Khrushchev's Secret Speech

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Fifty years ago, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech denouncing his predecessor Joseph Stalin. He set in motion a new era for the Soviet Union, and changed the composition of the Cold War.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

It was 50 years ago this weekend, but I remember it like yesterday: the secret speech that marked the end of an era in the Soviet Union.


NPR senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Delegates were assembled in Moscow from around the country and around the world for the 20th congress of the Community Party, the first since the death of Stalin. It was clear that Nikita Khrushchev, a protégé of Stalin, dominated the proceedings.

At one point, he admonished the delegates, Don't applaud every time I come in. Behave like Communists. We foreign correspondents were allowed to witness the proceedings and official censorship of our reports was relaxed until, until the closing session, and then all foreign delegates and observers were barred. And the next morning we heard that the closing session had lasted all night and that Khrushchev had made a speech of several hours, denouncing Stalin as a monster who had created a cult of personality.

Khrushchev said that Stalin had murdered not only citizens, but even good Communists. My radio script reporting this was killed by the censor and the same happened to all my colleagues. Day after day, a few words from the secret speech would leak out, and day after day, our copy was killed. It was clear that Khrushchev was trying to paint the Stalin epoch as a massive aberration from a true Leninist course. The Soviet regime wanted Communists to know it, but not the outside world.

A Reuters' correspondent went to Stockholm and filed a report from there to avoid censorship. And then I heard from New York that The New York Times had published a text of the speech, provided by the CIA. And still later I learned that CIA director Allen Dulles had managed to procure a copy provided by Polish intelligence through Israeli intelligence. Khrushchev told me at a reception that he wasn't upset, that he knew the speech would eventually come out, but that speech inaugurated a peaceful revolution against the dead Stalin whose cold hand had gripped the Soviet Union for so long.

This is Daniel Schorr.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.