The Khrushchev “thaw” is an unofficial name of the period in the history of the USSR after the death of Joseph Stalin (from 1953 to 1964). The expression “thaw” comes from the title of the short story written by Illya Ehrenburg. The notion of “the Khrushchev “thaw” is connected with Mykyta Khrushchev being on the position of the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1953-1964). During this period some positive changes were traced: fewer repressions, selective rehabilitation of those sentenced and repressed in the Stalin period, partial liberalization of political life, slight weakening of the totalitarian regime.
After the death of Joseph Stalin on March 5th, 1953, M.Khrushchev, who was the leader of the communist party, held the course for the reformation of the Stalin regime. As the power of M.Khrushchev was becoming stronger, the “thaw” was associated with the denouncement of the personality cult and repressions of Joseph Stalin. At the XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 M.Khrushchev delivered the speech criticizing the personality cult and repressions of Joseph Stalin. In the foreign policy of the USSR “peaceful cooperation” with the Western world was proclaimed. The new course received support from the party administration and service nomenclature. During these years in the GULAG system many uprisings of prisoners sparked off under anti-Stalin mottos (uprisings in Norilsk, Vorkuta, and Kenhir). Preparation of new political processes has stopped, liquidation of GULAG began. A number of political prisoners in the USSR (including Ukraine) were released from prisons and rehabilitated. During this time censorship weakened a little, first of all in at and literature. At the same time in 1954-1956 there were a number of court trials against former members of the OUN that ended with death sentence (Kyrylo Osmak, Vasyl Okhrymovych and others).
In 1954 Crimean peninsular was added to the territory of the Ukrainian SSR. Its economy was in the state of decline after massive deportation of Crimean Tatars.
The period of “thaw” did not last long. After massive anti-communist uprisings in 1953 in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), in Poland in 1956 and after suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, party administration of the USSR, scared of the possible liberalization of political regime, started active resistance to the processes of destalinization. The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on December 19th, 1956, confirmed the letter “On enhancing the political work of party organizations in the masses and suspension of sallies of anti-Soviet hostile elements”. As a result, the number of those sentenced for “counterrevolutionary crimes” rose. In 1958 parents could “choose” in what language their children will study at schools.
In 1961 Khrushchev started a new wave of destalinization, which culminated when the tomb of the dictator was taken out of Kreml mausoleum. During this period the movement of shestydesyatnyky (“generation of the sixties”) appeared, which indicated the existence of crisis phenomena in totalitarian regime of the USSR. But still any dissent was violently punished. In particular, in May 1961 the Lviv regional court sentenced Ukrainian writer Levko Lukyanenko to execution. Accusations were based on the first project of the program of the Ukrainian labor-peasant union. The writer was accused in the fact that “from 1957 he was developing the idea of separation of the Ukrainian SSR form the USSR; he also was undermining the authority of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, as well as slandering the theory of Marxism-Leninism”. Apart from L.Lukyanenko the court sentenced other representatives of the nationally conscious intelligentsia – I.Kandyba (up to 15 years), S.Verun (up to 11 years), V.Lutskov, O.Lyubovych, I.Kipish and Y.Borovnytskyy (up to 10 years for each of them). After 72 days the Supreme Court changed the execution of L.Lukyanenko for 15 years of imprisonment. Others were sentenced to 7-15 years of prison.
Generally, Khrushchev’s policy was inconsistent and debatable. The food crisis began as a result of experiments in agriculture. Reclamation of about 16 million hectares of land in Kazakhstan and Siberia, conducted mainly in the Ukrainian SSR, caused depletion of resources from Ukraine. Administration of the Communist Party at the October Congress of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union dismissed M.Khrushchev.
Despite of partial destalinization, the Soviet centralized regime remained unchanged. Christians were persecuted, churches were destroyed, repressions of the representatives of intelligentsia resumed, former political prisoners were persecuted. During Khrushchev’s rule Ukraine, with its substantial resources and powerful fuel and energy base, became a resource appendage for Soviet political and economic system.