“Khrushchev started off a miner’s son and had one of those rocket rides in the social stratosphere that could happen once Stalin had got rid of all the old Bolsheviks and needed a completely new political class. He went being from being a semi-literate party member out in the country to the deputy mayor of Moscow in about five years, and he finally ended up as one of Stalin’s inner circle. He worked closely with Stalin for nearly 20 years and approved thousands of arrests and executions and then went on to lead Russia during the Cold War. For me, this is a magisterial biography and strangely funny. Khrushchev was a funny guy – it is one of the things about him which was appealing and then, when you think about it, more worrying still. Of all the Soviet leadership, Khrushchev is the one who is recognisable as a human being. He had that rare gift among politicians of remaining recognisable, thinking on his feet and cracking jokes. He had an almost Clintonesque gift of the gab, which really wasn’t a crucial skill among high-level Stalinists. In some ways, I would guess that he survived at the top of Stalin’s Russia in spite of it.” Read more...
The best books on 20th Century Russia