Special Section: Khrushchev's Last Testament: Power and Peace

Former Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev, who died in 1971 at the age of 77, once warned a Kremlin colleague that he might some day rise from the grave and tell his tale, despite the silence imposed on him by the men who had forced him into retirement. This week TIME presents the first of two sets of excerpts from a forthcoming volume of memoirs in which Khrushchev makes good on his prophecy. He emerges as a candid, pungent and uniquely qualified commentator on recent Soviet history.

During the last four years of his life, Khrushchev...