Photograph of former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Nikita Khrushchev

(1894 - 1971)

The son of a coal miner, Nikita Khrushchev began full time work for the Communist party in 1925 as party secretary of the Petrovsko-Mariinsk district of Yuzovka. He rose rapidly up the party ranks over the next decade, becoming one of Stalin’s chief supporters during the 1930s and one of only three provincial secretaries to survive the mass executions of the Great Purge. Khrushchev served as premier of the Soviet Union from 1958 to 1964, embracing a policy of “Reform Communism,” which emphasized de-Stalinization of the country’s political system and peaceful coexistence with noncommunist nations. He was succeeded by his protégé and deputy, Leonid Brezhnev, and died in 1971.

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