The New York Times
September 12, 1971

Khrushchev's Human Dimensions Brought Him to Power and to His Downfall


             A Kitchen Debate With a Future President, Coexistence and a Visit to America

                By ALDEN WHITMAN

                Late in the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 24, 1956, a short, rotund, round-headed, gleamingly
                bald, baggy-suited man stepped to the microphone at the concluding session of the 20th
                Congress of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, from which all foreign delegates
                and reporters had been excluded. "Comrades," he began in his somewhat harsh-hoarse
                deliberate voice, "in the report of the Central Committee of the party. . . in a number of
                speeches by delegates to [this] congress . . .quite a lot has been said about the cult of the
                individual and about its harmful consequences."

                It was well after midnight when the session adjourned, and what the delegates had heard in
                Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev's 20,000-word speech was nothing less than
                a documented, count-by-count indictment of Josef Stalin, then dead about
                three years and who for a quarter-century had been held up to the Soviet
                people, Communist and non- Communist, and to Communists throughout the
                world as the infallible genius-leader of his country who had advanced it
                unerringly toward Socialism.

                What some delegates may have suspected but refused to credence, Mr.
                Khrushchev, the First Secretary (chief) of the Soviet party, laid bare with
                whiplash candor--that Stalin, starting with the terrible purge years of the
                thirties, had brought about the deaths of thousands of innocent persons; that
                he had ruled the party and the country by terror and torture; that he had been
                pusillanimous in World War II; that he had become increasingly vainglorious
                to the point even of writing his own encomiums, and that he had set up
                "serious obstacle[s] in the path of Soviet social development." Some of the
                details were overdrawn, but the portrait was unmistakably horrifying.

                Thus, the burden of the speech was to put the blame for the evils of Stalinism
                on Stalin's personal shortcomings, while seeking to make clear that the
                dictator's associates, including many of those on the congress podium--and
                the speaker himself--had been powerless to alter those terrible events.

                Speech Widely Circulated

                Although this extraordinary speech was never printed in the Soviet press, it
                was circulated to an astonished public through the Communist party apparatus
                and marked the start of a 10-year de-Stalinization of Soviet life. The speech
                was widely published in the West (the United States State Department
                obtained a copy from Yugoslav sources and made it available to newspapers)
                and it started a chain reaction in the reassessment of Soviet Communism.

                In speaking out with such uncompromising bluntness, Mr. Khrushchev
                exhibited some of the brash daring that characterized his 10 years (from 1954
                to 1964) as one of the world's most powerful men. The risk was obvious.
                Could Stalin's reputation be denigrated without destroying the structure of the
                system that had made him possible? Mr. Khrushchev gambled that it
                could--and he won, although many observers doubted that he had calculated
                all the implications of his bravura speech.

                Apart from presiding over the vast changes in Soviet and Communist policy
                that flowed from de-Stalinization (no less profound for the comparatively quiet
                manner in which they were carried out), Mr. Khrushchev put new emphasis
                on the bread-and-butter goals of Communism. ("And what sort of Communist
                society is it that has no sausage?" he often asked.)

                Moreover, under the compulsion of the hydrogen bomb, he championed a
                policy of peaceful coexistence (symbolized in the 1963 nuclear test ban
                treaty) between Socialist and capitalist states, questioning the popular dictum
                that war between them was probably inevitable. (He was certain that
                Communism could provide more abundance than capitalism and would
                triumph in a peaceful world on account of its material attractions.)

                Mr. Khrushchev also accepted some national differences among Socialist
                countries, as in the mixed economies of Poland and Yugoslavia; but not in
                Hungary, where he dealt with attempted revolt in 1956 as counterrevolution.
                Outside the Soviet sphere in Eastern Europe, he was less flexible. He
                tolerated Castroism for Cuba, but not as a model for South American
                revolutions. He had much less use for the Chinese way to Socialism and
                exacerbated the split in the Communist world in an acidulous quarrel with
                Peking over economic aid, the proper strategy against American "imperialism"
                and the Sino-Soviet borders.

                Mr. Khrushchev introduced a new style into Soviet politics. Whereas Stalin
                was reclusive, his successor was a tireless traveler and speaker who became
                intimately acquainted with the cities, towns and villages of his country.
                Moreover, he obliged his deskbound associates to get out of their offices,
                admonishing them not to be afraid "to get mud on your boots." In creating a
                personal sense of hustle and sweat, he was practicing what he preached when
                he told a Communist leader that the way to success was "Be popular."

