Burying Nikita

William Taubman's biography of Chairman Khrushchev combines original research and good sense to produce the best last word so far on the late Soviet leader.

Issue: Spring 2003

For the baby boomers among us, Nikita Khrushchev was the personification of the "Soviet bogeyman", the nuke--wielding, shoe--banging premier who warned that he would bury us-we the grandchildren. I met him on my grandparents' Gettysburg sun porch in 1959, one afternoon in the midst of the Camp David summit. Khrushchev was affable, attentive and full of plans for the President's forthcoming trip to Moscow. I remember well his Santa Claus shape and his deep belly laugh; but I also remember being both intrigued and terrified by the things associated with him, from the screaming newspaper headlines to the duck--and--cover drills I endured at school.

Despite the menace Khrushchev seemingly posed to us in our youth, he has since that time been painted in more benign terms. In some circles he is seen as someone who tried to bring reform and enlightenment to the USSR before his time; a well--meaning man who just could not bring his hardliners along, in part-some have argued-because the United States would never slide him a break.

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