AQA A2 History - The USSR - Khrushchev - Detailed Revision Notes

Here is part 2/4 of my revision notes for A2 history on the leadership of Khrushchev

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Triumph and Collapse: Russia and the USSR, 1941 ­ 1991
Key dates, key people, key statistics
Part 2: DeStalinisation 1953 1968
The political, social and economic pressures leading towards destalinisation
Three main rivals emerged for the leadership after Stalin's death:
Malenkov (Chairman of the Council of Ministers)
Beria (Minister of Internal Affairs)
Khrushchev (held no position in government, unlike the other two, but was
Secretary of the Central Committee)
Between 1953 and 1956 Khrushchev used his position to replaced over half of the
secretaries of the republics and regional party committees
When the Central Committee met in 1956, over 1/3 of the members were new
and owed Khrushchev some debt of gratitude
Beria seemed the greatest threat bit the army distrusted him following his role in the
army purge of 1937
He was also disliked for having many troops in Moscow and was accused of
extorting false information by using torture during the Doctor's Plot.
The army arrested Beria and he was shot in secret.
Malenkov wanted a greater emphasis on consumer industry whereas Khrushchev's
`virgin land scheme' seemed better following the good harvests of 1954 and 1956.
In February 1955 Malenkov was forced to resign as head of government and was
replaced by Khrushchev supported Bulganin.
Khrushchev was now the dominant figure in the country.
Khrushchev Strengths
Khrushchev had a forceful and persuasive personality that had been
underestimated before his rise to power.
He emphasised his peasant origins and claimed to be the man to sort out
His war record (he had actually fought in the Great Patriotic War) gave him a
special authority.
Like Stalin, he held the role of Party Secretary, which meant he could place his
own nominees in positions of authority and establish a power base.
Why destalinisation (criticism of Stalinism and dismantling aspects of his
The relaxation of the political atmosphere:
Labour camps were beginning to appear and novels critical of Stalin were
beginning to appear, notably `The Thaw' by Ehrenburg.
Khrushchev took advantage of this ­ he delivered a speech to a closed
session of the 20th Party Congress on 24th February 1956 on the subject `The
Cult of the Individual and its Consequences', describing the negative
comments made by Lenin about Stalin and pointed the finger at Stalin for not
preparing the USSR for war in 1941.
The Secret Speech also listed Stalin's crimes, including "mass arrests and
deportations of thousands of people, execution without trial."

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His speech was met by gasps of disbelief, applause and shouts. Molotov,
Kaganovitch and Malenkov tried to remove Khrushchev as first Secretary but
when the Central Committee met, the decision was easily overturned.
Defensive motives:
Khrushchev believed that if he did not strike a blow against Stalin, someone
else might show Khrushchev as one of Stalin's henchmen (he was in charge
of the Ukrainian party 19381949 and also worked to eliminate nationalist
movements in the Ukraine and Poland).…read more

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­ e.g. Ernest
Hemingway ­ appeared in Russian bookshops and cultural and sporting
exchanges were arranged with capitalist countries (e.g. football teams like the
Dinamo Moscow became popular in Europe).
There were limits to this freedom ­ Boris Pasternak was heavily criticised for
`Dr Zhivago' and had to refuse his Nobel Prize for Literature, as Khrushchev
thought it was too critical of the Bolsheviks in the Revolution and the Civil War.
Other writers met a similar fate, e.g. Solzhenitsyn and Yevtushenko.…read more

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Costs to the collective farms were cut ­ such as the cost of transport and the
hire of equipment
Peasant taxation was reorganised so that it was paid on the size of the plot
rather than fruit trees and livestock.
Peasants without livestock were not expected to provide meat
`Virgin Land Scheme' ­ to cultivate the unfarmed lands of western Siberia and
northern Kazakhstan. This showed early signs of success in 1954 and 1956,
although 1955 was a drought year. By 1956 an extra 35.…read more

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He set up 105 regional economic councils to take the place of the national
ministries, which was a move away from central planning of the economy and
was resented by some within the Party.
All that happened with the policy was that another level of bureaucracy was
To add to the complication, a Supreme Economic Council was set up in
Moscow.…read more

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The granting of some independence to local Party leaders and regional
Economic Councils had weakened the Party's control of the economy.
His agricultural policies, including his failed `virgin lands' scheme led to a
shortfall of foodstuff and the USSR had to import. He had made agriculture a
priority, visiting farmers across the country, and when the harvests after 1960
produced less than he had hoped, he laid himself open to criticism, especially
after the drought year of 1963.…read more

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What can be said about Khrushchev's dismissal, however, was that it was peaceful.
He wasn't purged, arrested or killed. Many would argue that it was his own policy of
destalinisation that had allowed this to be the case.…read more


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