Changes in the Soviet Union

There were major political changes in the Soviet Union in the mid-1950s, and these affected the way the Cold War developed.

For example, after Stalin’s death in 1953, there was a reaction against his dictatorship.

There were investigations into the widespread human rights violations that had been carried out under his rule and many political prisoners were released from the gulags.

Portrait of Nikita Khrushchev

Portrait of Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the new Soviet leader.

In February 1956, he gave a secret speech to the Communist Party, in which he condemned Stalin’s crimes and human rights abuses.

He also introduced a de-Stalinisation policy, which encouraged people in the Eastern bloc to think that greater freedoms might be possible.

However, there were clear limits to the freedoms Khrushchev would allow.

There was no possibility of countries in the Soviet sphere of influence leaving the Warsaw Pact or of changing their system of government from communism.

The limits to Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation policy were clearly seen in Hungary in 1956.