Daily Archives: February 26, 2006

AUR#666 Khrushchev Buried Stalin On This Day; De-Stalinization Begins; Stalin’s Light Shining Bright In Putin’s Russia


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Delivered what many regard as 20th century’s most influential speech
Believe speech was third most important event in 20th century Russia. 
Given his own history, Khrushchev’s speech was an act of great moral
bravery and huge political recklessness. Speaking for nearly four hours, he
stunned his listeners with a detailed and sweeping account of Stalin’s mass
arrests, deportations, torture and executions.
Speech entered history as the first step toward de-Stalinization.
It was a turning point in Soviet history. The Gulags were emptied out.
The speech that Russia wants to forget
Stalin may be dead but his ghost is still at the feast.
For the descendants of Stalin’s victims, however, the "secret speech"
remains one of the most important events of the 20th century.
Khrushchev’s "secret speech" being ignored in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
has stirred outrage among relatives of the millions he persecuted and
prompted claims that Stalinism is again on the march.
I don’t want to hear about this. How can people spit into our souls like this?
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor  
Washington, D.C., Kyiv, Ukraine, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2006
         The Action Ukraine Report: Khrushchev: Parts I & II

[1]  AUR#658 Feb 13 Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed The World
[2]  AUR#666 Feb 25 The Day Khrushchev Buried Stalin, Shook The World
               ——–INDEX OF ARTICLES——–
         Clicking on the title of any article takes you directly to the article.               
Return to the Index by clicking on Return to Index at the end of each article
 I believe speech was the third most important event in 20th century Russia
: By Nina L. Khrushcheva, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, California, Sunday, February 19, 2006

2.                    A SPEECH TO STUN EVEN A DAUGHTER
   Speech kept secret, even from Rada Adzhubei, Khrushchev’s daughter
By Anatoly Medetsky, Staff Writer, Moscow Times
Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, February 22, 2006

3 .                           A FATAL DESIRE FOR ORDER
  Khrushchev’s "secret speech" being ignored in Vladimir Putin’s Russia
: By Nina L. Khrushcheva, International Herald Tribune
Paris, France, Friday, February 24, 2006

            This great deed deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary.
      When asked in retirement what he most regretted, Khrushchev said:
                 "The blood. My arms are up to the elbows in blood."
: By William Taubman, Author "Khrushchev: The
Man and His Era," which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
The New York Times, New York, New York
International Herald Tribune (IHT) Friday, February 24, 2006

Nikita Khrushchev took the podium on the final day of the 20th Congress
: By Robert Conquest, Senior Research Fellow,

Hoover Institution, Author of "The Great Terror," "The Harvest
of Sorrow" and "Stalin and the Kirov Murder."
Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California, Sunday, February 19, 2006

COMMENTARY: By Roy A Medvedev
The author is a historian and Soviet dissident
FinancialExpress.com, New Delhi, India, Saturday, February 25, 2006

7.                            THE SPEECH OF THE CENTURY
                 Has Russia successfully come to terms with its past?
: By Richard Lourie, author of "The
Autobiography of Joseph Stalin" and "Sakharov: A Biography."
The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia
Monday, February 20, 2006. Issue 3356. Page 8.

8.                                    SACRIFICING STALIN
OPINION: By Boris Kagarlitsky, St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, January 22, 2006

9 .                          TURNING POINT IN SOVIET HISTORY
                     The Gulags were emptied out and largely shut down
: International Herald Tribune (IHT)
Paris, France, Friday, February 24, 2006

                    Mike Haynes writes on how 50 years ago Khrushchev’s
                          ‘secret speech’ began the demolition of Stalinism
FEATURE: By Mike Haynes, SocialistWorkerOnline
London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 18, 2006

                   Fifty years ago a Soviet leader dared to criticise Stalin.
                             But was this bravery or a cynical ploy?
Tom Parfitt in Moscow, The Guardian Unlimited
London, United Kingdom, Friday February 24, 2006


                                    TO KILL FOR THE CAUSE
Mirror in which the left saw itself was shattered. Its self-deception lives on.
COMMENTARY: By Martin Kettle, The Guardian
London, United Kingdom, Saturday February 11, 2006

13.                            OPENING PANDORA’S BOX
 50th anniversary of an event whose effect on Hungary was earth-shattering.
 Thankful to Khrushchev for the speech that shook up the Communist world.
By Richard W. Bruner, The Budapest Sun Online
Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, February 23, 2006

                   Entered history as the first step toward de-Stalinization
By Claire Bigg, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, February 15, 2006

By Tim Whewell, BBC NEWS, UK, Thursday, February 23, 2006

By Anne Applebaum, OP-ED Columnist, The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., Wednesday, February 22, 2006, Page A15


BBC NEWS, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Scotsman – United Kingdom; Feb 23, 2006

                The battle over history reflects a determination to prove that no
                   political alternative can challenge the new global capitalism
: By Seumas Milne, The Guardian
London, United Kingdom, Thursday, February 16, 2006

20.                           SECRET SPEECH STILL DIVIDES
EDITORIAL: The Moscow Times
Moscow, Russia, Wed, Feb 15, 2006. Issue 3353. Page 3.

 Khrushchev delivered what many regard as 20th century’s most influential speech
By Adrian Blomfield in Volgograd
Telegraph, London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 25, 2006
            For the descendants of Stalin’s victims, however, the "secret speech"
                remains one of the most important events of the 20th century.
Jeremy Page in Moscow, The Times
London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 25, 2006
On Feb 25, 1956 Khrushchev’s speech condemned Stalin’s personality cult.
By Yury Filippov, RIA Novosti political commentator
RIA Novosti, Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, February 21, 2006
                                            IN RUSSIAN LIVES
Tallinn, Estonia, Thursday, February 23, 2006
By Michael Johnson, Tuesday, 14 February 2006
Johnson’s Russia List (JRL) 2006#43, Feb 15, 2006
27.                                  USHERING IN THE THAW
By Anna Malpas, The Moscow Times
Moscow, Russia, Friday, February 17, 2006. Issue 3355. Page 102.
I don’t want to hear about this. How can people spit into our souls like this?
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow, The Independent
London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 18, 2006
 I believe speech was the third most important event in 20th century Russia

OPINION: By Nina L. Khrushcheva, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, California, Sunday, February 19, 2006

WHEN NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV died in 1971, I was still a young girl, but
I remember him well. We used to visit him on the weekends on his farm at
Petrovo Dalnee, about 30 miles outside of Moscow. I’d work with him among
the tomatoes or at his beehives. Although to me he was just my kindly old
great-grandfather, my family assured me then and later that he was a great
man, a world leader, a liberator – someone I should be proud of.

But at the privileged school for the children of the party elite that I
attended on Kutuzovsky Prospect, I never heard his name. As far as my
teachers were concerned, there was no such man. He didn’t exist. Anything
that had happened in government between 1953 and 1964, when my
great-grandfather led the country, was described as having been done merely
by the "Communist Party of the Soviet Union." The name Khrushchev was
entirely deleted from the history books.

This was the way it worked in the Soviet Union. Leaders always did away
with their predecessors; anyone who came before had to be carefully
controlled or deleted. Josef Stalin rewrote his relationship with Lenin.

Khrushchev denounced Stalin. Leonid Brezhnev did the same to Khrushchev,
who left office under obscure charges of "subjectivism" and "voluntarism"
and was banished to Petrovo Dalnee, where KGB agents monitored his
visitors and his any trips off the premises.

It was only later, when I got older, that I learned about the "secret
speech" my great-grandfather gave 50 years ago this week, in which he
denounced the crimes committed by Stalin and the "cult of personality" that
developed around him. The story of the speech is not a straightforward tale
of good versus bad, of a benevolent, democratic leader replacing a tyrant

It is far more nuanced than that. Khrushchev, after all, had been one of
Stalin’s trusted lieutenants, who by his own admission "did what others
did" – participating in the purges and repressions of the 1930s and 1940s,
convinced that the total "annihilation of the enemy" had to be a
communist’s uppermost priority in order to ensure the shining future of
international communism.

Some people saw, and still see, the 1956 speech as having been dictated
by internal power politics (especially because it was Stalin alone who
received the blame in it). Certainly, Khrushchev was able to use the speech
to strengthen his hand.

Yet to his credit, when he denounced Stalin before the 20th Congress of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, my great-grandfather had the courage
to admit that communism (and its leaders) could make mistakes. Denouncing
Stalin – and acknowledging for the first time the details of some of the
murders, purges and coerced confessions – was a morally necessary act,
Khrushchev said later.

After his "involuntary" retirement in 1964 when he was ousted as first
secretary of the party, Khrushchev confessed he had needed to tell the story
in part because his own arms were "covered with blood up to the elbows."

Yes, Khrushchev helped build the despotic Soviet system, but he also called
for its reform. And even though he did it by attacking the corruption of
communism rather than communism itself, the speech served as a catalyst,
sowing early disillusionment with Marxism-Leninism.

It transformed the image of the Soviet Union in the minds of millions of
people. It was the first crack in the monolith, and without it, it might
have taken another 100 years for the socialist countries to enjoy the post-
communist freedoms they have today.

I believe that the speech was the third most important event in 20th
century Russia, after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the victory over
Nazism in 1945. It marked the beginning of the end, when fear began to be
replaced by freedom. It led to the release of some prisoners from Stalin’s

It opened the country to some foreign visitors and products. It
helped awaken the first stirrings of the dissident movement that ultimately
led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991, 20 years after my great-grandfather died.

Just as Russia sits between the East and the West geographically, Russian
politics is also in between: always on a narrow line between black and
white, right and wrong, reform and dictatorship. Russians have lived for
generations under an essentially despotic system of government that is
constantly trying to modernize itself through more (Peter the Great,
Stalin) or less (Khrushchev, Mikhail Gorbachev) authoritarian means.

But even our reformers are only lesser dictators. At bottom, our people
and our leaders share a belief that only authoritarian rule can protect the
country from anarchy and disintegration. They support a "strong" state,
in which decisions come from the top and citizens are left to tremble with
respect and fear.

The most liberating events – Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign of
1956, or Boris Yeltsin’s privatization of 1991 – generally end up in
disillusion or disarray, suggesting that Russian society is never fast
enough to digest modernization or patient enough to see the liberal
changes through.

Instead, Russians look back fondly on their great victories and parades
and, eventually, after short periods of thaw or perestroika, find
themselves wanting their "strong" rulers back – the rulers who by inspiring
fear provide a sense of orderly life, whose "firm hand" is associated with
stability. Stalin’s order was unbreakable while he lived; Vladimir Putin
now promises a new order in the form of his "dictatorship of law."

There’s an old saying that "every nation deserves its government." I hope
that’s not true. I believe my great-grandfather gave Russia its first taste
of freedom over fear. And I hope that one day Russians will be able to
embrace that freedom without yearning for the old days of totalitarianism

and terror.  -30-
Nina L. Khrushcheva teaches international affairs at New School
University in New York. Her latest book, "Visiting Nabokov," is
forthcoming from Yale University Press. ( khruschn@newschool.edu)

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
       Speech kept secret, even from Rada Adzhubei, Khrushchev’s daughter

By Anatoly Medetsky, Staff Writer, Moscow Times
Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, February 22, 2006

When a Party official read Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech to her
university class two weeks later, Rada Adzhubei, like millions of Soviet
citizens, was stunned by the denunciation of Josef Stalin.

But she was not surprised that the speech had been kept secret, even
from her, Khrushchev’s daughter.

"He was a statesman who went through Stalin’s school," Adzhubei, now
76, said of her father. "Khrushchev never discussed secret affairs with the
family, and the speech was a secret."

Khrushchev’s speech, denouncing the Stalin personality cult and his mass
purges, came as a bombshell to the 1,500 delegates who attended the last
day of the 20th Communist Party Congress. The date was Feb. 25, 1956 –
– 50 years ago Saturday.

The speech wasn’t a secret for long, as the party had it printed in booklet
form and read out to millions of people at workplaces and colleges across
the country.

The outside world learned of the speech via a Reuters correspondent in
Moscow, who ran the first story from Stockholm after an acquaintance —
possibly a KGB agent — recited it for him. The CIA obtained a copy later.

The speech was not printed in the Soviet media, however, until 1989, well
into the era of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika.

Adzhubei and her fellow students in Moscow State University’s biology
department had the speech read to them, she said, speaking Monday in her
apartment near City Hall on Tverskaya Ulitsa, which she shares with her son
and his family. It took between 1 1/2 and two hours to read, she recalled.

Like the delegates at the Party Congress, the students were given no
opportunity to ask questions afterward.

"The person from the Party’s neighborhood committee took the booklet
away, and we were left with our thoughts and opinions," said Adzhubei,
who is reserved when talking about the now distant past.

"Stalin was our God, tsar, hero and everything else. It wasn’t easy to
debunk him."

Adzhubei came to see her father’s revelations as "an act of justice," she
said as she sat in a large armchair under a portrait of Khrushchev hanging
on the wall. In the photograph, three red-star Hero of the Soviet Union
awards, the highest in the country, are pinned to his chest.

On another wall in the handsomely furnished living room, a second, smiling
Khrushchev looks out from a poster hanging next to a large 19th-century
chest of drawers, with a collection of Indonesian wooden figures perched on
top. A set of ivory carvings is displayed in the hallway.
                            YURY LEVADA REMEMBERS
Yury Levada, director of the independent Levada Center polling agency and
former head of the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, or VTsIOM,
before it came under state control, was an editor at the scientific journal
Nauka i Zhizn when Khrushchev delivered his famous speech.

The journal’s office, like the entire country, was abuzz with rumors that
Khrushchev had attacked Stalin. In early March, the staff realized the
rumors were true when they were shown the booklet of 20-odd pages,
Levada said in an interview last week.

Levada was picked by his colleagues to read out the speech, and after he
had finished, it was given back to Party officials, as happened everywhere
else across the Soviet Union, he said. The booklet had a warning stamped
on its cover, "Not for publication," Levada said.

"I thought I’d never see an official copy being handed out. It was a
surprise," he said.

Khrushchev did not explain what caused Stalinism, or invite any discussion
of the subject, Levada said. "Khrushchev made a strong effort to make sure
that people didn’t ask too many questions and that faith in the Party
wasn’t undermined," he said.

Although rumors had prepared the journal’s staff for what was in the
speech, they felt "a certain shock," Levada said. Afterward, they wondered
in private conversations why the Party had allowed Stalin to do what he
did, he said.

The 20th Congress, and the secret speech in particular, was the start of
the Khrushchev thaw, which saw a certain easing of the stranglehold over
society. The speech was a chink in the communist system that helped people
to think independently and lessened their fear of the authorities, Levada

Adzhubei, meanwhile, recalled that "some radical groups" at the time sought
to overthrow communism but Khrushchev reacted angrily to any talk of
discarding the Soviet system at home and in Eastern Europe.

Later that year, the Soviet Union sent in troops to brutally suppress the
workers’ uprising in Hungary.

In many people, the speech sparked a desire to review the country’s
history, and they rifled through pre-Stalin Communist Party records and
searched for ways to be "the real Reds, the true revolutionaries," Adzhubei

Khrushchev’s thaw lasted only eight years, and under his successor, Leonid
Brezhnev, Soviet media were banned from mentioning Khrushchev and his
criticism of Stalin for 18 years.

According to Levada, the Khrushchev thaw — and later, Gorbachev’s
perestroika — was too brief to allow Russia to recover from Stalinism.

"Russia has never decisively rejected Stalin," he said. "That is one of the
reasons why we are stuck, now even turning back. There’s an effort to
repeat or at least imitate the Stalin regime."

Asked what he meant specifically, he said, "It’s being spoken about very

Liberal politicians and the West have criticized President Vladimir Putin
over what they have called his rollback of democracy.

Gorbachev, who has said the 20th Congress paved the way for perestroika,
last week likened today’s Russia to the Soviet Union under Brezhnev.
Without purges but with absolute control over everything, those times were
neo-Stalinist, he said at a discussion dedicated to the 1956 congress.

"There are those who want a return to the old times," Gorbachev said.
"Russia is at a crossroads because we never made a final choice."
But Gorbachev said he supported Putin.