                Just as he journeyed about his own country and Eastern Europe, so he
                traveled extensively in the world outside. As a traveling salesman for Soviet
                policy (and by implication for Communism) he initiated a personal diplomacy
                that took him to China, India, Britain, France, Switzerland, Austria and the
                United States. In two visits to this country, he conferred with President
                Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959, trekked to California, shucked corn in Iowa,
                appeared on television; and in the fall of 1960 he was here for a meeting of
                the United Nations Assembly, at which, in a fit of pique, he took off his right
                shoe and banged it vigorously on his desk.

                Behind these travels was not only his voracity for firsthand knowledge of
                people and events but also a belief that statesmen could and should deal with
                one another face to face. It was in that vein that he cooperated in the
                establishing of a "hot line" between the White House and the Kremlin in
                President John F. Kennedy's Administration.

                Some of the very extrovert traits that gave Mr. Khrushchev his human
                dimensions accounted for his downfall. By nature an impatient and impulsive
                man, he promised his people more than he could deliver. With two excellent
                harvests in 1956 and 1958, he pledged in 1959 that in seven years the per
                capita real income of Soviet citizens would rise by 40 per cent and that the
                minimum wage would be doubled. There would also be a 40-hour week. And
                by 1970, agriculture and industry would be producing more than their
                American counterparts. The Soviet Union was embarking on a new stage of
                its history--the "full-scale construction of Communist society."

                One of the keys to the new era of plenty was a gigantic stride in meat and
                grain production. But try and improvise as he might, he could not achieve an
                output to match his grandiose expectations. He flew in the face of experts by
                trying to grow corn in unsuitable areas. in opening up so-called virgin lands in
                Siberia and in too-hasty reorganization of the cumbersome farm and industrial
                bureaucracy. The result was that economic and bureaucratic dislocation
                contributed heavily to his ouster. And not the least of those who turned
                against him were the bureaucrats whose traditional ways and power
                relationships he threatened.

                Another ingredient in Mr. Khrushchev's ouster was the failure of his gamble in
                the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 to pay off. Although he claimed at the time to
                have obtained what he wanted--an American pledge not to attack
                Cuba--many in the Kremlin believed that the affair was a first-class

                He was damaged also by the American U-2 spy plane incident in 1960 and
                the subsequent breakup of a Paris summit meeting with President Eisenhower.
                After Mr. Khrushchev's first visit to the United States, he insisted to his
                colleagues that President Eisenhower was a reasonable man and that
                statesmen could promote international amity through personal understandings.
                This homespun theory, part of his impatience to mute the cold war, was
                severely strained when the U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union and
                President Eisenhower took the responsibility.

                For a fourth thing, his bumptious conduct then and on other occasions, such
                as the shoe- banging at the United Nations, embarrassed some of his
                associates who felt that more dignity befitted the leader of a great
                superpower. Some of them, too, had been bullied by their leader in
                explosions of temper and were delighted to vote his ouster.

                Ranged against him, too, were powerful voices in the army. To allocate
                capital for agricultural supplies and machinery, he was obliged to cut down on
                spending for heavy industry and defense. The army, which had earlier
                supported him, was dismayed by his schemes to achieve defense at the lowest
                possible cost and elements of the officer corps, whose jobs were threatened,
                joined in the pressure against him.

                Mr. Khrushchev also caused alarm by the escalation of his quarrel with Mao
                Tse-tung, the Chinese leader. It had long been a shibboleth of Marxist
                thinking that the Communist world was necessarily a single entity since it
                derived from a single doctrine, and the Soviet leader's China policy seemed to
                many Soviet and other Communists to threaten the fraternal spirit of world
                Communism. His handling of the Mao situation was cited specifically in his

                An additional count against him was his action in splitting the Communist party
                into industrial and agricultural sections, to enhance party control of all aspects
                of the economy. The party, in effect, was to concentrate on economic, not
                political, tasks. The step was taken precipitately in 1962. According to Mark
                Frankland, a British expert on Mr. Khrushchev's fall, "the plan was bound to
                upset just those party officials on whom Khrushchev had to a large extent built
                his own power."

                "In particular," Mr. Frankland noted, "it threatened the interests of the regional
                party bosses by splitting their domains in two and so reducing their status and

                Finally, there was Mr. Khrushchev's willfulness as well as what seemed an
                increasing tendency to take the spotlight. His enemies accused him of both
                lack of foresight and building a cult of personality. He did indeed push his
                plans through the Politburo and was unwilling to accept frustration of his
                ideas. And he did seem to insist on adulation.

