People & Events|
Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971)
Nikita Khrushchev began his working life as child in the coal mines. He joined the Communist party in 1918 and fought with the Red Army during the civil war. In the 1920s Khrushchev began his rapid rise to power and by the time Joseph Stalin died in March 1953, he was secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. By 1958 he had outmaneuvered his political rivals becoming the Soviet Premier. From his very first full briefing on nuclear weapons in September of 1953, Khrushchev clearly understood the special terror of the hydrogen bomb. "When I was appointed First Secretary of the Central Committee and learned all the facts of nuclear power I couldn't sleep for several days," he confessed. "Then I became convinced that we could never possibly use these weapons, and when I realized that I was able to sleep again." At the Twentieth Party Congress in February 1956, two months after the successful test of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, Khrushchev formally broke with Stalin's revolutionary tenet that a new world war was inevitable. "Either peaceful coexistence or the most destructive war in history," he declared, "there is no third way."