Painful Truth: Khruschev a shoe-banging mystery

How did a Stalinist undermine Stalin’s legacy?

This Oct. 12 is the anniversary of one of those odd moments of history that remains in dispute despite hundreds of witnesses.

In 1961, full of anger at a delegate from the Philippines, Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev railed against the west while (allegedly) banging his shoe on his desk during a United Nations debate.

Khruschev remains one of those figures in history that is extremely hard to pin down.

An ill-educated peasant and metal worker, he was an early convert to revolutionary socialism, and eventually began climbing the ranks of the new Soviet power structure. But Joseph Stalin was ahead of him, and climbing faster.

By the time Stalin, paranoid and cruel, began his purges and mass executions, Khruschev was a senior party official. He sent friends and colleagues to their deaths. He was a loyal workhorse for Stalin throughout the Second World War and beyond.

He seemed no more than another tame monster.

Then Stalin died, felled by a stroke.

Khruschev, the crude peasant, outmaneuvered everyone else and managed to dispose of Lavrenty Beria, ruthless head of the Soviet secret police.

And then… Kruschev ushered in the thaw.

For a few years in the late 1950s and early 1960s, artists had more freedom, people could speak up – a little – and reforms that made things easier for the common Soviet man and woman were introduced.

Khruschev never became a saint, nor did he ever relinquish total control. But the man who had without outward qualm condemned thousands to death dismantled the cult of Stalin.

After he was deposed in 1964, he noted that anyone who had tried to “retire” Stalin wouldn’t have survived. His survival was his own legacy, in a way.

The question about Khruschev is how did a sliver of humanity survive within him? He had done terrible things. He had made himself into a monster.

But without Khruschev’s turn from Stalinism, history might have turned out much worse.

Just Posted

UPDATED: Dog found wandering in Langley headed to his Alberta family

The Langley Animal Protection Society and a kind truck driver are helping Frankie get home.

UPDATED: Byelection lawsuit cost Langley City $27,000

Last-place candidate Serena Oh failed to convince the Supreme Court to hear her case.

Michael Jackstien named Langley’s Good Citizen of the Year

The longtime volunteer organized the BC Summer Games and many other local events.

Province’s best young curlers compete in Langley

Langley Curling Centre is hosting the juniors from Dec. 18 to 23.

Winter Ice Palace will return to Cloverdale for 20th year

Annual holiday open skate starts up on Dec. 22

Me Too At Work: Sexual assault and harassment in the B.C. workplace

Introducing an in-depth look at who is affected and what can be done

FortisBC to lower natural gas rates in 2018

Rate changes to impact the Lower Mainland, Kootenays, Interior and Vancouver Island

Fate of B.C. pit bull involved in vicious attack still uncertain

Animal control application to have aggressive dog euthanized may not be heard until 2018

Greater Vancouver house prices expected to rise five per cent in 2018

Strict incoming mortgage rules will slow growth for first half of 2018

5 to start your day

Large drug bust in Abbotsford, a look at sexual harassment in the workplace and more

Four-month-old baby girl critically injured in Toronto

Baby, a man and a woman in serious condition

Google searches suggest 2017 a tough year

What were Canadians were curious about: Google searches suggest 2017 a tough year

Democrat wins stunning red-state Alabama Senate upset

Democrat Doug Jones wins stunning red-state Alabama Senate upset against Roy Moore

Police appeal for info after girl, 11, hit in New Westminster crosswalk

Child was left with non-life threatening injuries

Most Read