                The combination of all his shortcomings came to more than outweigh his
                virtues in the eyes of his colleagues, and he was pensioned off in October,
                1964. But it was a measure of the changes he had wrought that he was voted
                out of office, not shot, and that some of his key policies, such as peaceful
                coexistence and arms limitation and emphasis on Soviet consumer needs,
                were taken up by his successors, albeit in a less flamboyant fashion.

                Part of Mr. Khrushchev's success as a Soviet leader was his idiosyncratic
                style--his easy and infectious smile that showed the marked gap between two
                front teeth, his thundering anger, his earthy wit, his use of old Russian
                proverbs, his capacity for strong drink, his rapport with workers and farmers.
                When he talked he jabbed his chubby fingers at the chest of the person
                listening to him, and he could say some impolitic things such as telling Western
                diplomats at the Kremlin, "History is on our side--we will bury you." Or telling
                an envoy from a Mediterranean country, "Get out of NATO or we will drop a
                nuclear bomb on you." When the ambassador protested that "you are such a
                big country and we are such a small country." Mr. Khrushchev replied,
                "That's all right. For you we will use only a teeny tiny nuclear bomb."

                Impatient With Theory

                He was uncomfortable with intellectuals and impatient with abstract
                theory--both attitudes that reflected his own life--and his Marxism was one
                described as a set of rather simple maims in which he believed deeply.

                This uneasiness with speculation for its own sake enabled him to concentrate
                on practicality, but it also led into situations in which he relied overmuch on
                theoreticians. For example, he gave his blessing to publication of Aleksandr
                Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," a book that let some
                air into Soviet writing about life under Stalin. But he also went along with the
                1958 conservative ideological attach on Boris Pasternak for his novel "Doctor
                Zhivago," which portrayed scenes of the Bolshevik Revolution.

                Later, however, in retirement, Mr. Khrushchev found time to read the book
                and told a Soviet friend that he did not understand what the fuss had been all
                about. "We could have published that book," he said. "Maybe 200 words
                were questionable--that's all."

                It was as a practical man that Mr. Khrushchev rose from lowly beginnings to
                the top in the Communist hierarchy. He was born April 17, 1894, in the mud
                hut of his grandfather in Kalinovka, a poor village in Kursk Province, where
                Great Russia borders on the Ukraine.

                "My grandfather was a serf, the property of a landlord who could sell him if
                he wished, or trade him for a hunting dog," Mr. Khrushchev once recalled.

                "My father was a farmer who worked in the [coal] mines in the winter in the
                hope that he would some day earn enough money to buy a horse, so that he
                could raise enough cabbage and potatoes to feed his family.

                "As for myself, I began working as soon as I could walk. I herded calves,
                then sheep, and finally the landlord's cows, until I was 15. Then I went with
                my father to the coalfields of the Donbas to work in the shops and mines. I
                worked at a factory owned by the Germans, at coal pits owned by
                Frenchmen and at a chemical plant owned by Belgians. There I discovered
                something about capitalists. They are all alike, whatever their nationality. All
                they wanted from me was the most work for the least money that would keep
                me alive.

                "So I became a Communist . . . I was not born a Communist . . . . But life is a
                great school. It thrashes and bangs and teaches you."

                In his brief account of his early years, Mr. Khrushchev omitted to mention that
                he had not joined the Bolshevik party until 1918, about a year after the
                outbreak of the Russian Revolution. He had escaped conscription during
                World War I because he was a skilled worker and he had helped to organize
                strikes among the Donbas miners. Once the Revolution began in the late
                winter of 1917, Mr. Khrushchev was active in practical measures in its
                defense and was a member of the Rutchenkovo Soviet.

                In the civil war Mr. Khrushchev fought as a member of the Red Guards,
                working in the political department of the Ninth Army in the Ukraine. His job
                was to form Communist units among the troops. Having joined the party from
                practical rather than theoretical considerations, he was well suited to recruit
                others who saw the party chiefly as the defender of "their" revolution.

                On his 1959 visit to the United States Mr. Khrushchev illuminated his feelings
                in those early years by recalling one of his first meetings with intellectuals
                "when I still had coal on my hands." One of them, a woman, twitted him about
                the ballet. "And I must admit that at that time," he reminisced, "I not only had
                never seen a ballet, I had never seen a ballerina. So I did not know what
                it--what sort of a dish it was and what you ate it with.

