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THE SOFT SIDE OF KHRUSHCHEV

Nikita Khrushchev was a caring person who got a bum rap, his son said.

"He was not a cruel person. He was warm, very kind," Sergei Khrushchev, 57, said in a lecture Wednesday at Wayne State University. "He was a common person. He loved his family. He liked to do everything as a family."

Sergei Khrushchev was 18 when his father became leader of the Soviet Union in 1953, succeeding Joseph Stalin. He said his father relished competition with the West and the so-called missile gap was a Soviet fabrication.

"My father gambled by threatening America," he said. "I remember we had only a few missiles and he told them, 'We are producing them like sausages.' I asked him, 'Why?' He told me, 'Son, it is not important how many missiles we have; it is important that they believe what I say.' "

The younger Khrushchev's two books,"Khrushchev on Khrushchev" and "Khrushchev, Crises and Rockets," are part of his campaign to soften history's verdict on his father.

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