Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) led the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, serving as premier from 1958 to 1964. Though he largely pursued a policy of peaceful coexistence with the West, he instigated the Cuban Missile Crisis by placing nuclear weapons 90 miles from Florida. At home, he initiated a process of “de-Stalinization” that made Soviet society less repressive. Yet Khrushchev could be authoritarian in his own right, crushing a revolt in Hungary and approving the construction of the Berlin Wall. Known for his colorful speeches, he once took off and brandished his shoe at the United Nations.