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The mid-1950s in the Soviet Union was a time of great change. For better or worse, the system was changing, and changing fast. Stalin died in March 1953, and a few months later Lavrentii Beria was arrested. The Virgin Land campaign and the dismantling of the Gulag came soon after, followed by massive re-housing to newly built apartment blocks ( khrushchoby) , new magazines ( Neva , Nash sovremennik , Koster for children), new theatres ( Sovremennik , Kremlevskii ), the legalization of abortion, the replacement of steam engines with diesel locomotives, the restoration of relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and so on. The dynamics of the change accelerated after the XX CPSU Congress and Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech, releasing its energy through further rehabilitation, turmoil in Poland and Hungary, ‘thaw’ in culture, contacts with the capitalist West, the festivals of Italian and Finnish cinema, art exhibitions from different countries, the International Youth festival, and even the production of vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, cars, and new fashions in clothing and furniture. Life sizzled. Members of the CC CPSU Presidium gathered for meetings and actually discussed problems, while the CPSU First Secretary Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev travelled a lot, both within the country and abroad.