Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev
Volume 2: Reformer, 1945–1964
Edited by Sergei Khrushchev
Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev
Volume 2: Reformer, 1945–1964
Edited by Sergei Khrushchev
“The single most comprehensive, candid, and authoritative account of the inner workings of the Kremlin leadership. . . . One of the most extraordinary archives of the twentieth century.”
- Table of Contents
- Sample Chapters
2006 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
This is the second volume of three in the only complete and fully reliable version of the memoirs available in English. In the first volume, published in 2004, Khrushchev takes his story up to the close of World War II. In the first section of this second volume, he covers the period from 1945 to 1956, from the famine and devastation of the immediate aftermath of the war to Stalin’s death, the subsequent power struggle, and the Twentieth Party Congress. The remaining sections are devoted to Khrushchev’s recollections and thoughts about various domestic and international problems. In the second and third sections, he recalls the virgin lands and other agricultural campaigns and his dealings with nuclear scientists and weapons designers. He also considers other sectors of the economy, specifically construction and the provision of consumer goods, administrative reform, and questions of war, peace, and disarmament. In the last section, he discusses the relations between the party leadership and the intelligentsia.
Included among the Appendixes are the notebooks of Nina Petrovna Kukharchuk, Khrushchev’s wife.
“The single most comprehensive, candid, and authoritative account of the inner workings of the Kremlin leadership. . . . One of the most extraordinary archives of the twentieth century.”
“This is the second of three huge volumes that present, for the first time in English, a complete version of the tape-recorded memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (SPSU) from September 1953 to October 1964. Pennsylvania State University Press deserves praise for taking on this enormous task, which was supported in part by grants from a number of individuals and private foundations. . . . The 3-volume set of Khrushchev’s memoirs is an indispensable resource for scholars interested in Soviet politics, Soviet foreign policy, and the Cold War. This second volume is especially useful in its discussion of political rivalries, the Machiavellian nature of Soviet politics, and the dilemmas of Soviet military policy in the nuclear age.”
“In spight of Khrushchev’s generally negative attitude toward Jews, the appearance of the second volume of his posthumous reminiscences, Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev will be of great interest to all Kremlin watchers.”
“Like the preceding volume, this work is a fine translation, easy to read, but fragmented. There are excellent notes following each chapter and photographs showing Krushchev up to his retirement. The index is excellent and a number of appendixes are included, some quite lengthy, which provide rare insights into Krushchev’s character. This volume would be another valuable addition for the Soviet specialist but military historians should wait for the final volume, which hopefully will go into more detail regarding the major Cold War events of Khrushchev’s tenure as General Secretary.”
“The Memoirs of Nikita Krushchev remain a highly valuable source for historians of the Soviet Union, and should be of great interest to those interested in the history of the Cold War. Because they provide a unique insight into the mindset of the Soviet leadership, and because their contents can be enjoyed by those without too much background knowledge in Soviet history, they can also be fruitfully used by undergraduate as a primary source.”
“There is no better way to appreciate the historical and humanistic depths of this drama than by spending time with Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs.”
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).
Abbreviations and Acronyms
From Victory Day to the Twentieth Party Congress
The First Postwar Years
In Moscow Again
Some Comments on Certain Individuals
One of Stalin’s Shortcomings—Anti-Semitism
Beria and Others
Stalin’s Family, and His Daughter Svetlana
Stalin’s Last Years
The Korean War
The Nineteenth Party Congress
After the Nineteenth Party Congress
Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR
Stalin About Himself
The Death of Stalin
My Reflections on Stalin
Once Again on Beria
After Stalin’s Death
From the Nineteenth Party Congress to the Twentieth
After the Twentieth Party Congress
A Few Words About Government Power, Zhukov, and Others
How to Make Life Better
Build More—and with High Quality
My Work in Agriculture
The Virgin Lands
We Have Not Achieved the Abundance We Desire
Agriculture and Science
Academician Vilyams and His Grass-Field Crop-Rotation System
The Agricultural Field as a Chessboard
A Few Words About the Machine and Tractor Stations—and About Specialization
We Suffer from the Imperfection of Our Organizational System
Corn—A Crop I Gave Much Attention to
The Shelves in Our Stores Are Empty
The Postwar Defense of the USSR
1. Structuring the Soviet Armed Forces
The Soviet Navy
Airplanes and Missiles
Tanks and Cannon
The Problem of Transport: Wheels or Tank Treads?
2. Scientists and Defense Technology
Andrei Sakharov and Nuclear Weapons
Cooperation on Outer Space
Kurchatov, Keldysh, Sakharov, Tupolev, Lavrentyev, Kapitsa, and Others
3. Issues of Peace and War
Reducing the Size of the Soviet Army
On Peace and War
Nuclear War and Conventional War
Arms Race or Peaceful Coexistence?