                "And I said, 'Wait, it will all come." If she were to have asked me then what it
                was that would come, I could not have given her any reply--I did not know
                what would come. But I did know that the new and the good happy life
                would come."

                When the civil war ended, Mr. Khrushchev returned to Rutchenkovo as a
                party organizer. His first wife, whom he married in 1916, died, it is said, in the
                famine of 1921, but this aspect of his life was obscure. His climb up the party
                ladder began in earnest in 1922, when he was sent to the Don Technical
                College at Yuzovka to remedy his lack of formal education and to become
                acquainted with Marxism.

                At the college he was named party secretary, a post of considerable
                importance that he held for three years. He also remarried. His wife, Nina,
                who accompanied him to the United States, was a schoolteacher and is
                believed to have smoothed some of his rough edges.

                On graduation, Mr. Khrushchev was appointed party secretary at
                Petrovo-Marinsky, a mining district in the Ukraine, where he distinguished
                himself for his bustling, first-hand knowledge of the mines. He was then under
                the patronage of Lazar M. Kaganovich, Stalin's man in the Ukraine, and as
                such attended his first party congress--the 14th--in Moscow in 1925.

                Staling was then consolidating his hold on the party--Lenin had died in
                1924--and was moving against his political enemies. Mr. Khrushchev, the
                records show, supported Stalin without apparent reservations, and in a
                speech at the Ukrainian party congress in 1926 endorsed the notion of
                "repressive measures" against Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev and Lev

                Meantime, he moved up in the party apparatus, first to Kharkov and then to
                Kiev. Finally, in 1929 he was called to Moscow as a student at the Academy
                of Heavy Industry.

                Still backed by Mr. Kaganovich, he was named party secretary at the
                academy and then, after a year, secretary of the district in which the academy
                was located. His rise was meteoric: second in command of the Moscow city
                party in 1933; its chief in 1934; membership in the party's Central Committee
                the same year, making him one of a hundred or so most powerful men in the
                Soviet Union, and in 1935 party leader for the entire Moscow region.

                Mr. Khrushchev's principal job was in the modernization of Moscow and
                especially in the construction of its subway, for which he received his first
                Order of Lenin. No detail seemed too small for him--seeing to the cement
                supply, advising on the proper height for laying bricks, suggesting changes in
                subway-car design. His definition then of a "real Communist" was one "whose
                work is organized, whose machinery works and doesn't lie abandoned under
                all kinds of rubbish" and who "each day, each hour controls matters

                Mr. Khrushchev's exertions in Moscow coincided with what has been called
                the Soviet Union's "Iron Age"--a period when heavy industry and industrial
                construction were stressed as part of Stalin's goal to build Socialism in one
                country, which meant making the Soviet Union as strong as possible in as
                brief a time as possible. It was also a period of forced collectivization of
                agriculture, in which hundreds of thousands of peasants died, and of the
                "show trials" in which Stalin's opponents were obliged to confess to
                horrendous crimes before they were executed. Of the 139 members of the
                Central Committee elected with Mr. Khrushchev in 1934, about 100 were
                arrested and shot by 1938.

                Not a Stalin Intimate

                Mr. Khrushchev appears to have been as extravagant in his praise for Stalin
                during the purges as any party leader, but he was not then a Stalin intimate. Of
                his activities and thoughts during the purges, he was extremely guarded.
                Indeed, he was later to suggest that he was ignorant of Stalin's murder of
                innocent Communists. Speaking in 1963, he said:

                "It is asked, did the leading cadres of the party know of, let us say, the arrests
                of people at the time? Yes, they knew. But did they know that people who
                were innocent of any wrongdoing were arrested? No This they did not know.
                They believed Stalin and did not admit the thought that repression could be
                applied to honest people devoted to our cause."

                Having survived the worst of the purges, Mr. Khrushchev was elected to the
                Politburo in 1938 and dispatched to the Ukraine as first secretary of the party
                there. The party leadership in the Ukraine was replaced and a membership
                purge undertaken. Mr. Khrushchev was both Stalin's scourge and the one
                who helped rebuild a shattered party. His toughness is said to have been
                unrelenting also in managing the Ukrainian economy.

                The Ukraine gave Mr. Khrushchev his first concentrated experience with
                agriculture, for that country was (and is) one of the Soviet Union's chief grain
                areas. Improving the harvests provided scope for his initiative and
                administrative talents. He got out among the farmers and in his unsubtle but
                effective fashion stirred the party to such activity that the grain yield rose. And
                although he was away from Moscow, he came to be regarded as a farm
                expert and his speeches were reprinted in Pravda, the party newspaper.

