20th Congress of the CPSU

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The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was held during February 14 to February 26, 1956. It is known especially for Nikita Khrushchev's "On the Personality Cult and its Consequences", which denounced the personality cult regime and dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.

Delegates at this Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were given no advance warning of what to expect. Indeed, proceedings were opened by Khruschev's call for all to stand in memory of the Communist leaders who had died since the previous Congress, with Stalin being mentioned in the same breath as Klement Gottwald. Hints of a new direction only came out gradually over the next ten days, which had the effect of leaving those present highly perplexed. The Polish communist leader Bolesław Bierut died in Moscow shortly after attending the 20th Congress.

The speech shocked delegates to the Congress, as it flew in the face of years of Soviet propaganda, which had claimed that Stalin was a "wise, peaceful, and fair leader." After long deliberations, in a month the speech was reported to the general public, but the full text was published only in 1989. Not everyone was ready to accept Khrushchev new line. Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha, for instance, strongly condemned Khrushchev as "Marxist revisionist."[1]

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