Relations with the Intelligentsia
I Am Not a Judge
The Last Romantic
Memorandum of N. S. Khrushchev on Military Reform
Memorandum of KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov to the CPSU Central Committee: “On Limiting the Receipt of Foreign Correspondence by N. S. Khrushchev”
Announcement of the Death of N. S. Khrushchev
Sanitation Day (Notes of a Contemporary on the Funeral of N. S. Khrushchev)
Mama’s Notebooks, 1971–1984
Nina Petrovna Khrushcheva
The First Postwar Years
In 1944 all of Ukraine was liberated from the Hitlerite aggressors and their allies. Males of military age were drafted into the Red Army. Our army moved forward, fighting as it went, and reinforcements came mainly through the mobilization of men who had stayed behind in enemy-occupied territory. The majority of these men understood the need to perform their civic duty and didn’t really need to be “talked into” going and fighting Nazi Germany. It immediately fell to those who stayed home—the elderly, invalids, and others unfit for military service, mainly women—to rebuild the economy, especially agriculture.
In the industrial sector, first of all coal and metallurgy, some of the workers and engineering personnel had been exempted from the draft. Women were also mobilized to work in industry, especially young women. And people mobilized willingly. There was a twofold explanation for this. On the one hand, a big role was played by patriotism, as well as by Communist Party propaganda stressing that industry had to be restored, that this was the only possible salvation, the only possibility for raising the people’s standard of living. On the other hand, a supply system had somehow been organized in eastern Ukrainian industrial districts, in spite of everything. For example, the provision of food to the population was better there than in other Ukrainian districts, especially in 1946.
Yegor Trofimovich Abakumov was in charge of our coal industry. He had been specially assigned to our region as a first-rate expert on the Donbas. At that time we took the correct course of digging shallow mines to exploit the upper coal beds—what miners called “the tails” (khvosty)—in other words, those seams of coal that were almost at the surface. In the old days, we used to call such shallow mines “mousetraps.” The aim was to dig a few hundred such mines as quickly as possible and, using a low level of mechanization, with shallow [open] pits or sloping [rather than deep] shafts, to extract the necessary amount of coal as quickly as possible. And that coal was extracted!
Metallurgy, machine building, and local industry were all restored as well. This rebuilding proceeded at an accelerated pace. People’s determination and persistence were amazing, their total understanding of the need for them to give all they had so that industry and agriculture could be revived as soon as possible.
The war was over; gradually the triumph of victory subsided, together with the people’s jubilation over it; people who had survived returned to the factories, the mines, the state farms, and the collective farms. Rebuilding now went on at a quicker pace than ever. But not without problems.
There was a severe drought in 1946, and Ukrainian agriculture suffered greatly. Other republics suffered also. I can’t say that much about the other republics. But Ukraine is something I know all about. As autumn approached, it became obvious that the harvest was going to be just terrible. I did everything I could to make sure Stalin understood this in time. The bad harvest was caused by difficult weather conditions, and besides that, poor mechanization, which was further aggravated by the absence of tractors, horses, and oxen. There was an overall shortage of horsepower of any kind for pulling farm machinery (tyaglovaya sila). Work was also poorly organized. People returned from the army and went to work, but they didn’t all settle into their jobs. Some had lost their skills, and others never had them in the first place. As a result we had a very bad harvest.
I don’t remember what plan they handed down then: I think around 400 million poods or maybe more. The plan was set arbitrarily, although in the press and official documents it was “substantiated” by scientific data—that is, by taking one square meter (metrovka), estimating its yield, and converting that into an overall “expected biological yield,” after deductions for normal losses, the expense of maintaining people and livestock, and allowance for marketing expenses. The plan was mainly based, not on what could actually be grown, but on how much could be obtained “in principle,” how much could be wrung out of the people to fill up the state granaries. And this wringing-out process had begun. I saw that the year threatened to be a catastrophe. It was not hard to predict how it all would end.
When grain deliveries to the state were under way and we got a final picture of the harvest, it was possible to determine more or less precisely how much grain might go into the state reserves. All possible efforts were exerted to achieve this. The collective farmers understood their duty and did everything in their power to provide the country with grain. The Ukrainians had suffered terribly during the Civil War and collectivization, as well as during the republic’s occupation [by Nazi Germany]. They knew what grain meant for the country and knew its value; they understood that without grain the rebuilding of industry would not be achieved. Besides that, another factor was at work: the people’s confidence in the Communist Party, under whose leadership victory had been achieved.
