I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
Khrushchev: The Years in Power - Roy and Zhores Medvedev
This short overview covers the period the subject was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR. That is to say, he was a dictator of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964. The authors were writing for a general audience so they go into interesting details about why Soviet agriculture was such a mess. Khrushchev realized this solving the problems that dogged every step from farm to fork was the key to economic development and maintaining his own power. In clear and serious prose, the authors make fascinating Khrushchev’s fight with Kaganovich over spring or autumn wheat in the Ukraine. Also well described is the surprising collaboration between the charlatan Lysenko and Khrushchev.
However, the authors also cover de-Stalinization and the economic, administrative, and political blunders of the subject. They also point out simple bad luck – in the guise of droughts and winds – undermined reforms in his agricultural endeavours. Indeed, later leaders such as Brezhnev and Andropov were not much more successful in reforming agriculture.
On the down side, in such a short book, there is little on the Sino-soviet split from 1960 nor is there anything about the U-2 incident. A curious thing they do relate is that Khrushchev preferred being read to than reading when it came to literature. His aides persuaded him to publish Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich after they choose evenings when he was in a good mood to read it to him.