De-Stalinization

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De-Stalinization (Russian: десталинизация) refers to a process of political reform in the Soviet Union that took place after the death of head of state Joseph Stalin in 1953. The reforms consisted of changing or removing key institutions that helped Stalin hold power: the cult of personality that surrounded him, the Stalinist political system and the Gulag labour-camp system, all of which had been created and dominated by him as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, among other titles, from 1922–52. Stalin was succeeded by a collective leadership after his death in March 1953, consisting of: Georgi Malenkov, Premier of the Soviet Union; Lavrentiy Beria, head of the Ministry of the Interior; and Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

Contemporary historians regard the process of de-Stalinization as a significant turning point in the history of the Soviet Union.

Beginnings: Khrushchev's Speech

De-Stalinization meant an end to the role of large-scale forced labour in the economy. The process of freeing Gulag prisoners was started by Beria, but he was soon removed from power (arrested on June 26, 1953; executed on December 24, 1953) In turn, Khrushchev then emerged as the most powerful Soviet politician.1

Many argue that the watershed moment of de-Stalinization was when Khrushchev gave a speech entitled, "On the Personality Cult and its Consequences," concerning Stalin. On 25 February 1956, he spoke to a closed session of the Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev thoroughly shocked his listeners by denouncing Stalin's dictatorial rule and his cult of personality as inconsistent with Communist and Party ideology. Among other points, he condemned the treatment of the Old Bolsheviks, people who had supported communism before the revolution, many of whom Stalin had executed as traitors. Khrushchev also attacked the crimes committed by associates of Lavrentiy Beria.

Improved prison conditions

Khrushchev also attempted to make the Gulag labour system less harsh, by allowing prisoners to post letters home to their families, and by allowing family members to mail clothes to loved-ones in the camps, which was not allowed during Stalin's time.2 Furthermore, when Stalin died, the Gulag was "radically reduced in size." 3 On October 25, 1956, a resolution of the CPSU declared that the existence of the Gulag labour system was "inexpedient".4 The Gulag institution was closed by the MVD order No 020 of 25 January 1960.4

Re-naming of places

As part of the de-Stalinization push, Khrushchev endeavored to have many places bearing Stalin's name renamed or reverted to their former names, including cities, landmarks, and other facilities.5 These included even capital cities of the Soviet republics and territories: in 1961, Stalinabad, capital of the Tajik SSR, was renamed Dushanbe, and Staliniri, capital of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, was renamed Tskhinvali67 In Ukraine, the Stalino Oblast and its capital, also named Stalino, were renamed Donetsk Oblast and Donetsk.

In a broadly symbolic gesture, the National Anthem of the Soviet Union was purged of references to Stalin. The Stalin-centric and World War II-era lines in the lyrics were effectively excised when an instrumental version replaced it.

Re-location of Stalin's body

Given momentum by these public renamings, the process of de-Stalinization peaked in 1961 during the 22nd Congress of the CPSU. Two climactic acts of de-Stalinization marked the meetings: first, on October 31, 1961, Stalin's body was moved from Lenin's Mausoleum in Red Square to a location near the Kremlin wall;8 second, on November 11, 1961, the "hero city" Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd.9

See also

References

  1. ^ soviethistory.org
  2. ^ "Gulag : Soviet Prison Camps and their Legacy". Gulaghistory.org. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  3. ^ "Gulag: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Struggle for Freedom". Gulaghistory.org. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  4. ^ a b Memorial http://www.memo.ru/history/nkvd/gulag/Articles/chapter3main.htm
  5. ^ G.R.F. Bursa (1985). "Political Changes of Names of Soviet Towns". Slavonic and East European Review 63. 
  6. ^ Gwillim Law. "Regions of Tajikistan". Administrative Divisions of Countries ("Statoids"). Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  7. ^ Gwillim Law. "Regions of Georgia". Administrative Divisions of Countries ("Statoids"). Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  8. ^ CNN Interactive - Almanac - October 31. CNN. "(October 31) 1961, Russia's de-Stalinization program reached a climax when his body was removed from the mausoleum in Red Square and re-buried." 
  9. ^ Reuters (1961-11-11). "Stalingrad Name Changed". The New York Times. "MOSCOW, Saturday, Nov. 11 (Reuters) -- The "Hero City" of Stalingrad has been renamed Volgograd, the Soviet Communist party newspaper Pravda reported today." 







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