But at the top, the attitude toward the people was different. I received letters from collective-farm chairmen that were simply heart-rending. The lines of the following letter, for example, are engrained in my memory: “So, Comrade Khrushchev, we have fulfilled our plan for grain deliveries completely. We have handed over everything and now have nothing left. We are sure that the state and the party won’t forget us and that they will come to our aid.” This implied that the author of the letter thought that the fate of the peasants depended on me. You see, I was then chairman of the Ukrainian Council of People’s Commissars and first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine, and he thought that since I was head of the Ukrainian state, I wouldn’t forget the peasants. I knew of course that he was deluding himself. After all, regardless of my personal desires, I couldn’t do a thing, because once grain was handed over to the state collection centers, I no longer had any authority over it. I myself was forced to beg that some be left behind for our use. They did give us something, but not much.
On the whole I saw that the state plan wouldn’t be met. I had a group of agronomists and economists sit down and make some estimates. Starchenko, a good worker and an honest person, headed up the group. I thought that if we informed Stalin candidly about everything and used statistics to demonstrate the validity of our arguments, he would believe us. I had managed previously on some issues to overcome the bureaucratic resistance of the apparatus and to appeal directly to Stalin. I had done the same kind of thing on those occasions, choosing my material well and logically constructing my arguments. As a result, the truthfulness of my position had won out. Stalin had supported me. So I was hoping that this time too I would prove that we were right and Stalin would understand that no one was committing “sabotage.” In Moscow, people were quick to resort to that sort of terminology; they always found justification for repression and for wringing more output from the collective farmers.
I don’t remember now what total I thought we could reach in grain deliveries at that time. As I recall, in the memorandum we presented to the central government we wrote in terms of 180 or 200 million poods plus. Of course that was a very small amount, because before World War II Ukraine had reached an annual production level of about 500 million poods. It was clear to everyone that our country was in dire need of food products. And not just for our own use: Stalin wanted to extend aid to the newly democratic countries. This was especially true for Poland and East Germany, which could not get along without our help. Stalin had in mind creating future allies. He was already wrapping himself in the toga of “great military leader” in possible future campaigns.
In the meantime starvation was imminent. I ordered that a document demonstrating our needs be drawn up for the USSR Council of Ministers. We wanted them to give us ration cards that would guarantee not just city dwellers but rural people, too, a certain amount of centrally supplied food, and to make sure that, in some places, the starving would simply be fed. I don’t remember now how many millions of these food ration cards we asked for. But I doubted we’d succeed in this, as I knew Stalin, his cruelty and coarseness. My friends in Moscow tried to dissuade me. They said: “We’ve reached an agreement [made an arrangement] that if you sign this document and address it to Stalin (and all such documents were addressed only to Stalin in any case), it won’t actually go to him, won’t fall into his hands. We’ve arranged things with Kosygin. (Kosygin was in charge of such matters at the time.) He said he’d be able to give us so many million ration cards.”
I wavered for a long time, but in the end I signed the document. When the document reached Moscow, Stalin was on vacation in Sochi. Malenkov and Beria found out about the document. I think they decided to use this memorandum to discredit me in Stalin’s eyes, and instead of solving the problem (at that time they could decide things in Stalin’s name; many documents he’d never even laid eyes on were issued over his signature), they sent our document on to Stalin in Sochi. Stalin sent me the rudest, most insulting telegram, declaring that I was a “suspicious element,” that I was writing memoranda falsely claiming that Ukraine couldn’t fulfill its state procurement orders and wrongly asking for a huge number of ration cards to feed people. This telegram had a devastating effect on me. I understood that tragedy now hung over not just me personally but over the Ukrainian people, over the republic: starvation had become unavoidable, and it soon began.
Stalin returned from Sochi to Moscow and I immediately went there from Kiev. I got the angriest reprimand imaginable. But I was ready for anything, even to end up on the list of enemies of the people. At that time this often occurred just like that—in the blink of an eye the door was flung open and you found yourself in the Lubyanka. Although I tried to convince Stalin that the document I had sent reflected the true state of affairs and that Ukraine needed help, this only provoked his wrath further. We got nothing from the central government. Starvation began. We began to receive indications that people were dying. In some places, cannibalism occurred. I was told, for example, that a head and a pair of human feet were found under a bridge in Vasilkov (a little town near Kiev). In other words, a cadaver had been used for food. Later on, such instances became more frequent.