                The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941, hit hard at the
                Ukraine--and at Mr. Khrushchev. According to Mr. Frankland's biography,
                "The shock of the first disastrous months of the war had its impact, too, on
                Khrushchev's relations with Stalin."

                "Up to the war," Mr. Frankland wrote, "there is no evidence that Khrushchev
                ever questioned his leader, but this simple relationship was destroyed by the
                war, and was never re-established. It is possible that Khrushchev's belief in
                Stalin's infallibility was first shaken at the very start of the war."

                During the war, Mr. Khrushchev not only represented the party at the front
                but also directed partisan warfare behind the German lines. He took part in
                the initial severe setbacks of the Soviet Army in the Ukraine and in the
                triumphant stand at Stalingrad in 1942. For his efforts at Stalingrad, one of the
                principal hinges of the war in the Soviet Union, he was made a lieutenant
                general, and he marched with the Red army as it retook the Ukraine in 1943.

                After the war Mr. Khrushchev was in charge of rebuilding the Ukraine, the
                most damaged of any area in Europe. Americans with the United Nations
                Relief and Rehabilitation Agency who saw him there remarked about his
                concern for the tiniest detail of his jobs--he was Premier as well as party
                leader--and his bounciness, Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav Communist, found
                him using folk proverbs and sayings to rally his associates and reported that
                Mr. Khrushchev "delved into details, into the daily life of the Communist rank
                and file and the ordinary people."

                Improvement, Not Change

                "He did not do this with the aim of changing the system," Mr. Djilas continued,
                "but of strengthening and improving things under the existing system." Rivalries
                at the top of the Soviet Communist party in 1946 almost did Mr. Khrushchev
                in. He came into conflict with Georgi M. Malenkov over the asserted low
                level of "ideological work" in the Ukraine and with Stalin over spring wheat,
                which the dictator favored.

                Mr. Kaganovich was sent into the Ukraine to run the party, while Mr.
                Khrushchev was left as Premier. This episode is unclear in detail, but
                apparently Mr. Khrushchev worked his way out of disgrace, although there
                were reports later that he had almost been purged by Stalin. In any event,
                after a year, Mr. Khrushchev improved his situation (his differences with Mr.
                Malenkov continued, however) and at the end of 1949 he was brought to
                Moscow as head of the party organization and as one of the Central
                Committee secretariat, which ran the party day by day.

                Until Stalin's death in 1953, Mr. Khrushchev lived a somewhat precarious
                existence, he indicated in his secret speech of 1956. On other occasions he
                related that Stalin had forced him to dance a peasant dance and to sit in a
                puddle of beer. More seriously, the two differed about agriculture. Whereas
                Stalin was content to sweat the peasants, Mr. Khrushchev seemed genuinely
                concerned to increase party control over the farms, to create more efficient
                production units and to raise the standards of living.

                One instance of this was his proposal in 1950 and 1951 to create
                "agrotowns"--grand villages that would be centers of farm life. Under criticism
                he called them "collective farm settlements," but this failed to save him from
                Mr. Malenkov and others who chided him in public in 1952. More to the
                point, he was relieved of supervision over farming.

                At this time Stalin's paranoia was growing--a plot of distinguished Jewish
                doctors to kill Soviet leaders was concocted in his brain--and Mr.
                Khrushchev suggested in his 1956 speech, even those closest to the dictator
                felt apprehensive for their safety. In these circumstances Stalin's death as the
                result of a stroke was timely, "I wept," Mr. Khrushchev later told W. Averell
                Harriman, the American diplomat. "After all, we were his pupils and owed
                him everything. Like Peter the Great, Stalin fought barbarism with barbarism
                but he was a great man."

                The chubby Mr. Malenkov was Stalin's immediate successor, but in the
                wheeling and dealing he was either forced or persuaded to drop his job as
                principal party secretary while retaining the Soviet Premiership. This step gave
                Mr. Khrushchev his opening, for he took over virtual control of the party
                organization--machinery that he knew best of all. Moreover, shortly after
                Stalin's death, he came to the fore in a critique of agriculture, with an implied
                promise of a better life for all.

                With the elimination by shooting of Lavrenti P. Beria, the state security chief,
                Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Malenkov engaged in a duel for power with
                agriculture one of the main points of difference. Mr. Khrushchev's theme was
                the low state of farm production and the cry that "Communist society cannot
                be built without an abundance of bread, meat, milk, butter, vegetables and
                other agricultural products." And to encourage farmers, he was willing to
                increase money incentives and to chastise Moscow bureaucrats. When the
                1953 harvest fell short of predictions, he had increased leverage against Mr.

