The Khrushchev “thaw” is an unofficial name of the period in the history of the USSR after the death of Joseph Stalin (from 1953 to 1964). The expression “thaw” comes from the title of the short story written by Illya Ehrenburg. The notion of “the Khrushchev “thaw” is connected with Mykyta Khrushchev being on the position of the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1953-1964). During this period some positive changes were traced: fewer repressions, selective rehabilitation of those sentenced and repressed in the Stalin period, partial liberalization of political life, slight weakening of the totalitarian regime.
After the death of Joseph Stalin on March 5th, 1953, M.Khrushchev, who was the leader of the communist party, held the course for the reformation of the Stalin regime. As the power of M.Khrushchev was becoming stronger, the “thaw” was associated with the denouncement of the personality cult and repressions of Joseph Stalin. At the XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 M.Khrushchev delivered the speech criticizing the personality cult and repressions of Joseph Stalin. In the foreign policy of the USSR “peaceful cooperation” with the Western world was proclaimed. The new course received support from the party administration and service nomenclature. During these years in the GULAG system many uprisings of prisoners sparked off under anti-Stalin mottos (uprisings in Norilsk, Vorkuta, and Kenhir). Preparation of new political processes has stopped, liquidation of GULAG began. A number of political prisoners in the USSR (including Ukraine) were released from prisons and rehabilitated. During this time censorship weakened a little, first of all in at and literature. At the same time in 1954-1956 there were a number of court trials against former members of the OUN that ended with death sentence (Kyrylo Osmak, Vasyl Okhrymovych and others).
In 1954 Crimean peninsular was added to the territory of the Ukrainian SSR. Its economy was in the state of decline after massive deportation of Crimean Tatars.
The period of “thaw” did not last long. After massive anti-communist uprisings in 1953 in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), in Poland in 1956 and after suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, party administration of the USSR, scared of the possible liberalization of political regime, started active resistance to the processes of destalinization. The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on December 19th, 1956, confirmed the letter “On enhancing the political work of party organizations in the masses and suspension of sallies of anti-Soviet hostile elements”. As a result, the number of those sentenced for “counterrevolutionary crimes” rose. In 1958 parents could “choose” in what language their children will study at schools.
In 1961 Khrushchev started a new wave of destalinization, which culminated when the tomb of the dictator was taken out of Kreml mausoleum. During this period the movement of shestydesyatnyky (“generation of the sixties”) appeared, which indicated the existence of crisis phenomena in totalitarian regime of the USSR. But still any dissent was violently punished. In particular, in May 1961 the Lviv regional court sentenced Ukrainian writer Levko Lukyanenko to execution. Accusations were based on the first project of the program of the Ukrainian labor-peasant union. The writer was accused in the fact that “from 1957 he was developing the idea of separation of the Ukrainian SSR form the USSR; he also was undermining the authority of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, as well as slandering the theory of Marxism-Leninism”. Apart from L.Lukyanenko the court sentenced other representatives of the nationally conscious intelligentsia – I.Kandyba (up to 15 years), S.Verun (up to 11 years), V.Lutskov, O.Lyubovych, I.Kipish and Y.Borovnytskyy (up to 10 years for each of them). After 72 days the Supreme Court changed the execution of L.Lukyanenko for 15 years of imprisonment. Others were sentenced to 7-15 years of prison.
Generally, Khrushchev’s policy was inconsistent and debatable. The food crisis began as a result of experiments in agriculture. Reclamation of about 16 million hectares of land in Kazakhstan and Siberia, conducted mainly in the Ukrainian SSR, caused depletion of resources from Ukraine. Administration of the Communist Party at the October Congress of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union dismissed M.Khrushchev.
Despite of partial destalinization, the Soviet centralized regime remained unchanged. Christians were persecuted, churches were destroyed, repressions of the representatives of intelligentsia resumed, former political prisoners were persecuted. During Khrushchev’s rule Ukraine, with its substantial resources and powerful fuel and energy base, became a resource appendage for Soviet political and economic system.
