Introduction. The Khrushchev school of falsification: "The 20th century's most influential speech"
The fiftieth anniversary of Nikita S. Khrushchev's "Secret Speech", de livered on February 25, 1956, elicited predictable comment. An article in the London (UK) Telegraph called it "the 20th century's most influential speech." In an article the same day in the New York Times \X-'illiam Taub man, whose biography of Khrushchev won the Pulitzer Prize for Biogra phy in 2004, called it a "great deed" that "deserves to be celebrated" on its anniversary.
Some time ago I reread Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" for the first time in many years. I used the HT?vfi. version of the edition of the speech published in a special issue of The New Leader in 1962.2 During my read ing I remarked that the noted Menshevik scholar Boris Nikolaevsky, in his annotations to Khrushchev's t� expressed his opinion that certain of Khrushchev's statements were false. For example, early in his speech Khrushchev says the following:
Lately, especially after the unmasking of the Bcria gang, the Central Commiuee looked into a series of matters fabricated by this gang. This revealed a very ugly picture of brutal willfulness connected with the incorrect behavior of Stalin.
Boris Nikolaevsky's note 8 to this passage reads:
This statement by Khrushchev is not quite true: Investigation of Stalin's terrorist acts in the last period of his life was initiated by Beria. ... Khrushchev, who now depicts himself as having well-nigh initiated the probe of Stalin's torture chambers, actually tried to block it in the first months after Stalin's death.
I remembered that Arch Getty wrote something very similar in his magisterial work Origins of the Great Purges
Other inconsistencies in Khrushchev's account include an apparent confusion of Ezhov for Beria. Although Ezhov's name is mentioned occasionally, Beria is charged with as many misdeeds and repressions; howe\'er, the latter was merely a regional secretary until 1938. Further, many reports note that the police terror began to subside when Beria took over from Ezhov in 1938. Could Khrushchev have conveniently substituted Beria for Ezhov in his account? What else might he have blurred? At any rate, Beria's recent execution by Khrushchev and the leadership made him a convenient • scapegoat. Khrushchev's opportunistic use of Beria certainly casts suspicion on the exactitude of his other assertions. (p. 268 n.28; emphasis'added Gf)
So I suspected that today, in the light of the many documents from for merly secret Soviet archives now available, serious research might dis cover that even more of Khrushchev's "revelations" about Stalin were false.
In fact, I made a far different discovery. Not one specific statement of "revelation" that Khrushchev made about either Stalin or Beria turned out to be ttue. Among those that can be checked for verifica tion, every single one turns out to be false. Khrushchev, it turns out, did not just "lie" about Stalin and Beria - he did virtually nothing else except lie. The entire "Secret Speech" is made up of fabrications. 1bis is the "great deed" Taubman praised Khrushchev fori (A separate, though much shorter, article might be written to expose the falsehoods in Taub man's own New York Times Op-Ed article celebrating Khrushchev's meretricious speech).
For me, as a scholar, this was a troubling and even unwelcome discovery. If, as I had anticipated, I had found that, say, 25°/o or so of Khrushchev's "revelations" were falsifications, my research would surely excite some skepticism as well as surprise. But in the main I could anticipate accep tance, and praise: "Good job of research by Furr", and so on.
But I feared -and my fears have been hom out by my experience with the Russian-language original of this book, published in December 2007 -that if I claimed every one of Khrushchev's "revelations" was false, no one would believe me. It would not make any difference how thoroughly or carefully I cited evidence in support of my arguments. To disprove the whole of Khrushchev's speech is, at the same time, to challenge the whole historical paradigm of Soviet history of the Stalin period, a para digm to which this speech is foundational.
lbe most influential speech of the 201h century - if not of all time - a complete fraud? The notion was too monstrous. \Vho would want to come to grips with the revision of Soviet, Comintem, and even world history that the logic of such a conclusion would demand? It would be infinitely easier for everyone to believe that I had "cooked the books," shaded the truth - th�t I was falsifying things, just as I was accusing Khrushchev of doing. Then my work could be safely ignored, and the problem would "go away." Especially since I am known to have sympa thy towards the worldwide communist movement of which Stalin was the recognized leader. \Vhen a researcher comes to conclusions that sus piciously appear to support his own preconceived ideas, it is only prudent to suspect him of some lack of objectivity, if not worse.
So I would have been much happier if my research had concluded that 25°/o of Khrushchev's "revelations" about Stalin and Beria were false. However, since virtually all of those "revelations" that can be checked are, in fact, falsehoods, the onus of evidence lies even more heavily on me as a scholar than would ordinarii)' be the case. Accordingly, I have organized my report on this research in a somewhat unusual way.