                At his urging, an area equal to the entire cropland of Canada--some 75 million
                acres--of virgin and fallow land in Siberia and the Urals was plowed and
                sown to grain by an army of young people sent out from the cities of
                European Russia. Also he called for widespread corn-planting, gaining the
                nickname of Nikita Kukuruznik (Nikita the Corn Man). Although these
                measures were denounced by some of his colleagues as gambles, they paid
                off heavily in 1956 and 1958, when abundant rainfall permitted the virgin
                lands to contribute a record grain crop. His corn proposal was less
                successful, chiefly because large areas of the Soviet Union were climatically
                unsuited for it.

                By early 1955, Mr. Khrushchev had strengthened his position sufficiently to
                strike down Mr. Malenkov. He accomplished this in part by getting army
                support (he pleaded that the Soviet hydrogen bomb detonated in 1953
                required stronger defenses), and in the new alignment Marshal Nikolai A.
                Bulganin was Premier and Mr. Khrushchev was the party leader. Together
                they were known as "B & K."

                The maneuver that disposed of Mr. Malenkov (whose policies Mr.
                Khrushchev was to adopt) was one step in the development of a post-Stalin
                consensus. Another was dismissal of Vyacheslav M. Molotov, Stalin's
                longtime Foreign Minister, which culminated in his removal from power in
                1957 in the so-called "antiparty" affair.

                Meantime, in 1955 "B & K" made three journeys abroad, in which Mr.
                Khrushchev displayed his energies and his extroversions to an astonished
                world. One of the most important of these trips was to Belgrade, where he
                apologized to Marshal Tito, the Yugoslav Communist leader, for Stalin's
                expulsion of him from the Communist world in 1948. The reconciliation was
                never complete, but there was a general accommodation.

                Later, "B & K" went to Geneva, where they met President Eisenhower and
                the leaders of France and Britain and reiterated Soviet commitment to a
                policy of peaceful coexistence. "Vigorous, downright and stubborn but
                prepared to laugh" was British Prime Minister Anthony Eden's comment on
                Mr. Khrushchev at Geneva.

                Foothold in Mideast

                One of the greatest foreign policy victories was in the Mideast. In the summer
                of 1955 he arranged an arms deal with Egypt that opened the way for
                large-scale expansion of Soviet influence among the Arab peoples. He was
                also successful in wooing such countries as India, which he visited, and
                Indonesia, praising their third-world policy of neutralism and their struggles to
                rise from colonial status. As a salesman for Communism, he made three
                points: Peaceful coexistence and economic competition; war between East
                and West could be avoided, and there could be different paths to Socialism,
                including a parliamentary one.

                Although Mr. Khrushchev was clearly the chief Soviet leader from 1954,
                when Mr. Malenkov went into effective eclipse, his position was vastly
                enhanced by his "secret speech" at the party congress in 1956. Its theme--that
                Stalin had abused his power-- skipped lightly over Mr. Khrushchev's own
                role and that of his principal associates. However, by emphasizing the
                corrective steps the party had taken since 1953 and was prepared to take,
                the speech cast Mr. Khrushchev in a favorable light: He was now to pursue a
                policy of fairness and strict legality.

                And there was in fact a thaw. Thousands of Stalin's victims were
                posthumously rehabilitated. Criticism of Stalin appeared in print. Some of the
                fears in Soviet life were muted. The authority of the party, as a collective
                group, was strengthened, and with it the principle of collegiality. And
                eventually, the speech contributed to the routing of Mr. Molotov and other
                hard-liners inside and outside the Soviet Union.

                Restiveness first showed itself in Poland in October, 1956, when the Poles
                proposed to install as party leader Wladislaw Gomulka, a "nationalist"
                Communist whom Stalin had jailed. Mr. Khrushchev flew to Warsaw and
                confronted Mr. Gomulka and his associates in a considerable rage,
                threatening the use of force to prevent a Polish defection. Mr. Gomulka,
                however, stood his ground and won out after pledging to keep Poland within
                the Moscow bloc.

                Immediately thereafter trouble broke out in Hungary. A de-Stalinized
                government under Imre Nagy announced that Hungary would leave the
                Warsaw Pact, the Eastern counterpart of the North Atlantic Treaty

                This, to Mr. Khrushchev's mind, amounted to counterrevolution, and the
                Nagy regime was crushed with Soviet tanks and replaced with a more
                amenable government. The difference between Poland and Hungary appeared
                to be that the Poles were willing to remain within the Soviet orbit, whereas the
                Hungarians were not.

