In “Khrushchev’s Secret Speech on Stalin’s Crimes,” I discuss Nikita Khrushchev’s speech of February 25, 1956, in which he denounced Josef Stalin as a brutal despot. His speech was nothing less than a sensational, count-by-count indictment of the dictator’s crimes.
But the question remains: What was Khrushchev’s role in Stalin’s mass terror campaigns against the Communist Party members and the general population?
Before addressing this question, I want to point out that Ayn Rand has called Khrushchev “the butcher of the Ukraine.” In her article “To Dream the Noncommercial Dream” (The Voice of Reason), Rand wrote:
“When Khrushchev visited the United States in 1959, he was interviewed on various television news programs, usually through the voice of a translator: but on one occasion his answers were broadcast in Russian (with the English translation following). He was asked about the grounds of his faith in the ultimate triumph of world communism. And suddenly this cynical old brute—this Big Boss, feared by the whole world, known in Russia as “the Butcher of the Ukraine” for the mass slaughter that raised him to prominence—began to recite the credo of dialectic materialism in the exact words and tone in which I have heard it recited at exams, in my college days, by students at the University of Leningrad. He had the same uninflected, monotonous tone of a memorised lesson, the same automatic progression of sounds rather than meaning, the same earnest, dutiful, desperate hope that the sacred formulas will come out correctly. But in the face and eyes of a large television closeup, there was a shade more intensity than in the faces of the poor little college robots, more superstitious awe, and less comprehension: it was the face of a man performing a magic ritual on which his life depends. This man, I thought, believes it; he is compelled to believe it; he does not know what it means—but he knows that if this string of sounds were taken away from him, he would left to face something more frightening than death.”
When Stalin was alive, Khrushchev used to support him without any reservations. In the speech that Khrushchev gave at the Ukrainian Party Congress in 1926, he endorsed Stalin’s repressive measures against political rivals such as Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev and others.
In December 1929, Stalin announced the policy of liquidating the kulaks, whom he regarded as class enemies. (In the Soviet Union, the rich peasants were labeled as kulaks.) It is believed that between 1930 and 1931 close to 2 million kulaks were uprooted and deported to slave camps, where many of them perished. Khrushchev played a major role in the destruction of the kulaks.
During the 1930s, when Stalin was terrorizing Soviet Union with his mass terror campaigns, Khrushchev used to lavish extravagant praise on him. Impressed by Khrushchev’s loyalty, in 1938 Stalin made him the first secretary of the Communist Party in Ukraine. Here Khrushchev distinguished himself by ensuring that more people were killed than Stalin required. He unleashed terror campaigns in which tens of thousands of Ukrainians were liquidated.
The entire leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet government and the Communist Party was liquidated on Stalin’s orders. All the top ministers of the state were arrested and executed by the middle of 1938. Khrushchev had a major role to play in the planning of these killings. It’s believed that around 40% of the Ukrainian Communist Party was purged during this period.
While Khrushchev was at the helm of Ukraine, the infamous Vinnytsia massacre took place in which thousands of people were branded as enemies of the state and executed. 66 mass graves with hundreds and in some cases thousands of bodies were discovered in 1943, during the German occupation of Ukraine. Given the lack of complete data, it is difficult to establish the total loss of life in Ukraine. But most estimates suggest that the percentage of Ukrainian victims, in the millions who were killed in Soviet Union, was disproportionately high.
As to the role that Khrushchev played in the liquidation of millions of people in Stalin’s Soviet Union, consider these facts:
- After Lenin died, Khrushchev was one of Stalin’s most loyal and enthusiastic supporters.
- Khrushchev endorsed the purge of Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev, and Lev Kamenev.
- Khrushchev played a major role in the destruction of the kulaks.
- Khrushchev was an eager participant in Stalin’s great purges during the 1930s.
- During the 1930s, the largest massacre in Soviet Union happened in Ukraine where Khrushchev was in control.
Khrushchev was indeed the butcher of the Ukraine. After he became the Soviet premier, he used to boast that his hands were “soaked in blood, up to his elbows.”
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