On September 12, 1953, Nikita Khrushchev took over as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Bolstered by the growing Soviet economy and his faith in communism, Khrushchev launched bold reforms at home, including de-Stalinization, the Virgin Lands agricultural program, the space program, and a cultural thaw. Abroad, however, Khrushchev was tough -- ordering the construction of the Berlin Wall, ruthlessly suppressing the 1956 uprising in Hungary, and pushing the world to the brink of war during the Cuban missile crisis. In 1964, he was ousted from power by Leonid Brezhnev. In perhaps the most telling sign of the changes he wrought since the days of Josef Stalin, he was allowed to retire quietly and pen his memoirs until his death in 1971.