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By Sean — 9 years ago
I highly recommend “Nikita Khrushchev Goes to Hollywood” from the Smithsonian Magazine. Khrushchev, always the showman, charmed, bantered with American capitalists, and even took in the filming of Can-Can during his tour of America in 1959. When the Soviet premier went to Hollywood, hundreds of stars appealed for tickets to attend a luncheon with him. He met such Hollywood legends as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, and Charleston Heston.
The event apparently had several memorable moments. When Heston leaned over to Soviet novelist Mikhail Sholokhtov and said “I have read excerpts from your works.” The novelist replied, “Thank you. When we get some of your films, I shall not fail to watch some excerpts from them.” When businessman Spyros Skouras used his immigrant rags-to-riches story to educate Khrushchev about capitalism, the communist retorted:
He turned to Skouras—”my dear brother Greek”—and said he was impressed by his capitalist rags-to-riches story. But then he topped it with a communist rags-to-riches story. “I started working as soon as I learned how to walk,” he said. “I herded cows for the capitalists. That was before I was 15. After that, I worked in a factory for a German. Then I worked in a French-owned mine.” He paused and smiled. “Today, I am the premier of the great Soviet state.”
The banter between the two continued with no discernible winner.
However, the one thing Nikita and his wife Nina didn’t get to do was visit Disneyland. At one point during the luncheon, Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker told Henry Cabot Lodge, US Ambassador to the UN and Khrushchev’s personal tour guide, “I want you, as a representative of the president, to know that I will not be responsible for Chairman Khrushchev’s safety if we go to Disneyland.” “Very well, Chief,” Ledge replied. “If you will not be responsible for his safety, we do not go, and we will do something else.”
Word steadily got back to the Khrushchevs. Both were terribly disappointed. So much so that Khrushchev devoted part of his 45 minute speech to the subject:
“Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland,” he announced. “I asked, ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?’ ”
The audience laughed.
“Just listen,” he said. “Just listen to what I was told: ‘We—which means the American authorities—cannot guarantee your security there.’ ”
He raised his hands in a vaudevillian shrug. That got another laugh.
“What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there? Have gangsters taken hold of the place? Your policemen are so tough they can lift a bull by the horns. Surely they can restore order if there are any gangsters around. I say, ‘I would very much like to see Disneyland.’ They say, ‘We cannot guarantee your security.’ Then what must I do, commit suicide?”
Khrushchev was starting to look more angry than amused. His fist punched the air above his red face.
“That’s the situation I find myself in,” he said. “For me, such a situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”
The audience was baffled. Were they really watching the 65-year-old dictator of the world’s largest country throw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t go to Disneyland?
Sitting in the audience, Nina Khrushchev told David Niven that she really was disappointed that she couldn’t see Disneyland. Hearing that, Sinatra, who was sitting next to Mrs. Khrushchev, leaned over and whispered in Niven’s ear.
“Screw the cops!” Sinatra said. “Tell the old broad that you and I will take ’em down there this afternoon.”
Khrushchev never did get to go to Disneyland. Instead, according to William Taubman, his hosts killed time by, in the words of the premier, “driving aimlessly around the Los Angeles suburbs for two hours” in a closed armored Cadillac. Even Lodge agreed that “the interminable afternoon dragged on.”Post Views: 2,985
By Sean — 4 months ago
Guest: Shaun Walker on The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past published by Oxford University Press.
By Sean — 11 years ago
Seventy years ago today the infamous Operational Order No. 00447 was approved by the Politburo of the Soviet Union. The Order launched, according to the document, “a campaign of punitive measures against former kulaks, active anti-soviet elements, and criminals.” In the appending memo to Stalin’s personal secretary, A. N. Poskrebyshev, M. P. Frinovsky, then deputy commissar of the NKVD, wrote, “I ask that you send the decree to members of the Politburo for their vote, and please send an extract of relevant items to Comrade Ezhov.”
Dated 30 July 1937, the document outlines which groups would be subjected to “punitive measures,” how they would be carried out, and provided execution and arrest quotas for every oblast and autonomous republic.
The document split those subject to “punitive measures” into two categories. The document reads:
- “To the first category belong all the most active of the above mentioned elements [kulaks, former Whites, criminals, Mensheviks and other anti-soviet parties, fascists, religious sectarians, etc]. They are subject to immediate arrest and, after consideration of their case by the troikas, to be shot.
- To the second category belong all the remaining less active but nonetheless hostile elements. They are subject to arrest and to confinement in concentration camps for a term ranging from 8 to 10 years, while the most vicious and socially dangerous among them are subject to confinement for similar terms in prisons as determined by the troikas.”
Quotas for the first category range from 100 (in Komi ASSR and Kalmuk ASSR, for example) to 5000 (in Western Siberia, Moscow oblast, and Azov-Black Sea). Estimates for the second category ranged from 300 (again in Komi and Kalmuk) to 30,000 (Moscow).
The quotas were merely guidelines for execution and arrest. Considering that they all end in zeros says that the Party had no idea how many “anti-Soviet elements” roamed the country. The quotas were merely estimates presumably made from local NKVD reports. The quotas give a total estimate of 50,950 in the first category and 167,200 in the second category. A grand total of 218,150 persons. The order essentially transfered almost all criminal proceedings to NKVD troikas in 1937-38. According to figures released by the Russian Government in 1995, troikas handed down 688,000 sentences or 87% of all criminal sentences in the USSR in 1937 and 75% in 1938. A total of 681,692 people were sentenced to be shot in 1937-38, with 92.6% of those sentences handed down by troikas.
What is interesting about the Order is where it placed the power to deem an individual (and/or their family members) subject to “punitive measures.” Troikas (three man commissions) were to comprise of commissars of the republic’s NKVD or by regional departments. The minutes of the troikas investigation were the sole legal basis for a person’s execution or arrest. The day to day implementation of the mass operations was essentially outside the purview of central organs. Stalin basically handed local NKVD agents the power to wipe out their local rivals. And a bloodbath ensued. Most of the victims of this blind terror were regular people, most without any political connections at all.
An English translation of Operational Order 00447 can be found in J. Arch Getty, The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939, p. 473-480.Post Views: 2,434