Cover image for Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Volume 1: Commissar, 1918–1945 Edited by Sergei Khrushchev

Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev

Volume 1: Commissar, 1918–1945

Edited by Sergei Khrushchev

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$34.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-05853-5

1004 pages
6.125" × 9.25"
57 b&w illustrations/11 maps
2004
Co-published with Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute, Brown University

Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev

Volume 1: Commissar, 1918–1945

Edited by Sergei Khrushchev

“Nikita Khrushchev was one of the most important political leaders of the twentieth century. Without his memoirs, neither the rise and fall of the Soviet Union nor the history of the Cold War can be fully understood. By dictating his memoirs and publishing them in the West, Khrushchev transformed himself from the USSR’s leader to one of its first dissidents. His remarkably candid recollections were a harbinger of glasnost to come. Like virtually all memoirs, his have a personal and political agenda, but even what might be called Khrushchev’s ‘myth of himself’ is vital for understanding how this colorful figure could place his contradictory stamp on his country and the world. The fact that the full text of Khrushchev’s memoirs will now be available in English is cause for rejoicing.”

 

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
Nikita Khrushchev’s proclamation from the floor of the United Nations that "we will bury you" is one of the most chilling and memorable moments in the history of the Cold War, but from the Cuban Missile Crisis to his criticism of the Soviet ruling structure late in his career the motivation for Khrushchev’s actions wasn’t always clear. Many Americans regarded him as a monster, while in the USSR he was viewed at various times as either hero or traitor. But what was he really like, and what did he really think? Readers of Khrushchev’s memoirs will now be able to answer these questions for themselves (and will discover that what Khrushchev really said at the UN was "we will bury colonialism").

This is the first volume of three in the only complete and fully reliable version of the memoirs available in English. In this volume, Khrushchev recounts how he became politically active as a young worker in Ukraine, how he climbed the ladder of power under Stalin to occupy leading positions in Ukraine and then Moscow, and how as a military commissar he experienced the war against the Nazi invaders. He vividly portrays life in Stalin's inner circle and among the generals who commanded the Soviet armies.

Khrushchev’s sincere reflections upon his own thoughts and feelings add to the value of this unique personal and historical document. Included among the Appendixes is Sergei Khrushchev’s account of how the memoirs were created and smuggled abroad during his father’s retirement.

“Nikita Khrushchev was one of the most important political leaders of the twentieth century. Without his memoirs, neither the rise and fall of the Soviet Union nor the history of the Cold War can be fully understood. By dictating his memoirs and publishing them in the West, Khrushchev transformed himself from the USSR’s leader to one of its first dissidents. His remarkably candid recollections were a harbinger of glasnost to come. Like virtually all memoirs, his have a personal and political agenda, but even what might be called Khrushchev’s ‘myth of himself’ is vital for understanding how this colorful figure could place his contradictory stamp on his country and the world. The fact that the full text of Khrushchev’s memoirs will now be available in English is cause for rejoicing.”
“One of the most extraordinary archives of the twentieth century”
“Khrushchev had a remarkable memory, and although the style and broad outline of what he has to say will be familiar to those who read the original two-volume English version issued in the early 1970s, the detail he provides here, particularly on the war, adds a great deal.”
“But his personal slant, conveyed in the World War II memoirs that make up half of this huge book, is important for understanding the political atmosphere during that colossal struggle. And the detail of his recall, without notes or references, is extraordinary.”
“Sergei Khrushchev (Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute, Brown Univ.) has edited an exquisitely detailed, amply documented, remarkably translated first volume of a proposed three-volume translation of his father’s memoirs, based on the four-volume Russian edition of 1999.”
“There is a lot less high politics here than one would expect. Khrushchev’s focus is very often on chance encounters and small vignettes, often told at great length, rather than on reflections on the ‘big picture’ or revelations about key historical events. Yet it is this above all else that makes this work so readable, for it allows Khrushchev’s personality to come through in the text in all its contradictions and complexity.”
“This volume far exceeds in detail earlier editions of the Khrushchev memoirs and for readers of this journal especially, his observations of the war years are intriguing.”

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (1894-1971) was First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964 and Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers from 1958 to 1964.

Sergei Khrushchev is Senior Fellow at the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He is the author of Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower (Penn State, 2000).

