Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (April 15, 1894 September 11, 1971) was the guy who led the Soviet Union after Josef Stalin. In the USSR he was remembered as that utter and incompetent idiot who destroyed the Red Army and was obsessed with missiles, practicing an absolutely idiotic brand of nuclear-blackmail/brinkmanship that nearly killed several hundred million people. In the West, he is remembered as a hotheaded buffoon who pounded his shoe on a table at the United Nations. Whether the shoe-related incident really happened is a matter of some debate, but it has become a symbol of the Cold War anyway. In Russia, he is remembered for his domestic work, particularly his (failed) efforts to improve Soviet agriculture by introducing corn to the USSR, and the Khruschyovkas, low-quality, very cookie-cutter style apartment buildings that were supposed to be a temporary measure to alleviate the housing shortage (they were partially successful in this) until "communism is achieved in 20 years or so". Obviously, this never happened, and many people still live in such buildings today.
Interestingly enough for someone remembered for his failed brand of Nuclear Brinkmanship, personal accounts note him having a particular hatred and fear of war. Although both Khrushchev and his right-hand man, later Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, served as Commissars to Red Army military units and were physically present around Stalingrad during the eponymous 1942-3 campaign, neither was actually 'at the front' due to their rank. As the Commissar of the Stalingrad Front at that time Khrushchev was responsible for the morale of the 100,000+ combat and 200,000+ logistics troops serving under General Vasily Chuikov, so his role mostly consisted of paperwork and interviews with high-ranking officers and commissars. That said, both saw their share of unpleasantness in the course of visiting hospitals and attacks by German ground-attack aircraft, which caused many of said visits and interviews to be conducted with additional blood and viscera. This, and probably a sense of lingering guilt about the horribly botched Kharkov offensive operation of summer 1942 (launched by Stalin on Khrushchev's recommendations against professional military advice), caused Khrushchev to become an alcoholic by 1943.
In a classic piece of Khrushchev-ian logic Khrushchev later came to believe that his familiarity with war's horrors meant that he could prove more able to stomach the possibility of a war than someone who had not experienced them (and therefore was even more scared of war) - namely the US President in 1962, John Kennedy (who had 'only' served in the Navy). This proved not to be the case, as Khrushchev's harsher experiences seem to have inspired more fear than did Kennedy's.
The bravest thing Khrushchev did was give his "Secret Speech" to the 20th Party Congress on the 25th of March 1956. In it he denounced Stalin's elevation of himself to godhood, his tyranny, his pettiness, and his incompetence before the entire leadership of the Soviet Union. He had a script, but he got so emotional he couldn't stick to it.note Even the original transcript, as read out to people by their managers, is said to have reduced some to tears. Of course, Khrushchev sidestepped the issue of his own complicity in Stalin's policies, let alone that of his audience which included Mikoyan and Molotov. Yes, that Molotov.
Outside the Soviet Union, the reviews were not good from all those commies who had idealized Stalin, with China's Mao Zedong denouncing the speech and Khrushchev's de-stalinization initiatives as "revisionist" and a deviation from ideological orthodoxy. Khrushchev also supported a policy of "peaceful coexistence", which was based on the radical notion that blowing up the world would be bad. In the paranoid climate of the Cold War, that sounded like capitulation to China, Albania, and North Korea. Soon, the Sino-Soviet split developed. On the other hand, it allowed Soviet-Yugoslav relations to recover after the Tito-Stalin split (after Khrushchev, ever the happy Sentimental Drunk, got hammered with the rest of the Soviet delegation at a summit in Belgrade and plied Tito and his aides with drink and pleas to "drink up and let bygones be bygones").
Other notable events of his time in power include the launching of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin's orbit around the Earth. On a less positive note, he crushed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and oversaw the construction of the Berlin Wall. And yes, he is partly to blame for the Crimean crisis in Ukraine. Although he was an ethnic Russian, he grew up near the Ukrainian border, his dad frequently took jobs in eastern Ukraine, and he eventually moved there himself and married a Ukrainian woman; as a result, Khrushchev identified strongly with Ukraine in general and the Donbas in particular, and he found it prudent to give away Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1953. Finally, it should be noted that, although his efforts to improve the Soviet agriculture mostly failednote , the improved relations with the West allowed the USSR to import grain and finally put a stop to the famines that plagued it since The Russian Civil War and the later collectivisation of agriculture in 1929 (and wartime Tsarist Russia before that, what with the over-mobilization and goods-shortage crises).