Kirichenko (who was then first secretary of the party’s Odessa province committee) reported that when he arrived at a collective farm to check on how people were getting through the winter he was told to go to the house of a certain peasant woman. He went there: “I saw a terrible sight. I saw this woman cutting up the corpse of her child on the table—I don’t know if it was a boy or a girl—and repeating all the while: ‘We’ve already eaten Manechka, and now we’re salting Vanechka. This will last us for some time at least.’” This woman, driven crazy by hunger, had butchered her own children. Can you imagine that?
Moldavia was in the same situation. Stalin sent Kosygin to Moldavia; he was then minister of trade and was handling ration-card matters. Kosygin returned and reported that people there were starving and were suffering from dystrophy [the result of malnutrition]. Stalin got all worked up and also started yelling at him. And after that, to the day of Stalin’s death, when he encountered Kosygin he would say jokingly: “Well, here’s Brother Dystrophy.” At that time Kosygin was very skinny. And some others began calling him Brother Dystrophy too (in the inner circle only, of course, imitating Stalin).
I reported on everything to Stalin, but the only response was more anger: “This is spinelessness! They’re playing tricks on you. They’re reporting this on purpose, trying to get you to pity them and make you use up reserves.” Was Stalin perhaps receiving some other information that he trusted more? I don’t know. But I do know that he thought I was succumbing, supposedly, to local Ukrainian influence, that I was being pressured in this way, and that I was virtually a nationalist who didn’t deserve to be trusted. Stalin began treating my reports with noticeable reserve. But where was other information coming from? From Chekists and Central Committee “instructors” [officials of the party’s Central Committee] who had visited various districts of Ukraine. Some degree of truthful information seeped through to Stalin, but usually people were very afraid to give it and tried covering it up in order not to “get into trouble,” not to make themselves a target, because Stalin reacted very harshly. He thought that, under his rule, everyone was prospering. As [the nineteenth-century Ukrainian poet Taras] Shevchenko wrote: “From the Moldavian to the Finn, in every language silence reigns, because everyone is prospering.” Except that Shevchenko was writing about the time of Nicholas I, not Joseph I.
Stalin raised the question of the need to call a plenum of the party’s Central Committee to deal with agriculture. I don’t remember how many years had gone by since one had been called. Probably not since 1938, when for the umpteenth time the question of the fight against “enemies of the people” was discussed, along with the question of the excesses committed in that fight. At that time Stalin was playing the role of noble fighter against the excesses that he himself had organized.
So now Stalin was raising the question of a plenum on how to boost agriculture. They started discussing who should be assigned the task of giving a report. At a Politburo meeting Stalin, thinking out loud, asked: “Who should give the report?” At that time, Malenkov was personally responsible for agriculture. Stalin mused: “Malenkov? He’s in charge of this. But what kind of report can he give when he doesn’t even know agricultural terminology?” He said that right in front of Malenkov. And as a matter of fact, he was absolutely right. Only it’s amazing that Stalin, knowing Malenkov, nevertheless put him in charge of agriculture. I had wondered about this for a long time. It’s hard to figure out. But with Stalin anything was possible. . . .
Suddenly he said to me: “You’re going to give the report.”
An assignment like that was frightening to me. I said: “Comrade Stalin, I ask you please not to assign this to me.”
“I could give a report on Ukraine, which I know. But I don’t know the Russian Federation. I know nothing whatever of Siberia, have never been there, and haven’t been involved in this work. Strictly speaking, before Ukraine, I never had anything at all to do with agriculture. After all, I’m an industry man. I’ve been involved with industry a lot, and also the Moscow municipal economy. And what about Central Asia? I’ve never even seen how cotton is grown.”
But Stalin insisted: “No, you’ll give the report.”
“No, Comrade Stalin, I really ask you to spare me from this. I don’t want to let the Central Committee down or put myself in the awkward position of having agreed to report on a subject that I really don’t know. I won’t be able to report to the plenum.”
He thought about it a little bit more: “Well, all right, let’s assign it to Andreyev.” Andreyev had once worked in agriculture and had earned himself a reputation in the party as an expert on the rural part of the country. Of course, in comparison with other Politburo members, he knew agriculture better, although I didn’t hold a particularly high opinion of his knowledge. He was a rather dry and formal person, who usually made use of various bureaucratic memoranda and would construct his report on the basis of memoranda from the same type of experts on agriculture as himself. In any case, I was glad that this cup had passed from me. Andrei Andreyevich [Andreyev] was confirmed as the reporter for the Central Committee on this question at the plenum. He was a Politburo member then, and a secretary of the Central Committee. Some other committee on agriculture also existed then—something that served as a link between the party Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers. Andreyev was chair of this committee, and I was listed as his deputy and a member of one of the committee bureaus. This surrogate institution had been created by Stalin. I don’t know what it was for or what role exactly it was supposed to play.
