Translated by Shirley Benson
Foreword by William Taubman
Annotations by William C. Wohlforth
A unique account of Cold War history during the Khrushchev era by one who witnessed it firsthand at his father's side.
More is known about Nikita Khrushchev than about many former Soviet leaders, partly because of his own efforts to communicate through speeches, interviews, and memoirs. (A partial version of his memoirs was published in three volumes in 1970, 1974, and 1990, and a complete version was published in Russia in 1999 and will appear in an English translation to be published by Penn State Press.) But even with the opening of party and state archives in 1991, as William Taubman points out in his Foreword, many questions remain unanswered. "How did Khrushchev manage not only to survive Stalin but to succeed him? What led him to denounce his former master [an event that some interpreters herald as the first act in the drama that led to the end of the USSR]? How could a man of minimal formal education direct the affairs of a vast intercontinental empire in the nuclear age? Why did KhrushchevÂ’s attempt to ease East-West tensions result in two of the worst crises of the Cold War in Berlin and Cuba? To resolve these and other contradictions, we need more than policy documents from archives and memoirs from associates. We need firsthand testimony by family members who knew Khrushchev best, especially by his only surviving son, Sergei, in whom he often confided."
As Sergei says, "During the Cold War our nations lived on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, and not only was it an Iron Curtain but it was also a mirror: one side perceived the other as the 'evil empire,Â’ and vice versa; so, too, each side feared the other would start a nuclear war. Neither side could understand the real reasons behind many decisions because Americans and Russians, representing different cultures, think differently. The result was a Cold War filled with misperceptions that could easily have led to tragedy, and we are lucky it never happened. And still, after the Cold War, American-Russian relations are based on many misunderstandings." In this book Sergei tells the story of how the Cold War happened in reality from the Russian side, not from the American side, and this is his most important contribution.
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Sergei Khrushchev is Senior Fellow at Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies at Brown University.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The period from 1953 to 1964 [when Nikita Khrushchev was First Secretary of the Communist Party] was a critical one in the history of our country, a period that witnessed the turn from preparations for a third world war to peaceful coexistence, a period of sharp (almost 50 percent) reduction in the armed forces of the USSR. It was also a time when the United States officially, in the words of its president, John F. Kennedy, acknowledged that the United States and the Soviet Union were equal in military might and were equally capable of destroying each other. It was during those years that the Soviet Union became a superpower while simultaneously making a drastic reduction in its military expenditures. . . . The new strategy made it possible to forego the development of entire types of weapons, such as a surface fleet and long-range aviation, while preparing to reduce the number of tanks and make still greater cuts in the number of men under arms, to one-tenth that during Stalin's time. The resources made available were directed toward food production, housing construction, and improvement of the standard of living. . . . This book does not aspire to shed light on all events of those years. I write only about those events I was fated to witness. . . . However, I very much hope that what I have written will make it possible to restore a connection between those times and today. Now as then we must concentrate our energies and our resources where they will do the most good. If we try to do everything, we will only add new misfortunes to the old." —from the Preface by Sergei Khrushchev
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