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From the English Wikipedia page [1]

The Khrushchev Thaw (or Khrushchev's Thaw; Russian: Хрущёвская о́ттепель, tr. Khrushchovskaya Ottepel; IPA: [xrʊˈɕːɵfskəjə ˈotʲɪpʲɪlʲ] or simply Ottepel) refers to the period from the early 1950s to the early 1960s when repression and censorship in the Soviet Union were relaxed, and millions of Soviet political prisoners were released from Gulag labor camps due to Nikita Khrushchev's policies of de-Stalinization and peaceful coexistence with other nations.

The Thaw became possible after the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953. Khrushchev denounced Stalin in The "Secret Speech" at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, ] then ousted the pro-Stalinists during his power struggle in the Kremlin. The term was coined after Ilya Ehrenburg's 1954 novel The Thaw ("Оттепель"), sensational for its time. The Khrushchev Thaw was highlighted by Khrushchev's 1954 visit to Beijing, People's Republic of China, his 1955 visit to Belgrade, Yugoslavia (with whom relations had soured since the Tito–Stalin Split in 1948), and his subsequent meeting with Dwight Eisenhower later that year, culminating in Khrushchev's 1959 visit to the United States.


Khrushchev's denouncement of Stalin came as a shock to the Soviet people. Many in Georgia, Stalin's homeland, especially the young generation, bred on the panegyrics and permanent praise of the "genius" of Stalin, perceived it as a national insult. In March 1956, a series of spontaneous rallies to mark the third anniversary of Stalin's death quickly evolved into an uncontrollable mass demonstration and political demands such as the change of the central government in Moscow and calls for the independence of Georgia from the Soviet Union appeared. {Nahaylo, Bohdan; Swoboda, Victor (1990), Soviet disunion: a history of the nationalities problem in the USSR, p. 120. Free Press, ISBN 0-02-922401-2) leading to the Soviet army intervention and bloodshed in the streets of Tbilisi. (Ronald Grigor Suny (1994), The Making of the Georgian Nation, pp. 303-305. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-20915-3)

Polish and Hungarian Revolutions of 1956Edit

The first big international failure of Khrushchev's politics came in October–November 1956.

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was suppressed by a massive invasion of Soviet tanks and Red Army troops in Budapest. The street fighting against the invading Red Army caused thousands of casualties among Hungarian civilians and militia, as well as hundreds of the Soviet military personnel killed. The attack of the Soviet Red Army also caused massive emigration from Hungary, as hundreds of thousands of Hungarians had fled as refugees. (Charles Gati, (2006). Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-5606-6).

At the same time, the Polish October emerged as the political and social climax in Poland. Such democratic changes in the internal life of Poland were also perceived with fear and anger in Moscow, where the rulers did not want to lose control, fearing the political threat to the Soviet security and power in Eastern Europe. (Stalinism in Poland, 1944-1956, ed. and tr. by A. Kemp-Welch, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-312-22644-6).

The Russian Wikipedia page is [2].

See also 1956 Georgian demonstrations and Polish October.