ADVANTAGES

At the Twentieth Party Congress, held in February 1956, Khrushchev further advanced his position within the party by denouncing Stalin's crimes in a dramatic "secret speech." Khrushchev revealed that Stalin had arbitrarily liquidated thousands of party members and military leaders, thereby contributing to the initial Soviet defeats in World War II, and had established what Khrushchev characterized as a pernicious cult of personality. With this speech, Khrushchev not only distanced himself from Stalin and from Stalin's close associates, Molotov, Malenkov, and Lazar Kaganovich, but he also abjured the dictator's use of terror as an instrument of policy. As a direct result of the "de-Stalinization" campaign launched by Khrushchev's speech, the release of political prisoners, which had begun in 1953, was stepped up, and some of Stalin's victims were posthumously rehabilitated. Khrushchev intensified his campaign against Stalin at the Twenty-Second Party Congress in 1961, winning approval to remove Stalin's body from the Lenin Mausoleum, where it had originally been interred. De-Stalinization encouraged many in artistic and intellectual circles to speak out against the abuses of the former regime. Although Khrushchev's tolerance for critical creative works varied during his tenure, the new cultural period--known as the "thaw"--represented a clear break with the repression of the arts under Stalin.

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