Vladimir Petukhov, research director at Levada’s old research center,
VTsIOM, which is now under state control, cited three of his agency’s
polls from last year as evidence that Russians were ambivalent about
Stalin’s legacy.

In one poll, 50 percent of respondents approved of Stalin because he
created a strong state that defeated the Nazis, while in a second, 48
percent said Stalin’s purges were wrong, Petukhov said.

In a third poll, 52 percent said they did not want someone like Stalin as
president, but 42 percent longed for a "second Stalin," he said.

The agency’s polls consistently gave Gorbachev and former President
Boris Yeltsin worse ratings than Stalin, Petukhov said.

"There’s no romanticism about his kind of rule. People realize that Stalin
committed crimes but they don’t want the history of the state to be
destroyed together with Stalin," he said.

Victory in World War II "was the greatest achievement in Russian history,
and he was around then," Petukhov said. "If you cancel out the war, it
would ruin Russia’s sense of identity."                  -30-

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
3.                            A FATAL DESIRE FOR ORDER
      Khrushchev’s "secret speech" being ignored in Vladimir Putin’s Russia

OP-ED: By Nina L. Khrushcheva, International Herald Tribune
Paris, France, Friday, February 24, 2006

NEW YORK  – The 50th anniversary of the 20th Communist Party Congress
in 1956, at which Nikita Khrushchev delivered his so-called "secret speech"
against Joseph Stalin, is being ignored in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Only last year, there were many phone calls to my family asking for their
participation in commemorative events. But those plans were drawn up
before May 2005, when Russia celebrated the 60th anniversary of World
War II with the sort of Stalinist "brutalist" pomposity reminiscent of Cold
War days.

Indeed, portraits of Stalin were on prominent display as the "great leader"
in the Soviet victory over fascism.

Since that bout of totalitarian nostalgia, public criticism of anything
Stalin has been shunted off to the side. Today, Stalin is the country’s
second most popular historic figure after Peter the Great. As victor in
World War II and a champion of Great Russian statehood, he remains

So while some television producers still want to proceed with the secret
speech documentaries, television networks one by one have lost their
original interest. It’s not that they received a directive from the
Kremlin – we are in 2006, not 1937. But they can see how the wind is

The secret speech, formally titled "The Cult of Personality and Its
Consequences," set in motion a whole sequence of events. Inmates were
freed from the Gulag, the country was opened a little to foreign visitors
and products, and the dissident movement began.

Needless to say, Putinism is not Stalinism, and the secret speech, if
ignored, is not silenced. Mikhail Gorbachev, who regards himself as
Khrushchev’s successor, is free to celebrate it at his private foundation.

The Iron Curtain and the Stalin monolith are no longer, and Putin has to
please all a
Nina Khrushcheva, a great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev,
teaches international affairs at the New School in New York.

[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
              This great deed deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary.
        When asked in retirement what he most regretted, Khrushchev said:
                 "The blood. My arms are up to the elbows in blood."

COMMENTARY: By William Taubman, Author "Khrushchev: The
Man and His Era," which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
The New York Times, New York, New York
International Herald Tribune (IHT) Friday, February 24, 2006

Remembering Khrushchev I

Fifty years ago on Saturday, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave a
"secret speech" at the 20th Communist Party Congress that changed both

his country and the world.

By denouncing Stalin, whose God-like status had helped to legitimize
Communism in the Soviet Bloc, Khrushchev began a process of unraveling
it that culminated in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This great
deed deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary.

But it is also a good time to ponder this question: What are we to think of
a leader whose great deeds do not bring about the consequences intended?

It is a question that all leaders – particularly Khrushchev’s current heir,
Vladimir Putin, who has tried to bring his nation into the 21st century by
wielding the autocratic hand of a 19th-century czar – ought to consider
whenever they set great projects in motion.

After all, Khrushchev sought to save Communism, not to destroy it. By
cleansing it of the Stalinist stain, he wanted to re-legitimize it in the
eyes of people not just in the Soviet sphere but around the globe. Yet
within weeks after the secret speech, at Communist Party meetings called to
discuss it, criticism of Stalin rippled way beyond Khrushchev’s, including
indictments not just of Stalin himself but of the Soviet system that spawned
him. Others sprang to Stalin’s defense, especially in his native Georgia,
where at least 20 pro-Stalin demonstrators were killed in clashes with the

In Eastern Europe, the unintended consequences of Khrushchev’s speech were
even more shattering. A huge strike in the Polish city of Poznan in June was
put down at a cost of at least 53 dead and hundreds wounded. Then, of
course, the revolution in Hungary in October was smashed by Soviet forces,
leaving more than 20,000 Hungarians dead.

Khrushchev also used the speech to try to buttress his position in the
Kremlin. By attacking Stalin he thought he would blacken the reputation of
his rivals for power – Vyacheslav Molotov, Georgi Malenkov and Lazar
Kaganovich – who had been closer to Stalin than he had, while burnishing his

But instead, he provoked a coup attempt that very nearly ousted him in June
1957. His de-Stalinization campaign was also a prime grievance among those
who formed the conspiracy that succeeded in pushing him from power in
October 1964.

Of course, some unintended consequences are inevitable in politics as in
what Russians call "sama zhizn," or "life itself." Moreover, the "secret
speech" was part of a reform program that included many worthy
achievements that Khrushchev did indeed intend. He released and
rehabilitated millions of Stalin’s victims.

He allowed what became known as "the thaw," with its partial rebirth of
Russian culture. He revivified Soviet agriculture, which Stalin had ruined,
and started a boom in housing construction that permitted hundreds of
thousands to move out of overcrowded communal apartments.

In the midst of his ouster in 1964, Khrushchev said to his only remaining
ally, Anastas Mikoyan: "I’ve done the main thing. Could anyone have dreamed
of telling Stalin that he didn’t suit us anymore and suggesting he retire?
Not even a wet spot would have remained where we had been standing. Now
everything is different. The fear is gone and we can talk as equals. That’s
my contribution."

Khrushchev was whistling past his own political graveyard. He hadn’t exactly
embarked on reform to ease this way for his own exit. But he had meant to
end the pattern of bloody purges as the only way to transfer political

Both his drive for reform and its unintended consequences cannot be
understood without understanding the Communist system that shaped him.
Soviet Communism had been built on a Stalinist foundation that cried out for
drastic change, and Khrushchev learned (or thought he had) from the
Bolsheviks’ willingness to revolutionize Soviet society that such change was
possible almost overnight.

Khrushchev’s speech didn’t change his country as intended. But it did
register a remarkable change in himself. Unlike most of his comrades in
Stalin’s inner circle, Khrushchev somehow retained his humanity. He never
forgave Stalin for making him an accomplice in terrible crimes. The secret
speech was in part motivated by a sense of guilt at his own complicity.

As early as 1940, when Khrushchev was Stalin’s viceroy in Ukraine, he told a
childhood friend who lamented Stalin’s purges: "Don’t blame me for that. I’m
not involved in that." Of course, Khrushchev was involved in "that." But
that is the point. Apart from anything else, the secret speech was an act of

When asked in retirement what he most regretted, Khrushchev said: "The
blood. My arms are up to the elbows in blood. That is the most terrible
thing that lies in my soul."

In his case, it wasn’t the road to hell that was paved with good intentions,
but the road from the Stalinist hell in which he had faithfully served, and
which he had the courage to try to transcend.
NOTE: William Taubman, a professor of political science at Amherst
College, is the author of "Khrushchev: The Man and His Era," which
won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
LINK: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/24/news/edtaub.php

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
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  Nikita Khrushchev took the podium on the final day of the 20th Congress

COMMENTARY: By Robert Conquest,
Senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution
Author of many books on Stalin and Russia, including "The Great
Terror," "The Harvest of Sorrow" and "Stalin and the Kirov Murder."
Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California, Sunday, February 19, 2006

WHEN NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV took the podium on the final day of the
20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the speech he
gave was so surprising and unexpected that some members of the audience
actually fainted.

It was Feb. 25, 1956, three years after the death of Josef Stalin and
Khrushchev’s accession as first secretary of the party. Although the speech
was made in closed session, and has been known forever after as the "secret
speech," it did not remain secret for long.

The text had been given to local Soviet organizations to be read aloud and
to East European Communist parties. A Polish version soon reached the West,
and although its authenticity was denied for a long time by Moscow, it soon
became obvious it was genuine.

Why was the speech so shocking? Because it came at the end of decades of
totalitarian terror during which millions of people died, in a country where
the misuse of power had gone virtually unquestioned and unchecked (and where
anyone who dared question the state’s authority was courting arrest). Yet on
that February day, 50 years ago this week, Khrushchev cut through years and
years of unwavering propaganda to reveal not all, but many, of the crimes of
Stalin – his predecessor and mentor – to the world.

Officially, the speech was an attack on the "cult of personality" that had
grown up around Stalin. This may sound like little more than a critique of a
certain vanity and self-advertisement on the part of the longtime vozhd, or
great leader, and that was certainly part of it. "It is impermissible and
foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person," Khrushchev
said, "to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural
characteristics akin to those of a god."

But the full text went a good deal further, citing "grave perversions of
party principles." Stalin (although Khrushchev defended him against
Trotskyites and other "deviationists") came out badly. He had, according to
Khrushchev, made fearful mistakes in World War II; he had ruined the
country’s agriculture; V.I. Lenin, the revolutionary Bolshevik leader who
governed the country after the revolution, had condemned him; he had

wrongly broken with Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslav leader.

Even more shocking than these criticisms were the "glaring violations of
revolutionary legality" Khrushchev referred to, particularly in Stalin’s
treatment of those of his followers he had purged and executed. Khrushchev
stressed Stalin’s insistence on "confessions" and of torture as the way to
obtain them.

Noting that "70% of the Central Committee members and candidates elected at
the 17th Congress were branded as enemies of the party and of the people,"
Khrushchev gave names of prominent victims and their torturers. Stalin, he
said, justified the torture; citing the notoriously faked "Doctors’ Plot" of
1953 (the only non-party victims to appear in the speech), Khrushchev quoted
Stalin’s interrogation instructions: "Beat, beat and beat again."

Khrushchev strongly hinted that the murder of party leader Sergei Kirov in
1934 had been ordered by Stalin. And he condemned Stalin’s mass deportations
of Chechens and others in the 1940s. (But he gave no attention to those
condemned in the "show trials" of the 1930s, many of whom had to wait 30 or
40 years for redress – or to the Katyn massacre of more than 4,000 Polish
army officers during World War II.)

It is difficult all these years later to explain the extraordinary effect of
this speech. The Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War was secretive
and mendacious. Despite the purges and plots, despite Stalin’s brutality and
paranoia, the credulous throughout the world – including many in the United
States – refused to believe the worst.

This was not the first indication of Stalin’s crimes, of course. A great
deal of firsthand testimony on the lethal Stalinist record had already been
published in the West, but it had not been accepted everywhere as true; a
large amount of misinformation had filled the shelves, often by
"intellectuals" of high standing – enough to lead to a verdict of "not
proved" from many others. To the general public, then, the speech was a
revelation. In an unprecedented act of journalism, Britain’s leading liberal
Sunday newspaper, the Observer, devoted an entire issue to it.

Khrushchev does not seem to have quite realized the degree of damage he
might do to the Soviet Union’s image as a humanist, progressive country by
speaking of official tortures and murders. Throughout the West there was an
astonishing revulsion. Those who had been totally deceived had their minds
cleared (although many eventually returned to the fold, anti-Western feeling
outweighing all else for those whom George Orwell described as "renegade

The speech’s effect on the Communist parties of Eastern Europe was radical.
In Poland, it resulted in the overthrow of the servile pro-Moscow leadership
later that year and a confrontation that included military threats and the
direct intervention of Khrushchev and his colleagues. In Hungary came the
collapse of the Stalinist order, and then the revolution and the bloody
Soviet intervention in October. All through the Soviet bloc, the Stalinist
mentality was severely disrupted – in preparation, it might be said, for its
final collapse later.

Why did Khrushchev give the speech? For a time it was thought that he had
spoken without the agreement of the rest of the leadership. We now know that
he had, in fact, managed to get some sort of approval. It is also clear now
that the speech served, in part, as a continuation of the same internecine
struggle within the Politburo that had marked the Stalin epoch and that
persisted long afterward.

Stalin had nurtured his heirs very carefully to prevent any solidarity among
them that might lead to mutiny, and this highly quarrelsome group continued
to distrust each other even after he died. The speech was, in this context,
an attack by Khrushchev on his rivals.

It served his purposes to denounce some of the Soviet past, to blame the
safely dead Stalin and to implicate some of his surviving heirs. Like him,
they had been dragged through years of terror and stupefaction. The
following years saw Khrushchev defeating one coup d’�tat but later being
ousted by another.

In Russia itself, the speech prompted the beginnings of a thaw, but one that
did not last. And among a portion of the population there remained, and
remains even now, a favorable attitude toward Stalin, which is sometimes
seen as the result of centuries of submission to tyranny. For others, the
"secret speech" massively undermined the Stalin regime.

But the machine he had built, or inherited from Lenin, survived for a third
of a century. And, by an odd paradox, much of the parasitical apparat
remains to this day, long after its ideological justifications have gone,
like a cartoon character – Wile E. Coyote or Mr. Magoo – walking on after
his plank has disappeared.

A hundred years ago, Anton Chekhov wrote of Russia’s "heavy, chilling
history, savagery, bureaucracy, poverty, and ignorance.. Russian life weighs
upon a Russian like a thousand-ton rock." And over most of the 20th century,
things got worse still, adding yet further burdens to the Russian psyche.

Recovery has set in, sporadically, in the 50 years that have passed since
Khrushchev delivered his "secret speech." But progress was slow and even

now has far to go. Let us hope that by 2056 we might see a marked upturn.
[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

COMMENTARY: By Roy A Medvedev
The author is a historian and Soviet dissident
FinancialExpress.com, New Delhi, India, Saturday, February 25, 2006

In history, some events at first appear insignificant, or their significance
is hidden, but they turn out to be earthshaking. Such a moment occurred
50 years ago, with Nikita Khrushchev’s so-called "Secret Speech" to the
Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

At that moment, the communist movement appeared to be riding the tide of
history, and not only for those in the Soviet Union. Capitalism seemed to be
dying. The Twentieth Congress put an end to that.

It was a moment of truth, a cleansing from within of the brutality of
Stalinism. Khrushchev’s speech to the Congress inspired doubt and

second thoughts throughout the worldwide movement.

 Khrushchev’s motives as he took the podium on the morning of February 25,
1956, were, in his mind, moral ones. After his ouster from power, in the
seclusion of his dacha, he wrote: "My hands are covered with blood. I did
everything that others did. But even today if I have to go to that podium to
report on Stalin, I would do it again. One day all that had to be over."

Khrushchev had, of course, been an intimate part of Stalin’s repressions,
but he also didn’t know half of what was going on. The whole Stalinist
system of government was built on absolute secrecy, in which only the
general secretary himself knew the whole story.

It wasn’t terror that was the basis of Stalin’s power, but his complete
monopoly on information. Khrushchev, for example, was stunned when
he discovered that in the 1930’s and 1940’s, some 70% of Party members
were annihilated.

Initially, Khrushchev didn’t plan to keep his denunciation of Stalin a
secret. Five days after the Congress, his speech was sent to all the leaders
of the socialist countries and read at local party meetings across the
Soviet Union.

But people didn’t know how to discuss it. And with good reason, for the
problem with the de-Stalinization process was that, although the truth was
partly revealed, no answer regarding what to do was offered.

After the Congress, it became clear that the communist gospel was false and
murderously corrupt. But no other ideology was offered, and the crisis that
began with Khrushchev’s speech lasted another 30 years, until Mikhail
Gorbachev took up his mantle of change.

In the first of the protests that rocked the communist world in 1956, huge
crowds in Georgia demanded that Khrushchev be fired and Stalin’s memory
reinstated. An uprising in Poland and the far more tumultuous Hungarian
Revolution argued for the opposite.