Contents

Captions to Photographs

Translators Preface

Editors Foreword

Andrei Bitov. The Baldest and the Boldest

Abbreviations and Acronyms

The Memoirs

Prologue

Part I. The Beginning of the Road

A Little About Myself

The Fourteenth Party Conference

A Few Words About the NEP

The Fifteenth Party Congress

The Move to Kharkov

The Move to Kiev

At the Industrial Academy

Personal Acquaintance with Stalin

Moscow Workdays

The Kirov Assassination

Some Consequences of the Kirov Assassination

In the Ukraine Again

The Ukraine-Moscow (Crossroads of the 1930s)

The Second World War Approaches

The Beginning of the Second World War

Events on the Eve of War

Part II. The Great Patriotic War

The Difficult Summer of 1941

People and Events of Summer and Fall 1941

1942: From Winter to Summer

By the Ruins of Stalingrad

Turn of the Tide at Stalingrad

The Road to Rostov

Before the Battle of Kursk and at Its Beginning

To the Dnieper!

Kiev Is Ours Again!

We Liberate the Ukraine

Forward to Victory!

Postwar Reflections

The Far East After the Great Patriotic War

War Memoirs

Appendices

A Short Biography of N. S. Khrushchev

L. Lasochko. The Khrushchev Family Line: A Historical Note

Sergei Khrushchev. The History of the Creation and Publication of the Khrushchev

Memoirs (1967-1999)

Conversation with N. S. Khrushchev at the Party Control Committee

Biographies

Index

Prologue

For a long time now my comrades have been asking me whether I was going to write my memoirs (and not just asking, but urging me to). Because I, and my generation in general, lived in very interesting times: the revolution, the Civil War, and everything connected with the transition from capitalism to socialism, as well as the developing and strengthening of socialism. It was an entire epoch. It fell to my lot to take an active part in the political struggle from the very first days after I joined the party [in 1918]. The whole time I held elected positions of one kind or another. The Civil War and the Great Patriotic War, and domestic developments in our country, have been treated extensively in the press. But there are “blank spots” that are incomprehensible to many. For a long time they were incomprehensible to me as well. After Stalin’s death, when we had the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with archival material that had previously been unknown to us, we began to see many things in a different light. Previously there had been only the blind confidence that we had in Stalin, and therefore everything that was done under his leadership was treated as necessary, as the only correct thing that could have been done. But when we ourselves began thinking in a somewhat critical way, we began checking the facts, to the extent possible, against archival data.

Many people who meet and talk with me ask if I am going to write my memoirs about the period in which I lived. They all argue, and I myself understand this, that it was a time filled with great responsibilities, a very important period in history, and that therefore people would want to know about it from a man who was right there, who lived in those times and held a high position, as happened with me. I would like future generations to have the opportunity to judge for themselves the things that transpired in the period when I was alive. This period was indeed one of great significance. It was a magnificent time because of the grandeur of the actions carried out by the party in reconstructing industry, agriculture, culture, and public administration. At the same time, many things were done that hindered our forward development, and if these things had not been done, our achievements would have been even grander.

I understand the concern of these friends who have insistently urged me to take up the pen. A time will come when literally every word of people who lived in our era will become “worth its weight in gold.” This will be especially true of people whose fate it was to be near the helm of power, from which the entire enormous ship of our state was steered in restructuring the sociopolitical life of our country, in the process exerting an enormous influence on developments worldwide. However, I must work without actually having access to archival materials. It is too complicated [to try to use such materials], and in my situation now it is probably impossible.

I want to be very fair [ochen pravdivym––that is, very accurate about the facts], and I will refer to facts so that future generations (and it is for them that I am writing) can verify them. I will indicate sources that may be referred to in order to find out about things in more detail, to verify and understand the facts. On many questions that I consider especially interesting for future generations the facts were recorded in minutes. People can acquaint themselves with these in detail. These archival materials are not accessible today, but some day they will become available to everyone. Even today I don’t think the bulk of this material is closed to the public.

