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Tag Archives: McCarthyism

The Thaw in the Cold War 1953-1959

Khrushchev

Stalin had left behind him a world of suspicion, distrust and fear. Suspicion, distrust and fear were as great in his own country as anywhere else, for he had ruled as a dictator and had never set up a definite procedure for transferring power to another leader. Immediately after his death, a five-man presidium, or council, took over the rule of the Soviet Union. The presidium chose Georgi Malenkov, who had been Stalin’s right-hand man, as the new premier, but a number of factions were struggling for control of the government and one of them was led by Lavrenti Beria, the chief of the secret police. He was a serious threat that at one point tanks were called out to prevent the secret police from seizing the government. On July 10, 1953, Beria was charged with treason; six months later he was shot. In 1955, Malenkov himself was removed from office and Marshal Nikolai Bulganin became premier. It was plain that the real power in the Soviet Union was Nikita Khrushchev, the moonfaced, elderly chairman of the Communist party. On February 24, 1956, Khrushchev made a speech before the Twentieth All-Union Party Congress, a meeting of Communist party delegates from all parts of the Soviet Union. Representatives of almost every Communist party in the world were also present. It was the first such congress since Stalin’s death and the delegates knew they had been summoned to Moscow to hear something of great importance. Even so, none of them were prepared for what they heard that day. For Khrushchev’s speech was a direct and merciless attack on Stalin and Stalin’s policies. For years, Communists throughout the world had insisted that Stalin was a great teacher and humanitarian, a father of peoples, a leader who was showing mankind the way to a …

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Death of a Dictator 1946 – 1953

cold war

AS THE SKY darkened over Moscow on the evening of March 5, 1953, thousands of people waited in line before a building called the Hall of Columns. Some of them wept; some carried flowers. Moving slowly and silently toward the entrance, they could see a forty-foot portrait of Premier Josef Stalin, framed in gold, which hung on the side of the building. News of Stalin’s death had been announced late that afternoon and now he lay in state in an immense room whose marble columns were draped in flags of red and black. Four days later, Stalin’s body was carried to the tomb on Red Square where lay the body of Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. At twelve noon, when Stalin’s body was placed beside that of Lenin, cannon were fired in every city of Russia. Cars, trucks, busses and trains stopped for five minutes, while people repeated the phrase, “Proshe, oteytz”–“Farewell‚ father” and so the Russians took leave of the man who had ruled them for twenty-nine years. Those twenty-nine years had been among the most eventful and terrible in history, not only for Russia, but for the world. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union had been industrialized. It had fought off an invasion from Nazi Germany and after the war, had established a mighty Communist empire in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. A once backward country had become one of the greatest powers on earth, but the price, in lives and liberty, had been unbelievably high. Millions of people had been killed for resisting Stalin’s program of rapid industrialization, or for disagreeing with him on political issues — or simply because Stalin had suspected them of disloyalty. The older that Stalin grew, the more tyrannical he became. In 1946, when the cold war with the West began, …

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