Of a peasant family, he worked in the plants and mines of Ukraine, joined the Communist party in 1918, and in 1929 was sent to Moscow for further study. He became a member of the central committee of the Communist party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1934 and first secretary of the powerful Moscow city and regional party organization in 1935.Made first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist party in 1938, he carried out Stalin's ruthless purge of its ranks. As a full member of the politburo, the ruling body of the central committee of the CPSU after 1939, Khrushchev was one of Stalin's close associates. In World War II he served on the military councils of several fronts. He was recalled from Ukraine to his Moscow post in 1949.
After the death of Stalin on Mar. 5, 1953, a collective leadership replaced the single ruler of the USSR; from the ensuing struggle for power Khrushchev emerged victorious.
He replaced Malenkov as first secretary of the party in Sept., 1953, and, in 1955, Malenkov resigned as premier and was succeeded by Bulganin, a change clearly leaving Khrushchev with the advantage. In 1954 he initiated the virgin lands program to increase grain production and headed a delegation to China. At the 20th All-Union Party Congress (1956), Khrushchev delivered a secret report on The Personality Cult and Its Consequences, bitterly denouncing the rule, policies, and personality of Stalin. The program of destalinization, which had already begun, was supported and continued by Khrushchev. Legal procedures were restored, the secret police became less of a threat, concentration camps and many forced-labor camps were closed, and some greater degree of meaningful public controversy was permitted. The new atmosphere of relative freedom constituted a great change from the days of Stalin. Destalinization had,