The time came and the plenum was convened. Andrei Andreyevich gave the report. The report turned out to be well put together, logically constructed in his usual manner of doing things. The plenum was held in the Sverdlov Hall of the Kremlin. The presiding committee (the Presidium) at that plenum was a small one; only members of the Politburo sat on it. I found myself next to Stalin and saw that he was listening closely. They announced a break. We went into the lounge where Presidium members gathered to drink tea. Sometimes we ate there too and exchanged opinions. We sat down at a table and were served tea, and Stalin asked me: “What do you think of the report?”
I said: “The speaker shed light on all the issues.”
“But you sat there completely apathetic. I was watching you.”
“If you want the truth, then, from my point of view, the questions in the report should have been posed differently. Everything was touched on, but in a stereotyped way.”
He flew into a rage. “First you refused to give the report, and now you criticize it.” I saw that Stalin was not pleased with me at all.
A discussion of the report ensued. Many joined in the debate, including me. I don’t remember now what questions I took up; most likely I talked about the current problems of restoring the Ukrainian economy. I’ll tell about only one thing. At that time I thought the most urgent problems were mechanization and the question of seed stocks. In those days a certain rule served effectively as the collective farmer’s “first commandment”: first you fulfill your obligations for deliveries to the state, then you fill up seed and grain reserves, and what’s left is distributed among the farmers, based on their workday units. I thought it was necessary to violate this commandment, which Stalin had dreamed up, that seed should be stockpiled first. You see, in the old days individual peasant farmers, even on their deathbeds, wouldn’t eat the seed because that was the future, that was life. How was it that we were taking this seed from the peasants and then later had to give grain back to them for sowing? But by then no one knew what kind of seed it was, what region it came from, to what extent it was “acclimatized” [i.e., suitable to the climatic conditions of the region it was sent to].
My comments aroused Stalin’s fury. A special commission was established. Andrei Andreyevich [Andreyev] was appointed its chairman, and I was included as a member. But an even heavier cloud hung over me after a speech by Maltsev, an experienced specialist from the Urals region, who really did know the agriculture in his region well. The farming done under his management was excellent, and in his speech he told about how matters stood with them and what good harvests of spring wheat he was getting. As soon as he mentioned spring wheat, I immediately felt I had been jabbed in the sorest spot of all. You see, I knew that Stalin, not understanding things, would drag up the question of spring wheat right away and throw it in my face. I had come out against the idea that the sowing of spring wheat should be obligatory. Spring wheat is less productive in Ukraine, especially in the south, although on a few collective farms it was fairly successful. Therefore, in my opinion, the farms that could sow it successfully should do so, but it shouldn’t be written down as obligatory that every collective farm should sow a certain percentage of spring wheat, because sometimes it hadn’t even returned the seed. Stalin knew nothing of this and didn’t care to know—although at one time before the war I had reported to him on spring wheat and he had then agreed with me, after which a decision was made not to make it obligatory for all Ukrainian collective farms to sow spring wheat.
As soon as a break was called and we went into the lounge, Stalin irritably and spitefully flung a question at me: “Did you hear what Maltsev said?”
“Yes, Comrade Stalin, but he was talking about the Urals. While the most productive crop in Ukraine is winter wheat, in the Urals they don’t sow that at all; they sow only spring wheat. They have studied it, they know how to cultivate it and get a good harvest, but even so, that’s not true on all the collective farms. As for Maltsev, he’s an expert in his field, a real master.”
“No, no, if the spring wheat there yields such a harvest, then here we have”—and he smacked himself on the stomach—“such deep black earth that the harvest will be even better. We have to write it into the resolution.”
I said: “If you write it in, then write in that I disagreed. Everyone knows that I’m against spring wheat. But if this is what you think, then write it in for the Northern Caucasus, including Rostov province. They’re in roughly the same geographical position as we are.”
“No, we’ll write it down just for you!” In other words, I was supposed to show initiative, so that others would follow suit.
In the work of the commissions established at the plenum, when this question was discussed, I also took part, but I didn’t go all out. The plenum ended, everyone headed back to their home regions, and I also had to leave. Malenkov and Andreyev were finishing up the resolution.
Before leaving, I raised the question once again at a commission about the need to revoke the decision on the collective farmer’s “first commandment” and proposed instead that seed stocks be filled parallel with state grain deliveries in fixed proportions. Of course, this was a concession on my part. Since nothing was being left behind, I thought that even this would be beneficial. Certain percentages of grain would still be going to the state and to seed stocks. I left. Malenkov called me within a few days and said: “The resolution’s ready. Your proposal about how to fill up seed stocks at collective and state farms wasn’t included in the resolution; we’ll report on it to Stalin. What do you think? Should we report on your proposal separately, or should we say nothing about it at all?” This was clearly a provocative question. Everyone knew, including Stalin, that I had raised this question at the commission, fought for my proposal, and now, when the question was whether to report it to Stalin, if I said to say nothing, that would seem to be an expression of cowardice.
