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1956 1.2: Bolshevik Battle Royale

When Diplomacy Fails Podcast

16-01-2024 • 31 minutos

Episode 1.2 follows on from where our first episode left off. Here, the power struggle between the Soviet Union’s top men is in full swing, and power plays, character assassination, genuine assassination and even more tactics besides distinguish this period of post-Stalin Soviet history. Nikita Khrushchev’s victorious succession and confirmation as First Secretary was far from certain once the struggle began, but as his rivals continued to underestimate him, and as he worked to build up his power base while the big fish sniped at one another, Khrushchev emerged as the best candidate to fill Stalin’s murderous shoes. Yet, it was far from clear at the same time exactly what Khrushchev had in mind.


For one, the so-called Thaw had been on-going since Stalin’s death, as prisoners were released, trumped up charges commuted, and some of the more unpopular policies relaxed. Would Khrushchev make efforts to expand upon this approach to Soviet rule, or would he contain its potential dangers as soon as he was able to do so? The different possibilities for life after Stalin remind us that what followed and what opened the year 1956 was by no means the only course, yet it was the most radical option at the time. The infamous secret speech thus occupies a great deal of our time here. Of most interest to us here though is the spectacle of Khrushchev’s elimination of his rivals, either through execution or political neutralisation. As far as Khrushchev was concerned, while a collective leadership on paper looked nice, in reality, there could be only one...


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