Taking you through AQA A2 History of the Soviet Union in as little time and as little pain as possible... see you on results day!


16 June 2010, AM

13 June 2010

Essay: Destalinisation

Hello! Sorry for the gap between posts recently - I've been working from the library where there are very few opportunities to blog... but, I do get a lot done, so that's good!

Anyway, this is an essay I wrote a while back, in timed conditions, which my teacher has graded at a Level 5, which is the top band of a grade A. I thought it might help you to see what this looks like, as well as helping remind me!

To what extent was destalinisation responsible for Khrushchev's fall from power?

The process of destalinisation, defined by Thatcher as "the elimination of Stakuinist excesses and policies as well as the cult of personality from Soviet politics, post-1953" was the root of many of Khrushchev's policies, and most notably those which faced most criticism or which failed most quickly.Therefore, it seems reasonable to take the view of many historians that it was the biggest contributor to his downfall, despite many other evident factors.

Destalinisation influenced almost all Khrushchev era policies, including the economic reforms he attempted. Despite fierce opposition, which ultimately lead to failure, decentralisation was attempted in order to rid the system of bureaucracy. However, as some have suggested that by the end of Khrushchev's regime, there was up to a third more bureaucracy then there had been previously, demonstrating the flaws in this policy, as well as causing the 1963 growth rate to plummet to less than that of 1933. This, having come only a year before Khrushchev was ousted and at the height of the East/West competition, must therefore be seen as a highly significant reason for the plot against Khrushchev. Bemo also suggests that the extent of bureaucratic reform failures may have lead to further opposition, only helping to build the case for Khrushchev's ousting.

The restructuring of the Stalinist system which came with destalinisation wrought most change in the political system, where Khrushchev split the party into agricultural and industrial wings in an attempt to bypass the Stalinist Gosplan system and bring about more coherence. Again, this caused significant opposition from the bureaucracy, as well as leading to confusion and what Filtzer describes as "bureaucratic anarchy", making it perfectly clear to all those in positions of power that Khrushchev's reforms were not working. The distaste this surely caused will only have been exacerbated by his moves to give the party, as opposed to the government, more control than it had had under Stalin, by stating that members could only hold positions of power for a set period, and by reducing benefits and privileges which came with powerful positions, a move later attempted by Gorbachev. Although Filtzer praises Khrushchev for "putting the party back at the centre of the political stage", the vested interests within the party were disrupted, causing many of these high up in the system to turn against him. The fact that this was the first set of reforms to be overturned by Brezhnev and Kosygin must also surely prove it as having been a significant factor in his ousting.

Another element which Thatcher describes as having been pivotal to Stalinism, "aggressive foreign policy", was amended under Khrushchev and through destalinisation, in what the West have termed as "the thaw". With hindsight, it is easy to see how Khrushchev's international exploits may always have had the USSR's best interests in mind, this was not the view shared by the party at the time. He may have become what Laver has called "truly an international statesman", but his presence at home in solving native issues was more of a concern within the Soviet Union, and many historians cite that this is a major reason that he was forced from power.

There were, of course, other reasons for Khrushchev being forced from power, one of the most notable being his failed agarian reforms. Stalin had been criticised early on for his failure to accept advice, and the secret speech had condemned collectivisation, however the Virgin Lands Scheme under Khrushchev was arguably the greatest agricultural failure since the revolution. Khrushchev, being from a rural background, claimed to have a good knowledge of agriculture and therefore embarked on what most historians recognise as a vast propaganda campaign, into which insufficient planning and too much funding was placed. Although the first year saw a significant boost in agricultural output, this began to plummet in subsequent years, proving to party members that Khrushchev's agricultural knowledge was little more than arrogance. Laver, therefore, suggests that this was a highly significant reson for Khrushchev's fall from power.

Another vast blow which most accept as having vastly catalysed Khrushchev's fall from power was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which came just two years before Khrushchev eventually fell from power. Although with hindsight it is possible to see that the agreement made with US President Kennedy was beneficial to both the USA and the USSR, the only clauses officially disclosed suggested a victory in diplomacy for America. Coming as this did at arguably the most tense period of the Cold War, it appeared to many within the USSR that Khrushchev simply was not a strong enough leader and that 'backing down' to the USA was the ultimate proof of weakness. Historians agree almost unanimously that this was a highly significant event in the lead up to Khrushchev's fall from power.

However, perhaps the most significant proof that destalinisation was ultimately responsible for Khrushchev's fall from power comes in the manner in which he was ousted: peacefully, by the demands of his colleagues, who would surely not have dared to do the same under Stalin. Although destalinisation did not aim to end the strict control of the population (as demonstrated in Hungary in 1956), it did bring about the end of totalitarianism in the USSR, through a series of legal and cultural reforms, the relative successes of which are, in the West, generally deemed positive. Therefore, as Khrushchev himself has stated, he brought about the end of the total fear within the party, and, despite other contributing factors, this can be seen to prove that destalinisation was ultimately responsible for his fall from power in 1964.

So, hope that helps! :) More essay plans are a-comin'! :)

- HistGrrl xx

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