “the means of production” to the State.
His De-Stalinization policies reduced the powers of the secret police and opened up new academic and cultural freedoms. Historians believe that Khrushchev’s efforts in these areas provided a context for the reformist policies of Mikhail Gorbachev later. Khrushchev’s downfall largely resulted from his lack of clear ruling strategy, true diplomatic skills and the complex multifaceted aspects of domestic and international destabilization that occurred during his tenure in office. Without Khrushchev being removed from office, it is unlikely that the Soviet Union could have experienced the revival and the growth of its sphere of influence that occurred during the Brezhnev era.<ref>"Nikita Khrushchev: Rise to power, personality & legacy" http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Nikita_Khrushchev</ref>
==Struggle for power and assuming leadership of the Soviet Union==
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==
[[File:Nikita_Khrushchev_in_1959.jpg|thumbnail|250px|Khrushchev in 1959]]
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.
Continuing investigation into the abuses further revealed Stalin’s crimes to his successors. Khrushchev believed that once he successfully removed the stain of Stalinism, the Party would inspire even greater loyalty among the people. Beginning in October 1955, Khrushchev insisted on revealing Stalin’s crimes before the delegates to the upcoming 20th Party Congress. Some of his colleagues opposed the disclosure and managed to persuade him to make his remarks in a closed session. <ref>Nikita Khrushchev: Consolidation of power & his Secret Speech - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev#Consolidation_of_power.3B_Secret_Speech</ref> The 20th Party Congress opened in 1956 and Khrushchev delivered his so-called “Secret Speech” to a closed session of the Congress and strictly limited to a number of Soviet delegates. The speech was the nucleus of a far-reaching de-Stalinization campaign intended to destroy the image of the late dictator as an infallible leader and to revert official policy to an idealized Leninist model. Observers outside the Soviet Union have suggested that Khrushchev’s primary purpose in making the speech was to consolidate his own position of political leadership by associating himself with reform measures while discrediting his rivals in the Presidium (Politburo) by implicating them in Stalin’s crimes.
The secret speech, although subsequently read to groups of party activists and “closed” local party meetings, was never officially published. Nonetheless, it caused shock and disillusionment throughout the entire Soviet Union, harming Stalin’s reputation and the perception of the political system and party that had enabled him to gain and misuse such great power. It also helped give rise to a period of liberalization known as the “Khrushchev thaw”, during which censorship policy was relaxed, marking a literary Soviet renaissance. Thousands of political prisoners were released, and thousands more who had perished during Stalin’s reign were officially “rehabilitated”.
==First unsuccessful attempt to remove Khrushchev and his further policies==
In June 1957, Khrushchev was almost overthrown from his position, and, although a vote in the Presidium actually went against him, he managed to reverse this by replacing Bulganin as prime minister and establishing himself as the clear leader of both the Soviet state and Communist party. With the help of Marshal Georgy Zhukov, Khrushchev managed to prevent what he referred to as an Anti-Party Group that attempted to oust him from the party leadership and he became Premier of the Soviet Union in March 1958.