Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich (1894–1971)
Soviet statesman, first secretary of the Soviet Communist Party (1953–64) and prime minister (1958–64). Khrushchev was a close associate of Stalin and the leader to emerge after his death. He was ousted by Brezhnev and Kosygin, largely as a result of his antagonism to China.
Born in Kalmkova, the son of a miner, Khrushchev was a shepherd before becoming a metalworker. Joining the Bolsheviks in 1918, he fought against the Germans in World War I and against the White Army during the civil war. After the civil war he worked for the Communist Party in Kiev and then in Moscow, where he graduated from the Industrial Academy in 1931. By 1935 he had become first secretary of the Moscow region, earning recognition for the building of the Moscow metro.
In 1938 Khrushchev became first secretary of the Ukraine region and the following year became a member of the Politburo. He served on the southern front at Stalingrad during World War II before returning to the Ukraine to continue as first secretary and chairman of the council of ministers (1944–49). After the power struggle following Stalin's death in 1953, he emerged as first secretary of the party and gradually built up enough support to launch an attack on Stalinism and the ‘cult of personality’ at the Twentieth Party Congress (1956). Two years later he succeeded Bulganin as chairman of the council of ministers (prime minister) but resigned in 1964, officially for reasons of ill health.
During his years in power he instigated the notion of ‘peaceful coexistence’, travelling to China, India, western Europe, and the USA. But he came close to war with the USA over the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and as a result of his climbdown before Kennedy's resoluteness lost some of his ebullience and popularity both at home and abroad. His quarrel with China over economic aid, philosophy, and borders finally led to his downfall. He lived outside Moscow, in virtual isolation, for the last years of his life.