ON THIS DAY    18 June      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1956: Truman rejects anti-Stalin talk

The former President of the United States, Harry Truman, has shrugged off suggestions Moscow may be about to reject its Stalinist past.

He was speaking at a news conference in London shortly after arriving at the start of a 10 day visit to Britain, during which he is to receive an honorary doctorate of civil law from Oxford University.

More than 200 press, radio and television reporters had gathered for the half-an-hour question and answer session with the man who played such a key role in preventing the expansion of the influence of the Soviet Union during his time in office, 1945-53.

The former President was asked what he thought of the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev's, surprise attack on Joseph Stalin.

Break "Stalin cult"

He replied: "I have no faith in the Khrushchev disclosures. When they show some action on the lines on which they are talking now, I will begin to believe them."

In a sensational speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party in February, Mr Khrushchev described the regime of fear, suspicion and terror that had existed under Joseph Stalin.

He described how Stalin had carried out purges to get rid of politicians who had fallen from his favour - and had many of them shot.

The Soviet leader went on to say he wanted to break the "Stalin cult".

News of the speech was not made public in the Soviet Union - and details were only released in mid-March in Belgrade and Washington.

Mr Truman said: "The thing that strikes me is that one of the men who helped to carry out those policies is the one who is now denouncing them. That is one of my reasons for being careful in believing in what he has to say.

"He was one of Stalin's right-hand men, and he helped carry out these things that he's denouncing now for our benefit."

This is also the year for presidential nominations in the United States - and Mr Truman's personal endorsement of one of the Democrat candidates could determine who runs for the White House - but he refused to be drawn on who he would be backing.

In Context
Former President Truman was one of six people to be awarded honorary degrees at Oxford University on 20 June.

The award angered some because it was Mr Truman who ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the degree ceremony, he was praised for his firm leadership in the post-war period. He helped shape policies such as the Marshall Plan which led Europe away from economic disaster and he was also instrumental in the formation of NATO.

Truman's policy of containment of the Soviet Union, by assisting countries resisting communism, became known as the Truman Doctrine. He demonstrated it by sending American support to Greece and Turkey, then under pressure from the USSR.

Harry Truman retired from the presidency in 1953 to write his memoirs. He was succeeded by the Republican Dwight Eisenhower.

He died on 26 December 1972.

During Nikita Khrushchev's time in power, he instigated the notion of "peaceful co-existence" - but he came close to war with the US over the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and resigned in 1964.

Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |