Nikita Krushchev

Nikita Khrushchev is undoubtedly one of the most important and interesting political figures of the twentieth century. Rising from a background of extreme poverty, he became an early supporter of the November 1917 bolshevik revolution. During the inter war years he joined the Communist Party, and rose steadily through its ranks; by the outbreak of World War II, he was firmly entrenched as one of the most important Soviet politicians and statesmen. He continued on in this capacity throughout the war years, and rose to power following the death of Stalin in 1953. Khrushchev then initiated a series of great reforms, which completely changed the face of politics and indeed life in general in the Soviet Union. Ultimately however, many of these reforms failed to achieve of their primary goals, and these failures led not only to Khrushchev’s personal political downfall, but also to major changes in the global political climate.

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was born on 17 April 1894 in Kalinovka, a small village in the province of Kursk, which lies just on the Russian side of the border with the Ukraine. Sergi Nikanorovich Khrushev, his father, was an average poor peasant who left the family each winter to work in the coalfields of the Donets Basin. Khrushev’s family lived in an area cursed with overpopulation; many people lived there because of the fertile soil, which they hoped to use to feed their families. The overpopulated, malnourished villages were centers for disease; diphtheria, typhus, and syphilis was widespread. “This poverty was to dominate Khrushchev’s memories of peasant life.”

Like most peasant boys, Khrushchev started work at an early age. His first job was guarding the village animals. Later he worked as a herdsboy for the local land owner. Khrushchev attended the village school for approximately two years between the ages of seven and twelve. In a land of general illiteracy, even two years of formal education was an important advantage. In 1909, at the age of fifteen, Khrushchev became an apprentice fitter at the German owned Bosse engineering works in Yuzovka. The living and working conditions in the Donbas, where Yuzovka was situated, “were as bad as the most lurid political agitator could have depicted them, and Khrushchev’s experience gave him the experience gave him the emotional charge that seems genuinely to have lasted all of his life.” It also showed him the true face of capitalism.

In the summer of 1914, Russia was at war with the Axis Powers, but this had no effect on Khrushchev. He avoided conscription into the army because he was a skilled worker, and at the end of the year he moved to Rutchenko mechanical workshops. It was around this time that he married, although not much is known of his wife. His political career started when he helped organize strikes by Rutchkovo miners in 1915 and 1916. In Kalinovaka, Khrushchev had felt the hopelessness of the land-hungry peasant and so got himself actively involved with the Revolution. He was elected a member of the Rutchenkovo soviet, whose first act was to disband the local police.

With the whole of the Ukraine in German hands, Khrushchev went to his hometown of Kalinovka where he took part in the division of the local land owner estates among the peasants. But by far the most important event at this time was Khrushchev joining the Bolshevik Party, which took place between April and autumn of 1918. In the autumn of 1918, he was sent to work within the political department of the 9th Army, which was fighting the anti-Bolshevik General Denkin in the north of the Donbas. While Stalin was maneuvering against Trotsky, Khrushchev was engaged in the important work of forming party cells in the front line units of the 9th Army. In other words, he was becoming the most junior sort of military commissar, the Party’s representative at the Army’s grass roots. This was a very important job because it was the commissar’s job to keep the troops fighting since desertion was as bad in the Red Army as it was in the White.

By the Spring of 1920, Denkin\' army had been pushed back down the Black Sea coast to Novorossisk, where part of it managed to escape to British and French navies. Units of the 9th