By William Taubman
Remembered by many as the Soviet leader who banged his shoe at the United Nations, Nikita Khrushchev was in fact one of the most complex and important political figures of the twentieth century. Complicit in terrible Stalinist crimes, he managed to retain his humanity. His daring attempt to reform Communism – by denouncing Stalin and releasing and rehabilitating millions of his victims – prepared the ground for its eventual collapse. His awkward efforts to ease the Cold War triggered its most dangerous crises in Berlin and Cuba. The ruler of the Soviet Union during the first decade after Stalin’s death, Khrushchev left his contradictory stamp on his country and the world. More than that, his life and career hold up a mirror to the Soviet age as a whole: revolution, civil war, famine, collectivization, industrialization, terror, world war, cold war, Stalinism, post-Stalinism.
The first full and comprehensive biography of Khrushchev, and the first of any Soviet leader to reflect the full range of sources that have become available since the USSR collapsed, this book weaves together Khrushchev’s personal triumphs and tragedy with those of his country.
It draws on newly opened archives in Russia and Ukraine, the author’s visits to places where Khrushchev lived and worked, plus extensive interviews with Khrushchev family members, friends, colleagues, subordinates, and diplomats who jousted with him. William Taubman chronicles Khrushchev’s life from his humble beginnings in a poor peasant village to his improbable rise into Stalin’s inner circle; his stunning, unexpected victory in the deadly duel to succeed Stalin; and the startling reversals of fortune that led to his sudden, ignominious ouster in 1964. Combining a historical narrative with penetrating political and psychological analysis, this account brims with the life and excitement of a man whose story personifies his era.
(From the book jacket)