September 7, 1953: Nikita Khrushchev elected first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.  His election over Georgy Malenkov signaled a shift away from the excesses of Stalin’s regime and he introduced some political reforms such as the abolishing of the troikas a limited amount of liberalization in the arts.

He is best known for his complex relationship with the United States. The “Kitchen Debate” in 1959 at the American National Exhibition at Moscow saw Khrushchev debate with Richard Nixon in a model kitchen the respective merits of each economic system.  He was a proponent of detente between the two superpowers and although this was achieved during the Nixon administration, a true thawing of Cold War would not happen for another 20 years.  It can be argued that Khrushchev efforts helped pave the way for the eventual end of the Cold War.