Item Details

York Modern Books

Modern first editions, fine illustrated books, European history. Catalogues issued once or twice a year.

Secret Speech: Delivered to the Closed Session of the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union


First edition, first issue, 8vo; original paper wrapper, ink-stamp '3083' to upper cover. Khrushchev's speech, given to a closed session of Communist Party delegates on 25 Feburary 1956, in which he openly denounced Joseph Stalin (who died in March 1953). "Khrushchev recalled Lenin's Testament, a long-suppressed document in which Vladimir Lenin had warned that Stalin was likely to abuse his power, and then he cited numerous instances of such excesses" (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online). This Polish translation of the speech was the only version that circulated during the Cold War, the official Russian text being unknown until its publication in 1989. The CIA counterfeit edition, with false imprint Moscow 1959, was in fact a translation into Russian from the present Polish text, which was smuggled out of Moscow and leaked, via Israel, to the USA. Its consequences, by no means fully foreseen by Khrushchev, shook the Soviet Union to the core, but even more so its communist allies, notably in central Europe. Forces were unleashed that eventually changed the course of history. But at the time, the impact on the delegates was more immediate. Soviet sources now say some were so convulsed as they listened that they suffered heart attacks; others committed suicide afterwards. (Guardian). A fine copy, minor creasing to spine, light sunning to edges.