Communist party

Post-Stalin Years

At the 20th party congress (1956, three years after Stalin's death) Premier Nikita Khrushchev testified about Stalin's crimes. The subsequent campaign of de-Stalinization reached a climax at the 22d party congress in 1961, and Stalin's body was removed from its place of honor in a mausoleum in Red Square. After the death of Stalin, Georgi Malenkov at first appeared to hold power, but ultimately Khrushchev emerged as the successor, holding by 1958 the highest posts in both the party and government—first secretary of the party and chairman of the council of ministers. In the 1960s the tendency was once more to broaden the base of membership, but the party as an organization lost influence, while its leaders gained power. Party congresses were infrequent.

Khrushchev, however, was suddenly removed in 1964, replaced by a collective leadership whose leading members were Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin. By the 1970s, Brezhnev, general secretary of the party, was the dominant figure. The party gained a legal monopoly in the Soviet constitution of 1977 (other parties had been banned since 1921), but otherwise the period was one of stagnation after the failure of Khrushchev's reforms.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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