Nikita Khrushchev was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, as well as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Premier, Prime Minister) from 1958 to 1964.
He was born in 1894 and took part as a junior officer in the Russian Civil War (1917-1923), fighting on the side of the Red Army. He served in various administrative positions after the end of the war. He was among the highest-ranking bureaucrats at the time of Joseph Stalin's death in 1953. Lavrenty Beria, Minister of Internal Affairs and head of State Security, attempted to become the de facto successor of Stalin. But Beria was feared by most others cabinet members and Khrushchev managed to unite them against him. Beria was denounced, arrested and later executed.
Nikita manage to be elected as the next General Secretary and proceeded in a campaign of de-Stalinisation of the Soviet Union. Nikita placed an emphasis on the production of consumer goods and modernization of the Soviet agriculture techniques. He sought popular support by organizing cultural and sport events, promoting classical musicians, filmmakers and ballet stars and opening the Soviet Union to foreign visitors. Foreign movies, books, art and music were introduced to the Soviet public at an unprecedented rate as censorship policies became less strict. The Soviet space program reached its heights as an effort to establish a reputation for Soviet scientific capabilities.
However abroad there were recurring tensions with both the United States and the People's Republic of China, despite his motto of "peaceful co-existence" . He crushed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 allowed fort he building of the Berlin Wall. The Wall which became both an instrument and the most famous symbol of the ongoing Cold War in Europe. On the positive side Soviet troops were withdrawn from Romania and close ties to Egypt and Yugoslavia were established.
His downfall essentially came from his erratic policies in pursuing reforms of party structures and personnel. While the reforms were supposed to improve administrative and economic efficiency, their high frequency and often contradictory nature only served to spread confusion among party ranks. Since many party and army officials were already worried about securing their positions, the time for a coup had come. Leonid Brezhnev (Chairman of the Presidium, head of state of the Soviet Union), Alekshand Shelepin (First Deputy Prime Minister) and Vladimir Semichastny (Head of the Soviet Committee of State Security, KGB) worked together to overthrow him. Nikita was dismissed from all positions and forced into "honorary" retirement.
Nikita remained a Party member and not an ordinary citizen. He was initially under house arrest but was later allowed to have a social life. He died of a heart attack in 1971.