He started a program of Soviet-style industrialism in order to impose socialism on his country.
He was absurdly accused of being a British agent and was later executed.
1) The Austrian State Treaty (1955)
2) Soviet withdrawal from Finland (1956)
By the autumn of 1955 Khrushchev was ready to withdraw the Soviet presence from Porkkala. He saw no reason to retain Soviet influence in a non-communist country and considered Porkkala to be of little strategic use and more of a burden than an asset
In 1956, Porkkala was returned to Finland.
During the late 1950s and 1960s, Finland followed a more neutral position with regards to the superpowers, but the USSR was still able to exercise some influence when they felt their interests were threatened.
- the use of military means to contain communism.
- a policy of 'massive retaliation' against communist aggression: this had been advocated by Dulles during the election campaign of 1952, and it implied a much greater role for the use of nuclear weapons than envisaged by Truman.
- the policy of Brinkmanship in the use of nuclear weapons: Dulles explained that 'the ability to get to the verge without getting into war is the necessary art. If you cannot master it, you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost'.
- The increased use of covert operations within countries that would destabilise the forces of communism.
The cuts of expenditure introduced by Eisenhower were reversed by Kennedy. The army grew from 2.5 million in 1960 to 2.7 million in 1964.
- Negotiations and debating on how to get Germany reunified.
- Geneva conference (April 1954) a settlement was reached that allowed the French to withdraw its forces from Indochina. Dulles was concerned that the agreement confirmed communism in North Vietnam, and he walked out of the conference before it had finished. He verbal endorsement was given reluctantly.
- In early 1955- USSR agreed to the reunification of Austria. Prepared to allow it to be neutral as long it remained that way.
- Geneva Summit (1955) first summit meeting of Soviet and American leaders since Potsdam in 1945, was attended by Eisenhower, Khrushchev, Eden (GB) and Faure (France). Issue of German reunification was brought up again. Khrushchev was prepared to allow a united NEUTRAL Germany. Complicated by the admission of W.Germany into NATO in May. Khrushchev replied that both the NATO and Warsaw Pact should be dismantled and replaced by a a new system of collective security. West said no- but were willing to look at proposals for a limit on arms. - Eisenhower called for an 'Open skies' agreement whereby spy planes would be allowed to fly over each other's territory in order to verify arms agreements. Khrushchev said NO!
- A summit meeting between Eisenhower and Khrushchev at Paris in May 1960 collapsed when an American u-2 spy was shot down above USSR territory. AWKS.
- Vienna Summit- 3rd June 1961; nothing was agreed. Khrushchev felt he was able to dominate inexperienced Kennedy.
- 'Geneva Spirit' did not stop crises from occuring; The Hungarian Uprising and Berlin Crisis...
- Military co-ordination in the Soviet bloc was strengthened by the establishment of the Warsaw Pact.
- Both superpowers had tried to reduce military spending. Eisenhower did with his 'new look' policy, but Kennedy reversed it with his 'flexible response'. IDIOT. USSR- spent money on resources for space program instead.
Berlin Crisis (1958-62)
Revealed a superficial nature of the Thaw.
Hungarian's were encouraged by Khrushchev's de-stalinisation speech and Hungarian reformers started demonstrations in order to put pressure on the government. The Hungarian leader, Rakosi, a staunch Stalinist, was informed by the Soviets that he was 'ill' and needed a replacement. The replacement, Gero, could not control the increasingly violent demonstrations. He was therefore replaced by Nagy- who ended up giving in to demands to introduce multi-party democracy and leave the Warsaw Pact. USSR enraged- soviet forces sent into Hungary and a new government under Kadar was established.
- Indicated that there limits to the independence of the Eastern Bloc countries.
- Showed USSR soldiers' willingness to keep a tight control on the Soviet sphere of influence.
Khrushchev decided firmer action was needed to shore up the East. He came up with an ultimatum for the West- to remove all occupying forces- for a free city- Berlin. The West refused. Their zone of Berlin was useful for promoting propaganda against the Soviets.