The Mary Lou Chappell Lecture
Nikita Khrushchev ruled the Soviet Union for nearly ten years after Stalin’s death in 1953. Remembered by many as the Soviet leader who crudely brandished his shoe at the United Nations, Khrushchev was in fact one of the most complex and important political figures of the 20th century. Complicit in terrible Stalinist crimes, he tried to de-Stalinize the USSR. But his daring attempt to reform Communism—by denouncing Stalin and releasing and rehabilitating millions of his victims--prepared the ground for its eventual collapse. And his awkward efforts to ease if not end the Cold War triggered its most dangerous crises in Berlin and Cuba. How did the unprepossessing Khrushchev manage to rise into Stalin’s inner circle and survive there when the dictator liquidated so many of his other collaborators? How did he defeat his seemingly more powerful Kremlin rivals in the battle to succeed Stalin? Why did he turn against Stalin? And why was Khrushchev unceremoniously ousted in 1964? Ill-educated and uncultured, but smart and shrewd, impulsive and explosive, but bold and daring, Khrushchev’s character shaped both his policies and his fate.
Speaker: William Taubman
William Taubman, the Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Amherst College, is the author of the just-published Gorbachev: His Life and Times. His biography, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. Also the author of Stalin’s American Policy: From Entente to Détente to Cold War, and co-author with his wife, retired Amherst College professor of Russian Jane Taubman, of Moscow Spring, William Taubman was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in 2009 and chairs the Academic Advisory Committee of the Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. He has received the Karel Kramar Medal of the Czech Republic and the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation.