.. ed actively in the Party cell of the Moscow Industrial Academy. Working closely with important political figures, even including Stalin’s wife, Khrushchev continued to rise in importance and popularity. By 1932, he had reached a point where he was second in command of the Party for all of Moscow. With this power, he attempted to more or less renovate Moscow.
Its living conditions were deplorable and dreary. There was a severe shortage of food, families lived huddled two or three to a room, buildings were falling apart. As Peter the Great had done many years before, Nikita attempted to “drag Russia into the twentieth century.” He made many reforms, including the construction of the Moscow Metro, and as a result was soon appointed to the Central Committees of the All-Union Communist Party and the Supreme Soviet. It should be noted that, having always concentrated on technical rather than political accomplishment, Khrushchev was able to escape the Great Purge, a period in the thirties in which those considered “enemies of the people” according to Stalin were to be arrested, deported or even executed. Rather, he was even rewarded for his service to the country. In 1938, Khrushchev returned to the Ukraine as first secretary of he Ukrainian Communist Party and focused his attention primarily on agriculture, in which he gained a reputation as an expert.
When he gained full membership in the Politburo in March of 1939, Khrushchev became one of the most powerful men in the U.S.S.R. With World War II came more accomplishments and recognition for Khrushchev. He supervised the annexation of Polish territory, helped supervise the evacuation of Ukranian industry when Germany attacked, and eventually helped to expel the Germans from the Soviet Union. After the war, he was brought again to Moscow, where he served in the Secretariat and the Politburo and was again head of the Moscow regional committee. It was those positions, and his reputation as an agricultural expert, that soon propelled him to power. Upon Stalin’s death, Khrushchev kept a place in power as “collective leadership” came into being, which consisted primarily of him, Beria, Bulganin, Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov.
There were many problems with this concept at first, and leadership changed hands frequently. Finally, in 1957, Khrushchev himself was nominated for the top position as Premier, despite the others’ attempts to gain the position for themselves. When problems arose due to this appointment, Khrushchev, who had previously kept a low profile and not involved himself much in the power struggle, suddenly, at the 20th Party Congress that year, gave his famous six-hour “secret speech” denouncing the “crimes of the Stalin era.” By doing so, many old-time Party leaders felt that he had gone too far; there were two attempts on his life later that year. However, Khrushchev remained strong and exposed a plot by Malenkov, Molotov and Kaganovich to oust him from leadership; in doing so, he solidified his power, becoming both Premier and Party Secretary in 1958. It should be noted now that Khrushchev, although acting as supreme ruler of the Soviet Union, possessed certain personal characteristics that made him lesser in the eyes of the world. He was a stout, “bullet-headed” man who liked to joke and talk, and, though his important positions had trained him to carry himself as a supreme ruler would, he was still rough and a countryman at heart.
He often dressed in simple peasant smocks or plain shirts, clothing he considered to be representative of what Communist stood for, and he didn’t see any harm in getting drunk in public. By many he was nicknamed “the peasant ruler of backward Russia,” and laughed at. An example of this was Khrushchev’s first trip outside the boundaries of Russia, a visit to Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia in the late 50’s that had been to make peace after the damage Stalin had vainly sought to inflict. The Premier, believing that he was making such a grand jesture of reconciliation-having great Russia bow down to insignificant Yugoslavia, was instead greeted by an arrogant ruler who intended to mock, ridicule and disgrace him. Tito began by walking out during a speech in which Khrushchev was apologizing for the actions of Stalin.
He then proceeded to parade the Russian ruler, who was used to bullet-proof cars, around in a convertible. Finally, at what was to be an informal dinner, Tito had all his officials wear full evening dress when he knew that the Russians would arrive wearing their simple summer suitings, as an attempt to embarrass them and make them look foolish. Khrushchev, though, surprised everyone by overcoming this childishness and concentrating on the business at hand, much to Tito’s dismay. Events like this helped to gain this grandfather-like ruler both popularity and great respect. Although for several years Khrushchev’s popularity existed in Russia also, several crucial incidents caused it to deteriorate just as quickly. One such event was the “U-2 Incident” in 1960, when an American spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union.
President Eisenhower, who was considered by Khrushchev to be a trusted friend, took responsibility for the affair and, by doing so, greatly embarrassed the Soviet Premier. Then, just a few years later, when the Soviet Union was caught positioning missiles in Cuba, Khrushchev was forced to remove them and leave Cuba. Incidents like this began to mount, and many Party members sought to remove him. Finally, in October 1964, he was forced out of office. His remaining years were spent in “quiet retirement” in the outskirts of Russia. He died on September 11, 1971.
Although those who Khrushchev had once struggled to and succeeded in overcoming were able to remove him from power in the end, the vast changes this peasant-turned-Premier had unleashed in the U.S.S.R. could not be undone, and his years in power have had a lasting effect on the Soviet Union ever since.