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A chronicle of the year that changed Soviet Russia -- and molded the future path of one of America's pre-eminent diplomatic correspondents1956 was an extraordinary year in modern Russian history. It was called "the year of the thaw" -- a time when Stalin's dark legacy of dictatorship died in February only to be reborn later that December. This historic arc from rising hope to crushing despair opened with a speech by Nikita Khrushchev, then the unpredictable leader of the Soviet Union. He astounded everyone by denouncing the one figure who, up to that time, had been hailed as a "genius," a wizard of communism -- Josef Stalin himself. Now, suddenly, this once unassailable god was being portrayed as a "madman" whose idiosyncratic rule had seriously undermined communism and endangered the Soviet state.

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