This is the story of the rise and fall of one man against the background of his country’s history—bloody, tumultuous, yet immensely significant—since the revolution in 1917.
Nikita Sergei Khrushchev was born in 1894 at Kalinovka where Great Russia borders the Ukraine. He was the child of peasants driven from the land by poverty. His grandfather had been born a serf; his father was a landless worker traveling to the coal fields of the Donetz Valley in the winter, in spring returning to the land. Thus the infant Khrushchev was one of a vast family of nearly 100 million peasants, mainly illiterate, latterly liberated from serfdom. He was a child without history, and as an infant lucky to survive. Sixty years later, nevertheless, he was to become the dominant leader of the Soviet Empire, now the home of 220 million souls, disposing of a massive and complex economy, a vast and modern army, navy and air force and presiding over the launching of the first man into space.
In this biography Edward Crankshaw describes how this was achieved, provides a vivid and convincing appreciation of Khrushchev’s extraordinary and contradictory character, and at the same time places him firmly within the context of Russian history and society. He goes on to answer the most difficult question of all: How was it that this peasant from Kalinovka, who rose to become Stalin’s lieutenant and close collaborator in his achievements and his crimes, was transformed into a major statesman who may be remembered chiefly as a man of peace?
There is no one better qualified than Edward Crankshaw to write this book. Over the years he has come to be recognised as the wisest, most sane and perspicacious of experts on Soviet affairs. This book is a brilliant and enthralling study of an astonishing man who brought his country to the threshold of a new age which he himself could not enter.