Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchov, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, b. 5 Apr. 1894, Kalinovka, Kursk province, Russia.
Unlike many Bolshevik leaders of the first generation, Nikita Khrushchev had a worker background and worked as a shepherd in his youth. He was active in workers' organization before the Bolshevik revolution and joined the Russian Communist Party in 1918. In 1919, Khrushchev became a political commissar in the Red Army and fought in the campaigns against the Whites and the Poles. After the civil war, he completed his secondary education in a workers' school and went into party work in Donbass in 1924. One of the party well-known leaders, Lazar Kaganovich, noticed Khrushchev's organizational skills and supported his promotion as head of a department of the Ukrainian Communist Party Central Committee. In 1929-1931, Khrushchev studied in the Moscow Industrial Academy, where he also served as a secretary of party committee. After the graduation, Khrushchev returned to party work in the Moscow party organizations. First, he served as a party secretary of the Bauman and Krasnaya Presnya district committees (Jan 1931 - Jan 1932), but soon he was promoted to the post of second secretary of the Moscow municipal committee (Jan 1932 - Jan 1934). In 1934 he became first secretary of the Moscow municipal committee (Jan 1934 - Feb 1938) and simultaneously assumed the office of the second secretary in the Moscow regional organization. The 17th party congress elected Khrushchev a full member of the Central Committee (Feb 1934 - Mar 1966). By 1935 Khrushchev headed both municipal and regional party organization as first secretary and proved his abilities with successful accomplishment of the Moscow subway construction regarded as one of the most important projects at that time.
A plenum of the Central Committee held in January 1938 was a turning point in Khrushchev's career. He was made a candidate member of the Politburo (14 Jan 1938 - 22 Mar 1939) on place of Pavel Postyshev, who fell victim of purges, and sent to Ukraine. There Khrushchev replaced Stanislav Kosior as acting first secretary (27 Jan - Jun 1938) of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party and then was elected first secretary (Jun 1938 - 3 Mar 1947). His appointment was followed by the election to the Politburo as a full member (22 Mar 1939 - 5 Oct 1952) after the 18th party congress in 1939. In Ukraine Khrushchev worked on restoring the party organization weakened by the purge, but in June 1941 he faced the rapidly advancing German invasion. At the first stage Khrushchev worked on evacuating Ukraine's industry, but then joined the army and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general (1943). When he returned to Ukraine in 1944, he also headed the national government as chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (Aug 1944 - Mar 1946) and chairman of the Council of Ministers (Mar 1946 - Dec 1949). For a short period in 1947 Khrushchev was replaced as first secretary in Ukraine by Lazar Kaganovich, but soon took over the office (26 Dec 1947 - 16 Dec 1949). By the end of 1949, he was called back to Moscow, where he was elected first secretary of the Moscow municipal party organization (Dec 1949 - Mar 1953) and a secretary of the Central Committee (16 Dec 1949 - 7 Sep 1953). He remained in the party leadership after the transformation and became a full member of the party Presidium (16 Oct 1952 - 14 Oct 1964) and its informal buro.
The death of Stalin prompted changes in the leadership and a plenum of the Central Committee held on 14 Mar 1953, assigned Khrushchev to preside at the meetings of the secretariat. Finally, his status was fixed when he was elected First Secretary of the Central Committee (7 Sep 1953 - 14 Oct 1964). However, elevation to this position did not mean absolute power for Khrushchev as he had to share it with Georgy Malenkov and other conservatives, who sat in Stalin's Politburo for years. He removed Malenkov with consent of the Politburo in February 1955 and placed Nikolay Bulganin in charge of government. In February 1956, Khrushchev delivered the "secret speech" addressing the 20th party congress, in which he condemned Stalin's abuse of power, political purges and mass executions. The speech marked a new era in Soviet history and resulted in "Khrushchev's thaw" that witnessed the release of political prisoners and relative liberalization of the Soviet regime. However, the destalinization shocked the party elite. Its conservative part led by Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich attempted to remove Khrushchev from his post in June 1957, but he outmaneuvered them by calling a Central Committee plenum, which confirmed his position and expelled the anti-party group. On 26 Oct 1957, Khrushchev dismissed Marshal Georgy Zhukov from his post as minister of defense, and in March 1958 he was appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers after the term of his predecessor, Nikolay Bulganin, expired.
Abandoning the idea of a violent world revolution, Khrushchev announced a new principle of peaceful coexistence and competition with capitalist countries. However, all his efforts to revitalize the Communist system were fruitless as the party apparatus saw him as a potential threat to their positions. He introduced many industrial and agricultural initiatives as well as administrative reforms, but the economy, which worked on enthusiasm and coercion for years, remained in decline. Khrushchev's arbitrary administrative methods and a serious split with China diminished his position in 1960s. The party elite was tired of his erratic leadership and radical reforms. A plot against Khrushchev was conceived by Brezhnev, Podgorny and Shelepin. In October 1964 he was brought back from a vacation on the Black Sea to face the Central Committee plenum, which required his resignation. Realizing inevitable fall, Khrushchev signed his resignation as First Secretary and head of government accepted by the plenum on 14 Oct 1964. The next day the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet officially ended his term as chairman of the Council of Ministers. Next seven years he lived in Moscow in retirement.