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Upon the death of Stalin in March of 1953, ending twenty-five years of psychological and fear tactic domination by the Stalin regime, a collective leadership replaced the totalitarian ruler of the USSR. From that consequent power struggle, Nikita Khrushchev, bolstered by a strong agricultural background and a heroic military reputation for his leadership in the battle at Slalingrad, arose and took the reigns of leadership from 1953 to 1964. This period is characterized by a dramatic series of reforms, at first quite successful, then ultimately strewn with self-contradictory failure, that touched on every aspect of Soviet life. Khrushchev's reform agenda relied on an all-encompassing goal towards "de-Stalinization", geared towards exposing then reversing Stalin's most heinous abuses of power. The program was comprised by a series of societal reforms that started with the liberation of prison camp victims, measures limiting bureaucratic abuses, and broad economic and welfare reforms set to undue the problems of the Five-Year Plan and place Russia on a fast road towards industrial and agricultural competition. The following paper will discuss Khrushchev's successes and ultimate failure during this tumultuous period of "de-Stalinization".
After Russia's victory in World War II and the 1949 Revolution in China, followed thereafter by the establishment of Stalinist regimes throughout Eastern Europe, the regime at home in the Soviet Union was strengthened in power and perception. With that kind of success, the Stalinist regime was perceived by many to be the zenith of socialist systems. The Stalinist bureaucracy also succeeded throughout this period in developing its productive industrial forces. Still a far cry from the United States, its primary vision of success, it was moving by leaps and bounds closer to the productive society that the Stalinists so deeply hoped for. After World War II, Russia had begun to transform itself into the second industrial power and the first military power on earth (Grant 105).
In lieu of severe postwar devastation, a death-toll of twenty-seven million, the near complete destruction of industry and societal infrastructure, the USSR was able to overcome World War II losses within five years, thanks to the planned use of already available resources, and the die-hard effort exerted by the population (Grant 105). In 1946, Stalin gave new industrial target figures embodied in a series of Five Year Plans, to be aimed upon immediately after the country's restoration and dramatic economic expansion. His new target figures, set for 1960, were 60 million tons of steel, 500 million tons of coal, and 60 million tons of oil. The hopeful achievement of such figures relied on 15 hard years of privation, sacrifice, and seemingly monotonous toil from the Soviet people (Grant 105).
Stalin's goals relied on heavy industrial concentration at the expense of consumer goods. Despite the low living standard that ensued in the midst of this breakneck pursuit of industrialization, the working class was optimistic for a forward-moving society, as long as the productive forces continued to develop. Meanwhile, the Stalinist regime continued to grow wealthier on the backs of the workers, still fueled by the Soviet Union's military triumph (Grant 106).
During this period, the Stalinist "cult of personality" reached extremely dangerous levels. Stalin truly believed himself to be omnipotent, and the whole of Soviet society seemed to accept that, and even fuel the deity-like image of "comrade Stalin". Economic growth during the postwar period existed alongside a sharp increase in Stalinist repression. At this time more than ever, it was painstakingly obvious to Stalin that in the bureaucracy the ranks around the leader must be tightened even closer. Thus, Stalin prepared another series of purges in Russia. Increasingly more devotees in the Stalinist regime were imprisoned, exiled, and executed. Through the Doctor's plot of January 1953, built on Pravda's suspicions for a conspiracy between Soviet Jews, British intelligence, and US imperialists, the regime launched a campaign against the Jews (Grant 107). Just before the campaign escalated into a purge of 1937-38 severity, Stalin suddenly died (Medvedev 13). The plot fizzled out as a fabrication and at this point, not purges but constructive reforms were needed to keep bureaucratic rule and Soviet society intact. During this confusing time, an immediate power struggle within the bureaucracy followed. From the struggle that included the likes of Molotov, Kagonvich, and Malenkov, it was Khrushchev that emerged victorious (Medvedev 55).
Reforms from above were also severely needed to prevent revolution from below. At this time, huge protests were already rising in East Germany, in the labor camps, the intelligentsia, among industrial and rural workers. Khrushchev's strong agricultural and shrewd industrial agenda were
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penalization, Medvedev, the most significant traitor,
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Soviet Union, British intelligence, Russia, China, Moscow, Eastern Europe, East Germany,
Keywords mentioned in this report
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