53rd anniversary of the famous “Kitchen Debate” in Moscow

Flashback to 24-25 July 1959: A curious relationship during the cold war existed between Soviet leader Khrushchev and U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon.

Mr. Nixon had arrived in Moscow to open the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park and as Khrushchev and Nixon strolled through the exhibit they paused at the model of a suburban American kitchen and it wasn’t long before a heated dispute broke out between the two men. Elliott Erwitt, a press photographer captured this famous photograph of Nixon jabbing his finger at Khrushchev in the debate. Nixon supposedly said: “We’re rich and you’re poor. We eat meat, you eat cabbage“. Khrushchev, who had a hair trigger temper, is said to have responded with: “Да пошел ты на х*й!”

Khrushchev and Nixon, Moscow 1959.

The American exhibit was an entire house was on display. It was a simple but efficient model that most Americans could afford and inside were various labor-saving appliances as a display of the American consumer market. The famous debate was recorded using the brand new technology of color videotape, pioneered in the U.S., and Nixon made reference to this fact; it was subsequently rebroadcast in both countries.

Famous “kitchen debate” Moscow.

Both countries agreed to broadcast the debate however Premier Khrushchev was skeptical that his part in the debate would be translated into English for American viewers. The Americans and Russians agreed to air the debates on national TV on the same date however the Russians wanted to wait until the excitement over the exhibits had died down as American home products embarrassed the Russians. Back in the USA however the big three major networks, independent of government control, felt that a delay was unfair as the debates constituted immediate news and proceeded to broadcast the now famous “Kitchen debate” on 25 July.

The US networks translated Khrushchev’s dialog and they were broadcast in full as promised. However when the Soviets decided to air the Russia language version of the debates two days later on 27 July, Nixon’s remarks were only partially translated into English and the Soviet broadcast was delayed until late at night.