On This [Supposed] Day: Nikita Khrushchev and his Shoe

Another post about another [possible] anniversary!

Today, October 12, is one of four possible dates that Nikita Khrushchev,  leader of the

Khrushchev at the UN Assembly (Milwaukee Journal, December 6, 1988)

Khrushchev at the UN Assembly (Milwaukee Journal, December 6, 1988)

Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, allegedly took off his shoe at the UN General Assembly and banged it on his desk.

The reason I say “allegedly”: we actually don’t know much about what happened. Upon researching the incident further for this post, I learned that there is very little we know for certain. This includes the date, the reason, and whether it actually happened at all.

Depending on which source, this incident supposedly occurred in the autumn of 1960 on either September 23, September 29,  October 12, or October 13. According to some, Khrushchev reacted against accusations from either Philippine delegate Lorenzo Sumulong or British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. No one questions that Khrushchev was an emotional politician who was prone to outbursts. His infamous threat “we will bury you” four years earlier to Western ambassadors in Moscow is one example of this. No one also doubts that Sumulong’s speech about the Soviet Union’s grip around Eastern Europe enraged the Soviet Premier.

The fake image (top) with the added shoe; the original image (below)

The fake image (top) with the added shoe; the original image (below)

So many discrepancies, including whether he took off his shoe at all, casts doubt on one of the more amusing events during the Cold War. If it was such a scandalous and shocking event, as some claim, then perhaps there would be more consistency in accounts. It does not help that no photographic evidence exists of the incident. A widespread photograph shows Khrushchev with a shoe in his hand; however, it is fake, with a shoe added to the original, authentic photograph.

Although it is something Khrushchev could have done, objectively, we know nearly nothing about the incident itself. As with many things in history, this supposed common-knowledge event, upon further research, is apocryphal at best.

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