                Mr. Khrushchev's triumph over his foes was complete in 1957, when Mr.
                Malenkov, Mr. Kaganovich and Mr. Molotov were outvoted in the Central
                Committee after winning an apparent victory in the Politburo. The three men
                were removed from their posts and expelled from the Central Committee,
                along with Dmitri Shepilov. Mr. Khrushchev had the help of Marshal Georgi
                K. Zhukov, who, however, was shortly ditched as was Marshal Bulganin,
                leaving Mr. Khrushchev as both Premier and party leader--the same dual role
                occupied by Stalin.

                For more than six years he would rule without serious challenge. He grew
                cocky and domineering with his colleagues, unable to believe, until it was too
                late, that he could be deposed.

                In these six years, the jaunty and irrepressible Mr. Khrushchev had his
                diplomatic ups and downs with the United States. One of the ups was his visit
                to the United States in September, 1959, which followed a "debate" with
                Vice President Richard M. Nixon in Moscow over the relative merits of
                capitalism and Communism. The impromptu exchange took place in a model
                kitchen at the American Exhibition there.

                Arriving in the United States in a giant Tu-114 airliner, the Soviet leader got a
                decidedly mixed reception. He was thought of as "the butcher of Hungary,"
                and there was hostility on the part of the press as well as from Roman
                Catholic prelates. He was, moreover, a Soviet Communist, a man many
                Americans had been conditioned to believe was a mortal enemy to the
                Republic. Mr. Khrushchev, however, came bearing olive branches, saying if
                "the two biggest countries in the world" could develop amicable relations
                "peace on earth will be more stable and durable."

                He barnstormed the country from coast to coast, appeared on television,
                engaged in off- the-cuff colloquies, visited Roswell Garst's cornfield in Iowa,
                everywhere promoting the idea of a Soviet-American detente. The most
                important result of the tour was an easing of world tensions--over Berlin,
                which had erupted in 1958, and over nuclear testing--that was symbolized in
                an Eisenhower-Khrushchev conference at Camp David, Md.

                Cordial relations gave way to harshness in May, 1960, when the Soviet Union
                shot down an American U-2 reconnaissance plane and could display the
                wreckage of the craft as well as its pilot. The wrangle over the episode
                caused the collapse of a projected Eisenhower-Khrushchev summit meeting in
                Paris, but it did not seriously deflect Mr. Khrushchev's policy of peaceful
                coexistence, although it did weaken the confidence of some Soviet leaders in
                the virtues of personal diplomacy.

                Mr. Khrushchev returned to the United States in September, 1960, as chief
                of the Soviet delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. There was
                no official welcome and he was restricted to Manhattan and to weekend visits
                to Long Island. His presence provoked demonstrations--and incredulity, too.
                While Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, was addressing the
                Assembly, Mr. Khrushchev interrupted him with heckling shouts and

                Oblivious to decorum, he took off his right shoe, brandished it at one speaker
                and then pounded it on his desk. And he referred to a Philippine delegate as a
                stooge and a jerk. After 25 days, he returned home. His performance failed
                to please either the American pubic or his Soviet colleagues.

                When John F. Kennedy became President in 1961, Mr. Khrushchev went to
                confer with him in Vienna. The purpose was to test each other's intentions,
                and Mr. Khrushchev is said to have come away with the belief that Mr.
                Kennedy lacked a certain nerve.

                That impression may have contributed to Mr. Khrushchev's willingness to
                place missiles in Cuba in 1962, following the American Bay of Pigs invasion
                debacle in 1961. There appear to have been several motivations--to
                strengthen Fidel Castro's Socialism, to achieve an easy missile parity with the
                United States and, perhaps, to precipitate a situation that would lead to a
                Soviet-American summit session.

                "If he could place Soviet medium-range missiles in Cuba," according to
                Frankland's book, "the main Soviet deficiency--in long-range ICBM's--would
                to a considerable extent be overcome. The heavy pressure on him to
                concentrate all available resources on the defense industries would be largely

                Other commentators, however, insist that the missiles were intended to
                provoke a crisis that would inevitably lead to a climactic summit.

