Piotr Yefimovich Shelest

(b. 1908)

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Nikita Khrushchev (1894—1971) Soviet statesman, Premier of the USSR 1958–64

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(b. Ukraine, 14 Mar. 1908; d. Moscow, 22 Jan. 1996)

Ukrainian; First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party 1963–72, member of the Politburo 1966–73 Shelest was born into a poor peasant family. He graduated from the Mariupol Evening Metallurgical Institute, joined the Communist Party in 1928, and worked successively on a farm, for the railway, and in a factory before embarking on a party career. He was in charge of the industrial department of the Chelyabinsk regional party committee from 1941. In 1954 he entered the secretariat of the Kiev party organization, of which he became head in 1957. Thanks to Khrushchev's patronage he was appointed a secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party, becoming its First Secretary in 1963. In December that year he was made a candidate member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPSU, and was closely involved in the plot which led to Khrushchev's fall in 1964. Shelest became a full member of the Presidium in 1966. In 1968 he was one of the Soviet leaders most hostile to the reform Communists in Czechoslovakia, and was closely involved in negotiations with the Czechoslovak leaders. He was greatly concerned that the ‘Prague Spring’ might destabilize the Ukraine and was in favour of military intervention by the Warsaw Pact. At home Shelest vigorously repressed all signs of dissent, but sought to foster the development of Ukrainian culture. He increased the number of publications in Ukrainian, but failed to introduce tuition in that language into the Republic's higher educational system. He was an active defender of the Ukraine's economic interests within the Soviet Bloc. Brezhnev came to see him as too soft on Ukrainian nationalism and replaced him in May 1972 as Ukrainian party leader with his own client, Vladimir Shcherbitsky. In April 1973 he was removed from the Politburo.

Subjects: Politics.

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