Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (15 April [O.S. 3 April] 1894 – 11 September 1971) was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964 and chairman of that country's Council of Ministers from 1958 to 1964. During his rule, Khrushchev stunned the communist world with his denunciation of Stalin's crimes, and embarked on a policy of de-Stalinization with his key ally Anastas Mikoyan. He sponsored the early Soviet space program, and enactment of relatively liberal reforms in domestic policy. After some false starts, and a narrowly avoided nuclear war over Cuba, he conducted successful negotiations with the United States to reduce Cold War tensions. In 1964, the Kremlin leadership stripped him of power, replacing him with Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin as Premier.
Khrushchev was born on 15 April 1894, in Kalinovka, a village in what is now Russia's Kursk Oblast, near the present Ukrainian border. His parents, Sergei Khrushchev and Kseniya Khrushcheva, were poor peasants of Russian origin, and had a daughter two years Nikita's junior, Irina. Sergei Khrushchev was employed in a number of positions in the Donbas area of far eastern Ukraine, working as a railwayman, as a miner, and laboring in a brick factory. Wages were much higher in the Donbas than in the Kursk region, and Sergei Khrushchev generally left his family in Kalinovka, returning there when he had enough money.
Kalinovka was a peasant village; Khrushchev's teacher, Lydia Shevchenko, later stated that she had never seen a village as poor as Kalinovka had been. Nikita worked as a herdsboy from an early age. He was schooled for a total of four years, part in the village school and part under Shevchenko's tutelage in Kalinovka's state school. According to Khrushchev in his memoirs, Shevchenko was a freethinker who upset the villagers by not attending church, and when her brother visited, he gave Khrushchev books which had been banned by the Imperial Government. She urged Nikita to seek further education, but family finances did not permit this.