I said: “No, Comrade Malenkov. I ask that you report my point of view to Comrade Stalin.”
They informed Stalin. I found out from another of Malenkov’s phone calls that Stalin was terribly displeased and my proposal wasn’t adopted. Stalin simply went into a frenzy when he heard about it. After the plenum Stalin brought up the question of the need to help Ukraine. He said this and then looked at me, waiting for my reaction. I remained silent, and he continued: “Khrushchev needs some support; he has to be helped. Ukraine is in a state of ruin [because of the war], but the republic is huge and has great significance for our country.”
I thought to myself: “What’s he driving at?”
Stalin continued: “I think we should send Kaganovich down there to help Khrushchev. How do you see it?” he asked, addressing me.
I answered: “Kaganovich was formerly secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party; he knows Ukraine. Of course Ukraine is a land where there’s enough to keep not just two but ten people busy.”
“All right, we’ll send Kaganovich and Patolichev there.” At that time Patolichev was a secretary of the AUCP(B) Central Committee.
I responded: “Please do. That will be very good.”
And that’s how it was noted down. Stalin proposed splitting the posts of chairman of the Ukrainian government’s Council of Ministers and first secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party. At one time those posts had been merged, at Stalin’s suggestion, and I had argued then that it wasn’t necessary. That was done in Ukraine and Belorussia. I don’t know whether it was instituted in other republics.
Stalin proposed: “Khrushchev will be chairman of the Ukrainian Council of Ministers; and Kaganovich first secretary of the Ukrainian party’s Central Committee. As for Patolichev, he’ll be Central Committee secretary for agriculture.”
Again I said: “Very well.”
We called a plenum in Ukraine. The plenum confirmed these appointments, and we all took our places and began work. “First of all,” I said to Kaganovich and Patolichev, “we have to get ready for the sowing campaign. We have no seed. Besides that, we have to get something to feed the people: they’re dying; cannibalism has begun. There can be no talk of a sowing campaign if we don’t organize a public food-supply system. It’s doubtful that we’ll get enough grain to hand out loans; we’ll have to feed people with some kind of thin, watery soup, or ‘gruel,’ so they don’t die of hunger. And we have to get seed, too.” We presented the question to Moscow. In order to have a harvest in 1947 and stockpile grain for 1948 we had to get seed urgently. If we didn’t get seed, there wasn’t anything we could do, because everything had been taken out of the villages according to Stalin’s first commandment.
Much earlier we’d calculated what was essential. Again we made a request to Stalin and got a certain amount of seed and help with foodstuffs. February had begun. At that time, in some parts of southern Ukraine, sowing usually begins, and by March many southern collective farms would be sowing grain. So by March we were supposed to be ready for a massive sowing campaign in the south, and in Kiev province the sowing would be finished in April. I said to Kaganovich: “Let’s think about what to do.”
He said: “We need to travel around Ukraine.”
I answered: “Yes, but that’s not the main thing right now. You haven’t been in Ukraine for a long time, so go ahead, but I’ll stay in Kiev. Right now the main thing isn’t that I go and visit one, two, three, or five collective farms. That means nothing. To push the seed down the railway line and into the provinces and from the province centers to the collective farms—that’s the main thing right now. The success of the crops depends on it.” So that’s what we agreed on. Kaganovich went to Poltava province. And I stayed in Kiev as a telephone dispatcher—to push through the seed and other cargo necessary to ensure good crops: spare parts, fuel, and lubricants [for the farm machinery]. There was no question of mineral fertilizers then; there was practically no such fertilizer in our country.
After he’d traveled around a bit, Kaganovich became convinced that his job as first secretary was loaded with responsibilities: the situation was very hard, the collective farmers were swaying in the wind, unfit for work, emaciated from starvation, dying. Later he shared with me his impressions of one collective farm and of Mogilnichenko, the chairman of that farm. He said: “I don’t understand what kind of person this is. Rigorous, persistent. He’ll probably have a good harvest. No sooner had I gotten to the field than they were tilling the soil. I saw that they were tilling shallowly and said, ‘Why are you tilling so shallowly?’” You had to know Kaganovich to understand how he said it, barking at the chairman. And the latter, knowing his work well, had answered: “I do it the way it needs to be done.” [Kaganovich had said:] “So now you’re tilling shallowly and later you’ll be asking the state for grain, eh?”
