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Point of Divergence
In September 1947, Nikita Khrushchev dies of a horrible case of pneumonia in his Kiev home, leaving the premiership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to Lazar Kaganovich, whom Stalin had recently sent to aid him in the reconstruction of Ukraine. Kaganovich then succeeds in revitalizing the Ukrainian economy and crushing violent insurgencies by 1951, winning him Stalin's personal favor and leaving him high on the list of those set to be Stalin's heir. Upon Stalin's death on March 5 from a massive stroke he had suffered days earlier, Georgy Malenkov becomes the de facto head of state and head of government of the Soviet Union on March 6, 1953.
Hardly a week later, Malenkov is forced to resign from his position in the Secretariat, and was replaced with Kaganovich while maintaining his premiership. After two years of making decisions deemed questionable by the powers of the Communist Party and the government, including voicing opposition to violence and nuclear armament to compete with the United States, Malenkov's political power begins shrinking greatly. In early 1955, he is forced to resign his premiership amidst allegations of corruption and treachery, making Lazar Kaganovich the 4th Premier of the Soviet Union. Malenkov attempted a coup against premier Kaganovich in late 1955, and was expelled from the Communist Party and exiled to a gulag in eastern Siberia.Kaganovich's years as premier were later characterized as a "more productive and efficient Stalin era," in which the Soviet Union defeated the capitalist powers in several areas. By the end of his time in office, he had even expanded the USSR's eastern bloc influence to reach into western Europe, the Middle East, and had successfully supported communists in rising to power across the globe.