Khrushchevґs era and the shoe

Forty-five years ago, in October 1964, Nikita Khrushchev was dismissed as the party leader and chairman of the Soviet government. In the political lexicon, his era is dubbed as one of "subjectivism" and "voluntarism", while ordinary people mostly associate this period with the Thaw, Khrushchevki apartment buildings, corn and a shoe.
Father of the Thaw

Following the memorable Communist party plenum that dismissed Khrushchev in 1964, people began calling him "father of the Thaw". It was not he, however, who invented the term. "The idea of some thaw was deftly coined by that rascal Ehrenburg," Khrushchev explained to his party colleagues in 1963.

Ilya Ehrenburg is a Soviet writer who in 1954 published his novel The Thaw, which gave name to the entire period in the countryґs socio-political development. Many political prisoners were released at the onset of the Thaw, and peoples deported by Stalin in the 1930-1940s were allowed to return to their native lands.

The Thaw also brought about the denunciation of Stalin and a relaxation of censorship in literature, cinema and other arts.

Mother of Kuzma turns 50

In 2009, the famous "mother of Kuzma" turned 50. On June 24, 1959, the entire world learnt about this womanґs existence thanks to Nikita Khrushchev.

During US vice-president Richard Nixonґs visit to Moscow, he visited the US Trade and Cultural Fair in Sokolniki. Khrushchev decided to discuss Soviet-American relations with his guest; suddenly he used an idiomatic expression which shocked interpreters: "We will show you Kuzmaґs mother," meaning: "Weґll show you."

According to one story, Nixonґs translator in embarrassment translated it literally as "mother of Kuzma". Poor Nixon was left guessing as to what a rare specimen of a woman she was.

Another story says that the American interpreter translated the phrase correctly: "We will show you what is what!"

This funny incident gave rise to the myth that Americans allegedly interpreted "Kuzmaґs mother" as a new super-weapon built in the USSR. Soviet nuclear developers appreciated the joke and started calling their products "Kuzmaґs mother".

The next time the world heard the idiomatic expression was during a UN General Assembly session on October 12, 1960. As American newspapers wrote, Khrushchev was banging his shoe on the rostrum, shouting to the US delegation: "Iґll show you Kuzmaґs mother."

The New York Timesґ front-page picture was of the Soviet leader holding his shoe in his hand, supplying it with an apt caption: "Russia is threatening the world again, this time with its leaderґs shoe."

Later, however, those present at the historic meeting admitted that Khrushchev banged his shoe not on the rostrum but on his desk, and not to threaten someone but just to attract attention.

This is how Sergei Khrushchev describes it: "When Nikita Sergeevich entered the hall, he was surrounded by journalists, and one of them stepped on his heel, causing his slip-on shoe to fall off. Khrushchev, who was rather fat, did not want to ridicule himself by trying to put on the shoe again, in the full view of cameras. He went to his desk and sat down, while his shoe, wrapped in a napkin, was brought by a staffer and put on his desk.

"At this time a Philippine delegate said that the Soviet Union had `swallowed upґ Eastern Europe, `deprived [it] of political and civil rightsґ. The remark caused an uproar. A Romanian delegate jumped to his feet and began shouting at his Philippine colleague. At this point, Khrushchev felt a need to take the floor, but an Irish delegate who chaired the meeting did not notice him. Khrushchev waved one hand, then another, and finally he took his shoe and waved that, and after that I think he banged it on the desk and this helped."

`Khrushchevkiґ apartment buildings

The Khrushchevki - panel and brick three- and five-storey buildings - were built during Nikita Khrushchevґs rule as a temporary solution to the housing problem, which became particularly urgent in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Khrushchevki buildings were initially designed to last for 35 years, but some remain in habitable condition today.

The first Khrushchevki buildings were constructed in the late 1940s under the supervision of Konstantin Bashlai, a Soviet scientist and bomb shelter designer. His Khrushvhevki enabled millions of Russian families to move from temporary huts and cramped communal flats to apartments of their own. Bashlai was awarded the Stalin Prize for a breakthrough in panel construction.

Rooms in such apartments were not very spacious, and ceilings were just 2.5 metres high. Moreover, sound insulation was poor, and there were no lifts. Yet they were affordable to ordinary Soviet families.

Nikita the Corn Man

This year the US state of Iowa is marking an anniversary of a milestone event in the history of the Russian-US relations. Nikita Khrushchev visited Iowa in September 1959 during his first official trip to the US. Delighted with the sight of vast corn fields, Khrushchev began to teach local farmers how to plant corn. He thought they were planting it too close together, thus preventing it from reaching its proper height.

Reflecting the Soviet leaderґs enthusiasm, corn fields covered much of the Soviet Unionґs European territory, suggesting a proper nickname for Khrushchev: Nikita the Corn Man. Farmers from the American province profited the most from Khrushchevґs corn mania, landing a large order for corn and advanced planting technology.

Richard M. Nixon & Nikita Khrushchev The Kitchen Debate

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