The Rediscovery of Soviet History
If we conceptualize history as a dialectic process, then the excessive repression of the Stalinist system would eventually have evoked a corrective force such as Memorial. How long Stalinism could have continued on its course of unchecked repression is an open question, but it is certain that Memorial could not have come into existence in its present form and at this time until the repressive apparatus had begun to weaken.
The first official effort toward de-Stalinization may be marked by the report Khrushchev delivered to the Central Committee at the XX Party Congress on February 14, 1956. In it, Khrushchev cautiously criticized Stalin and alluded to the "cult of personality." At the same time, however, covering his conservative bases ( Khrushchev could hardly ignore them, considering his own background as a protégé of Kaganovich), he credited Stalin with crushing the "enemies of the people." 1 With some difficulty, a commission was established to investigate these matters. Khrushchev's second report, a secret speech on Stalin's crimes, was presented to a closed session of the congress. Still proceeding cautiously, this report focused on crimes committed against Party members loyal to Stalin and the general Party line rather than those against oppositionists. Though pages of the report were leaked, for personal and political reasons, Khrushchev was not yet ready to publicize the plight of what Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich call "the principal victim of the regime: the millions of ordinary Soviet citizens." 2 Still, even in its muted form, the report was a "bombshell." 3