A Political Act of Volcanic Proportions
In an excerpt from his secret audio diary, Khrushchev discusses why he decided to denounce Stalin:
There were other motivations behind Khrushchev's desire to denounce Stalin.
"One of them was idealistic," says William Taubman. "It was to somehow cleanse communism, in which he continued deeply to believe, of the Stalinist stain which had accumulated in the terrible years of Stalin's dictatorship."
The final reason was far less altruistic, says Taubman. "The use of the secret speech in the battle to succeed Stalin was in fact a brutal political calculation."
In his bid for Soviet leadership, Khrushchev faced a handful of hard-line Kremlin rivals who were Stalinist henchmen.
"And the idea there was to blacken their reputations and to some extent burnish Khrushchev's own, because they had been closer to Stalin in the worst years of the terror," says Taubman.
When Nikita Khrushchev entered the conference hall for his clandestine address 50 years ago, his communist party comrades were accustomed only to accolades for Joseph Stalin, and for the communist party he had led. Stalin had been their omniscient, kind hearted, all powerful great leader. In Russian, the word is "vozhd'." Khrushchev's denunciation took them completely by surprise. It was a political about-face of volcanic proportions.
In 1971, an English-speaking announcer read the complete text of Khrushchev's secret speech over the U.S. sponsored Radio Liberty.
Years later, in his secret audio diary, Nikita Khrushchev described the scene inside the Kremlin when he delivered his secret speech.
Back to Unmasking Stalin