Tags: Khrushcheva | Russia | Nikita | Putin

Nina Khrushcheva Finds Khrushchev

By    |   Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 08:03 AM

Continuing on the important and entertaining theme of Russian history and culture, Nina Khrushcheva, granddaughter of Leonid Khrushchev, the eldest son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, appeared at the recent National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center to discuss her book The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind. One wonders if her analysis might be useful in providing insight into the mind of the current Russian leader or into his soul, if any.

Khrushcheva, an associate professor of international affairs at the New School in New York, was introduced by Peter Roudik, director of the Global Legal Research Center of the Library of Congress, one of the sponsors of the festival. He told the audience that a guide such as this book is needed because the Russian people have still not freed themselves from a kind of "invisible internal mental prison" as described by the author.

This writer recalls Nikita Khrushchev as a contradictory figure who rose to power as one of Stalin's henchman and administered a harsh regime in the Ukraine under Stalin, then denounced him in a famous secret 1956 speech. Later he became the face of the Cold War after Sputnik as he warned the U.S., "We will bury you!" His rule lasted only until 1964 when one wag quipped that he was ousted because the Cincinnati Reds lost the pennant race. Hardly anyone suspected that the Soviet regime would fall only a quarter century later, leading to the present authoritarian oligarchy under president-for-life Vladimir Putin.

Nina Khrushcheva, speaking in practically unaccented English, began in a modest and playful tone with a disclaimer that she does not speak for the family or for any group in Russia and is not purporting to channel Khrushchev. She sought to refute accusations that she is conducting some sort of campaign against Russia.

According to Khrushcheva, the "Gulag of the Russian mind" consists of the stubbornly held belief that the state is more important than any individual, and people are entirely capable of building this archipelago on their own without the need of any concrete or barbed wire. She suggested that this accounts for the popular support Putin enjoys for Russia's incursion into Ukraine. She proceed to read from the book, joking that doing so helped bring reality to the fact that she is actually a published author rather than merely a writer of short op-ed pieces and blogs.

Khruschev's presentation rambled a bit as she told of being initiated separately by Vyacheslav Molotov and Putin as to the views the regime has of her grandfather. (Evidently Molotov didn't invite her for cocktails, probably a good thing.) She accused Russian leaders of constructing an elaborate propaganda scenario in which Khrushchev supposedly collaborated with the Nazis and contrived to deliver Crimea to the Ukraine in 1954. (This writer recalls that Khrushchev had not yet consolidated his power as of that time.) She added that the Russians have a special gift for the enterprise of propaganda.

In order to illustrate the humanity of the families of Russian leaders, Khrushcheva sketched the personalities of her parents. Her father, Leonid, was a boozer and womanizer who became a pilot and died in a plane crash in 1943 at the age of 25. Nevertheless the Stalin regime contrived an accusation that he had somehow survived and managed to tow his plane through snow and over rough terrain to Nazi lines. She joked that he was a poor Communist who scored only Ds in theory and wore his cap backwards, ultimately becoming perhaps the first Soviet dissident.

Her mother also trained to be a pilot, but she strived to become the epitome of Soviet womanhood after the image of "Rosie the Riveter." She studied French and aspired to marry a dashing Frenchman. Her marriage to Leonid was never formalized.

One of the most profound observations Khrushcheva made regarding the Soviet mind was the inferiority complex Russians maintain regarding the French. Russian literature is replete with scenes of the upper class and courtiers conducting their social lives in French.

A touching anecdote was the story of Khrushchev observing that he managed to give up power without being shot and that he looked forward to living out his life as an ordinary citizen.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Robert-Feinberg
Nina Khrushcheva, granddaughter of Leonid Khrushchev, the eldest son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, appeared at the recent National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center to discuss her book The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind.
Khrushcheva, Russia, Nikita, Putin
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2014-03-21
Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 08:03 AM
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