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date: 16 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the impact of de-Stalinization on the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. Writers, artists, and intellectuals welcomed the curtailment of repression—the so- called ‘thaw’—but their calls for openness and tolerance unnerved the Soviet party authorities. In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin but he did not question the fundamentals of socialism. Still, his criticism of Stalin led to turmoil in the socialist camp, most notably unrest in Poland and the anti-Soviet insurrection in Hungary. While Khrushchev agreed to a reduction of Soviet influence in Poland, he ordered military intervention in Hungary. This intervention undermined the legitimacy of communism, as it made clear that communism in Eastern Europe was a Soviet imposition. Meanwhile, de-Stalinization untied Mao Zedong’s hands. He felt free to pursue China’s socialist transformation the way he thought best. Mao took advantage of Khrushchev’s predicament to assert China’s claim to leadership in the communist world.

Keywords: de-Stalinization, thaw, Khrushchev, Mao Zedong, Poland, Hungary, China, 1956

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