The protests were brutally crushed, which resulted in many West European
Communists. Khrushchev’s speech also ignited the feud between Mao’s China
and the USSR, for it allowed Mao to claim the crown of world revolutionary
leadership. Worried by the protests, Khrushchev tried to cool off the
anti-Stalin campaign.

The release of the Gulag prisoners that followed his speech continued, but
it was done in silence. Party membership was restored to purge survivors,
and they received new jobs, but they were forbidden from discussing the
horrors that they had endured. That silence lasted until 1961, when
Khrushcev permitted new revelations of Stalin-era crimes. These were
reported and discussed on TV and radio.

Stalin’s body was removed from Red Square, Stalin monuments were
destroyed, and cities restored their original Soviet names. Stalingrad
became Volgograd. This second anti-Stalinist campaign lasted two years,

which was not nearly enough to change the country’s mentality.

The Twentieth Congress shattered the world communist movement, and it
turned out to be impossible to cement the cracks. The Soviet Union and
other socialist countries faced a crisis of faith, as the main threat to
communism was not imperialism, or ideological dissidents, but the
movement’s own intellectual poverty and disillusion.

So, although it is common today in Russia to blame Gorbachev and Boris
Yeltsin for the collapse of the USSR, it is both useless and unfair to do
so. The system was dead already, and it is to Yeltsin’s great credit that he
was able to bring Russia out of the ruins in one piece.

Although Russia’s future is uncertain, its history is becoming clearer, in
part because we now know that the Twentieth Party Congress started the
process that brought about the end of Soviet despotism.  -30-
[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
7.                         THE SPEECH OF THE CENTURY
                  Has Russia successfully come to terms with its past?

COMMENTARY: By Richard Lourie, author of "The
Autobiography of Joseph Stalin" and "Sakharov: A Biography."
The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia
Monday, February 20, 2006. Issue 3356. Page 8.

It was 50 years ago — almost a lifetime given recent Russian life
expectancy — that Nikita Khrushchev delivered his "secret speech" denouncing

Josef Stalin. Khrushchev spoke for nearly four hours on Feb. 25, 1956, the last
day of the 20th Party Congress. The session was unscheduled and restricted
to keep the speech secret.

It was not a secret very long. A translation made for the comrades in Poland
reached the CIA via Israeli intelligence. In May, the U.S. State Department
released a copy to The New York Times, which published it on June 4. Only
three months had elapsed.

Though the secrecy of the speech was brief, its fame has proved lasting. It
could well be argued that Khrushchev’s oration was the most important
speech of the 20th century. It may have lacked any memorable flourishes like
Churchill’s "blood, sweat and tears" or FDR’s "nothing to fear but fear
itself." But its impact was deep, its influence enduring. Word as deed.

It truly was the beginning of the end, the end of faith in communism and
thus of the system itself. The shock it induced at the time can hardly be
imagined now. In the Kremlin Hospital with pneumonia, the leader of the
Polish communist party, Wladyslaw Bierut, had a heart attack when he read
the speech and died soon after.

The secret speech led directly to the Hungarian Uprising in the fall of
1956, the first of a series of crises and rebellions occurring at 11 to 12
year intervals — Prague in 1968, Solidarity in Poland in 1980, collapse of
the Soviet Union in 1991 — and the brutal suppression of that uprising led
to disaffiliation among the Soviet youth who would later become dissidents.
Vladimir Bukovsky said: "The entire world had betrayed us, and we no
longer believed anyone."

If most of the inmates of the prisons and camps were victims of injustice,
Khrushchev was duty bound to release them. After the speech the Zeks
returned by the tens of thousands. The great poet Anna Akhamatova called
herself a "Khrushchevite" because "Khrushchev did for me the noblest thing
one human being can do for another; he gave me back my son."

Among the millions of Communist Party members who read the speech was
25-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev, who instinctively admired Khrushchev’s
political courage and "did not conceal my views and defended them publicly,"
the beginnings of his own personal glasnost. It was hardly a straight line
from Khrushchev to Gorbachev.

In fact, the secret speech along with "harebrained" reforms in agriculture
and administration plus the Cuban missile fiasco led to Khrushchev’s
downfall in 1964 and ushered in Brezhnev’s 18-year reign, sometimes
described as Stalinism without Stalin.

But without Khrushchev there could have been no Gorbachev. Khrushchev’s
biographer William Taubman is right when he says: "Khrushchev’s speech
denouncing Stalin was the bravest and most reckless thing he ever did. The
Soviet regime never recovered and neither did he."

What was best about the secret speech was its questioning spirit, which
leads me to some questions of my own. Why is there no monument to
Khrushchev in Moscow when Marx’s still stands opposite the Bolshoi?

Why not make Feb. 25 something of a national holiday, marking as it does
a critical stage in the evolution of Russian freedom?

Or is Khrushchev, like Gorbachev, viewed with disdain in the Kremlin for
having caused the demise of the Soviet Union, the "greatest geopolitical
catastrophe of the 20th century" to use President Vladimir Putin’s words.

But the real question is — has Russia successfully come to terms with its
past as the Germans apparently have with theirs? And, if not, won’t that
impede Russia’s efforts to become a 21st-century society, if not at some
future point thwarting them outright?                  -30-
NOTE: Richard Lourie is the author of "The Autobiography of
Joseph Stalin" and "Sakharov: A Biography."
LINK: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2006/02/20/006-full.html

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
         Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.
8 .                                    SACRIFICING STALIN

OPINION: By Boris Kagarlitsky, St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, January 22, 2006

Fifty years ago this month, the Soviet Communist Party held its 20th
Congress. The decisions reached at most Party congresses are long
forgotten, but the events of February 1956 continue to inspire interest and

For young people who have grown up in the post-Soviet consumer society,
Feb. 14 – the opening day of the 20th Party Congress – is Valentine’s Day,
when people send flowers and sappy cards to their sweethearts. Yet the
ideas first aired at the 20th Party Congress continue to echo in the
political debates of the present.

Current Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, commenting on the 50th
anniversary of the congress, said that the famous "secret speech" delivered
by Nikita Khrushchev to a closed session at the congress was extremely
damaging. In Zyuganov’s view, Khrushchev’s speech, in which he denounced
Stalin’s crimes and the cult of personality, was the beginning of the end.
It left society deeply divided.

Everything in the speech was true, of course, but what was the point in
airing the Party’s dirty laundry? "In his speech, Khrushchev was basically
settling a personal score with Stalin," Zyuganov said. "It should be
emphasized that the speech was not discussed in advance by either the
plenum or the presidium of the Communist Party."

Khrushchev delivered the secret speech on Feb. 25, the last day of the
congress. And it wasn’t much of a secret. The text was sent out across the
country and read at Party meetings, which were, of course, also closed. As a
result, millions of people were familiar with the speech within a few weeks.

Contrary to Zyuganov’s claim, it did not divide society. People accepted it,
just as they had accepted previous Party directives about exposing
"wreckers" and destroying "enemies of the people."

In geopolitical and economic terms, the Soviet Union reached the height of
its power under Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev. It led the way into outer
space, achieved nuclear parity with the United States and cultivated many
new allies in the Middle East and Africa. The standard of living improved at
home. But the ideological monolith of the Stalin era was gone for good.

Soviet society was never entirely monolithic. The proof of this can be found
in the novels of Alexander Solzhenitsyn as well as in the Soviet archives.
There was, however, a strong sense of a common fate and a common cause
that united not just the working class and the bureaucratic elite, but even
gulag inmates and their captors.

The Stalinist regime was directly linked to the history of the Revolution.
It was a sort of communist Bonapartism. It combined totalitarianism with
democratic principles, fear and repression with enthusiasm and sincerity.
This blend made the 20th Party Congress possible.

Looking back on the congress, some accused Khrushchev of inconsistency
and a lack of radicalism, while others objected to the fact that he made
Stalin’s crimes public and turned political reform into a personal,
posthumous reckoning with Stalin. The guilt or complicity of other Politburo

members is not the issue, however. Khrushchev heaped all the blame on Stalin
because he wanted to avoid a serious discussion of what had happened in
the Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s.

Had Khrushchev’s view of the dead dictator been more balanced, questions
might have been raised about the inherent contradictions of the Soviet state
and about the extent to which the existing order reflected Marxist
conceptions of socialism. These questions had been raised by Trotsky, who
was anathema to the elite under Khrushchev just as he had been under Stalin.

Had Khrushchev been a less virulent anti-Stalinist, he would almost
certainly have been forced in the direction of Trotskyism.

The Party elite in the late-1950s opted to forgive no one and to comprehend
nothing. Stalin had to be sacrificed in order to protect the system. The
secret speech was not one man’s initiative; it reflected the general view of
the Party machine after three years of infighting.

Another 30 years passed, and Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika drove the
Soviet Union to total collapse. Subsequent reforms left millions of people
to fight for their lives, as they had once fought to survive in the gulag.
Can all of this be regarded as a direct result of the 20th Party Congress,
which had such an influence on Gorbachev and his successor, Boris Yeltsin?

Both Gorbachev and Yeltsin belong to another generation, of course, one
both formed and corrupted by the Brezhnev years. The bureaucracy went
through a major evolution in those years as well. The 20th Party Congress
was nevertheless a watershed of sorts – a superficial victory for the
democratic current in Soviet society, but a real victory for the

Democratic reforms were carried out, but only under the control of the
bureaucracy, and only to serve its interests. For the country this was the
worst possible outcome.                       -30-
NOTE: Boris Kagarlitsky is Director of the Institute for Globalization
Studies, Moscow, Russia.  Link: http://www.iprog.ru/en/
LINK: http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=16855
[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

                    The Gulags were emptied out and largely shut down

EDITORIAL: International Herald Tribune (IHT)
Paris, France, Friday, February 24, 2006

It’s been 50 years since Nikita Khrushchev made his famous "secret speech"
to the 20th Communist Party Congress in the Kremlin, a six-hour marathon in
which he denounced Joseph Stalin’s "cult of personality" and exposed many
of his horrors. The speech was subsequently read out at local party
meetings, and it reached the West, though it was not made public in the

Soviet Union until 1989.

Yet it was a turning point in Soviet history. The Gulags were emptied out
and largely shut down, and the monolithic Communist bloc that Stalin formed
began to break down. Hungary and later Czechoslovakia were emboldened to
challenge Moscow while China set off on its own path. Within the Soviet
Union a cultural "thaw" laid the groundwork for artistic and political

Though Khrushchev ordered a vicious crackdown in Hungary and
denounced the young modernist writers in the crudest of terms, the days
of the Soviet experiment were numbered.

Still, the secret speech remains shrouded in ambivalence. When Khrushchev
denounced Stalin-era atrocities, he attributed them exclusively to the man,
and even then, five years would pass before the Great Leader’s remains were
removed from the mausoleum they shared with Vladimir Lenin’s.

And it took another 35 years of repressive rule before it became possible to
openly explore the crimes of the Communist Party and its founder. But
perhaps the real reason we remain ambivalent about the secret speech is
because we remain ambivalent about Russia itself.

The exposure of Stalin-era crimes, it turned out, did not end the
repression, just as the debunking of Communist ideology, we now see, did
not lead to a culture of freedom. The large majority of Russians seem happy
that a strong leader is once again gathering enormous political and economic
powers in the Kremlin and silencing critics of the state.

Russia remains that "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" of which
Winston Churchill complained in 1939, ever waiting for another act of

Still, on this anniversary, to reread Khrushchev’s speech is to realize that
whatever this Russia is today, it is not Stalin’s hell. There may be
xenophobia and corruption and a host of other failings, and true democracy
may still be elusive. But there is nothing of that unspeakable terror and
killing to which Khrushchev put an end 50 years ago.         -30-
LINK: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/24/opinion/edrussia.php
[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                    Mike Haynes writes on how 50 years ago Khrushchev’s
                         ‘secret speech’ began the demolition of Stalinism

FEATURE: By Mike Haynes, SocialistWorkerOnline
London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 18, 2006

Political speeches are usually one-day wonders. Fifty years ago next week,
Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev made a "secret speech" that was very
different. Late in the evening of 24 February 1956 delegates to the 20th
congress of the Soviet Communists were called back from their hotels to
the Kremlin in the greatest secrecy.

Just after midnight, as 25 February began, they heard Khrushchev begin to
speak. What he said was so explosive that it would not be published publicly
in the Soviet Union until 1988. But in the following weeks it was read out
at meetings across the country. It was also sent to fraternal Communist
Parties and it soon got out to the West.

The speech made history. Khrushchev ripped aside the propaganda image
of the former dictator Joseph Stalin, who had died three years earlier. He
did it from the centre of power.

But as he spoke he was also anxious to contain the damage his revelations
might cause. "We should not," he said soon after, "give ammunition to the
enemy [or] wash our dirty linen before their eyes." But the enemy he was
worried about was not the US, but the Russian people.

Stalin had claimed that his Russia had been built on the Bolshevik socialist
revolution of October 1917, which overthrew the dictator, the tsar. In
reality his power had grown out of its ashes. Stalin had helped to pile them

Those closest to the real revolution became his opponents, then his victims.
As they disappeared Stalin and his supporters changed the whole idea of
socialism. The task was now to play capitalism at its own game.

It was "to catch up and overtake" the West by building up the economy and
heavy industry, and developing the Soviet army to match any in the world.

They called this socialism because the state took control and tried to
direct development. But state power was also used to crush any democracy
and to squeeze workers and peasants.

Living standards plummeted. The authority of managers was asserted in the
factories. By 1939 even arriving late for work was a criminal offence and
several millions were punished.

Those on the left who criticised Stalin’s regime were denounced as fascists.
The closest allies of the leader of the 1917 revolution, Vladimir Lenin,
were put on trial and made to confess to grotesque crimes.

Stalin had made the mistake of exiling Leon Trotsky, another leader of the
1917 revolution. From abroad he kept up a lonely campaign against Stalin
until he too became a victim, killed by a Russian agent in Mexico in 1940.

The Russian economy did move forward and, affected by propaganda,
many fell for the myth that Stalin was building a new world. Critics were
"miserable nonentities [who] raised their treacherous hands against
comrade Stalin. Stalin-our hope. Stalin-our desire. Stalin-the light of
advanced and progressive humanity. Stalin-our will. Stalin-our victory."
Such praise was commonplace. This came from the young Nikita
Khrushchev as he tried to ride up into the new ruling class that was forming
around Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s.

Russia was being driven forward by accelerated industrialisation, a process
which had taken generations in the West. It was immensely wasteful and
millions died. Millions more were put into prison camps and colonies that
became known as the gulags.

This was enough to provide the resources to help defeat the Nazis in the
Second World War. The cost of the war was enormous. Huge areas were
destroyed and as many as 29 million died. Ten million more became
disabled war veterans.

Yet Stalin redoubled the process of industrialisation as the Cold War with
the US began. There was also the need to defend the empire that had been
created in Eastern Europe after the Russians had pushed the Nazis back.

Famine in 1946-7 killed perhaps two million people. The camps and colonies
filled to their highest numbers, with up to six million prisoners in 1952-3.

The logic was the same-squeeze the population to generate more resources
for investment and accumulation.

But Stalin’s paranoia also grew. "You are blind kittens. What will happen
without me?" he told those at the top. "The country will perish because you
cannot recognise enemies."

Allies were arrested and sent to camps. "Cosmopolitanism" was denounced
as Russian nationalism grew. But attacks on cosmopolitanism were a coded
form of anti-Semitism, which was becoming more evident.

Stalin’s death in March 1953 brought the possibility of relief from this
lunacy. It also brought the possibility of beginning to rationalise the
system. If competition with the West was to be a long-term affair the old
methods of brute force would no longer work.

Workers needed a better standard of living and peasants could not grow
enough food if they were malnourished. Scientists could not build an atomic
programme, rockets and missiles in the gulags. The difficulty was to know
how far to go and how far to confront the past. At first the steps were
tentative. One novelist likened it to a "thaw".

At the start of 1956 it seemed that more was necessary. This much was
agreed at the top. But in his secret speech Khrushchev went further.

Stalin, he argued, had not followed Lenin. Lenin had written a testament
saying that Stalin had too much power and should be removed. Stalin had
not been the great leader. Behind his cult lay a less impressive figure who,
when the war had began, had collapsed.