The entire book is divided into two separate but interrelated sections.
In the first sections, consisting of Chapters 1 through 9, I examine each of the statements, or assertions, that Khrushchev made in his report and that constitute the essence of his so-calel d "revelations." (fo jwnp ahead a bit, I note that I have identified sixty-one such assertions).
Each of these ccrevelations" is preceded by a quotation from the "Secret Speech" which is then examined in the light of the documentary evi dence. Most of this evidence is presented as quotations from primary sources. Only in a few cases do I quote from secondary sources. I have set myself the task of presenting the best evidence that I can find, drawn in the main from former Soviet archives in order to demonstrate the false character of Khrushchev's Speech at the 20lh Party Congress. Since, if interspersed with the text, long documentary citations would make for difficult reading, I have only briefly referred to the evidence in the text
and reserved the fuller quotations from the primary (and occasionally secondary) sources themselves in the sections on each chapter in the Ap pendix..
The second section of the book, Chapters 10 through 12, is devoted to questions of a methodological nature and to a discussion of some of the conclusions which flow from this study. I have given special attention to a typology of the falsehoods, or methods of deception that Khrushchev
employed. A study of the "rehabilitation" materials of some of the Party leaders named in the Speech is included here.
I handle the references to primary sources in two ways. In addition to the traditional academic documentation through footnote and bibliography Ihave tried wherever possible to guide the reader to those primary docu ments available either in part or in full on the Internet. All of these URL references were valid at the time the English language edition of this
book was completed.
In a few cases, I have placed important primary documents on the Inter net myself, normally in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format. In a few cases this has made it possible for me to refer to page numbers, something that is either clumsy or impossible if using hypertext markup language (HTML).
In conclusion I would like to thank my colleagues in the United States and in Russia who have read this work in its earlier drafts and given me the benefit of their criticism. Naturally, they bear no responsibility for any eror rs and shortcomings that remain in the book despite their best e f forts.
My especial gratitude goes to my wonderful colleague in Moscow, Vladi mir L'vovich Bobrov. Scholar, researcher, editor, and translator, master of both his native Russian and English, I. would never have undertaken this work, much less completed it, without his inspiration, guidance, and assistance of all kinds.
I will be grateful for any comments and criticisms of dus work by read ers.
The cult and Lenin's "testament"
"Collegiality" in work
Stalin "morally and physically annihilated" leaders who opposed him
Mass repressions generally
''Enemy of the people"
Zinoviev and Kamenev
Stalin neglected party
Stalin's "arbitrariness" towards the party
Reference to "a party commission under the control of the Central Committee Presidium"; fabrication of materials during repressions
December 1, 1934 "directive" signed by Enukidze
Khrushchev pmplies Stalin's involvement in Kirov's murder
Stalin's and Zhdanov's telegram to the Politburo of September 25 1936
Stalin's report at the February-March 1937 CC Plenun
"Many members questioned mass repression", especially Pavel Postyshev
V. Ia. Chubar'
Resolutions of the January 1938 CC Plenum
Rodos tortured Chubar' and Kosior on Beria's orders
Stalin and the war
Stalin didn't heed warnings about war
Stalin's ''demoralization" after the beginning of the war
Stalin a bad commander
Stalin planned military operations on a globe
Stalin downgraded Zhukov
Of plots and affairs
Deportations of nationalities
The Leningrad affair
The Mingrelian affair
The doctors' plot
Beria, his "machinations" and "crimes"
Kaminsky accuses Beria of working with the Mussavat
Ideology and culture
Stalin, short biography
The 'short course'
Stalin signed order for monument to himself on July 2, 1951
The palace of soviets
The Lenin Prize
Stalin's last years in power
Stalin suggested huge tax increase on Kolkhozes
Stalin insulted Postyshev
"Disorganization" of Politburo work
Stalin suspected Voroshilov an ''English agent"
Expansion of the Presidium
A typology of prevarication
A typology of Khrushchev's prevarication
Exposing lie is not the same as establishing the truth
Historical vs. judicial evidence
A typology of Khrushchevian prevarication
The results of Khrushchev's "revelations"; falsified
The enduring legacy of Khrushchev's
Why did Khrushchev attack Stalin?
The Khrushchev conspiracy?
Aleksandr S. Shcherbakov
Implications: The influence on Soviet society
- PDF version with copyable text (optical character recognition)