Khrushchev Surprised World With His Speech and His Shoe at UN Assembly

Khrushchev Surprised World With His Speech and His Shoe at UN Assembly


On October 12, 1960, Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, delivered a speech at the 15th session of the General Assembly of the UN, which was held in New York. The very emotional words of Khrushchev holding a shoe in his hand received wide publicity and made it in the history of diplomacy.

Recall that the UN declared 1960 the Year of Africa. Certainly, in connection with this main issue there was a discussion of the political situation on this continent. It was in Africa that most colonies of a number of European countries were located. At this meeting, the issue of eliminating colonial dependence of the African continent was raised.

On October 12, 1960 Lorenzo Sumulong from Philippines went up to the rostrum. He saw his main task in preventing wide discussion of this question and in making it possible to put blame on the USSR. He said that four years ago, in 1956, it was the USSR that suppressed the uprising in Hungary. Sumulong directly suggested that the Soviet Union should set an example by “eliminating the socialist concentration camp in Eastern Europe.”

Of course, Nikita Khrushchev could not stand it. He raised his hand and asked to comment. It should be noted that at that time, people in the hall could not use microphones as there were just none of them. So, Khrushchev first waved one hand and then another but it went unnoticed. As contemporaries recall, Frederick Boland, the Irish diplomat who presided that day at the session, pretended that he did not see Khrushchev who was eager to rise to speak.

The members of the Soviet delegation became indignant. They shouted and rapped their hands on the table. That was when Nikita Khrushchev began to wave his right shoe. According to one of the versions, he did it in order to attract attention.

When he did mount the rostrum, his speech was indeed very emotional and even harsh. He called to put an end to colonial slavery and “bury it.” He said that the voices of the Soviet Union's peoples as well as those who were fighting for their independence would be never silenced.

The next day an article and a photo depicting this “annoying prank” were published in The New York Times. Later, the picture of Khrushchev who was allegedly waving his shoe at the UN podium was recognized to be the product of editing. It is worth mentioning the words of John Longard, the correspondent of Life magazine. He recalled that at least a dozen photographers had turned their cameras on Khrushchev but he had put his shoe on the table, and that was it.

How come Khrushchev held the shoe in his hands? And did it indeed happen? There is no unequivocal opinion about this episode so far. As Khrushchev's son Sergei who also attended this meeting, recalls, everything happened as follows. Nikita Khrushchev came to the meeting room a little later than the others. He was immediately surrounded by reporters. One of them accidentally stepped on his right summer shoe which fell off his foot. The woman who was assisting the delegates, quickly lifted the shoe, wrapped it in a napkin and returned it to Khrushchev who had already took his seat. To put it on was a difficult task for the stocky Khrushchev. So, the shoe was left under the table.

This woman recalls that Khrushchev had been spinning it for some time. However, if he had an umbrella or a cane in his hands, he would have started rapping with them, too. Apparently, Khrushchev was just reflexively waving his shoe when he was sitting at the table.

However, he still managed to attract attention and to make the speech, although Frederick Boland did not want it. It should be recalled that there was a period of the Cold War. Khrushchev repeatedly spoke from the rostrum at that assembly, which lasted three weeks. It was he who then declared the need to restore China's legal rights in the UN and supported the struggle for independence in Africa.

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