Nina Khrushcheva: Ukraine will stand, and for Russia, it will be the second Afghanistan

Nina Khrushcheva is a professor of international relations at New York University’s New School, studying political science and writing books.

Nikita Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter left to study in the United States in the late 1980s, received a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University, and remained in America. She told the State Duma that she disagreed with the popular version that Khrushchev had donated Crimea to Ukraine, but refused to predict how quickly Putin’s rule would collapse.

Nikita Khrushchev held senior positions in Soviet Ukraine during and after World War II. Could he have imagined then that Russia would invade Ukraine?

N. Khrushchev: I think I could not. On the other hand, he embodied Stalin’s policies – for example, when Western and Eastern Ukraine were united in 1939. All this was done in a very hard and cruel way, and he organized it. Therefore, it would probably not be surprising to him that Russia is convinced that it can dictate its wishes to Ukraine and determine Ukrainian policy.

However, I can say why he would be against such a war. Because even when he pursued Stalin’s policy, he was very indignant – it is known, there are documents. He believed that Ukraine was an independent, very important, and remarkable country. By the way, in 1947, just after the war, Stalin was very unhappy that Khrushchev had begun to “Ukrainize” himself and even sent his collaborators to purge him. Thank God they didn’t “clean” it

Russia claims that with the annexation of Crimea, Moscow has regained something that Khrushchev had given to Soviet Ukraine. How would you comment on that?

Khrushchev: Nikita Khrushchev never handed over Crimea to Soviet Ukraine. He was the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, but not of the Soviet government. There are no signatures of Khrushchev under the documents of that time – after Stalin died in 1953, the leadership was collective and it was it that decided all important issues.

Then they decided to place the responsibility on Khrushchev because it is always convenient to blame someone or say that power was one-man. Khrushchev was not the sole leader until 1958, so he could not hand over Crimea in 1954 – this is the work of the Soviet leadership.

And how to treat the state position that with the annexation of Crimea Moscow has regained something of its own?

N. Khrushchev: In essence, this was the transfer of Crimea to another Soviet republic – in this sense, the change took place within the Soviet Union. And those who signed the decision in question – Klim Voroshilov and Georgy Malenkov in today’s Russia consider them heroes. Putin also accused Khrushchev of betraying Crimea to Ukraine, while claiming he loved history. In that case, he should know that this is not true, but his statement is convenient from a propaganda point of view.

How do you think the current war in Ukraine will end for Russia?

N. Khrushchev: It will end terribly. It will be like in Afghanistan. It will be necessary either to go out in disgrace or to disgracefully admit – or not admit – mistakes. In my view, what began on February 24 is one of the most terrible and terrible decisions the Kremlin could make. This will end badly for Russia’s future. I think that Ukraine will stand, endure and be better than it was before.

And how fast do you think Putin’s popularity could collapse?

N. Khrushchev: I do not know, I can not say. So far, it is only growing – it has already reached 83 percent, although these figures may be exaggerated. But in this atmosphere of fear, many people may not dare to say what they think. And to agree that this is a great operation, although they disagree.

But popularity is growing precisely because the West seems to have lifted a new Iron Curtain. So Putin is popular, but he will only stay until economic sanctions are felt. Products will start to disappear, there will be no choice of clothes. Do you remember what the situation was like in the Soviet Union? And when there is a deficit, dissatisfaction begins to grow – after two, three, or four years the boiler will start boiling again. But I can’t predict exactly when that will happen.

Let us remember how Khrushchev was overthrown – it happened completely unexpectedly – although he knew that he would be overthrown, he did not fight to prevent it. However, for him, for the apparatus, and the whole country, this is unexpected. The same is true with Putin – anything can happen at any moment.

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