More devastating still was the relentless detail of the repression of the
1930s. Hundreds of thousands of victims had been shot, and whole peoples
had been deported in the war.

The details confirmed most of what right and left wing critics of the Soviet
Union had said. Khrushchev had to be careful. He needed to clear the
baggage of Stalin as a way of modernising the regime.

He also needed to knock his fellow leaders off balance in the struggle for
power. Stalin had created the regime and Khrushchev, like the others, was
its beneficiary. He therefore tried to limit the criticism in four main

FIRSTLY, there was no intention of allowing the position of Russia to be
weakened internationally. "When it comes to combating imperialism we are
all Stalinists," Khrushchev said.

SECONDLY, industrialisation and the collectivisation of the peasantry,
whatever its human costs, remained the basis of Soviet power and could
not be seriously questioned.

, the rehabilitation of Stalin’s victims would be restricted. Those
Bolsheviks who had opposed him such as Nikolai Bukharin and Trotsky
remained cast out because they had offered a different vision of the future
and a more fundamental challenge than the loyalist victims who came later.

[FOURTHLY] Finally, to explain how things had gone wrong Khrushchev
began to develop the idea of the "cult of personality". The core of the
regime had been distorted by an individual and the cult that had grown up
around him.

Even within these limits the shock was enormous. In Eastern Europe the
speech helped to undermine the credibility of leaders who had depended on
Stalin’s support. It helped to encourage a wave of discussion across the
Eastern bloc. Demonstrations for reform broke out in Poland and finally,
later in 1956, there was revolution in Hungary.

In the West too the Communist Parties experienced turmoil. As Soviet tanks
rolled into Hungary it was obvious to most party members that the problem
went to the heart of the regime.

Many people left the Communist Parties and even the majorities which stayed
within the Western parties now had fewer illusions. Membership of the party
would mean a more pragmatic concern with industrial issues at home. The
Soviet Union might eventually, they hoped, become a land flowing with milk
and honey but it had never been that under Stalin.

The Russian leadership were now unsure how to move on. Khrushchev faced
enemies. In 1957 they tried and failed to overthrow him. But he could not
build a basis for effective reform.

In the next years Khrushchev zigged one way and zagged another. The fact
that the Soviet Union appeared to be growing more powerful and more rational
suggested that this might be enough.

Sputnik satellites were launched, men flew into space and the US granted the
Soviet Union a new respect even as Khrushchev fell out with China. The
Chinese leadership was still pursuing the path of industrialisation and the
Stalin model continued to look more attractive.

In 1961 Khrushchev made a sharper attack on Stalin. He revealed that Stalin
had signed the death warrants of tens of thousands. Stalin’s body was
removed from Red Square and reburied.

Two years later Khrushchev was swinging back. "Even now we feel that Stalin
was devoted to Communism, he was a Marxist, this cannot and should not be
denied," said Khrushchev.

This was nonsense. Stalin was a murderous thug who had destroyed the
revolution. Khrushchev was not a socialist. He stood at the head of a ruling
class contesting for world power. He could not completely throw away Stalin,
and he also could not develop a consistent approach to his legacy .

In 1964 Khrushchev was booted out of power. Few mourned this. The spring
thaw had not developed into a summer. His successors created more stability
but it came at a price. There would be no more inconsistency. "We should not
pour muck on ourselves," said new leader Leonid Brezhnev. The Stalin problem
would now be dealt with by suppressing discussion of it.

Outside Russia the myth of Stalin had been weakened. Inside, the regime had
partly opened up but it still depended on Stalin’s structures. It would take
another generation before growing crisis would force them to take another
step.                                             -30-
The secret speech by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev can be read at:
"Russia: Class and Power 1917-2000" by Mike Haynes (�8) is available
from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go
to www.bookmarks.uk.com
LINK: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php?article_id=8287
[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

                 Fifty years ago a Soviet leader dared to criticise Stalin.
                           But was this bravery or a cynical ploy?

Tom Parfitt in Moscow, The Guardian Unlimited
London, United Kingdom, Friday February 24, 2006

Many of those who were present recall the "deathly silence" that fell across
the hall. It was the evening of February 25 1956. Unexpectedly, delegates at
the 20th congress of the Communist party had been ushered into a final,
closed session at central committee headquarters in Moscow.

When the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, took the tribune and began to
speak, some members of the audience fainted. Others clawed their heads
in despair. Most could not believe their ears.

Without warning, Khrushchev had launched a fierce attack on his
predecessor, the revered Joseph Stalin. The great vozhd (chief) who had
guided the country through the second world war and died three years
earlier was a "capricious and despotic character", Khrushchev said. In a
four-hour indictment he condemned Stalin for creating a personality cult
and unleashing "brutal violence" on anyone who stood in his way.

Uttered 50 years ago tomorrow, this was Khrushchev’s secret speech: a
coruscating indictment of Stalinism that would roll out across the world;
the beginning of the "thaw" and the end of terror in a country where
hundreds of thousands had been shot or sent to the gulags.

In the west, the speech has mostly been interpreted as a brave and moral
step that changed the fate of the country. Earlier this month Khrushchev’s
granddaughter Nina, a lecturer who lives in the US, lauded him in the
Washington Post for "outing Stalin as a monster".

Yet in Russia, amid muted celebrations of the anniversary, there is growing
evidence that Khrushchev’s speech was a cynical ploy to save his skin and
that of his party cronies. "Khrushchev was trying to dump all the blame on
Stalin when his own hands were drenched in blood," says Yuri Zhukov, a
historian from the Russian Academy of Sciences who has studied newly
declassified archives on the period.

The re-evaluation comes as critics accuse President Vladimir Putin of
leading a drift towards an authoritarianism that resembles the rule of the
communist strongmen who dominated the 20th century. New measures have
included increased state control over broadcast media and the replacement
of elected governors by appointees.

While he is not actively promoted by the Kremlin, Stalin remains hugely
popular, with higher approval ratings than Khrushchev. Few politicians dare
criticise his legacy despite pleas to do so from victims of his oppression.
A survey by the All-Russia Centre for the Study of Public Opinion found that
50% of Russians believe Stalin played a positive role, up from 46% in 2003.

In 1956 Khrushchev’s speech was certainly a rent with the past. Stalin, he
said, had committed "serious and grave perversions of party principles" and
triggered the "cruellest repression" by inventing the concept of the "enemy
of the people". In 1937 and 1938, 98 of the 139 members of the central
committee had been shot on Stalin’s orders, Khrushchev revealed.

Many of the 1,400 people at the congress had only heard innuendo about such
events and their shock was real; as was the fury of Stalin’s supporters. "My
impression was very negative," says Nikolai Baybakov, 94, then head of
Gosplan, the Soviet central planning agency, and whose voice is still dark
with fury at the insult meted out to his hero. "Yes, negative. Compared to
Stalin, Khrushchev was a zero."

No debate was allowed, however, and the delegates went home in awe.
Many were sunk in depression; two committed suicide within weeks.

Almost immediately, changes began. Although the full text of the speech
was not published in the Soviet Union until the late 80s, excerpts were
passed to local party officials and read at meetings. Political prisoners
were rehabilitated, the press was given limited freedom and ties were
re-established with foreign powers such as France and the US.

Khrushchev’s political enemies were sidelined, but they escaped the death
sentence that would have been automatic under Stalin. Abroad, the speech
sparked intense interest after it was leaked by foreign communists. The
Observer devoted an entire issue to the 26,000-word text.

But while Khrushchev set unstoppable changes in motion, experts say he
concealed his own role in bloody repressions. Only in the past five years
has the full extent of his complicity in Stalin’s terror become evident.
A telegram discovered in Politburo archives by Mr Zhukov shows that
Khrushchev sent a request to Moscow to kill or imprison 30,000 people
when he took over the leadership of Ukraine in 1938. A brutal purge of
intellectuals and "hostile elements" was soon under way.

The year before, when he was party chief in the Moscow region, documents
show Khrushchev asked permission to shoot 8,500 anti-Soviet "traitors" and
dispatch almost 33,000 to camps. "These persecutions were real and they
were carried out on Khrushchev’s orders," Mr Zhukov says.

Dima Bykov, a young Russian intellectual, says Khrushchev was a willing
servant of Stalin. "When I was a teacher I explained the 20th congress to
my pupils using an analogy: imagine Himmler giving an anti-fascist speech
at a Nazi congress after Hitler’s death."

The limits of Khrushchev’s thaw were evident a few months after the speech
when he sent Soviet tanks to crush the Hungarian uprising. And while he
allowed Alexander Solzhenitsyn to publish a novel about the gulags, he
banned Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago for its unsympathetic portrait of the
aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution.

Nikita Khrushchev, 46, a journalist who was named after his grandfather,
admits the Soviet leader was not the hero he is often made out to be. "Of
course, grandpa participated in the repressions," he says. "Of course, you
can see his signatures on the lists of those to be dealt with. And, of
course, many documents have yet to be released from the archives. But the
fact that he dared to expose Stalin was his own courageous step. It was a
real feat … It meant he had overcome the Stalinist inside himself."

Mr Bykov says Khrushchev was a brave man who recognised his faults
and attempted reform, but lacked the will to smash the system completely.
"Khrushchev was half dictator, half liberal," he says. "Putin is just the
same. The difference is that in Khrushchev’s time the main movement was
towards freedom. Now it is backwards. Krushchev initiated freedom.
Putin is its graveyard."                        -30-
                                   CORNCOB NIKITA
[1] Khrushchev was best known as "corncob Nikita" for his attempts
to plant vast tracts of maize [corn]
[2] His Khrushchev’s "secret speech" in 1956 took four hours to deliver
and the full text – not published in the Soviet Union until 1989 – was
26,000 words long. In it, he said Josef Stalin had "practised brutal
violence, not only towards everything which opposed him, but also

towards that which seemed, to his capricious and despotic character,
contrary to his concepts"
[3] The speech included details of a furious letter from Vladimir Lenin
to Stalin in 1923 in which the former leader accused Stalin of insulting
his wife.
[4] Politburo archives show that Khrushchev concealed that he had
requested permission to shoot or imprison about 70,000 people
himself as a party boss in the late 1930s
LINK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,1716627,00.html
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    If you are receiving more than one copy of the AUR please contact us.
                                  TO KILL FOR THE CAUSE
Mirror in which the left saw itself was shattered. Its self-deception lives on.
COMMENTARY: By Martin Kettle, The Guardian
London, United Kingdom, Saturday February 11, 2006

If the great history lesson of the 20th century is that socialism does not
work then the watershed event in that tragic enlightenment was the one that
took place in Moscow 50 years ago this month – the so-called "secret speech"
delivered by Nikita Khrushchev to a closed session of the 20th congress of
the Soviet Communist party on February 25 1956, in which he mounted a
devastating attack on Joseph Stalin, then not quite three years dead.

I write this with complete intellectual confidence but also with some
journalistic trepidation. Part of me feels the need almost to apologise for
writing today about an event from the now-distant past, which for many
readers is likely to seem as unrelated to their own lives as the Council of
Trent or the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi.

Moreover, as someone raised in the British communist world, whose first
memory of any public event is of the death of Stalin himself and who was
surprised at the age of five to find that my infant-school teacher had never
heard of Harry Pollitt, I am anxious not to disappear into historical
anorakland and lose the many readers fortunate enough not to be similarly
steeped in the bliss, brutality and betrayal of the revolutionary movement.

Yet the secret speech has shaped all of our lives, whoever we are and
whether we realise it or not, most obviously because it led eventually to
the collapse of the Soviet system, the end of the cold war, and the triumph
of the west of which we are all today living if still sometimes conflicted
witnesses; but less obviously because it posed questions about public
intellectual and political honesty that remain just as undodgeable today as
they were in 1956.

Given his own history, Khrushchev’s speech was an act of great moral
bravery and huge political recklessness. Speaking for nearly four hours, he
stunned his listeners with a detailed and sweeping account of Stalin’s mass
arrests, deportations, torture and executions.

Though the delegates were sworn to secrecy (and the speech remained
unpublished in the USSR until 1988), the details soon leaked out, both in
briefings to Soviet and satellite parties and, possibly at Khrushchev’s own
instigation, to the western media, including via John Rettie of Reuters,
later of the Guardian.

The truth caved in on us, is how one person in the audience graphically
described the speech. But as Tony Judt points out in his magisterial
Postwar, it is important not to overstate what Khrushchev was attempting.
His aim, not surprisingly, was a controlled de-Stalinisation that kept the
revolutionary myth and the Soviet system intact. All the faults of the
Bolshevik experience were laid at Stalin’s door alone.

But in his characteristically impulsive way, Khrushchev placed the
possibility of a reformed Soviet system on the agenda. For the next decade,
indeed, it was still possible to believe in that outcome, and there were
true believers who persuaded themselves that it could happen, even 30 years
later in the Gorbachev years.

Harold Wilson’s "white heat of the technological revolution" speech in 1963
can only be properly understood in the context of his fear that Khrushchev’s
boast that the USSR would outproduce the US by 1970 was well-founded.

But the larger reality, as his biographer William Taubman says, is that the
system never recovered from the secret speech and nor did Khrushchev.

The most immediate reason for this, especially outside Russia, was the
suppression of the Hungarian democratic revolution in November 1956.
From that moment on, communism was irrevocably more about oppression
than liberation.

After Hungary the excuses would not wash, though many still made them
(even my own father, in spite of the fact that he, along with the former
teachers’ leader Max Morris, was one of only two members of the British
CP’s executive committee to vote to condemn the Soviet invasion).

After Hungary, as Judt puts it, communism became "just a way of life to be
endured" until, mercifully, its misery and decline came to an end without
large-scale bloodshed in 1989.

It is of course true that, long before 1956, there had been generations of
progressives, socialists of various kinds and even communists who had
broken with the Bolshevik myth or who had never embraced it in the first
place. Traditions of democratic and moderate socialism that predated the
Russian revolution flowed on uninterrupted by 1956.

Yet though not directly implicated by 1956 in the way that communists were,
these other traditions on the left were challenged and damaged by what
Khrushchev said and what the Red Army tanks then did in Budapest.

The secret speech was a turning point because, in Eric Hobsbawm’s
authoritative phrase, while the October revolution created a world communist
movement, the 20th congress destroyed it. Experience, whether in the form of
Walter Benjamin’s backward-looking angel of history or Barbara Tuchman’s
lantern from the stern (the image is essentially the same), had weighed the
left in the balance and found it wanting.

After 1956 socialism became more than ever just a matter of religious faith
rather than reason. It would take another 30 or more years before that
verdict was irrevocable. But it was the secret speech and Hungary that
together, as Judt says, shattered the mirror in which the European left had
always seen itself.

But it shattered something else too. After 1956 it was no longer
intellectually honest or true (if it had ever been) to use the cold-war
syllogism that my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

Those who saw history as a long war between good (the left, socialism,
the future, the Soviet Union) and evil (the right, capitalism, the old
order, the United States) were no longer entitled to swallow their doubts.

It was no longer sweet and noble to kill for the cause. A few, of course,
still said it was. Even to this day one occasionally encounters the old lie
that the Hungarian rising was a counter-revolution.

But the cold-war syllogism lives on today in a new guise. Too many haters
of capitalism and the United States still cram everything into the frame of
untruth and self-deception that says my enemy’s enemy is still my friend
because, even if he blows up my family on the tube, murders my colleagues
on the bus or threatens to behead me for publishing a drawing, he is still
at war with Bush, Blair and Berlusconi.

It is 50 years this month since that simplistic view of the world lost
whatever moral purchase it may once have had. It is time such thinking
was, to choose a sadly appropriate word, purged.

Too long, my brothers and my sisters, too long.             -30-
Martin Kettle, The Guardian, martin.kettle@guardian.co.uk
LINK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1707531,00.html
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             Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.
13.                           OPENING PANDORA’S BOX
  50th anniversary of an event whose effect on Hungary was earth-shattering.
 Thankful to Khrushchev for the speech that shook up the Communist world.

By Richard W. Bruner, The Budapest Sun Online
Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, February 23, 2006

SATURDAY (Feb 25) is the 50th anniversary of an event whose effect on
Hungary and other eastern European countries was earth-shattering.

