Joseph Stalin’s death on March 5 , 1953 gave birth to a new era in the Soviet Union’s history. Lavrenti Beria, Georgi Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Nikita Khrushchev would form a collective leadership to continue the Communist Party’s rule of the Union. By 1955, Khrushchev had established himself as the most prominent member of the leadership. In 1958 he became the premier, replacing Nikoali Bulganin and becoming both the leader of the government and the CPSU. At the Twentieth All Union Congress in Feb 1956, Khrushchev attacked the dictatorship of his predecessor Stalin in his famous “Secret Speech”. This began the irreversible process of de-Stalinization. Khrushchev made it clear that he wanted to differentiate himself from Stalin’s “cult of personality”. He managed to secure a removal of Stalin’s body from the Mausoleum in 1961, which brought even more intensity to his anti-Stalin campaign. He is famous for bringing drastic changes to both domestic and foreign policies. The Khrushchev Thaw saw censorship and repression in the Soviet Union being decreased drastically. It saw the Union opening up to the rest of the world and much needed social, economic, educational and cultural reforms taking place. Foreign films, festivals, books with adult content, entertainment unseen in the Union previously all started to emerge to the amazement of the nation. This combined with the policy of de-Stalinization and peaceful coexistence portrayed Khrushchev as a reformer. This essay will examine this argument in terms of foreign policy by analysing Khrushchev’s relations with Eastern Europe, China, the US.
Immediately after Stalin’s death Soviet foreign policy changed drastically. The USSR managed to establish a new relationship with Austria in 1955 by signing a peace treaty. The relations with West Germany changed to a more diplomatic realm. Foreigners were now welcome to the Union. Khrushchev and his partners in the collective leadership ensured that Western culture started playing a more important role in the Soviet everyday life. The Western-Soviet relations started getting increasingly warmer. In the beginning of 1955 something unheard of before emerged – the Union started forming alliances with non-communist states in the Middle East and non-communist states that were underdeveloped all around the globe. In terms of relationship with other communist countries, the establishment of the Warsaw Pact on May 14, 1955 in reaction to West Germany’s integration into NATO, saw a strengthening of relations. However, in 1956 political crises was evident in some of the People’s Democracies. According to Medvedev (1982: 106) the more conservative members of the Party leadership linked the issues with Khrushchev’s statement against Stalin’s cult at the Twentieth Congress. Political crises appeared in Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary. In Bulgaria, the communist party was given a new leader. Todor Zhikvov quickly took matters in his own hands by freeing political prisoners and helped in providing communists that were unfairly condemned with rehabilitation. The previous leader of the Communist Party V. Chervenkov lost was taken down from his post. So the situation in Bulgaria was dealt with in a swift and relatively peaceful manner. Nonetheless, in Poland and Hungary the crisis struck for a longer period and looked far more serious. Gomulka, the former leader of the Polish United Workers’ Party was restored to power. Khrushchev, alongside fellow Party members Mikoyan, Kaganovich and Molotov arranged a meeting in Warsaw. The meeting was led by Rokossovsky, Ochab, Gierek and Gomulka himself on Poland’s side. Khrushchev and his delegation were convinced by their Polish colleagues that in order for the Polish United Worker’s Party to take overall control a radical change was needed. They persisted that Gomulka was the right choice for a leader and under his power Poland would still be a valuable