                But Mr. Khrushchev reckoned without Mr. Kennedy and the threat the
                President discerned to the United States. A crisis was on, which was resolved
                late in October when the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its missiles in
                return for a Kennedy pledge not to attack Cuba. In retrospect, there appears
                to have been a greater sense of crisis in the United States than in the Soviet
                Union, where Mr. Khrushchev made pointed public appearances, including a
                chat with an American singer. There is little evidence that he was preparing for
                war--and later he insisted that he had obtained what he wanted--the pledge
                on Cuba.

                Last month, a Soviet article based on official archives asserted that Mr.
                Khrushchev had agreed to withdraw the Soviet missiles from Cuba after
                receiving private assurances from Robert F. Kennedy that the United States
                would pull its missiles out of Turkey.

                The Cuban adventure cost Mr. Khrushchev dearly in his worsening quarrel
                with Mao Tse-tung, who saw it as yet another example of his inability to deal
                with American "imperialism." Differences with the Chinese Communists went
                back many years, but began to be acute with Mao's victory over Chiang
                Kai-shek in 1949.

                After 1949 Mao turned to the Soviet Union for material help, seeking
                long-term credits and substantial quantities of capital goods. He received
                some assistance, but not nearly so much as he believed one Socialist country
                should render to another. Mao also did not get the credit he felt he deserved
                for his Marxist sagacity in accomplishing the Chinese revolution. Nor did he
                make any headway in his proposals for "border rectifications" with the Soviet
                Union--changes that would have returned some Chinese territory taken away
                under the Czars.

                Moreover, Mao adopted a strong world revolutionary line, with American
                "imperialism" as its chief target. Taking into account the American setbacks in
                Korea in 1953, Soviet nuclear gains and the Soviet sputnik in 1957, he
                said--at the 40th anniversary of the Russian Revolution--that "the east wind
                now prevails over the west wind."

                Offensive Urged by Mao

                The world situation, Mao was convinced, had reached a turning point at
                which "the Socialist forces are overwhelmingly superior to the imperialist
                forces." The time was now, he indicated, to go on the offensive. But that was
                exactly what Mr. Khrushchev and his Soviet colleagues were unwilling to do.
                They preferred, they said, to "conquer capitalism with a high level of work
                and a higher standard of living" rather than to engage in warfare, although
                Mao offered his millions of Chinese as troops.

                From 1957 onward, Mr. Khrushchev's quarrels with Mao went from bad to
                worse. China did not get Soviet nuclear help, credits were discouraged,
                technicians were withdrawn and by 1964 the exchange of polemics
                threatened to sever bonds between the two countries and the two

                As bitterness with China escalated, Mr. Khrushchev was faced with
                discontent at home. The virgin lands and the corn program faltered; harvests
                were poor; grain had to be imported from the United States, and in 1962
                meat and butter prices were raised. Instead of the Khrushchev promises of a
                rapid advance to plenty, the economy was creaking.

                All of these things came to a head in October, 1964, when members of the
                Politburo were quietly called to a meeting, with Leonid I. Brezhnev in the
                chair. Mr. Khrushchev was on holiday at his villa in the Black Sea. The vote
                went against him both in the Politburo and in the Central Committee. It was all
                over quickly and without fanfare.

                Although Mr. Khrushchev had wrought tremendous changes, there was no
                popular outcry for him. His unfulfilled promises of consumer goods, his rough
                treatment of intellectuals--especially in 1962-63--and his attempts to reduce
                defense spending left him with few devoted followers. He was officially
                "relieved" of his posts and all but vanished.

                The fourth volume of the new 30-volume Soviet Encyclopedia, published this
                April, even omitted Mr. Khrushchev from its listing of prominent political
                commissars of World War II.

                From all reports, he was a lonely man in his last years. Relatively well treated
                as a high- ranking pensioner, with a town apartment and a country villa, he
                himself chose to be secluded. Friends said that he never got over the shame of
                his fallen stature.

                Every year, on election day, Mr. Khrushchev did his civic duty and went to
                the polls in Moscow. His gait was slow and his smile dimmed, even when a
                few bystanders might greet him.

                In December, 1970, Little, Brown & Co. published a 639-page book--and
                Life magazine published excerpts--entitled "Khrushchev Remembers" that
                purported to be his reminiscences made up of material emanating from
                "various circumstances."

                Khrushchev issued a statement dissociating himself from the reminiscences in
                which he said of the material, "This is a fabrication and I am indignant at this."
                The statement marked the first time his name had been mentioned on Soviet
                radio since he was deposed in 1964.

                Even at his death, it had not been established whether the book was authentic,
                but the weight of expert opinion was that much, if not all, of it was compiled
                from authentic material.