Friday, February 14, 2020
Reading up on Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev was a fascinating man. He was a shrewd and intelligent man, but often came off as impulsive or even buffoonish. He outmaneuvered Beria and other revivals, but, according to his son, Sergei Khrushchev, apparently didn't take even the elementary precautions that might have warded off the threat of Brezhnev and other former friends. Khrushchev was a dynamic man, founder of a 100 different projects. But for all his dynamism, he seems to embody the Soviet system's moral ambivalence. He shares clear culpability for many of Stalin's crimes, but his Secret Speech stands as clear attempt to move his country in a more humane direction. He also ruled at a fascinating moment in time, probably the high water mark of the Communist project. In Khrushchev's reign, Soviet citizens could still wonder whether or not they were about to overtake capitalism. Khrushchev's agricultural initiatives had not yet collapsed. The age of Soviet stagnation had not yet set in. The book, Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivals That Ignited the Space Age, captures on aspect of the Soviet Union's optimism. Although Soviet science had its weaknesses, Khrushchev's missile and space program won a gigantic propaganda victory by beating Americans into outer space. Of course, all of my current readings are supplementing Taubman's excellent biography, the best starting place for anyone hoping to learn more about the man.