The Life Story of Nikita Khrushchev His story is something like a fairy tale. A humble young peasant boy, born to a world of famine and poverty with 100 million peasants just like him, works and fights his way up the political ladder of Russia to one day become its most powerful force, simultaneously holding the offices of Premier of the U.S.S.R. and First Secretary of the Communist Party. It seems incredible, but it should be remembered that Nikita Khrushchev did not accomplish this feat without much sacrifice and hard work on his part. Coming from virtually nothing, he struggled for many years to rise among the ranks in Revolutionary Russia before he achieved the position of a widely-loved ruler and powerful, determining force in international affairs.
And although, in the end, he was cast down from this climactic position, it was not before this loquacious and personable man had employed his keen and incisive mind toward making many gains for and improvements in twentieth-century Russia. To truly understand how humble and common his beginnings were, one must understand the situation in Russia toward the end of the nineteenth century. Serfdom had only recently been abolished, and, as a result, there was a severe shortage of land and widespread poverty and illiteracy. Only the strongest and cleverest were able to make a living from their new-found freedom; most just struggled to survive. It was among this majority, on April 17, 1894, that Nikita Sergeievich Khrushchev was born. As a boy, he lived in Kalinovka, a poor villiage in the Ukraine, in an izba, a mud hut with a thatched roof, with his grandfather, a large family, and the family’s animals.
His father, it is said, lived his life with the ambition to buy a horse, but he never saved enough money to do so. In the end, the family was forced to give up their home and move to Yuzovka in another part of the Ukraine. Throughout his childhood, Nikita was forced to work to survive. His education amounted to only two or three years in the village school, for he was forced to go to work herding cows when he was nine. Following that, he was em- ployed as many things, including a farm hand, a factory worker, and finally a miner in the coal pits.
It was at this time that his determination to better himself was first made apparent, for, rather than letting himself be destined forever to work in the pits, he offered his services in all areas of the job, including the development of pit-heads, elevators for the mines. This was also the time in which the young Khrushchev’s rebellious nature began to surface, but rather than to striking or union-organizing, it was applied toward politics. It all began with a visit to the mines in 1917 by a man called Kaganovich, who was sent to recruit miners for the Revolution. Nikita, who was 23 and viewed this man as both a romantic figure and an opportunity to break from his social boundaries, joined his Bolshevik group and, by doing so, took his first of many steps in his forthcoming rise to political power. Soonafter, Khrushchev, a loyal but not very active Bolshevik member, became involved with the Communist party as well. Prior to this point, he had been exempt from military service due to his indispensibility in the local coal industry.
Also, he had been responsible for a family, as he had married his wife, Galina, during his years in the coal mines, and now had two children (Leonid and Julia), which made him want to remain near Yuzovka. However, in 1919, that rebellious, power-seeking inner sense of Nikita’s got the best of him, and he went off to join the Red Army. When the war ended, Khrushchev, whose main objective had been to emerge as a politician until he found how difficult it was to compete with the “higher-born,” at least had succeeded in proving himself to be a loyal and useful figure. Soonafter, he returned home with the task of organizing a local Communist party. When he arrived back in Yuzovka, however, he found the area, along with much of the Ukraine, suffering due to a great famine. Peasants were forced to eat bark, grass, leather and one another to survive, and many died, including Khrushchev’s wife.
It was a very sad and difficult time for Nikita, but he retaliated against his depression by devoting himself wholeheartedly toward the reorganization of Russia. At once he set about to restore local factories and increase coal production, steps he considered vital in order to get the economy going. It took much toughness and courage to get men to work under such conditions, but Khrushchev, gifted with a talent for organizing and motivating people, was able to succeed. In 1921, he sent his children to live with his parents and enrolled in a mining technology school, where he further developed himself in engineering and politics and learned how to read. A quick learner, Khrushchev finished school in four years, literate and with a comprehensive knowledge of Leninist views.
He married again, this time to a schoolteacher named Nina Petrovna, and, at the age 31, encountered the first of a series of very rapid steps to the supreme position he would one day hold as Premier of the U.S.S.R. In 1925, Khrushchev was appointed to his first full-time and very important Party position, Party Secretary of Petrovsko, a district of about 400 square miles in the Ukraine. For the two years that he held that office, Nikita encouraged peasants to work and reopened factories, unemployment dropped and bands of mutinous peasants which roamed the countryside were wiped out. In addition, bands of wild Russian children, called besprisorni, were rounded up and either put to work or shot. By the end of his term there, he had grown enough in importance to be a non-voting member of the All Union Party Congress-in other words, in just seven years, Krushchev had earned his way into the top 1300 of over one million Party members.
His next step was to go to Moscow, where he studied engineering and work …