60 Years Ago in The New Yorker

This is from May, 1963. A year later, Khrushchev will be forced into retirement, so we did find out who would be so much worse to deal with after he was gone. Was he seen to be on the ropes then? Nina was Nikita’s second wife, although they didn’t marry until 1965.

Yes, CIDU discourages political discussions, but the statute of limitations on this one is likely past.


  1. Brezhnev began his behind-the-scenes moves to have Khrushchev removed from office in March 1964, culminating with an official vote by the Politburo on October 14th. It is quite likely that experienced Kremlin watchers were aware that Khrushchev’s leadership was getting shaky a year or two before that, but it is quite remarkable that the (normally reasonably apolitical, abeit elitist) New Yorker would publish this kind of speculation.

    P.S. The couple may not have been married when this comic was published, but they had already been together for nearly four decades; their three children were born between 1929 and 1937.

  2. @ Maggie – I have zero personal knowledge of what happened to Khrushchev (I got the specific details from Wikipedia). As far as I knew as a kid, Brezhnev was the only leader the Soviet Union had ever had, until he died in office (while I was in college).

    Similarily, for the most recent general election in Germany (2021), there were many first-time voters for whom Angela Merkel was the only Chancellor they had ever known (she had been in office for 16 years). There are some excellent reasons for a two-term limit.

    P.S. No need to apologize for a typo, it happens to everyone.

  3. It seems to me he is saying he stays in power because the forces behind the scenes would find his replacement worse. He doesn’t know who would be worse. He seems to recognize that his power, while probably immense, isn’t infinite.

    Or did everyone already understand that part of this comic and we are just discussing our memories of Russian and other foreign leaders?

  4. @ TedD – Re-reading the caption with your interpretation makes it sound as if he is surprised that he has managed to stay in power that long, which is not a bad gag at all.

    P.S. There’s an old (pre-unification) anecdote about a conversation between Erich Honecker (General Secretary of East Germany) and one of his grandchildren:
    Erich: “When you grow up, you can become anything you want to be!
    Kid: “Really? Anything? In that case I want to be the General Secretary!
    Erich: “Oh, no, that’s not possible: that’s my job!

  5. I am old enough to remember back then, and my dad worked for the UN so I paid more attention to world politics than a lot of kids. I bet the caption refers to some “After Khrushchev” articles in the Times or something. Remember, bad as he was he was a lot better than Stalin.

  6. My brain pre-mashed it up for me commission free when I was trying to remember who the other premier was besides Click & Clack’s chauffeur — I had to look it up to unmash it.

    PS: 😀 Soviet leader half-life!

  7. In Six Degrees of Separation terms I get close to Khrushchev by two routes. In 2010 in London I worked on a stills shoot for Tod’s shoes photographed by Elliott Erwitt, who took the famous 1959 shot of Nixon prodding Khrushchev during the Kitchen Debate. (Among other things, I drove Erwitt to Heathrow Airport at the end of the four day exercise.)

    The other and much better route is this: in 1998 in Moscow I interviewed the second person to orbit the earth, Gherman Titov, for six hours in his own home (through an interpreter), and had shots of vodka with him too. There are pics of Titov (and Yuri Gagarin) being hugged by Khrushchev in 1961 on the viewing platform overlooking Red Square.

    The rule for the validity of any Six Degrees connection claim has been defined by the daughter of a friend of mine as “being close enough to lick”. Other people might have other rules, like actually engaging in conversation (I don’t suppose Erwitt talked to Khrushchev, but maybe he did).

  8. Speaking of Cosmonauts, am I correct in remembering that the Soviet space program had a mission in orbit during K’s fall / Brezhnev’s takeover? And the international press wanted to ask them what they thought of coming home to a different leadership than when they launched, but the space program managers were able to protect them from those sort of questions.

  9. And the 13th will be the centerpiece of this Thursday’s final session for the quarter of the music history class I’m taking.

  10. @ Mitch – “… am I correct in remembering that the Soviet space program had a mission in orbit …

    The mission you are thinking of was Восход-1, which lasted just over a day, from Oct. 12th to 13th. Although Khrushchev was not officially voted out of power until the 14th, he had spoken with the cosmonauts in his official capacity during the mission, but it was Brezhnev who welcomed them back upon their return.

  11. P.S. @ narmitaj – I had thought that the mission had ended before Khrushchev was recalled and informed, but now I see that the landing time was listed as 7:47am UTC (and not Moscow time), so it probably did happen during the flight. There was a theory that the leadership change had resulted in a shortened mission, but in actuality the Voskhod-1 capsule was heavily overloaded (three cosmonauts) and under-equipped (for example, no spacesuits, and no possibility to abort during launch), so that they would not have been able (or willing) to stay in space much longer in any case.

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