Khrushchev and Stalin
Stalin was denounced by Khrushchev in his speech On the Personality Cult and its Consequences, delivered at the closed session of the 20th Party Congress, behind closed doors, after midnight on February 25, 1956 and his initiatives to open and liberalise the USSR had surprised the world. Khrushchev's speech had angered many of his powerful enemies, thus igniting another round of ruthless power struggle within the Soviet Communist Party. At that time, Moshe Dayan said that the USSR will disappear in 30 years, and he was only 5 years off predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
1956 Khrushchev's speech denouncing Stalin
Khrushchev's problems during the Thaw
The first big international failure of Khrushchev's politics came in October-November of 1956.
The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was brutally suppressed by the massive invasion of the Soviet tanks and the Red Army troops in Budapest. The street fighting against the invading Red Army caused thousands of casualties among Hungarian civilians and militia, as well as hundreds of the Soviet military personnel killed. The disastrous attack of the Soviet Red Army also caused massive emigration from Hungary, as hundreds of thousands of Hungarians had fled as refugees.
Polish and Hungarian Revolutions of 1956
The conservative hard-line "Stalinist" elite of the Soviet communist party was enraged by Khrushchev's speech in 1956, and rejected Khrushchev's de-Stalinization and liberalisation of Soviet society. One year after Khrushchev's secret speech, the "Stalininsts" attempted to oust Khrushchev from the leadership position in the Soviet Communist Party. Then he expelled Molotov, Kaganovich and Malenkov from the Secretariat and ultimately from the Communist Party itself.
1957 coup against Khrushchev
Khrushchev's attempts in reforming the Soviet industrial infrastructure led to his clashes with professionals in most branches of the Soviet economy. His reform of administrative organization created him more problems. In a politically motivated move to weaken the central state bureaucracy in 1957, Khrushchev replaced the industrial ministries in Moscow with regional Councils of People's Economy, sovnarkhozes, causing himself many new enemies among the ranks in Soviet government.
Economy and political tensions
The shift to liberalisation and openness was needed by people, and it became possible after the death of Stalin.
Openness and liberalisation in the Thaw
In the West, Khrushchev's Thaw is known as a temporary thaw in the icy tension between the United States and the USSR during the Cold War. The tensions were able to thaw because of Khrushchev's de-Stalinization of the USSR and peaceful co-existence theory and also because of US President Eisenhower's cautious attitude and peace attempts. For example, both leaders attempted to achieve peace by attending the 1955 Geneva International Peace Summit and developing the Open Skies Policy and Quest for Arms Agreement. The leaders' attitudes allowed them to, as Khrushchev put it, "break the ice."
Khrushchev's Thaw developed largely as a result of Khrushchev's theory of peaceful co-existence which believed the two superpowers (USA and USSR) and their ideologies could co-exist together, without war (peacefully). Khrushchev had created the theory of peaceful existence in an attempt to reduce hostility between the two superpowers. He tried to prove peaceful coexistence by attending international peace conferences, such as the Geneva Summit, and by traveling internationally, such as his trip to America's Camp David in 1959.
This spirit of cooperation was severely damaged by the U-2 spy plane incident. The Soviet presentation of downed pilot Gary Powers at the May 1960 Paris Peace Summit and Eisenhower's refusal to apologize ended much of the progress of this era. Then Khrushchev approved the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
Further deterioration of the Thaw and decay of Khrushchev's international political standing happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. At that time the Soviet and international media were making two completely opposite pictures of reality, while the world was at the brink of a Nuclear war. Although, direct communication between Khrushchev and the US president John Kennedy helped to end the crisis, Khrushchev's political image was damaged.
Khrushchev's Thaw in the World
The "Khrushchev's Thaw" caused unprecedented social, cultural and economic transformations in the Soviet Union. The 60s generation actually started in the 1950s, with their uncensored poetry, songs and books publications.
