Khruschev's Shoe

I was reading in the newspaper today that on this very day, in 1960, Nikita Kruschev took his shoe off and banged it on the table of the UN Security Council (I think it was the Security Council, I could be wrong). Now, why did he do this? I seem to recall hearing about this incident before, but I never got the full story. Was it a Russian cultural thing, like “We will bury you!”, or did he just get a stone in it at a bad time?

Modest? You bet I’m modest! I am the queen of modesty!

There’s a great video clip of this speech. Classic Kruschev. Another is him and then VP Nixon checking out refrigerators.
If you look closely, the shoe is a Bruno Magli!! (You can tell by the tread pattern left in the U.N. lecturn. I guess Communist dogmatists wear “ugly ass shoes.”

I remember the incident being in the news (I was very young!) It was at the height of the Cold War, not too long before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not much help there.

I did find this on the internet:

So at least it was a stylish shoe he was threatening us with!

Strangers have the best candy.

As I recall, he was banging the shoe on the table to drown out an U.S. speaker on a subject he didn’t like.

So where is that famous shoe today?


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

If he did that kind of thing often, it probably wore out a long time ago.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

I’m sure this is utter bs, but I remember the incident - I was in grade school at the time, and the buzz was he was po’d that he couldn’t go to Disneyland.

Not quite. Krushchev was POed he couldn’t go to Disneyland, but that had nothing to do with the shoe incident (I don’t even think they were on the same trip).

Krushchev expressed interest in going to Disneyland, and there was some talk of taking him there, but they weren’t sure of the security, so the Secret Service vetoed the idea.


Really, it wasn’t complete bs? Gotta rethink some of my cold war myths.

Related issue that I can’t currently verify because I don’t have the Russian words that Khrushchev spoke:

My Russian prof said that “We will bury you” was a painfully bad translation of what Khrushchev. My prof said that the proper translation of his words would have been “We will reach you and surpass you.” The prof had the actual Russian and translated it, but I can’t remember it now.

I believe it, but I can’t prove it yet. Any help? I found a hint in that direction here: (#8).

Verification, coming right up-

This month’s issue of American Heritage had an article by Sergei Khruschev (you know, the one who is now a naturalized American citizen), and in it he explained that what his father really meant was that Socialism would outlast Capitalism. Capitalism was on the way out, and when it finally died, Socialism would still be around to bury it. Khruschev didn’t (as far as we know) mean to imply that he intended to hasten this process by violent means, as it appeared to the American public at the time. But at least he kept his footwear on this time.

Modest? You bet I’m modest! I am the queen of modesty!

I may be totally remembering wrong, but didn’t this incident follow close on the heels of the U2 incident?

If I were going to take a guess as to why he did the shoe thing, I would guess that it was a spontaneous emotional decision to get attention and express how upset he was. I don’t think that shoe banging is a common Russian habit. :slight_smile:

Perhaps someone can come up with a story related to the incident from the time - I can’t find anything contemporary on the Web. the date was 10/12/60 and there was one site where it was noted that Khrushchev did it to try and seem a bit like the underdeveloped nations of the world. The incident occurred in the General Assembly.

The answer is so obvious: He was hanging up his shoe phone after talking with Siegfried.

But seriously, this is actually two questions: Why was he hammering his shoe? What was going on in the UN at the time?

I think the answer to the first question is obvious–to get attention. Why he chose that method is a mystery that may never be answered.

Now, for the answer to the second question–this is from Walter Cronkite’s “I Can Hear It Now:”

(Cronkite speaking, sound of gavel rapping)

"As Nikita Khrushchev hammered on his desk at the United Nations, Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold sat in outraged silence and the president of the assembly futilely rapped for order–one of those spectacles of disbelief that riddled the '60’s.

“At another point, Prime Minister Harold McMillan was speaking, and few remember his classic ad lib:”

     (McMillan speaking with classic British dry wit, Khrushchev pounding shoe)

“I. . . I. . .I’d like it translated if you would, certainly.” (sounds of laughter)


“Hammarskjold was fighting for his job and the future of the United Nations as the Soviets attempted in October 1960 to substitute the role of the Secretary General with a three-man troika.”


“It is not the Soviet Union, or indeed, and other Big Powers who needs (the) United Nations for protection–it is all the OTHERS. I shall remain in my post during my term of office as a servant of the organization in the interests of all those other nations as long as THEY wish me to do so.”


“In a desperate mission to the Congo to stabilize the deteriorating situation there, the United Nation’s most innovative Secretary died in a plane crash. Circumstances were never fully explained.”
So there you have it. I don’t know exactly what the “deteriorating situation” was in the Congo, but I do know this:

In August, 1960, they gained independence, and the Soviets and the Americans were both jockeying for influence. The Soviets eventually won out, until they were ousted in 1967, by “our guy,” President Mobutu. He was in power until just a few years ago. It was another case of “our dictator over their dictator.”

WAG: could it be he wanted a gavel, and that was the closest thing he could think of?

You say “cheesy” like that’s a BAD thing.

I agree. After some more reflection, I think he might have been mocking the “President of the assembly,” who was trying to “rap for order.”

I understand Khrushchev didn’t speak English (though doubtless his words were translated, into Spanish, French and Chinese as well as English.) Did he say anything at this time? Other than, perhaps, “Eto bashmak moi!” (“This is my shoe!”)? If MacMillan was speaking, Nikita would have to have been wearing his headset to get the Russian translation…

Yeah, I’ve heard similar stuff about the “We will bury you” quip. I had heard it meant something more a long the lines of “We will outlast you, since naturally capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, but at least we’ll be decent enough to give you a good funeral.” Sort of a Russian idiom wrapped around Marxist ideology, not intended to be threatening. So it is a pretty painful translation.

Perhaps the English idiom would be “We will dance on your grave”.