What did Nikita Khrushchev want from the other countries?
The 1950s saw both sides of Berlin turned into political and social showrooms for the competing doctrines. West Berlin developed into a capitalist Mecca, while the East of the city transformed into a model socialist city. While the border between the two areas was sealed in 1952, this did not stop half a million people crossing the borders each day. Many East Berliners worked in the West, where they could make more money and so enjoy a higher standard of living than those working in the East, a situation that led to resentment from some. Berliners from the West enjoyed the extra spending power their currency offered in the East, crossing the border for less expensive haircuts, clothes, and other goods and services. Relatives living on opposite sides of the city could visit each other, students crossed to attend schools and universities, and many people crossed the border to attend concerts and sporting fixtures. There were some measures introduced to make crossing the border difficult and frustrating, such as police controls on many crossing points, and the barricading of some streets, but over 80 access points still remained open, and the underground railway (S-bahn) still crossed regularly.
However, there were a large number of people crossing from the East who simply did not return. Towards the end of the Second World War there had been a flood of refugees fleeing from the East to the West ahead of the advancing Soviet army. While the tide slowed after the end of the war, there remained a steady stream of Germans who left the East of the country and resettled in the West. It is estimated that more that two and a half million East Germans fled into the West between 1946 and 1961, yet the entire population of East Germany was only 17 million. The East German authorities attempted to restrict their citizens crossing by introducing passes and making "fleeing to the Republic" a crime with potential jail sentence of up to four years.
There were many factors driving the refugees. Some were as basic as seeking a better job, more food, or more material goods. The numbers of refugees spiked upwards during times of hardship in the East, when food and other essential resources were scarce. The social and political changes that had taken place in the Soviet zone, such as the educational reforms and the removal of many judges from their positions, resulted in many educated and wealthy persons moving to the West. The refugee problem grew and became an embarrassment for both sides. The East viewed those leaving as traitors and the West could not cope with the scale of the human tide. In the first seven months of 1961, over 150,000 East Germans left for the West. Walter Ulbricht (1893–1973), the leader of East Germany, repeatedly requested that he be able to take radical measures to stop the problem, but he was denied, at least for the time being.
Aside from the refugee problem, there were political troubles that threatened not only the peace and stability of Berlin and Germany, but also the world. In 1958, the Soviet Leader, Nikita Khruschev (1894–1971) demanded that several thorny post-war issues be resolved within a six-month period. The Soviets wanted negotiations on European security, an end to the four-power occupation of Germany, a final peace treaty signed with a reconstituted Germany, and the creation of a nuclear-free Germany to act as a buffer zone between the two superpowers.
The Soviets threatened that if their demands were not met then they would sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany, officially splitting Germany in two (even if in practice it already was so.) Summit talks were held in Geneva (May-August 1959), Paris (May 1960), and with the newly elected President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) in Vienna (June 1961), but no agreements were forthcoming.