Khrushchev, Nikita (Sergeyevich)

Khrushchev, Nikita (Sergeyevich)

biographical name


Nikita Khrushchev, 1960.—Werner Wolf/Black Star

(born April 17, 1894, Kalinovka, Ukraine, Russian Empire—died Sept. 11, 1971, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.) Soviet leader. The son of a miner, he joined the Communist Party in 1918. In 1934 he was elected to its Central Committee, and in 1935 he became first secretary of the Moscow party organization. He participated in Joseph Stalin's purges of party leaders. In 1938 he became head of the Ukrainian party and in 1939 was made a member of the Politburo. After Stalin's death in 1953, he emerged from a bitter power struggle as the party's first secretary, and Nikolay Bulganin became premier. In 1955, on his first trip outside the Soviet Union, Khrushchev showed his flexibility and the brash, extraverted style of diplomacy that would become his trademark. At the party's Twentieth Congress in 1956, he delivered a secret speech denouncing Stalin for his “intolerance, his brutality, his abuse of power.” Thousands of political prisoners were released. Poland and Hungary used de-Stalinization to reform their regimes; Khrushchev allowed the Poles relative freedom, but he crushed the Hungarian Revolution by force (1956) when Imre Nagy attempted to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. Opposition within the party crystallized in 1957, but Khrushchev secured the dismissal of his enemies and in 1958 assumed the premiership himself. Asserting a doctrine of peaceful coexistence with capitalist nations, he toured the U.S. in 1959, but a planned Paris summit with Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 was canceled after the U-2 Affair. In 1962 he attempted to place Soviet missiles in Cuba; in the ensuing Cuban missile crisis, he retreated. Ideological differences and the signing of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (1963) led to a split with the Chinese. Agricultural failures that necessitated importation of wheat from the West, the China quarrel, and his often arbitrary administrative methods led to his forced retirement in 1964.

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