Oh my, it almost passed without comment, at least in the U.S. Europe remembered though.
On Feb 25, 1956 Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev delivered one of the most important speeches in the history of the Twentieth Century. Speaking to the 20th Communist Party Congress he..., well here's the BBC report:
The Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, has denounced Joseph Stalin as a brutal despot.Read it here.
In a sensational speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party Mr Khrushchev painted a graphic picture of a regime of "suspicion, fear, and terror" built up under the former dictator who died three years ago.
He said he wanted to break the "Stalin cult" that has held Soviet citizens in its thrall for 30 years.
The prime minister described the purges during the period of 1936-38.
He implied that one of Stalin's most trusted aides Kirov had been assassinated in 1934 at the leader's behest.
Stalin then initiated a series of trials of members of the politburo and had some executed for Kirov's murder, including Zinoviev, Kamenev and Rykov.
Stalin meted out humiliation and persecution to those officers and members of the Politburo who fell from favour, said Mr Khrushchev.
He revealed that in 1937 and 1938, 98 out of the 139 members of the Central Committee were shot on Stalin's orders.
The leader also criticised Stalin's foreign policy during World War II. As an ally of Adolf Hitler, Stalin refused to believe Germany would invade Russia - despite warnings from Winston Churchill and Sir Stafford Cripps, the British Ambassador in Moscow, amongst others.
When the attack was launched, Stalin ordered the Red Army not to retaliate saying the raid was merely "indiscipline" on the part of some of Hitler's units.
Mr Khrushchev also condemned Stalin's autobiography as an "odious book" in which Stalin refers to himself as "the workers' genius-leader" and a "shy and modest person".
He also accused Stalin of violent nationalism and anti-Semitism.
He revealed that in his last will and testament Lenin advised against the retention of Stalin as general secretary of the Communist Party.
"You understand, comrades, that we could not spread this information to the people at once," he said. "It could be done either suddenly or gradually, and I think it would be more correct to do it gradually."
Khrushchev's speech was an immense shock to lefties around the world. For decades they had swallowed and propagated the belief that Stalin was a wise, benevolent and forward looking ruler. Now Stalin's successor, the leader of the Soviet Union himself, was revealing at least part of the big lie. This was the first major crack in that insidious facade and the first step in the dismantling of what Ronald Reagan correctly called, the "evil empire." Unfortunately many "intellectuals" continued to cling with ever increasing desperation to that myth until the 1990's and even tried to apologize for it down to the present times.
Here's Anne Applebaum's take on it. And, more pertinently, Roy Medvedev:
The Twentieth Congress shattered the world communist movement, and it turned out to be impossible to cement the cracks. The Soviet Union and other socialist countries faced a crisis of faith, as the main threat to communism was not imperialism, or ideological dissidents, but the movement’s own intellectual poverty and disillusion.
So, although it is common today in Russia to blame Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin for the collapse of the USSR, it is both useless and unfair to do so. The system was dead already, and it is to Yeltsin’s great credit that he was able to bring Russia out of the ruins in one piece. Although Russia’s future is uncertain, its history is becoming clearer, in part because we now know that the Twentieth Party Congress started the process that brought about the end of Soviet despotism.
Read it here.