On Feb 25, 1956, First Party Secretary Nikita Khrushchev described in a
speech to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party the "perversions,"
criminal excesses, and failures of Josef Stalin, brought about by Stalin’s
"cult of personality" (which, ironically, Khrushchev had helped cultivate);
Stalin had died three years earlier.

The speech was supposed to be secret (it was not officially published in the
Soviet Union until 1988; but western intelligence agencies knew much of its
content within days. So did Communist parties around the world, scattering
confusion in their ranks.

The speech’s impact specifically on Hungary, among eastern European
countries, was, according to historian Tony Judt, "even more dramatic." In
his lucidly brilliant book, "Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945," Judt
wrote, "Khrushchev’s repudiation of Stalin seemed to suggest that Moscow
would now look favorably upon different ‘roads to socialism,’ and had
rejected terror and repression as a tool of Communist control."

Ultimately, such a view was dangerous, as Hungarians were to learn a few
months later when students took to the streets. By the time of Khrushchev’s
speech, Hungary already had a reputation for unpredictability.

In 1953, Moscow had decided to de-Stalinize Hungary by putting into power
the reform-minded Imre Nagy, once purged and imprisoned (in 1949, he was
one of only two Hungarian Politburo members who opposed executing L�szl�
Rajk). Rehabilitated, he proposed closing internment and labor camps,
encouraging agriculture and abandoning unrealistic industrial targets.

He managed to stay in office until 1955, when party enemies, led by M�ty�s
R�kosi, persuaded Moscow "that he [Nagy] could not be counted on to
maintain firm control, at a moment when the Soviet Union was facing the
threat of an expanded NATO," wrote Judt.

The Soviet Central Committee removed Nagy from office and once again
expelled him from the party. R�kosi and friends took over power, just eight
months before Khrushchev made his landmark speech. But R�kosi quickly
fell out of favor because of his reputation as an anti-Titoist at a time
when Khrushchev was trying to repair relations with Yugoslavia.

"With high-level Soviet-Yugoslav negotiations taking place in Moscow in
June, 1956," wrote Judt, "it seemed unnecessarily provocative to maintain in
power in Budapest an unreconstructed Stalinist." So the Soviets replaced
R�kosi with Ern� Ger�, another Stalinist. "This proved a mistake; Ger�
could neither lead change nor suppress it."

Instead, the changes opened a Pandora’s Box. On Oct 16, 1956, nearly eight
months after Khrushchev’s supposedly liberating speech, university students
in Szeged organized a "League of Hungarian Students," not affiliated with
Communist student groups.

Other student groups sprouted around the country. On Oct 22, Technical
University students in Budapest drafted a 16-point manifesto calling for
industrial and agrarian reforms, more democracy, free speech, criminal
trials for R�kosi and friends, and the installation of Imre Nagy as prime

Events tumbled forward quickly. On Oct 23, students assembled in Parliament
Square to demonstrate in support of their demands. Ger� vacillated. At first
he condemned the students, then permitted the demonstration, and finally
denounced it. The students tore down a statue of Stalin and Soviet troops
entered the city.

The Hungarian Communist Central Committee met through the night and the
next day installed Nagy as prime minister. Nagy wanted both to restore order
and to negotiate with the demonstrators. But chaos was widespread, with
student organizations, workers’ councils and national committees forming all
over the country and demonstrators clashing with police.

Communist Party leaders called it a "counterrevolution," missing the
opportunity, Judt wrote, "to co-opt it." Nagy decided to gamble, probably
hoping for western support. On Oct 28, he went on the radio, acknowledging
the legitimacy of the protests and denouncing the secret police.

Again, on Oct 30, he went on the radio, this time to imply he was planning
to form a multiparty government. The next day he said he would negotiate to
withdraw from the Warsaw Pact.

The entire episode is replete with ironies. On Oct 31, according to an
American National Security Briefing Book, "the tide seemed to turn
overwhelmingly in the revolution’s favor when Pravda published a declaration
promising greater equality in relations between the USSR and its east
European satellites. One sentence was of particular interest. It read:

‘[T]he Soviet Government is prepared to enter into the appropriate
negotiations with the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic and
other members of the Warsaw Treaty on the question of the presence of
Soviet troops on the territory of Hungary.’

To outside observers, the Kremlin statement came as a total surprise. CIA
Director Allen Dulles called it a ‘miracle.’ The crisis seemed on the verge
of being resolved in a way no-one in Hungary or the west had dared to hope.

"But tragically, and unbeknownst to anyone outside the Kremlin, the very
day the declaration appeared in Pravda, the Soviet leadership completely
reversed itself and decided to put a final, violent end to the rebellion.

From declassified documents, it is now clear that several factors influenced
their decision, including: the belief that the rebellion directly threatened
Communist rule in Hungary (unlike the challenge posed by Wladyslaw
Gomulka and the Polish Communists just days before, which had targeted
Kremlin rule but not the Communist system); that the west would see a lack
of response by Moscow as a sign of weakness, especially after the British,
French and Israeli strike against Suez that had begun on Oct 29; that the
spread of anti-Communist feelings in Hungary threatened the rule of
neighboring satellite leaders; and that members of the Soviet party would
not understand a failure to respond with force in Hungary."

Expectations of western support ran high when Nagy announced, on the
evening of Nov 1, Hungary’s unilateral withdrawal from the Pact and asked
the UN to recognize Hungary as neutral.

Judt wrote, "Many [Hungarian rebels] sincerely hoped for western assistance,
encouraged by the uncompromising tone of American public rhetoric and by
emissions from Radio Free Europe, whose �migr� broadcasters encouraged
Hungarians to take up arms and promised imminent foreign support."

Nagy gambled, but lost. Soviet leaders ordered Soviet army divisions in
Romania and Ukraine to the Hungarian border. The Soviets sneaked J�nos
K�d�r to Moscow where Khrushchev convinced him to form a new

K�d�r had a history with Nagy that might have compromised his willingness
to replace him. Nagy, during his earlier stretch as party leader, had
released K�d�r from prison. Regardless of whatever feelings he had, K�d�r

accepted the Soviet offer. Nagy and close colleagues left office and were
granted asylum in the Yugoslav embassy on Nov 4. Within 72 hours, Soviet
troops had control of Budapest.

On Nov 7, K�d�r’s government was sworn in. On Nov 22, Nagy and his
friends were tricked into leaving the Yugoslav embassy; they were abducted
and sent to prison in Romania. After much delay, K�d�r brought Nagy back
to Hungary to be secretly tried in June 1958, and found guilty of fomenting
a counter-revolution. He was executed at dawn June 16, 1958.

Two hundred thousand Hungarians – 2% of the population – fled Hungary
during the Soviet occupation after the revolution. They settled in Austria,
Britain, what was then West Germany, France, and other places. The United
States accepted 80,000 of them.

The emigrants were mostly young people and many were educated
professionals. They may have been thankful to Khrushchev for the speech
that shook up the Communist world.  -30-
For more information see
[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                Entered history as the first step toward de-Stalinization

By Claire Bigg, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, February 15, 2006

MOSCOW – Khrushchev’s speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union — held 14-25 February 1956 — entered history as
the first step toward de-Stalinization.

In this speech, Khrushchev accused his predecessor, Josef Stalin, of
creating a regime based on "suspicion, fear, and terror." Khrushchev added
that he wanted to break the cult of Stalin, who had died three years before.

He condemned the mass repressions that took place between 1936 and 1938,
lashed out at Stalin’s foreign policy during World War II, and accused him
of nationalism and anti-Semitism.

Khrushchev was the first official publicly to denounce Stalin’s policies,
and his sensational speech stunned the senior party officials gathered at
the congress.

According to delegates who witnessed the speech, it provoked deep shock
among the audience — many delegates were reportedly crying, others were
holding their heads in despair, and several even had heart attacks in the
conference hall.

Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalinism became known as the "secret

speech," since it was delivered behind closed doors and was not made
public until 18 March 1956.

                        PRISONERS FREED AFTER SPEECH
Roy Medvedev, a historian who in 1956 was a school director in a provincial
Russian city, describes how he first heard the content of the speech. "They
gathered activists, all the party members, all the Komsomol members, the
directors of kolkhozs [communal farms[ and sovkhozs [state farms],"
Medvedev says.

"The instructor of the district Communist Party arrived, took out a red
book, and told us: ‘I am going to read you the secret speech of Nikita
Sergeevich Khrushchev at the 20th congress.’

For four hours, we listed to this report. There were people present who had
fought in World War II and worshipped Stalin. There were people like me,
hose father was repressed and died in prison and who knew about torture
and camps."

In the aftermath of the speech, tens of thousands of political prisoners
were set free. Khrushchev’s words also had huge repercussions in Eastern
Europe, where it fuelled hopes of political change, particularly in Poland
and Hungary.

Secrecy, however, shrouded the speech for many years — the full text was
not published in Russia until 1988, some 32 years later.

Medvedev says it took a long time for him to realize its full impact. "The
press was not reporting anything," Medvedev says. "There was no television
back then, no information. Very serious processes were set in motion about
which we knew nothing.

Two days or so after the congress, Western Communist parties protested.
They asked why this had to be done. A secret correspondence immediately
started with the Chinese Communist Party, which resolutely condemned the
20th congress. It was an event of colossal historical significance."

Today, Russians remain divided on the legacy of the "secret speech." While
most communists still view it as an act of treason and say it has done more
harm than good, many observers hail it as the beginning of the end of the
repressive Stalinist era.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said yesterday that Khrushchev’s
speech had much wider implications than just demolishing the cult of Stalin.
He said it laid the foundation for perestroika by addressing, in his words,
"not only the cult of personality, but also democratic problems and ways to
manage the country."

Historians have often described Khrushchev as a liberal reformer. They
stress, however, that this "liberalism" soon showed its limits. Just nine
months later, in November 1956, Soviet tanks were crushing an anti-Soviet
uprising in Hungary, killing thousands of protesters.  -30-

[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Tim Whewell, BBC NEWS, UK, Thursday, February 23, 2006

It was a speech so shocking that even 50 years on, Nikolai Baibakov
refuses point-blank to describe what he heard that day – a devastating
attack on the man he worshipped above all others. The retired Communist
Party official, now 91, can reel off scores of statistics of industrial
production and oil extraction in the 1950s.

But he tries every stratagem to avoid recalling the cataclysmic event to
which he is one of the very few surviving witnesses.

It was the secret final session of the 20th party congress on 25 February
1956, at which the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev demolished the
reputation of his predecessor, Joseph Stalin.

Eventually, between gritted teeth, Baibakov concedes: "Maybe there were
individual incidents of repression, but what Khrushchev denounced Stalin
for, that never happened… Khrushchev just said those things to try and
give himself more authority as a leader."

It is hard to exaggerate the impact Khrushchev’s speech had in 1956, just
three years after the dictator’s death. Stalin’s embalmed body was lying
beside Lenin in the mausoleum on Red Square, and most Soviet citizens
regarded him as little less than a god.
Many political prisoners had returned from the camps – though hundreds of
thousands remained there. And Kremlin leaders were already referring to the
"cult of the individual" that flourished during Stalin’s rule. But there had
been nothing to prepare the 1,400 delegates of the Congress for the bitter
tone and detail of the four-hour report that Khrushchev delivered behind
locked doors on 25 February.

He talked of how thousands of innocent people had been tortured into
confessing to crimes they never committed – and he said Stalin was
personally responsible. "He called in the interrogator, gave him
instructions, and told him which methods to use, methods that were

simple – to beat, beat, and once again, beat."

He described how Stalin ordered the murder of many of the Soviet Union’s
leading generals on the eve of World War II, his "monstrous" deportation
of whole peoples to other parts of the country – and even how he was
responsible for the ruination of agriculture.
                                         NO DISCUSSION
The delegates listened in stunned silence.

According to Khrushchev’s biographer William Taubman, "Nobody said
anything. They were uncertain even of looking each other in the eye, of
revealing a gut instinct, which they shouldn’t."

And in a society still dominated by fear, many of the millions of ordinary
members of the Communist Party and Young Communist League who heard
the text of the speech read out to them at specially-convened meetings in
the following weeks reacted in the same way.

Even if they had wanted to debate the sensational revelations, it would not
have been allowed. Each meeting began with the stern warning, "There will
be no discussion, comrades – and no notes may be taken!"

And lest anyone try to spread the contents of the speech more widely, the
red brochures with the text were all gathered up afterwards and returned to
party headquarters.

Khrushchev’s speech was considered so incendiary that it was not published
in Russia until 1988, when Mikhail Gorbachev’s "glasnost" policy allowed a
re-examination of Stalin’s crimes.
                               STALIN REHABILITATED
But that re-examination was short-lived. Because as the Soviet Union
collapsed, the rehabilitation of Stalin’s victims began to be overshadowed
by the rehabilitation of Stalin himself.

Now, after 15 years when many Russians have faced growing impoverishment
and watched the decline of their country’s power and prestige, they have
begun to imagine the Stalin era as a time of discipline, order – and glory.

"The only people who thought Stalin was a criminal were the people he
obstructed – the people he prevented from robbing the state," says historian
Gennady Varakuta, reflecting a widespread belief that the corruption that
plagues Russia today was dealt with severely and decisively in the 1930s
and ’40s.

Varakuta is one of many who now claim Khrushchev denounced his
predecessor either because he was terrified that he himself might be accused
of complicity in his crimes or – for even narrower motives of revenge –
because Stalin had supposedly had Khrushchev’s son Leonid executed for
treason during World War II.

In fact, the story of the execution, and the treason, have been disproved
by several official documents. But it is regularly repeated in an effort to
discredit Khrushchev himself.
                                       CHANGING MOOD
Varakuta’s views are hardly surprising – he is the son-in-law of Leonid
Brezhnev, the man who overthrew Khrushchev in 1964. But his admiration
for Stalin is widely shared in today’s Russia.

In a poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre at the end of
last year, 20% of respondents described Stalin’s role in Russian history as
"very positive" and 30% as "somewhat positive".

There are proposals to erect statues to the former dictator in several
provincial towns – and Russian state TV is reported to have cancelled plans
for a special documentary on the anniversary of the secret speech.

Khrushchev’s daughter Rada, now 76, has watched the changing mood in
the country and she is not surprised. She does not directly blame President
Vladimir Putin for fostering the new wave of neo-Stalinism, but she does not
believe it could happen without some official approval.

"I don’t feel they want very much to mark this date, the anniversary of one
of the main events of our history," she says. "One of my friends wanted to
make a film about it, but then he was told, ‘It’s safer not to’.

Then the only references I hear on the radio to my father are comic ones –
the idea, for example, that he put a tax on every apple tree. "And if that’s
what young journalists are thinking, I conclude it’s because that’s how
someone wants them to think."   -30-
LINK: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4744288.stm
[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Anne Applebaum, OP-ED Columnist, The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., Wednesday, February 22, 2006, Page A15

It is, I admit, an odd thing to celebrate: A long-winded and not entirely
honest speech, made behind closed doors, addressed to the stony-faced
leaders of a country that no longer exists. Nevertheless, I’m reluctant to
let the 50th anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev’s famous "secret speech" —
his denunciation of Stalin and Stalinism, delivered to the 20th Congress of
the Soviet Communist Party on Feb. 25, 1956 — pass without notice.

We are, after all, at another important historical moment. Condoleezza Rice,
the U.S. secretary of state, has just announced that we will spend $75
million promoting democracy and fighting a totalitarian regime in Iran. We
have thousands of soldiers in Iraq, trying to pick up the pieces after the
collapse of another totalitarian regime there.

Since Khrushchev’s secret speech was the first step in what turned out to
be a very long struggle to end totalitarianism in the Soviet Union, it’s
worth remembering now what the circumstances that surrounded it actually

In essence, Khrushchev’s speech (which didn’t remain secret very long;
Polish communists leaked it to the Israelis, who leaked it to the West) was
a piece of theater, a four-hour harangue during which the new Soviet leader
denounced the "cult of personality" that had surrounded Stalin, condemned
torture and acknowledged that "mass arrests and deportation of thousands
and thousands of people" had "created insecurity, fear and even
desperation" in his country.

