Home

Modern World

Khrushchev: Destalinisation

The Secret Speech

25th February 1956 in a closed session of the 20th party congress Khrushchev made a 4 hour speech. In this he revealed Stalin as a murderer through the purges but also as a blunderer having nearly led to the Soviet Union losing the war.
Khrushchev gave details about the purges, creation of myths about Stalin as a war hero and accused him of destroying party democracy.
Throughout the speech people fainted from shock.
Khrushchev emphasised that he did not join the politburo until 1939 when purges were over therefore he implied that others such as his rival Molotov were more responsible.
Dismay among the people - riots in Tbilisi - Capital of Stalin’s Georgia


Why did Khrushchev make the speech?

1) Sooner or later the truth would come out - there was a growing number of labour camp inmates being released who would talk about the gulags, repression and the purges.
2) Khrushchev’s own political ends - by emphasising that he only joined the politburo in 1939 and omitting his own role in the Moscow and Ukranian purges he gave the impression that his rivals - Molotov and Malenkov were more responsible than he was.
3) Stalin’s system held up progress - Khrushchev believed that the repression of scientists and engineers during the purges had stifled initiative and creativity by making the speech Khrushchev hoped it would lead to an atmosphere where intellectuals would be less afraid to experiment.

USSR 1929-91 Home

More