He's also remembered for his role in the Cuban missile crisis, traditionally as the "loser" to John F. Kennedy. However, Khrushchev didn't make it out of that confrontation as badly as it initially seems, due to a secret deal to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviet missiles in Cuba. But since that deal was, you know, secret, Khrushchev couldn't use it to fight the general (and generally correct, given his litany of horrible misjudgements and diplomatic bunglings which nearly caused World War III) impression that he was incompetent. In the end, he was deposed by more hardline rivals, making him and Mikhail Gorbachev the only Soviet leaders to leave office before their deaths. If sources are to be believed, the man could be embarrassingly free-spoken and honest about things, something which actually annoyed his own secret police. May be a reason why the other leaders decided to remove him.
Khruschev's time in office is sometimes known as the Khruschew Thaw because political repression and censorship were somewhat relaxed (compared to Stalin's time). Many political prisoners were released from the gulags. A certain number of foreign tourists were allowed to visit the USSR, and Khruschew himself visited the United States in 1959. Furthermore, Soviet citizens were allowed to see how people live in the West, which led to an increased focus on producing consumer goods in the USSR. There was also a certain degree of liberalization in the arts, though Khrushev rolled back some of the reforms once he began seeing works he didn't like. Another important aspect of the Khruschev Thaw is the abolition of the troikas, special tribunals operated by security agencies that often ignored procedures and laws. Far fewer dissidents were put on trial; now the methods used to silence them included expulsion from the Party, loss of their job, or forced hospitalization.
- He often appeared as a villain in older Marvel comics, especially Iron Man, under the very transparent alias Comrade K. In these stories, he was the dictator of "the Iron Curtain nations", and depicted basically as a supervillain version of himself, plotting various dastardly schemes against the free world in general and Iron Man and his alter ego Tony Stark in particular while recycling his famous real-life sound bites.
- Nero: Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin have a cameo in the album De Wortelschieters, where they arrive among the huge crowd present to take over Nero's island with only pacifist intentions in mind.
- He's mentioned frequently, but unseen, in Thirteen Days. The members of the Kennedy administration spend a lot of time trying to guess what Khrushchev's game is and, at one point, whether he's even still in power.
- In Batman: The Movie, the Soviet ambassador is shown banging his shoe on the table in homage to Khrushchev.
- He's played by Bob Hoskins in Enemy at the Gates, which exaggerates his role in the Battle of Stalingrad for the sake of Young Future Famous People.
- In the film The Death of Stalin, which depicts the power struggle after Stalin's death, Khrushchev is played by Steve Buscemi.
- The second part of Tom Rob Smith's thriller/drama novel series revolving around Tcheka agent Leo Demidov is named after Khrushchev's Secret speech. Parts of the speech are quoted in the novel and it plays a decisive role in the plot.
- In the Alternate History timeline New Deal Coalition Retained, Khrushchev's inability to counter the Prague Spring leads to him being ousted from power by KGB chief Vladimir Semichastny.
- In NewsRadio, after Beth suggests profit sharing (something Mr. James was planning to introduce anyway), Mr. James takes off his shoe and bangs it on the table and shouts "I WILL BURY YOU!"
- In a season one episode of Mad Men, set in early 1960, Don jokes about almost having to bang his shoe on a table while meeting with a client, referencing Khrushchev's shoe banging incident, which hadn't even occurred at that point in time.
- He is mentioned in the song "P.O.E." from Adam Ant's solo album Vive Le Rock
Damn your eyes, Mr. Khrushchev
Don't go dropping bombs over here
- The 'crafty' side of Khrushchev is given center stage in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. He eventually comes to the heroes' rescue by calling off his MiG aircraft, allowing them safe passage to Alaska.
- Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg - Appears as a Syndicalist revolutionary in Ukraine and can potentially become the Head of State of Ukraine.
- The Simpsons: In "Das Bus" the Springfield children hold a Junior United Nations meeting which ends in fighting. Principal Skinner restores the order by banging with his shoe on the table.