Nikita Khrushchev Becomes Leader of the Soviet Union

Nikita Khrushchev Becomes Leader of the Soviet Union

Nikita Khrushchev, a prominent Soviet politician, and statesman, emerged as the leader of the Soviet Union after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. Khrushchev’s leadership marked a period of de-Stalinization, which sought to reform some of the harsh policies implemented under Stalin’s rule and a new direction in foreign policy during the early years of the Cold War.


  • Nikita Khrushchev (April 15, 1894 – September 11, 1971) was appointed First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on September 7, 1953, following a power struggle in the wake of Stalin’s death. On March 27, 1958, Khrushchev was elected Premier of the Soviet Union, consolidating his leadership. Khrushchev’s time in power was marked by several key events and policies.
  • The “Secret Speech” (1956): Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s policies and cult of personality in a speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, initiating a period of de-Stalinization and political reform in the Soviet Union.
  • The Suez Crisis (1956): Khrushchev supported Egypt during the Suez Crisis, which strained relations between the Soviet Union and Western powers.
  • The Hungarian Revolution (1956): Khrushchev ordered Soviet troops to suppress the anti-communist revolution in Hungary, resulting in thousands of deaths and international condemnation.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962): The Soviet Union’s decision to place nuclear missiles in Cuba led to a tense 13-day standoff with the United States, which ultimately ended with the removal of the missiles and a temporary easing of Cold War tensions.
  • Khrushchev was known for his often colorful and blunt rhetoric, famously banging his shoe on a table during a United Nations General Assembly session in 1960.
  • As part of his agricultural policies, Khrushchev launched the “Virgin Lands Campaign,” which sought to cultivate vast areas of previously unused land in the Soviet Union, with mixed results.

Effects on Pop Culture: Khrushchev’s time as leader of the Soviet Union significantly impacted popular culture, both within the Soviet Union and internationally. Some examples include:

  • The film “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), directed by Stanley Kubrick, satirized Cold War tensions and the threat of nuclear war during the Khrushchev era.
  • Khrushchev’s famous “kitchen debate” with U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon in 1959 showcased the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States in various aspects of life, including technology and consumer goods.
  • Khrushchev’s policies, such as de-Stalinization and the Virgin Lands Campaign, influenced Soviet literature and cinema during his time in power, with works reflecting the changing political and social climate.

Prominent People and Countries Involved:

  • Nikita Khrushchev: The leader of the Soviet Union during a crucial period of the Cold War, Khrushchev implemented domestic and foreign policies that shaped the course of Soviet history.
  • The Soviet Union: Under Khrushchev’s leadership, the Soviet Union underwent significant political and social changes and tense confrontations with Western powers.
  • The United States: The U.S. was a key adversary of the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev era, with events like the Cuban Missile Crisis highlighting the escalating tensions between the two superpowers during the Cold War.

    Nikita Khrushchev’s leadership of the Soviet Union marked a significant period in global history and popular culture. His policies, such as de-Stalinization, and key events during his tenure, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, had far-reaching effects on both the Soviet Union and the world. Khrushchev’s actions and rhetoric also left a lasting impact on popular culture, with films, literature, and other artistic expressions reflecting the political and social climate of the time.