The 6th World Festival of Youth and Students had opened many eyes and ears in the Soviet Union. Many new social trends stemmed from that festival. Many Russian women became involved in love affairs with handsome man from all over the world, what resulted in the so-called "inter-baby boom" in Moscow and Leningrad. The festival also brought new styles and fashions that caused the movement among the upper class called "stilyagi" and the 60s generation. The festival also "revolutionized" the underground currency trade and boosted the black market, causing headaches for the Soviet KGB.
Emergence of such popular stars as Bulat Okudzhava, Edita Piekha, Evgeny Evtushenko, Bella Akhmadulina, and the superstar Vladimir Vysotsky had changed the popular culture forever in the USSR. Their poetry and songs liberated the public consciousness of the Soviet people and pushed guitars and tape recorders to masses, so the Soviet people became exposed to independent channels of information and public mentality was eventually updated in many ways.
Khrushchev finally liberated millions of peasants; by his order the Soviet government gave them identifications, passports, and thus allowed them to move out of poor villages to big cities. Massive housing construction, known as khrushchevkas, was undertaken during the 1950s and 1960s. Millions of cheap and basic residential blocks of low-end flats were built all over the Soviet Union to accommodate the largest migration ever in the Soviet history, when masses of landless peasants moved to Soviet cities. The move caused a dramatic change of the demographic picture in the USSR, and eventually finalized the decay of peasantry in Russia.
Economic reforms were contemplated by Alexey Kosygin, a staunch ally of Nikita Khrushchev, who was chairman of the USSR State Committee for Planning in 1959 and then a full member of the Presidium (also known as Politburo after 1966) in 1960.
Social, cultural and economic reforms
Both the cultural and the political thaws were effectively ended with the removal of Krushchev as Soviet leader in October 1964, and the installment of Leonid Brezhnev as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1964. When Khrushchev was dismissed, Kosygin took over Khrushchev's position as Soviet Premier,
Khrushchev's dismissal and the end of reforms
1953: Stalin died. Beria eliminated by Zhukov. Khrushchev became leader of the Soviet Communist Party.
1954: Khrushchev visited Peking, China, met Mao Zedong. Started rehabilitation and release of Soviet political prisoners. Allowed uncensored public performances of poets and songwriters in the Soviet Union.
1955: Khrushchev met with US President Eisenhower. NATO formed, the Warsaw Pact established. Khrushchev reconciled with Tito. Zhukov appointed Minister of Defence. Brezhnev appointed to run Virgin Lands Campaign.
1956: Khrushchev denounced Stalin in his Secret Speech. Hungarian Revolution crashed by the Soviet Army. Polish revolution suppressed.
1957: Coup against Khrushchev. Pro-Stalinists ousted from Kremlin. World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow. Tape recorders spread popular music all over the Soviet Russia. Sputnik orbited the Earth.
1958: Khrushchev named premier of the Soviet Union, ousted Zhukov from Minister of Defence, cut military spending, introduced sovnarkhozes, (Councils of People's Economy). 1st International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.
1959: Khrushchev visited the USA. Unsuccessfull introduction of maize during agricultural crisis in the Soviet Union caused serious food crisis. Sino-Soviet split started.
1960: Kennedy elected President of the USA. Vietnam War escalated. American U–2 spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union. Pilot Powers pleaded guilty. Khrushchev cancelled the summit with Eisenhower.
1961: Stalin's body removed from Lenin's mausoleum. Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Khrushchev approved the Berlin Wall. The Soviet ruble redenominated 10:1, food crisis continued.
1962: Krushchev and Kennedy struggled through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Food crisis caused the Novocherkassk massacre. First publication about the "Gulag" camps by Solzhenitsyn.
1963: Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. Ostankino TV tower construction started. Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests signed. Kennedy assassinated. Khrushchev hosted Fidel Castro in Moscow.
1964: Beatlemania became known in the Soviet Union, music bands formed at many Russian schools. 40 bugs found in the US Embassy in Moscow. Brezhnev ousted Khrushchev, and placed him under house arrest. History repeated