When “Khrushchev Remembers” first appeared in Life magazine and as a Little, Brown book, in 1970, about five years after he was ousted from power and forced to live 20 miles outside Moscow in a fenced-in compound, the articles and the book created a sensation. Produced from 180 hours of audio tapes, it was the first account by a Soviet leader to reveal the inner workings of the Kremlin. They could not be called memoirs since Khrushchev was not authorized to send his memoirs abroad. His family and friends insisted that no details be revealed on how the memoirs were created. The Publisher’s Note stated, “The publisher is convinced beyond any doubt, and has taken pains to confirm, that this is an authentic record of Nikita Khrushchev’s words.”
As Time magazine’s Moscow bureau chief, I was instrumental in acquiring and secretly validating the authenticity of Khrushchev’s terrifying revelations of how Stalin’s excesses led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a journalist, I struggled to confirm the authenticity of the tapes. Time had them all voice-printed to confirm that they matched Khrushchev’s voice at a United Nations speech in New York City.
What I took away from the memoirs, which turned into a total of three volumes, was that Khrushchev played an instrumental role in destroying Soviet communism with his revelations, which he intended to salvage and restore his own place in history.