But although it was an international sensation — no Soviet leader had
spoken so frankly before — the speech didn’t exactly tell the whole truth.
Khrushchev accused Stalin of many crimes, but deftly left out the ones in
which he himself had been implicated.

As William Taubman, author of "Khrushchev: The Man and His Era," has
documented, the Soviet leader had in fact collaborated enthusiastically
with Stalinist terror, participating in the very mass arrests he condemned.

Khrushchev’s speech was intended as much to consolidate his own power
and intimidate his party opponents — all of whom had also collaborated
enthusiastically — as it was to liberate his countrymen.

Still, there were high hopes for change after the speech, both within and
outside the Soviet Union. But the cultural and political thaw that followed
turned out to be as ambivalent as the speech itself. Some prisoners were
released; some were not. Some daring works of literature were published;
some were not. Khrushchev himself seemed unable to make up his mind
about how much should really change, but it didn’t matter:

Within a decade he was ousted from power by resentful neo-Stalinists. Two
more decades were to pass before Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the young
communists who had been electrified by Khrushchev’s secret speech,
restarted the discussion of Stalin’s crimes, and launched, finally, the
reforms that brought the system down.

Clearly there is a lesson here for those who would bring down totalitarian
regimes, and it concerns timing: The death of a dictator or the toppling of
his statues does not necessarily mean that a complete political
transformation has occurred, or even that one will occur soon.

On the contrary, it takes a very, very long time — more than a generation
— for a political class to free itself of the authoritarian impulse. People
do not easily give up the ideology that has brought them wealth and power.

People do not quickly change the habits that they’ve incurred over a
lifetime. Even people who want to reform their countries — and at some
level Khrushchev did want to reform his country — can’t necessarily bring
themselves to say or to do what is necessary. Certainly they find it
difficult to carry out political reforms that might hasten their own

This isn’t to say dictatorships must last forever: Despite some of its
current leadership’s repressive instincts, Russia itself has changed in
fifty years, beyond recognition. But the transformation was often
incremental, always uneven, and difficult for impatient Americans to
understand or support. But then, all such transformations are difficult for
impatient Americans to understand or support, and probably always will
be. If history is anything to go by, we’ll have no choice but to try and do
so anyway.                                     -30-

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                                 On this day 50 years ago

BBC NEWS, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, has denounced Joseph Stalin as a
brutal despot.  In a sensational speech to the 20th Congress of the
Communist Party Mr Khrushchev painted a graphic picture of a regime of
"suspicion, fear, and terror" built up under the former dictator who died
three years ago.

He said he wanted to break the "Stalin cult" that has held Soviet citizens
in its thrall for 30 years. The prime minister described the purges during
the period of 1936-38. He implied that one of Stalin’s most trusted aides
Kirov had been assassinated in 1934 at the leader’s behest.
Stalin then initiated a series of trials of members of the politburo and had
some executed for Kirov’s murder, including Zinoviev, Kamenev and Rykov.
Stalin meted out humiliation and persecution to those officers and members
of the Politburo who fell from favour, said Mr Khrushchev.

He revealed that in 1937 and 1938, 98 out of the 139 members of the Central
Committee were shot on Stalin’s orders.

The leader also criticised Stalin’s foreign policy during World War II. As
an ally of Adolf Hitler, Stalin refused to believe Germany would invade
Russia – despite warnings from Winston Churchill and Sir Stafford Cripps,
the British Ambassador in Moscow, amongst others.

When the attack was launched, Stalin ordered the Red Army not to retaliate
saying the raid was merely "indiscipline" on the part of some of Hitler’s
                                          ‘ODIOUS BOOK’
Mr Khrushchev also condemned Stalin’s autobiography as an "odious book"
in which Stalin refers to himself as "the workers’ genius-leader" and a "shy
and modest person". He also accused Stalin of violent nationalism and

He revealed that in his last will and testament Lenin advised against the
retention of Stalin as general secretary of the Communist Party. He said the
information he had just divulged should only be made known to the public by

"You understand, comrades, that we could not spread this information to the
people at once," he said. "It could be done either suddenly or gradually,
and I think it would be more correct to do it gradually."
                                            IN CONTEXT
[1] Mr Khrushchev’s "secret speech" was not made public until 18 March

1956 and then only in Belgrade and Washington. It had a dramatic effect in
Eastern Europe where "de-stalinisation" raised expectations of change,
especially in Poland and Hungary.
[2] The text of the speech was not published in Russia until 1988, some 32
years later.
[3] Lenin’s last will and testament was published in The New York Times in
1926, though it was not made public in the Soviet Union until Khrushchev’s
[4] Party agitators (official propagandists) were sent to Georgia to
disseminate revelations about Stalin, where opposition to the new
information was anticipated.
[5] In the wake of the denouncement, Mr Khrushchev’s pictures were torn
down in Georgia, Stalin’s home state. Riots occurred for several days in
Tbilisi as Georgians reacted angrily to the denunciation of their hero.
[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
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The Scotsman – United Kingdom; Feb 23, 2006

FIFTY years ago this week, an impulsive ex-miner from Ukraine called Nikita
Khrushchev took the rostrum during a secret session of the 20th Congress
of the Soviet Communist Party. He was to shock his audience – and the
world – with a speech that denounced Russia’s recently deceased leader,
Joseph Stalin, as a tyrant and a sadist.

Under Stalin, forced collectivisation killed 14.5 million people. In the
Great Purge, 1.2 million Communist Party cadres – more than half the
membership – were arrested and 600,000 executed. Ten million Soviet
citizens were sent to the "Gulag Archipelago". Half never came back.

There are many good reasons in 2006 to remember Khrushchev’s
incredible denunciation of the demigod of orthodox communism.

FIRST, because the cult of Stalin is being quietly revived in modern Russia,
as the Putin regime becomes ever more authoritarian and centralised.

SECOND, because naive western intellectuals were part and parcel of the
propaganda machine that originally created the myth of cuddly "Uncle Joe"
Stalin, the worker’s friend. Alas, western intellectuals have still not lost
the capacity to believe in political fairy tales.

In fact, they are repeating their deification of Stalin by pretending that a
host of murderous religious cults and nationalist groupings – such as
Hamas – are Noble with a capital N and deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Khrushchev, of course, was not motivated by disgust at Stalinism itself.
He had been a leading thug in Stalin’s inner circle and may well have
personally smothered Stalin in 1953. But Nikita was astute enough to
realise that without a loosening of the grip of Stalin’s self-devouring
terror machine, the Russian people would eventually rebel against
communist rule.

His denunciation of the Stalin cult was partly self-preservation and partly
a device to see off his rivals for the leadership of the Communist Party. It
worked a treat.

Post-Stalin, Khrushchev thought Russia could overtake the West in the
production of consumer goods but the centrally planned Soviet economic
dinosaur defeated him. After his surrender to Kennedy over Cuba, old
Nikita was toppled by the deeply corrupt Brezhnev, who was content to
preside over the remorseless decline of the communist system.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, ordinary Russians were free for an
instant. But in the ensuing chaos, Brezhnev’s cynical apparatchiks stole
everything they could.

The result is the rise of Vladimir Putin, a minor KGB official who has
Khrushchev’s eye for populism but not his ebullient personality. Putin
has restored a degree of order in Russia by jailing the billionaire
oligarchs and re-nationalising their assets. Putin is not a psychopathic
killer like Stalin but nor has he been averse to implying he can return
Russia to the global power it was in Uncle Joe’s heyday.

Enough water has passed under the bridge for modern Russians to have
forgotten what life was really like under Stalin. Opinion polls show that
over a quarter of Russians say they would definitely or probably vote for
Stalin were he alive and running for president. Imagine our reaction if
Germans said that about Hitler.

Putin’s impersonation of Stalin-lite is predicated on manipulating this
dubious sentiment. I doubt if he really is another Stalin, but politicians
who play with fire can get us all burned.

One of the first things Putin did on becoming Russia’s president was to
restore the old Stalinist national anthem. Next he tore up the deal to give
Chechnya independence and launched a war in the Caucuses, with a view
to making himself look strong.

The plan backfired and we are still living with the terrorist consequences.
And Stalin would be proud of the way Putin has suppressed internal
criticism by taking over independent television stations.

On the economic front, Putin is re-nationalising companies wholesale with a
view to creating national "champions", such as the energy giant Gazprom. In
January, Gazprom did the Kremlin’s bidding by cutting off gas supplies to

On Monday, Putin nationalised the Russian aircraft industry, which came as a
shock to EADS (aka Airbus), the European aerospace manufacturer which
thought it owned the Sukhoi jet company.

Putin’s state industries do business in the world market so they are nowhere
near as inefficient as the old Soviet ones. Nevertheless, I would be worried
if Gazprom bought ScottishPower.

Putin is barred by the Russian constitution from seeking a third term in
2008. If he alters the constitution to stand again, you know we are in
trouble. Alternatively, he may support one of his two close aides, Sergei
Ivanov or Dmitry Medvedev.

Ivanov is ex-KGB and head of the Russian security agencies. Last month, he
came under fire for downplaying the bullying of Russian conscripts after an
18-year-old soldier’s legs and genitals had to be amputated due to vicious
beatings. Medvedev is chairman of Gazprom.

It is possible to view Vladimir Putin as a necessary stage in Russian
reform, restoring order and building an industrial economy not so different
from that of post-war Japan. Comparisons with Stalin’s totalitarian
madhouse are still far-fetched: corruption is rife, but there is still a
democratic opposition.

The problem is that Putin is an unreliable opportunist (as was Khruschchev)
playing to an electorate which is angry at the wide disparities of income in
Russia and only too ready to confuse personal angst with nationalist
aspiration. Post-Stalinist Russia has a very large chip on its shoulder that
we need to handle delicately.

Stalin may be dead but his ghost is still at the feast.            -30-

LINK: http://news.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=278852006
[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                The battle over history reflects a determination to prove that no
                   political alternative can challenge the new global capitalism

COMMENT & DEBATE: By Seumas Milne, The Guardian
London, United Kingdom, Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fifteen years after communism was officially pronounced dead, its spectre
seems once again to be haunting Europe. Last month, the Council of Europe’s
parliamentary assembly voted to condemn the "crimes of totalitarian
communist regimes", linking them with Nazism and complaining that
communist parties are still "legal and active in some countries".

Now Goran Lindblad, the conservative Swedish MP behind the resolution,
wants to go further. Demands that European ministers launch a continent-
wide anti-communist campaign – including school textbook revisions, official
memorial days and museums – only narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds

Yesterday, declaring himself delighted at the first international
condemnation of this "evil ideology", Lindblad pledged to bring the wider
plans back to the Council of Europe in the coming months.

He has chosen a good year for his ideological offensive: this is the 50th
anniversary of Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin and the subsequent
Hungarian uprising, which will doubtless be the cue for further excoriation
of the communist record.

The ground has been well laid by a determined rewriting of history since
the collapse of the Soviet Union that has sought to portray 20th-century
communist leaders as monsters equal to or surpassing Hitler in their
depravity – and communism and fascism as the two greatest evils of
history’s bloodiest era.

The latest contribution was last year’s bestselling biography of Mao by Jung
Chang and Jon Halliday, keenly endorsed by George Bush and dismissed by
China specialists as "bad history" and "misleading".

Paradoxically, given that there is no communist government left in Europe
outside Moldova, the attacks have if anything become more extreme as time
has gone on. A clue as to why that might be can be found in the rambling
report by Lindblad that led to the Council of Europe declaration.

Blaming class struggle and public ownership, he explained that "different
elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still
seduce many" and "a sort of nostalgia for communism is still alive".

Perhaps the real problem for Lindblad and his rightwing allies in eastern
Europe is that communism is not dead enough – and they will only be
content when they have driven a stake through its heart and buried it at the
crossroads at midnight.

The fashionable attempt to equate communism and Nazism is in reality a
moral and historical nonsense. Despite the cruelties of the Stalin terror,
there was no Soviet Treblinka or Sobibor, no extermination camps built

to murder millions. Nor did the Soviet Union launch the most devastating
war in history at a cost of more than 50 million lives – in fact it played the
decisive role in the defeat of the German war machine.

Lindblad and the Council of Europe adopt as fact the wildest estimates of
those "killed by communist regimes" (mostly in famines) from the fiercely
contested Black Book of Communism, which also underplays the number
of deaths attributable to Hitler.

The real records of repression now available from the Soviet archives are
horrific enough (799,455 people were recorded as executed between 1921
and 1953 and the labour camp population reached 2.5 million at its peak)
without engaging in an ideologically-fuelled inflation game.

But in any case, none of this explains why anyone might be nostalgic in
former communist states, now enjoying the delights of capitalist
restoration. The dominant account gives no sense of how communist
regimes renewed themselves after 1956 or why western leaders feared
they might overtake the capitalist world well into the 1960s.

For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern
Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job
security and huge advances in social and gender equality.

It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical
films and books of the post-Stalin era such as Wajda’s Man of Marble and
Rybakov’s Children of the Arbat. Its existence helped to drive up welfare
standards in the west, boosted the anti-colonial movement and provided a
powerful counterweight to western global domination.
It would be easier to take the Council of Europe’s condemnation of
communist state crimes seriously if it had also seen fit to denounce the far
bloodier record of European colonialism – which only finally came to an end
in the 1970s. This was a system of racist despotism, which dominated the
globe in Stalin’s time.

And while there is precious little connection between the ideas of fascism
and communism, there is an intimate link between colonialism and Nazism. The
terms lebensraum and konzentrationslager were both first used by the German
colonial regime in south-west Africa (now Namibia), which committed genocide
against the Herero and Nama peoples and bequeathed its ideas and personnel
directly to the Nazi party.

Around 10 million Congolese died as a result of Belgian forced labour and
mass murder in the early 20th century; tens of millions perished in
avoidable or enforced famines in British-ruled India; up to a million
Algerians died in their war for independence, while controversy now rages in
France about a new law requiring teachers to put a positive spin on colonial

Comparable atrocities were carried out by all European colonialists, but not
a word of condemnation from the Council of Europe – nor over the impact of
European intervention in the third world since decolonisation. Presumably,
European lives count for more.

No major 20th-century political tradition is without blood on its hands, but
battles over history are more about the future than the past. Part of the
current enthusiasm in official western circles for dancing on the grave of
communism is no doubt about relations with today’s Russia and China.

But it also reflects a determination to prove there is no alternative to the
new global capitalist order – and that any attempt to find one is bound to
lead to suffering and bloodshed.

With the new imperialism now being resisted in both the Muslim world and
Latin America, growing international demands for social justice and ever
greater doubts about whether the environmental crisis can be solved within
the existing economic system, the pressure for political and social
alternatives will increase.

The particular form of society created by 20th-century communist parties
will never be replicated. But there are lessons to be learned from its
successes as well as its failures.   -30-
Seumas Milne, The Guardian, s.milne@guardian.co.uk
LINK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1710891,00.html
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
20.                       SECRET SPEECH STILL DIVIDES

EDITORIAL: The Moscow Times
Moscow, Russia, Wed, Feb 15, 2006. Issue 3353. Page 3.

A half-century after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev condemned Josef
Stalin’s mass purges at the landmark 20th Party Congress, Communists
called his words a mistake that helped bring down the Soviet Union, and
Mikhail Gorbachev praised the event as the harbinger of perestroika.

In a secret speech on the final day of the Feb. 14-25, 1956, congress,
Khrushchev denounced his predecessor’s cult of personality. He said Stalin
"practiced brutal violence" against his opponents by torturing innocent
people to extract confessions in 1937 and 1938.

"The 20th Congress was about not only the personality cult, but also the
issues of democracy and governing the country," Gorbachev said Monday,
Interfax reported. He said that without Khrushchev’s speech, his perestroika
reforms would have been impossible.

Khrushchev’s grandson, also named Nikita Khrushchev, described the
congress as an attempt "to restore justice" in the country.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said Khrushchev’s speech gave
a distorted picture of Stalin’s rule and blamed Stalin for everything bad
that took place in the country.

Under Stalin, the Soviet Union also became a powerful, industrialized
nation, Zyuganov said, Interfax reported. He said Krushchev’s criticism of

Stalin divided the country and damaged communism’s image internationally.

