Gorbachev may have been the guy in power when the Cold War ended, but Khrushchev is the guy who first started lightening the heavy hand of the Soviet government.
As a young buck, Khrushchev was a metalworker; he got into politics during the Russian Civil War and began his move up the military food chain. Read this to get a feel for Nikita the Corn Man's political career.
Seriously, read it. We'll wait.
Back? Great. As we see, he may have instituted some liberal reforms, but he also clamped down pretty tight after the U2 incident in 1960. From there, relations between his country and the U.S. got pretty tense.
Wondering why they call him the Corn Man? Well, back in 1959, Khrushchev visited Iowa during his first-ever trip to the United States. Apparently the sight of all those vast cornfields gave him quite a thrill, and he began urging folks back home to start planting corn. Lots and lots of corn.
Unfortunately, that plan backfired in a big way.
First, corn doesn't grow very well in that part of the world. Second, Khrushchev ordered the planting of corn at the expense of the country's other crops, which resulted in shortages of certain food items. And third, a lot of Soviets didn't really dig corn, so the supply far outweighed the demand.
All in all, not a great policy move.
In 1965, after Khrushchev was removed from power, many farmers just straight-out refused to plant corn, even in areas where the crops had done relatively well, like the Ukraine.
Overall, Khrushchev has a pretty good reputation in and around Russia. His policies may not have accomplished what he intended in many cases, but he did have some victories. One of those victories is that, after he was removed from power, he was given a pension and a place to live (though he was denied a state funeral when he died). His deposed predecessors were sometimes killed, not given a crib and an allowance.
Yep, a country home near Moscow sounds like a pretty good deal…when an execution is the alternative.