The other man had answered: “I have never, Comrade Kaganovich, asked the state for grain. I myself provide it to the state.”
Earlier I had proposed to Kaganovich: “You’re going to the countryside; might as well have Koval go with you. He’s an agronomist and knows agriculture very well, so you can ask him for advice and he’ll suggest things. He’s a person who knows his business.” At that time Koval was minister of agriculture for the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. So Koval was there and saw that “our people were being attacked”; they were attacking the First Secretary. And who was doing it? A [lowly] collective-farm chairman. Koval said to him: “What are you saying, Comrade Mogilnichenko? I am an agronomist and Minister of Agriculture of Ukraine, and I think that you aren’t tilling correctly.”
Mogilnichenko looked at him sideways and answered: “So what if you’re an agronomist and minister? I’m going to do it the way it needs to be done.” And he stuck to his guns.
A year later I made a special trip to get to know him and to see the collective farm. And this person really did know his business. I saw a very rich collective farm, one that not only didn’t have arrears but submitted all agricultural products to the state six months in advance.
So what was bothering Kaganovich? Kaganovich had told me: “I’m afraid he really will have a good harvest with such shallow tilling.” The thing was that Kaganovich had taken a hand in the fight against shallow tilling. At that time criminal trials were literally being used to fight against the use of drill plows—tools for the shallow tilling of soil. Advocates of using these for tilling soil were being condemned and liquidated. And here suddenly Kaganovich had come up against shallow tilling. That’s against the law! As a matter of fact, at one time in Saratov province, “drill-plow theory” was being developed, and some professor there suffered because of it. He was given a heavy sentence and sent off to jail, if not shot.
So that was how our joint work with Kaganovich started up again, this time in Ukraine. He was looking for ways to prove himself and decided that he had to distinguish himself by having Ukraine “overfulfill to the maximum” the plan for growth in industrial production, especially local industry. When the State Planning Commission of the Ukrainian Republic proposed its figures, I had a look at them beforehand (as chairman of the Council of Ministers) and then presented them to the Politburo of the Ukrainian party. At that session of the Politburo Kaganovich kept looking, now at the figures, now at me as if to ask, Was I in agreement with this plan?
I said: “Lazar Moiseyevich, these figures can be accepted. They definitely can.”
He said: “No, just look at those high growth rates!”
“But these aren’t annual growth rates under normal conditions. This is just a one-year plan for rebuilding industry and the growth of production on that basis. That’s why it’s feasible. After all, over the past year we had such-and-such a percentage of growth.”
Instead of increasing the figures, he barely agreed to accept the ones being proposed, for he was afraid they would mean failure for him. He didn’t want to accept a plan that wouldn’t be fulfilled; he wanted a plan that aimed lower, so that it could be overfulfilled. It was a lot easier to write lower figures into the plan and then go around shouting that the plan was not only being fulfilled but overfulfilled. Unfortunately, this is a very widespread practice in our economy. I think it’s used even now, and rather liberally.
Things didn’t go well for me in spring 1947: I caught a cold, came down with pneumonia, lay in a hospital bed being given oxygen, and barely survived. To a certain extent this helped Kaganovich launch his activities without stopping to look around, because I had been a restraint on him. In spite of everything, he still had had to reckon with me. But now he let himself go, even giving free rein to his boorishness. Literally boorishness. For example, he got Patolichev worked up into such a state that he came to me when I was still in bed, soon after the worst had passed, and complained: “I can’t take it! I don’t know what to do.” Later he was unable to restrain himself any longer and wrote Stalin a letter asking to be relieved of his assignment in Ukraine, because he couldn’t stand being around Kaganovich. I think they sent him to work in Rostov. Patolichev left Ukraine.
I started to get well, but was still bedridden for a few months or more before going back to work. Relations with Kaganovich were shaping up very badly; they were simply intolerable. He had begun frantic work in two areas: against Ukrainian nationalists and against the Jews. He was a Jew himself—and yet he was against the Jews? Or maybe this was really directed against those Jews with whom I had friendly relations? Most likely that was it. In particular, we had someone who worked for us as the editor of a newspaper—Troskunov. Kaganovich fired him. He not only mistreated him, but simply made a mockery of him. Yet Troskunov was a decent man who had edited a newspaper at the front during the war. And in competitions with other front-line newspapers his publication had been recognized as the best. I remember Troskunov from as far back as Yuzovka, when I was a student at the workers’ school, and he had also worked on a newspaper there. I think I even vouched for him when he joined the party. But that ended up hurting him more than helping.
