TIMELINES: Who denounced Josef Stalin as a cruel despot in a ‘secret speech’ Feb. 25, 1956?

February 25, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Saturday, February 25, 2012


On Feb. 25, 1956 leader of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev strongly denounces the late Josef Stalin in a shocking “secret speech” to the 20th Party Conference of the Communist Party. In the speech, which is soon partially leaked to a wider audience, Khrushchev decries Stalin’s intolerance, brutality, and despotism. He describes Stalin as often choosing “the path of repression and physical annihilation,” of real enemies and fabricated ones. Khrushchev mentions the 1934 murder of Kirov, a trusted aide to Stalin, implying that Stalin ordered the assassination then blamed several politburo members and executed them for the “crime.” Khrushchev reveals that in 1937 and 1938, Stalin ordered the murder of 98 out of the 139 members of the Central Committee. What leaks of the speech shocks Russians and the world, but it is not until 1988 that the entire text of the speech is published in Russia.


On March 4, Russians will vote in presidential elections. Polling data by leading pollster Levada Center, indicates Prime Minister Vladmir Putin—a former career KGB officer—could win 66 percent of the vote, returning him to the presidency, a post he previously held for a maximum two-term limit. But his support has weakened down from 85 percent in 2008. Putin’s United Russia Party eked out a victory in December parliamentary elections, but large-scale protests ensued when videos of officials openly stuffing ballot boxes surfaced on YouTube. During Putin’s presidency in 2007, he endorsed a new high-school curriculum rehabilitating Stalin, calling him a great leader, albeit somewhat cruel. In September 2009, Putin restored monument to Stalin in the Moscow subway.