Gorbachev and Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, were similar to
Khrushchev in that their policies were detrimental to the Soviet Union,
Zyuganov said. "As a result of the push that Khrushchev made 50 years ago,
and which Gorbachev and Yeltsin continued, we are now left with nothing,"
he said.                                       -30-

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Khrushchev delivered what many regard as 20th century’s most influential speech

By Adrian Blomfield in Volgograd
Telegraph, London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 25, 2006

VOLGOGRAD – The two portraits on the wall of the director’s office in the
Battle of Stalingrad Museum look as incongruous a pairing as one is ever
likely to find. An oil painting, flanked by two ceremonial swords, shows
Josef Stalin in military regalia. Below him hangs a delicate watercolour of
the late Queen Mother.

"She was very fond of him, you know," said Boris Usik, the director of the
museum in the centre of Volgograd, as Stalingrad was renamed in 1961. "They
were both great people, people with extraordinary vision."

The Queen Mother was enormously popular in Volgograd, remembered for the
funds she raised for the devastated city after the epic Second World War

But Stalin’s picture is the more startling. Previously it would have been
unheard of for a state-appointed official such as Mr Usik to so honour the

Stalin was disgraced 50 years ago today when his successor, Nikita
Khrushchev, delivered what many regard as the 20th century’s most
influential speech.

Stunned, delegates at the 20th Communist Party Congress heard for the first
time a party leader denounce Stalin’s brutality. The Soviet "thaw" was about
to begin. Within months Hungary was in the grip of an uprising against
communist rule, within a decade the first Soviet dissidents were challenging
Moscow at home.

Many view the speech as the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union, among
them Mikael Gorbachev, who says it planted the "glasnost" idea in his mind.

But Khrushchev is remembered in a negative light. According to polls, only
Mr Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin are more hated former Russian leaders.

In the past decade, 200 books and films about Stalin, some eulogies, have
appeared. Polls show that 18 per cent of Russians believe he was their best
leader since 1917, while almost 50 per cent view him in a positive or very
positive light.

In May the first major museum dedicated to Stalin in half a century will be
opened in Volgograd by his three grandsons. Among the exhibits will be
telegrams from Stalin to Churchill, a model of the train he lived in after
the 1917 revolution and his famous cap.

Valentina Klyushina, the deputy curator of Volgograd’s famous statue to
Mother Russia, is an enthusiast for the project, even though her mother was
jailed for seven years in Stalin’s time.

"He was a great man with a great personality," she said. "Even his enemies,
even Churchill, acknowledged that he took a backward country with an
illiterate population and turned it into a global powerhouse with a nuclear

It is unclear how the Kremlin views the growing popularity of Stalin and the
vilification of Khrushchev. But President Vladimir Putin has been less
willing to condemn Stalin than his predecessors.

Stalin is remembered by some as a champion of equality. "Would there have
been a Roman Abramovich under Stalin?" asked Mr Usik, repeating a refrain
frequently heard these days.

He is popular among the young, say pollsters, mainly because of rising
nationalism, the result of the humiliation of Russia’s diminished place in
the world.

Volgograd University students lauded Stalin on everything from
collectivisation, the agricultural policy that resulted in the deaths of
millions through famine, to his supposed love for human rights.

"To change a weak country into the world’s greatest power, we had to
collectivise," said Andrei Ivanov, a history student. "We were able to
produce tractor factories and to win the war."

Students insist Stalin’s crimes were exaggerated by Khrushchev to avenge the
death of his son, Leonid, whom they believed was executed during the war for
passing secrets to the Nazis – a rumour that has long been debunked.

[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
            For the descendants of Stalin’s victims, however, the "secret speech"
                remains one of the most important events of the 20th century.

Jeremy Page in Moscow, The Times
London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 25, 2006

MOSCOW – WHEN Nikita Khrushchev took the podium on the last day

of the Communist Party congress 50 years ago today, his words were so
shocking that some fainted.

The Soviet leader had done the unthinkable, denouncing his predecessor
Joseph Stalin, who had died three years earlier, as a fanatical tyrant who
had hundreds of thousands of citizens executed or sent to prison camps.

So sensitive was Khrushchev’s "secret speech" that his daughter, Rada
Adzhubei, did not learn of it for two weeks, when excerpts were read out at
party meetings. "I was shocked, like everyone else," Mrs Adzhubei, now 76,
told The Times in her apartment a few hundred yards from the Kremlin.

"Millions knew about these things, but millions did not know. And we were
all brought up in an atmosphere where Stalin was the great leader – it was
in the air we breathed."

Looking back, she now sees her father’s speech as an heroic step that ended
the terror of the Stalinist era and paved the way for perestroika and
glasnost 30 years later. "It was an act of justice," she said.

Few people would disagree in the West, where the speech caused a sensation
when it was leaked to the foreign press months later. Poland’s leader,
Boleslaw Bierut, died of a heart attack after reading it a month afterwards.
But in Russia, the anniversary is being marked by a reassessment of
Khrushchev’s role in history that, analysts say, reflects the increasingly
repressive climate under the Kremlin of Vladimir Putin.

The only official commemoration is a tiny exhibition in the Historical
Museum, featuring a few documents and memorabilia including Khrushchev’s
embroidered Ukrainian shirt. Russian state television has cancelled a
planned documentary on the subject, and a growing number of academics and
journalists are portraying the "secret speech" as an act of revenge or a
cynical ploy to avoid sharing blame for the bloodshed of previous decades.

"Since then we have lived increasingly useless and dirty lives," wrote
Yelena Prudnikova, a St Petersburg-based journalist, in her recent book
"Stalin: The Second Murder." "The country, deprived of high ideals in just a
few decades, has rotted to the ground."

Stalin, meanwhile, is enjoying a revival; several statues are planned in his
honour and a museum is being opened next month in the city of Volgograd,
previously named Stalingrad.

A recent poll by the AllRussian Public Opinion Research Centre found that 50
per cent of respondents thought Stalin’s role in history was positive. This
historical irony, analysts say, reflects the political atmosphere in Russia
as President Putin reasserts central control over the media, business and

Today’s Kremlin neither promotes Stalin nor denigrates Khrushchev, but
President Putin has lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union as the
"greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.

The "secret speech", which led directly to the Hungarian Uprising later in
1956 and the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, opened the cracks in the system that
eventually destroyed the Soviet Union.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who was a young Party activist in 1956, told a conference
this month that the "secret speech" had inspired him to launch the liberal
reforms of the 1980s. "I do not think that a concept like perestroika could
have appeared without it," he said.

Russia, he said, was now going through a political backlash similar to the
one under Khrushchev’s successor, Leonid Brezhnev.

Stalin’s rehabilitation began in 1965, when Brezhnev mentioned him
positively in an address, while the "secret speech" was not published in the
Soviet Union until 1988.

Thus, many Russians still see Stalin not as a brutal tyrant, but as the man
who oversaw the victory against Nazi Germany, and turned the Soviet Union
into a superpower.

Khrushchev’s reputation, on the other hand, remains tarnished. In the past
five years, several Russian academics have produced evidence showing that
Khrushchev personally signed orders for thousands of people to be executed
or sent to labour camps.

Mrs Adzhubei, a retired biologist, says she has no illusions about her
father’s past. "You had to sign the orders, because if you didn’t your name
would be on the next list," she said. "They were all guilty, but some were
more guilty than others."

For the descendants of Stalin’s victims, however, the "secret speech"
remains one of the most important events of the 20th century.

"It was like a breath of fresh air," said Helen Lezvinskaya, a 64-year-old
doctor, who visited the Historical Museum’s exhibition this week. Her aunt
and uncle spent 20 years in the Gulag, but were rehabilitated after
Khrushchev’s speech. "Only now can we understand in what terrible times we
lived," she said.
                                        SHOCKING TRUTHS
‘Stalin . . . practised brutal violence, not only towards everything which
opposed him, but also towards that which seemed – to his capricious and
despotic character – contrary to his concepts’

‘Stalin . . . instead of proving his political correctness and mobilising
the masses, often chose the path of repression and physical annihilation,
not only against actual enemies, but also against individuals who had not
committed any crimes against the Party and the Soviet Government’

‘It is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to
elevate one person . . . into a superman possessing supernatural
characteristics akin to those of a god’  -30-
                      Nikita Khrushchev, February 25, 1956
                                         ALSO IN 1956…
January-March  Riots in Cyprus
April  Khrushchev visits UK
June  Polish workers riot against Communists
July-November  Suez crisis after Nasser nationalises canal. British,
French and Israeli troops invade
September  Heartbreak Hotel is Elvis’s first No 1
November  Soviet troops crush Hungarian uprising; President
Eisenhower wins second term; Vladimir Kuts, a Russian, wins
5,000m and 10,000m at Melbourne Olympics

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
On Feb 25, 1956 Khrushchev’s speech condemned Stalin’s personality cult.

By Yury Filippov, RIA Novosti political commentator
RIA Novosti, Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, February 21, 2006

MOSCOW – On February 25, 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev
read his famous "closed" report, condemning Stalin’s personality cult,
at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In subsequent Soviet and Russian history this event became a symbolic
partition line between the past and the future.

Many nations have such dates and documents, for instance, the U.S.
Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of the Rights and
Liberties of Man and Citizen. Khrushchev’s report, which leaked into the
West and the Communist bloc countries, had a similar impact on the minds.

By that time the world had become more integrated, while the Communist
perspective had not yet lost its appeal for a vast number of people in
different countries.

Whether Khrushchev wanted it or not, but having slightly opened the veil of
secrecy over the truth about millions of Stalin’s victims, he had sown the
seeds of future changes in his own country, and dealt a huge blow at the
international Communist movement.

It is with good reason that many experts consider Khrushchev to be the
forerunner of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Although the new Soviet leader had
promised to build Communism in the U.S.S.R. by 1980, he did more than
anyone else for Communism never to appear anywhere.

It would be a crude mistake to assess Khrushchev in the context of today,
to see modern connotations in his criticism of Stalin. In theory, it is
possible to assume that the protest of the new Soviet leader against
massive purges on political grounds was rooted in his understanding of
human rights, and his criticism of Stalin was his striving for the freedom
of speech. But in reality, it was the same Khrushchev who in 1956 crushed
the uprising in Hungary with tanks, which was the first political response
of Eastern Europe to his report at the 20th Congress.

Khrushchev’s inconsistency has had a dual effect on the destiny of the
U.S.S.R. and its citizens. The then Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov
said that after this report the Soviet Union never again had as many
friends as it used to have before.

This was a major charge against Khrushchev when he was removed from all
government and party posts in 1964. But he was not thrown behind bars, nor
killed, as would have been the case had he not resolutely exposed Stalinist
political morals.

The question, which is of interest today, is whether the personality cult
is always accompanied by reprisals. In Russia the cult of outstanding
statesmen is rooted in the 20th century history with its three revolutions,
two world wars, industrial modernization, and many other major events,
which subjected the nation to ultimate strain. Stalin was just one of many
– both in Russia and abroad. Apart from him, the late revolutionaries and
Communists Marx, Engels, and Lenin, the successor of their cause and the
founder of the Soviet state were also revered as the "leaders of
progressive mankind."

There were "living Gods" of a smaller rank – party and government leaders
Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov, Lazar Kaganovich, to name but a
few. They were always present in the lives of ordinary people – big cities
and small villages, plants and collective farms bore their names. Not
infrequently, the idea came from below because these people had outstanding

achievements to their credit, and they were sincerely appreciated.

But what was happening in the rest of the world at that time? Residents of
both Germanies could still remember the massive psychosis, which had made
them clap their hands to Hitler and other Nazi top brass. Mussolini
lingered before Italian eyes. In some West European countries the faded
versions of the personality cults survived World War II. The Portuguese
glorified Antonio Salazar, Spaniards sang praises to Bahamonde Franco.

The giant figure of Mao Tsetung hovered over China after the decades of
civil war and resistance to foreign intervention. The Japanese, who adopted
a democratic Constitution, did not give up deification of their Emperor.

Although they became formal in many respects, monarchies are still there in
many parts of the world with their opulent rituals – in the United Kingdom
and other European countries.

Examples are many, and the general picture is clear enough: the personality
cult or at least some of its manifestations were widespread in the 20th
century all over the world – from Europe to Asia. The United States was the
only country that managed to avoid it, but even there an exception was made
for the outstanding Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who saved the nation from
the Great Depression, was one of the victors of World War II, and was
elected President for 12 years running.

Apparently, at some stage in history the personality cult emerges in
different countries. When the demand for it disappears, it fades into the
past, but some of its manifestations may linger on for a long time to come.
It is not at all a hard and fast rule that the personality cult is
necessarily accompanied by bloody political reprisals, as it happened in
the U.S.S.R. under Stalin.

Is the personality cult possible in the 21st century? This question is
particularly vital for post-Soviet nations where it had led to the worst
consequences in the past. So far history is optimistic. The first
democratic revolution in this century took place in Georgia, Stalin’s
homeland. The second one occurred in Ukraine, where Khrushchev was

Both republics are headed by completely different political figures. When
the press shows President Saakashvili hugging young girls, and President
Yushchenko diving into an ice-hole, it becomes clear that these countries
will not suffer from the personality cult.

The situation in Asian republics is different. The personality cult there
is encouraged by local traditions. Turkmenistan offers the brightest
example. There is a gilded statue of President Niyazov in the central
square of Ashgabad. He is called Turkmenbashi, or father of all Turkmens.

Although Kazakh President Nazarbayev is the most European among his
Central Asian colleagues, the local traditions require a certain deification
of the head of state. The important point here is the extent to which the
mandatory esteem of the national leader is combined with the principles of
democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech. But even Central Asian
regimes have gone much further on that road than even the U.S.S.R. after

As for Russia, where Stalinist repressions led to the biggest casualties,
way back in 1993 it patterned its political system after the American
presidential republic with a President, elected by the whole nation, a
multi-Party parliament, and an independent court.

However, because of the Russian mind-set, the majority of the population
has never viewed Presidents Yeltsin and Putin as simple mortals. But people
in Russia realize by now that presidents come and go, and therefore creating
a cult of their personalities is simply not worth it.                -30-

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                                     IN RUSSIAN LIVES

Tallinn, Estonia, Thursday, February 23, 2006

TALLINN – More than a quarter of all Russians say that among their
relatives were victims of Stalin-era repressions, a figure that highlights
the enormous impact those events still have despite or perhaps because

those crimes are less often discussed by the country’s leaders than they
were a generation ago.

In a poll whose release coincides with the 50th anniversary this week of
Nikita Khrushchev’s "secret speech" denunciation of Stalin, the All.Russian
Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) asked 1578 Russians
across the country about their experiences with and attitudes
toward the Soviet past ( http://www.wciom.ru/?=pt=40&article=2315).

Twenty-seven percent of those polled said that they had relatives who
numbered among those repressed until Stalin, with just over one in three
of those who said they did saying that they had learned about them from
the stories of family members or from family archives.

Of those aged 60 or more, the share saying that they had relatives among
those repressed was 36 percent, with half reporting that they knew about
them from personal stories or archives. But among those aged 18 to 24,
the total was 13 percent, with fewer than one-third of those indicating that
they knew about them from such personal sources.

At the same time, however, 47 percent – or just under half – told the
VTsIOM pollsters that to the best of their knowledge, none of their
relatives had suffered repression, but the remaining 23 percent said that
they did not know whether their ancestors were among the repressed or


The Russian sample was also asked whom they believed was responsible
for the repressions: Forty-one percent named Stalin, 30 percent named the
heads of the NKVD, and 17 percent named the senior communist party
leadership at that time. An additional 10 percent blamed Lenin, and 2
percent blamed Dzerzhinskiy.

Interestingly enough, only 7 percent of the sample said they accepted the
notion  – widely put about by the defenders of Stalin personally and the
Soviet system more generally at the time — that the repressions under
Stalin were inevitable given that the USSR at the same was surrounded

by "hostile imperialist" states and "the threat of war."