Regarding the nationalists, when I got on my feet again after my illness I received a stream of complaints. They concerned questions of a political character, and practically speaking, as chairman of the Council of Ministers, I wasn’t working on such things. The party leadership of the republic had jurisdiction over such questions. We discussed them in the Central Committee, and sometimes they were even brought to me, but mainly they were decided in the Central Committee secretariat, in whose work I did not participate. These questions came up rarely in meetings of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party. However, I did everything I could to relieve Kaganovich’s pressure on the so-called nationalists.
There began a stream of memoranda from Kaganovich to Stalin on “problematic issues.” It got to the point where Stalin once called me: “Why is Kaganovich sending me memoranda that don’t have your signature on them?”
“Comrade Stalin, Kaganovich is secretary of our republic’s Central Committee, and he’s writing to you in your capacity as general secretary of the AUCP(B) Central Committee. That’s why my signature isn’t needed.”
“That’s not right. I told him that in the future we aren’t going to accept a single memorandum without your signature.”
No sooner had I hung up than Kaganovich called me. “Did Stalin call you?”
“What did he tell you?”
“That now we both have to sign all the memoranda sent to Moscow.” Kaganovich didn’t even ask what else Stalin talked about; we understood each other implicitly. It turned out that I barely had to sign any memoranda because the stream of memoranda dried up. Kaganovich knew that I couldn’t possibly sign them. Those that he sent me anyway were either redone or I simply refused to sign them and so they didn’t go any further.
For me personally the main thing was that Stalin’s trust in me seemed to be returning. His phone call was, for me, a signal of that. It improved my morale: my full rights as a member of the Politburo were being reinstated; I wasn’t a member in name only.
Concerning the plan: we fulfilled the plan for government grain procurements, delivering around 400 million poods. The harvest [in 1947] wasn’t bad for those days. It’s true that the plan wasn’t that big, but the republic’s economy had been destroyed by the war. That was why, against the general backdrop of agriculture in the USSR after the war, those were good numbers.
In fall 1947, Stalin summoned me and Kaganovich to come see him. Even before that, when we’d fulfilled the plan, we had asked that he receive us in Sochi, where he was vacationing. We flew there to see him. And now, with Stalin having returned to Moscow, he summoned us himself and raised the question of Kaganovich’s having nothing to do in Ukraine, and suggested he be recalled to Moscow. Thus, I was reinstated as first secretary of the Ukrainian party’s Central Committee. I was happy, of course, and took up the familiar work with great gusto.
Things were going well for us. Agriculture in Ukraine was being revived significantly faster than in other areas ruined by the war. We were competing with Belorussia then. And Ukraine was outstripping it in every way. Of course, Belorussia had been devastated terribly. Nevertheless, this fact raised Ukraine’s significance together with the authority of the Ukrainian leadership. I was pleased.
The last year I spent in Ukraine was 1949. Stalin called and told me to come to Moscow, saying that I was being reassigned to work in the all-union capital for a second time. Looking back on it, I’ll say that the Ukrainian people treated me well. I recall warmly the years I spent there. This was a period full of responsibilities, but pleasant because it brought satisfaction: the republic’s agriculture and industry both were developing quickly and growing. On many occasions Stalin assigned me to give reports in Ukraine, especially concerning our progress in raising more livestock, then he submitted these reports to Pravda for publication, so that others, in his words, would do what we had been doing in Ukraine. But far be it from me to inflate my significance. The entire Ukrainian republic was exerting great efforts.
I know Ukraine pretty well. I thought earlier, and I think now, that in comparison with other republics Ukraine has a highly developed agriculture and comparatively advanced farming practices on the everyday level. It’s true that I don’t know how to evaluate the standards of cotton growing in Central Asia. Comparing Ukraine with other republics (I don’t mean the Baltic countries, because they had only recently become part of the USSR), I’ll say that the Russian Federation, Belorussia, and the other republics lagged behind Ukraine. This was probably the result of historical development [which differed in the various republics]. Within the RSFSR, the Kuban region stood out favorably: it also had excellent land, and the farming practices there were on a high level. So I attribute Ukraine’s successes to the Ukrainian people as a whole.
I won’t elaborate further on this theme, but in principle it’s very easy to demonstrate. I’m Russian myself, and I don’t want to offend the Russians. I’m just stating the fact that in Ukraine there’s a higher standard of farming. Right now a process of equalization is under way; everywhere great effort is being applied to boost agriculture, and big sums are being spent. The state is investing more and more in new technology, mineral fertilizers, and all the other elements on which the level of agricultural production depends in order to even out the standard of farming among the republics and to raise it higher and higher each year, to satisfy fully our people’s needs for the products of agriculture.
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