Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeyevich

(1894–1971)
   Khrushchev used the security service in his rise to power within General Secretary Joseph Stalin’s inner circle and in his drive to succeed Stalin in the 1950s. However, his rivals’ ability to subvert the KGB led to his downfall in 1964.
   Khrushchev’s career was made in the Communist Party apparatus, and he was closely monitored by Stalin from 1930 until the latter’s death. Khrushchev’s first important experience with the security service came in Moscow in the mid-1930s, when he authorized the arrest of thousands of Trotskyites. Khrushchev probably carried out this campaign so ruthlessly because he had flirted with Trotskyism in the early 1920s. In 1938 Stalin assigned Khrushchev to lead the Ukrainian Communist Party, with a mandate to purge enemies of the people. According to all accounts, he did not disappoint his mentor, ordering the arrest of tens of thousands of officials: a total of 168,000 Ukrainians were arrested during the three years Khrushchev served in Kiev. Of the 86 members of the Ukrainian Central Committee working in Kiev on his arrival, 83 were purged. According to KGB records, Khrushchev personally ordered the arrest of 2,140 individuals — almost all of whom were shot. While in his memoirs Khrushchev portrayed himself as horrified by the excesses of the purges, he rarely hesitated to order the arrest of a suspected enemy. Khrushchev developed close contacts with senior security officials during and after World War II. He was especially close to Ivan Serov, a hardened security police official who oversaw the deportation of millions of Soviet citizens during the war. Following Stalin’s death in March 1953, Khrushchev planned and executed the arrest, trial, and execution of Stalin’s security chief, Lavrenty Beria, with the aid of a cadre of loyal Chekists like Serov.
   As Communist Party boss, Khrushchev curbed the power of the KGB to ensure the primacy of the party. The service was placed under party tutelage. Khrushchev also oversaw the release and rehabilitation of some of the victims of the Stalin era and permitted some disclosure about the extent of Stalin and Beria’s crimes. In his Secret Speech to the 20th Party Congress, Khrushchev admitted to a select circle of party officials that Stalin had used the security service to murder millions of innocents. Khrushchev also ordered the rehabilitation of thousands of men and women arrested during the Stalin period. For many families, the rehabilitation of a loved one came 10 to 20 years after they had been sentenced by a court to death or a term in the camps from which they never returned. Moreover, Khrushchev authorized the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novella One Day of Ivan Denisovich, which provided a realistic account of life in Stalin’s forced labor camps, and he allowed a far more realistic and honest depiction of modern Soviet history. While these post-Stalin accounts of the recent Soviet past were self-serving and far from complete, they presented a far more accurate account of the Great Patriotic War.
   There was a limit to reform. Khrushchev was fearful of going too far in reforming the state security empire. He told his children that at Stalin’s death, the regime was on the brink. He thus believed that further reform would seriously endanger the Soviet state. Khrushchev became increasingly intolerant of intellectual dissent, and he authorized greater surveillance of dissident authors and artists. He allowed the party and the KGB to persecute dissident intellectuals. Khrushchev—like every Soviet leader—depended on the KGB to maintain power. KGB Chair Serov supported Khrushchev when Stalinist members of the Politburo tried to wrench power from him in 1957. During his years in power, Khrushchev received memoranda from the KGB on political developments in the country every week. During those years, Khrushchev ensured that the KGB remained in friendly hands by appointing seasoned party bureaucrats to the Administrative Organs Department of the Central Committee, which oversaw the KGB. He also appointed loyalists such as Aleksandr Shelepin and Vladimir Semichastniy to head the service. In 1963 Leonid Brezhnev, Shelepin, and party ideological watchdog Mikhail Suslov began to plot against Khrushchev. They recruited senior KGB officials chaffing under the party leader’s tutelage, who in turn subverted Khrushchev’s bodyguard detail. In October 1964 the KGB played a key role in removing him from political power. Khrushchev spent the last years of his life under modified house arrest, dying in 1971. He was able to smuggle his memoirs out to the West, where they were well received. The Russian people owe Nikita Khrushchev a great deal for reducing the power of the security police and opening up society. While guilty of some of the most horrible crimes of the Stalin era, he took steps as national leader to prevent a new terror.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev — noun Soviet statesman and premier who denounced Stalin (1894 1971) • Syn: ↑Khrushchev, ↑Nikita Khrushchev • Instance Hypernyms: ↑statesman, ↑solon, ↑national leader …   Useful english dictionary

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