But despite the suffering that Stalin inflicted on their relatives and their
country, a suprisingly large percent of Russians not only identified Stalin
as one of the most successful leaders of the country and indicated that the
Russian people need "a strong hand" in charge even now.

Asked who was the most successful leader of the country after 1917, 38
percent named incumbent president Vladimir Putin, but 15 percent named
Leonid Brezhnev, 11 percent named Stalin (putting him in third place),
7 percent named Yuri Andropov, and 5 percent named Nikita Khrushchev.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader and Boris Yeltsin, the first
Russian Federation president, tied for last place with only 2 percent each,
VTsIOM reported, noting that 13 percent of this sample had indicated that
they found it "difficult to answer" this question.

Asked whether contemporary Russia needed "a strong and powerful leader,
a strong hand" 57 percent said that "our people always need a strong hand."
And 16 percent said "that in the current situation it is necessary to
concentrate all power into one set of hands." But 20 percent disagreed,
saying "all power must never be given into the hands of one person."

VTsIOM did not present  a full array of the data so it is impossible to say
whether those who oppose the concentration of power into the hands of one
man are the same as those who know about the suffering of their relatives at
the hands of Stalin and his henchmen in the past.

Such a correlation is of course likely, and that in turn raises a disturbing
possibility: In the absence of a serious and ongoing public discussion of
the issue of Stalin’s crimes against his own people, the propensity of
Russians to say that their country should be governed by a virtual dictator
is unlikely to decline anytime soon.                        -30-
[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Interfax, Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, February 14, 2006

MOSCOW – The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union and Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech denouncing the policies of
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin delivered an irreparable blow both to the
Communist Party and the reputation of the Soviet Union, Russian
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told Interfax on Tuesday.

February 14 marks the 50th anniversary of the forum, which was held in
Moscow on February 14-February 25, 1956.

"In his report, Khrushchev effectively settled personal scores with Stalin.
I would like to stress that this speech had not been discussed" at any
sessions of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee preceding
the congress, he said.

"Instead of discussing violations of the law and the 1930s repressions, in
which Khrushchev personally took part, the speaker offered an absolutely
personal assessment of Stalin, shouldering the blame for all processes in
the country onto him. It was a totally subjective, voluntaristic approach
which did more harm than good to the country and the party," Zyuganov

Ahead of the 1956 congress, a large number of people around the world
approved of the Soviet Union, "noting that it did not take our country long
to turn from a ‘bast shoe’ state into a power that defeated Fascism," the
party leader said.

Khrushchev’s speech triggered a major split in the international Communist
movement, "considerably affecting Soviet society’s morale and political
life," Zyuganov said. Soviet society "divided into those who supported the
denouncement of Stalin and those who categorically disagreed," he said.

Khrushchev’s policies, aimed at undermining the foundation of the Soviet
state, were continued by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and First
Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Zyuganov said. tm md
[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Michael Johnson, Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Johnson’s Russia List (JRL) 2006#43, Feb 15, 2006

Are the Russians finally ready to face the horrors of their history during
the years of the gulag? If television ratings can be believed, it would
appear so.

One of the great novels of the 20th century, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s "The
First Circle", drew large audiences during is 10 episodes on Russian state
television recently. The novel was banned when it appeared in 1968 during
my posting there as an AP reporter, and, although long since available in
book form, was thought to be irrelevant to modern Russia.

But suddenly here it is, broadcast to great acclaim. The first installment,
according to the New York Times, held the nation in thrall, even attracting
a larger audience than "Terminator 3" that ran against it on another
channel. It lost some viewers in later episodes but continued to score high

Several other once-banned works, including Boris Pasternak’s "Doctor
Zhivago", are coming to Russian television in the next few months.

What makes this so important is the truism that remembering history might
help us avoid repeating it.

Russian dissidents, mostly writers and scientists, seemed until now to have
lost their place in their country’s history as greater events subsumed
them. Furthermore, their values such as democratic governance come

fourth or fifth in pollsters’ lists of priorities among the general population.
Employment, food and political stability naturally score higher.

Even in the West – except for academic specialists – we pay too little
attention to the swings in Russia’s momentous recent history. A couple of
years ago, I conducted an informal poll among university graduates in
London to see who could remember how the Soviet Union came apart.

Most of them had heard of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin but
Solzhenitsyn? He was unknown and unread. One history graduate student,
30 years old, couldn’t understand the name. She asked: "Soldier who?
Soldier Nitsin?"

Nobel Peace laureate Andrei Sakharov, known as the father of the Soviet
hydrogen bomb, died in 1989 after decades of KGB harassment and a brief
role as a Soviet parliamentarian under Gorbachev. But to many of the
educated younger set in the West he might as well have never existed.

Leading dissidents Vladimir Bukovsky, Valery Chalidze, Alexander
Yesenin-Volpin and Pavel Litvinov have all slipped from the public scene.

Edward Kline covers the era in his well-documented recent book translated
into Russian by Lev Timofeyev, "The Moscow Human Rights Committee"
(Moskovskii komitet prav cheloveka), Izadelstvo "Prava cheloveka".

But it is Sakharov who deserves the most attention, for he brought gravitas
to the ragtag dissident movement and he worried the authorities like no one
else. His widow, Dr. Elena Bonner, now lives in Boston and continues her
work on his papers, a great legacy from a major human rights defender.

Yale University Press also deserves credit for continuing its series on
"The Annals of Communism", a recent volume of which sheds new light on
the Sakharov case. "The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov" provides the first
English language translation of 146 KGB memos detailing the activities of
Sakharov and Dr. Bonner during the tense days of the movement in the
1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

I have read the memos and was struck by the degree to which KGB prose
resembled the thinking of any supreme authority. While grammatically
impeccable, even intelligent, on the surface, every fact is selected and
shaded, every event stretched to fit the case against the subject under

There are lessons here for any society in danger of creating excessive
police powers by default or design.

The KGB memos are constructed with carefully wrought logic, dense
information and a collection of wooden euphemisms. At one point, summing
up the Sakharov problem, the KGB explained deadpan that Sakharov "does
not enjoy the trust of the investigative organs, since his personal behavior
does not correspond to the norms of our society".

This book puts to rest the contention by some analysts that the Soviet
dissident movement was a minor irritant controlled by routine police
action. We did not know it at the time, but this book makes it clear that
the movement was the talk of the Communist Party Central Committee and
the Politburo. Most of these memos went to the Central Committee.

Reading this material, and the excellent commentary by editors Joshua
Rubinstein and Alexander Gribanov, one begins to understand the extent
of telephone taps, postal intercepts and physical surveillance that were
employed to detect signs of ideological drift in the Soviet population.

Yuri Andropov, head of the KGB at the time, kept the pressure up at
Politburo level, arguing that it would be a mistake to "renounce the
criminal prosecution of people who oppose the Soviet system". He got his
way most of the time, and his men temporarily subdued the movement in
the 1970s with a wave of arrests and expulsions.

Rubenstein pinpoints Sakharov’s moment of truth as early as July 1961 when
his warnings against atmospheric atomic testing went unheeded by Party
Chairman Nikita Khrushchev. Sakharov later acknowledged that he felt
bitter, humiliated, impotent and ashamed by being ignored on such a crucial
issue. Five years later he made his first appearance at an unauthorized
public demonstration and the KGB never let him out of their sight again.

"Over the next decade," Rubenstein writes, "Sakharov stood vigil outside
closed courtrooms, wrote appeals on behalf of more than 200 individual
prisoners and continued to write carefully composed essays about the need
for democratisation."

I was part of a crowd of Western journalists standing vigil when he made
his first courtroom appearance in support of a group of accused dissidents,
the appeal hearing of Eduard Kuznetsov and his fellow would-be hijackers.

We all felt a frisson as this great man emerged into the snowdrifts around
the courthouse to announce to us that Kuznetsov’s death sentence had been
reprieved. The movement had just been elevated to new heights.

Perhaps Russian television will get around to the Sakharov story one day.
It is stranger than fiction.                                -30-
Michael Johnson, a former Moscow correspondent, is at work on a
history of the Soviet dissidents.  E-mail: johnson33@laposte.net
[ return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
27.                              USHERING IN THE THAW

By Anna Malpas, The Moscow Times
Moscow, Russia, Friday, February 17, 2006. Issue 3355. Page 102.

After the 20th Party Congress in February 1956, a Muscovite named Mikhail
Kokhn wrote to the well-known author Ilya Ehrenburg — whose novella "The
Thaw" was to define the era — asking him to help with his appeal for
rehabilitation. He said that he had spent years in prison for reading works
by Ehrenburg and another writer.

Ehrenburg wrote to the public prosecutor asking him to investigate, but not
hearing back, he wrote again in May 1956, saying that he was interested in
the case since he had apparently played a role. Only four months later did
he get a reply.

The prosecutor said that Kokhn’s convictions were unsound, but that his
offense had not been his choice of reading material — rather, Kokhn had
been imprisoned for his membership in a Menshevik organization from
1917 to 1922 and his later "anti-Soviet agitation."

Shortly afterward, the writer sent a brief note to Kokhn repeating what the
prosecutor had said. In response, he received a passionate letter from
Kokhn’s wife. The message from the prosecutor had come too late, she said.

Her husband had died in June, broken by his experiences. Ehrenburg’s letter
would have brought him joy, she wrote, at least with the news about his

But she wanted to assure him that her husband had written the truth. "Why
are they now telling you a lie?" she asked. Involvement with a Menshevik
organization had "broken" her husband’s life for many years, she wrote, but
in 1951 he had been convicted, perhaps not even for reading, but simply for
listening to, "nonexistent anti-Soviet poems" by Ehrenburg and poet
Margarita Aliger.

Kokhn loved Ehrenburg, she added. "I don’t think many people have such
a lovingly and carefully chosen collection of all your novels, stories and

This series of letters, typed and sent from one apartment on Tverskaya to
another, is part of an exhibition titled "The Thaw" that opened at the
Historical Museum last week. Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of
the 20th Party Congress, the exhibition presents documents, photographs
and objects connected with the era, from the officer’s cap that lay on Josef
Stalin’s coffin to Nikita Khrushchev’s trademark embroidered shirt.

The Thaw period was "full of contradictions, drama, impossible ideas and at
the same time, hopes for a better life," the exhibition notes read. The
oldest items on display — such as passes to attend Stalin’s funeral on Red
Square, and booklets with the speeches read by Georgy Malenkov and
Vyacheslav Molotov on the occasion — give a sense of the leader’s
deep-rooted place in official dogma.

Even the gifts sent by members of the public to the delegates of the 20th
Party Congress suggest how little they expected a reappraisal of Stalin’s
role: Carved panels of wood and bone feature dual portraits of Lenin and
Stalin. And confident Pravda coverage on the Congress’ first day emphasizes
how the Party correctly solved problems in industry and agriculture.

The consequences of Khrushchev’s secret speech to the Congress, in which
he criticized the cult of personality and the repressions from 1934 onward,
come through in far less pompous exhibits: the small wooden suitcase brought
back after 19 years in the gulag by the mother of the bard singer Bulat
Okudzhava, and matter-of-fact slips from the public prosecutor in which
people were informed that convictions leading to years spent in prison camps
and exile had been "without enough basis."

Also on display is a torn black leather jacket worn by one former prisoner
on the day that she returned to Moscow. She translated for Soviet pilots in
Spain during that country’s Civil War, and her offense was marriage to an
"enemy of the people."

The rehabilitation process had already begun, haltingly, before the 20th
Party Congress, as a letter written to Khrushchev by a veteran Party member
points out. "I have been a witness of difficult scenes and the suffering of
people who appeal to the public prosecutor," E.R. Levitas wrote in 1955.
"Investigations run on for long months and sometimes even years,"

Levitas was seeking rehabilitation for his brother Abram, who died in
detention in 1938. He wrote that "the people who apply to the prosecutor
on duty almost always receive the standard reply: Your case is being
investigated. Wait."

The changed atmosphere after Khrushchev’s secret speech was also one of
cultural revival, and the exhibition shows books from the era, such as
Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," which
was printed in Novy Mir in 1962.

The exhibition ends with gifts from top officials to Khrushchev on his 70th
birthday in April 1964: a congratulatory address in a vast book, and a pass
with the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Six months later, he found
himself out of a job, and the official mood harshened, bringing an end to
the Thaw period.

"The Thaw" (Ottepel) runs to March 19 at the Historical Museum, located
at 1/2 Red Square. Metro Ploshchad Revolyutsii. [Moscow] Tel. 692-4019.
LINK: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2006/02/17/102-full.html

[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
   I don’t want to hear about this. How can people spit into our souls like this?

By Andrew Osborn in Moscow, The Independent
London, United Kingdom, Saturday, February 18, 2006

MOSCOW – The imminent opening of a museum devoted to Josef Stalin

has stirred outrage among relatives of the millions he persecuted and
prompted claims that Stalinism is again on the march.

After a number of delays, the "Stalin Museum" dedicated to the
once-venerated Father of the People is due to be opened at the end of

March in Volgograd, the World War II "hero city" once known as

The project is being privately financed by local businessmen but will
controversially enjoy pride of place in the official complex that
commemorates the epic Battle of Stalingrad.

The museum will boast a writing set owned by the dictator, copies of his
historic musings, a mock-up of his Kremlin office, a Madame Tussauds-style
wax representation of him and medals, photographs and busts.

Svetlana Argatseva, the museum’s future curator, told Ogonyok magazine she
felt the project was justified. "In France people regard Napoleon and indeed
the rest of their history with respect. We need to look at our history in
the same way."

But Eduard Polyakov, the chairman of the local association of victims of
political repression, is among those who believe the project is an insult to
the millions who suffered in Stalin’s purges and died in the Gulag.

"I don’t even want to hear about this," he said. "In the Stalingrad area
100,000 families suffered political repression and were forcibly resettled
because of their ethnicity. How can people spit into our souls like this?"

The scandal comes half a century after Stalin’s cult of personality was
officially dismantled and the crimes "Uncle Joe" perpetrated against his

own people exposed.

February 25 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the "secret" speech made
by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1956 denouncing Stalin, an event
that ushered in "de-Stalinisation" and saw monuments to the Georgian-born
autocrat torn down across the country.

Ironically, however, the former dictator appears to be enjoying a
mini-revival. Actors playing Stalin are in serious demand as television and
theatrical productions about the era flourish, while the modern-day Russian
Communist Party says his crimes were "exaggerated".

The "comeback" of a man whose bloodied hands are often compared to

Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong has alarmed the more liberal wing
of Russia’s political class.

The Soviet Union’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, has warned that
neo-Stalinism is on the march again, and Russia’s first post-Soviet
President, Boris Yeltsin, has said he can’t understand why Stalin is still
so popular.

Between 30 and 40 per cent of poll respondents regularly rate Stalin’s
achievements as "positive" and a survey last year named him the most revered
Communist leader the Soviet system had produced. Admirers cite his turning
the Soviet Union into a superpower, the country’s defeat of fascism and the
"order" he enforced.

According to Gorbachev, Russia is going through a dangerous period. "We

can see what was seen in the 1930s even now," he said this month. "Portraits
of Stalin and a renaissance of Stalinism can be observed in the mass media
and in theatres. Some attempts are being made to preserve Stalinism and
this is very serious.

"Russia today is reminiscent of the Brezhnev era which led to
neo-Stalinism – Stalinism without political reprisals but with persecution
and total control."

Stalin, who ruled the USSR from 1924 until his death in 1953, ruthlessly
purged the Communist Party and the armed forces and effected rapid
industrialisation at huge human cost. The total number who died under his
regime is disputed but Western historians put the figure at 20 million. He
once said that one death was a tragedy, but one million was a statistic.

LINK: http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article346163.ece
[return to index ] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
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immediately by e-mail to morganw@patriot.net.  If you are receiving more
than one copy please let us know so this can be corrected. 
                        PUBLISHER AND EDITOR – AUR
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Director, Government Affairs
Washington Office, SigmaBleyzer
Emerging Markets Private Equity Investment Group
P.O. Box 2607, Washington, D.C. 20013, Tel: 202 437 4707
Mobile in Kyiv: 8 050 689 2874
mwilliams@SigmaBleyzer.com; www.SigmaBleyzer.com
      Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. 
return to index  [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

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