Khrushchev’s American Tour

“The Thaw” was an era following the death of Stalin that ushered in an era of liberalization within the Soviet Union.  During this time, people were allowed to express themselves more freely than during the Stalinist era.  The USSR witnessed the emptying of the Gulag’s, as well as the liberalization within the realms of music, literature, international relations, and the press.

However, this shift did not go unopposed.  In 1957, a plot against Khrushchev developed among several key Communist Party members following the Secret Speech at the 20th Communist Party meeting.  These members saw the attempt of liberalization by Khrushchev as being incredibly hypocritical.  This is because when Stalin was in power, Khrushchev had done little to persuade him against enacting many of his brutal policies; including the purges.  One of the primary arenas that this group was vehemently against Khrushchev was in international affairs.  Khrushchev had been in favor of both the US and USSR living peacefully in the world.  This was in stark contrast to the anti-Khrushchev group which took a much more aggressive stance towards capitalist countries.

Perhaps the biggest indication of Khrushchev’s warming attitude towards the West was his 1959 visit to the United States.  Up until this point, there had been much debate regarding the focus of the Soviet economy.  Some wanted the emphasis to remain on industrializing, while others where proponents of increasing the USSR’s agricultural capacity.  Khrushchev ultimately saw the need for for the Soviet Union to improve its agricultural sector, so a trip was planned to the US, which concentrated on the American farming sector.

After arriving in the United States, Khrushchev met with Eisenhower before embarking on his journey across the country.  He ended up visiting several cities and states including Washington DC, New York City, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and California.  He ended his visit with a summit with Eisenhower.

The state dinner between Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and their wives

Ultimately, this trip was truly groundbreaking.  It was the first time that any leader of the Soviet Union had visited the US.  Khrushchev’s arrival to the United States sent the message that it is entirely possible for the world’s two superpowers to coexist, and even be on friendly terms with one another.  In terms of international affairs, this visit was truly iconic of “The Thaw” since a visit of this magnitude had not happened before.  Khrushchev’s visit to the United States paved the way for future leaders of the Soviet Union to do the very same.

Sources:

— Current Digest of the Soviet Press: https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13818981

— PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/cold-war-roadshow-nikita-khrushchevs-trip-itinerary/

— History.com: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/khrushchev-ends-trip-to-the-united-states

— Image – Commons.wikimedia.org

9 thoughts on “Khrushchev’s American Tour

  1. Wow really cool post! This was really cool and I had no idea that Khrushchev went to the United States. I wonder what the overall opinion was in Russian at the time during this change in politics. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. This was the first time that a Soviet, or even a Russian leader had ever gone to the U.S. It was a groundbreaking moment, without a doubt.

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  2. Mark, good post on Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S. You’ve explained why it was so significant but threatening to some elements of the Party really well, and I’m glad to see you made use of the Current Digest!

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    1. Thanks! I think that as Americans, we tend to see the communist party of the Soviet Union as one big machine that was in lockstep. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. They had factions within the party, just like any other country.

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  3. Wow, I had no idea that Khrushchev made a trip to the U.S.! I thought the picture you included with Khrushchev and Eisenhower was really neat. Nice job!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I think its interesting that despite the vulgar rhetoric that went back and forth between both sides, that we were able to come together with the Soviets and relieve some of the tensions that had been present since the Bolsheviks took power.

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  4. Mark, I really liked your title and how you compared the “thaw” to Khrushchev’s visit to the United States. I also like your connection with Khrushchev’s visit and the impact that it had on future U.S. and USSR relations years later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree with David! I appreciate you reminding us of how important Khrushchev’s visit to the US was – in symbolic as well as practical terms. That photograph is wonderful, BTW! This is great context for the shift away from military confrontation to “peaceful” competition (although Khrushchev would lose his wager that the Soviet economy could out satisfy consumer demands). And great point on the ’57 crisis — the other aspect of that we need to keep in mind is the Hungarian rebellion of 1956 (which many in the Soviet leadership saw as proof that De-Stalinization was dangerous.)

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  5. Thanks! As I say in my post, I think that this meeting was a turning point in U.S.–Soviet relations. This summit opened up a dialogue between the two countries.

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