I would like to express my opinion on a number of questions, knowing from experience that future generations will eagerly grasp at every word dealing with this extremely important period of history, one filled with great responsibilities, the one in which we lived, worked, and built a powerful state. This was done by our efforts, by the efforts of the people, the party, and the leaders of that time, who were the organizers of the masses. It was my good luck to be one of that number, on various rungs of the ladder at various times, from base-level party organizations all the way up to the top leadership bodies—the Central Committee of the CPSU, its Politburo and Presidium—and the top posts of chairman of the Council of Ministers and first secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU. It fell to my lot to be present when many important questions were decided, and I took part in putting those decisions into effect. I was a participant in the events of this crucial time. I therefore consider it my duty to express my opinion.

I know in advance that no opinion will satisfy everyone, and it is not my intention to try to do that. My only wish is that, among the opinions that will be recorded in one form or another and that will remain as a legacy for future generations, my opinion too will become known. There were commonly held opinions and there were differences on many particular questions. This is only natural. There is nothing contradictory in this. In fact, that’s how it will be in the future as well. The truth is born out of debate. Even in a single party, standing on the basis of a single, highly principled Marxist-Leninist viewpoint, people can have different conceptions, different shades of opinion, in trying to decide one or another question. Living in a time when a flexible approach is required for solving problems, I know that differing points of view arise, views that may even be sharply opposed to one another, but that does not bother me.

I place my reliance on those people who in the future will, as it were, act as judges. It will be the people themselves who will judge, who will acquaint themselves with this material and draw their own conclusions. I don’t think that what I say is necessarily the truth. No, each person will find the truth for himself or herself, comparing different points of view on one or another question at one or another time. That is all I wish for. Only a foolish person wants to “cut everyone’s hair to the same length,” to reduce everything to one and the same level, to denounce as heresy or stupidity or even a crime anything that doesn’t fit a certain viewpoint. Let history itself be the judge. Let the people judge.

For that reason I ask in advance that I be forgiven for any inaccuracies the reader may find in my memoirs. I am presenting my own personal view. This is how I see things now, how I understand them and write about them. I don’t want to adapt myself to what others want, to be a timeserver. I don’t want to hold my tongue or suppress the truth. I don’t want to gloss things over or varnish our reality. Our reality doesn’t need varnishing because in itself it is grand and immense enough. It was my good fortune, certainly, to have lived at such a critical, transitional time, a time when we broke up the old way of life, based on capitalist-landowner foundations, tossed it aside, and built a new life on the basis of new theories and a new practice.

Theory without practice is dead. What happened with us was that on the basis of the most advanced theory, Marxist-Leninist theory, we laid the groundwork for achievements in practice. This is a very complicated matter, because during this period [of transition from capitalism to socialism] mistakes and miscalculations, whether intended or not, cannot be excluded. As the saying goes, may our descendants forgive us. May they consider the fact that this was the first experience [in trying to build socialism]. That’s why it was unique, and as for subsequent attempts, they were a kind of repetition of the first. May we be judged in such a way that allowances are made for the conditions in which we lived and worked. We did our work first, and only afterward did we start to write memoirs, so that the good things created in our history by us, by the party, the working class, and the toiling peasantry, would not be lost sight of, and so that the mistakes—and I would also say, the crimes committed in the name of the party and for the party, supposedly—would not be repeated.

Today it is clear that there was abuse of power. The reports at the Twentieth Party Congress, and again, to some degree, at the Twenty-Second Party Congress, shed light on the causes giving rise to this abuse. I think that everything was correct that was said on this subject [by those two party congresses]. Even today I take my stand on the positions adopted then, and it is precisely from that standpoint that I will tell about the times of heavy responsibility on the eve of the Great Patriotic War and during the war, and then I will continue to lay out the course of events as long as I have the strength to do so, relating how I saw and understood events then and how I evaluate them now.

Where to begin? I think it’s necessary to begin with the figure of Stalin. Why? That will become clear (if I succeed in carrying this project through to the end). If I were to try, to some degree, to give an explanation at this point, I could say that before Stalin’s death we considered everything done under him to have been irreproachably correct, the only thing possible for the revolution to survive, and for it to develop and grow stronger. It’s true that in the final period of Stalin’s life, the time leading up to the Nineteenth Party Congress [1952] and especially just after it, some doubts began to arise in our minds. I am speaking of those who were in his immediate circle (myself, Bulganin, Malenkov, and to some extent, Beria). We had no opportunity to test those doubts then. Only after Stalin’s death, and not all at once, did we find enough party and civic courage to lift the curtain and look behind the scenes of history. It was then that I learned some facts I want to shed light on now.

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