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On the XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

15.02.2006    source:
Mikhail Gefter
Excerpts from the well-known Russian historian’s reflections marking the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the historic XX Congress on 14 February 1956
“… The point of transition from partial and spontaneous liberation to consciously universal came with the events of 1953 – 1956. The death of Stalin, the elimination of Beriya, the XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the release of those “enemies of the people” still alive and the first outburst of the free Word (the most concentrated expression of which was the journal “Novy mir” under Tvardovsky’s editorship). Different echoes of these and subsequent events and processes both within the “socialist camp”, and beyond its borders, aroused at the same time a liberating push, and mental confusion, putting forward as priority the need for a constructive and transforming continuation. … Yet for this more than time alone was needed. The very continuation had still to find its own idea and form, its own articulated consciousness and articulated behaviour, liberated from the stereotypes and the debris of the entire era, from the word-blocks stifling thought. … Looking back, we see that the continuation, remaining merely a continuation, was doomed to take on an ever more illusionary nature. ... In the figure of Nikita Khrushchev anti-Stalin pathos was combined with a lack of any ideological beginnings and political ground for something which was not Stalinist. The individual element played a significant role in both aspects. ...Whatever Khrushchev’s original intentions were, beginning with self-protection and ending with the urge for self-aggrandizement, his courage was the first impulse for breaking out beyond the constraints of the predetermined “once and for ever” ...What was of most significance – the destruction of monuments to Stalin, half-acknowledgement of his crimes, or the very fact of the raising of the veil of secrecy of a system for whom the mechanism of secrecy was no less fundamental than the mechanism of fear? ...The second was at least irreversible. Khrushchev touched on other cornerstones of the system, but not on them all. He opened the doors to the World to a large extent for himself, although this too was new …"
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