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Khrushchev to Examine the Strength of Dialogue

Sergei N. Khrushchev

Sergei N. Khrushchev will discuss his life in the Soviet Union during the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Sergei Khrushchev.

Sergei Khrushchev was 28 when President John F. Kennedy’s seminal speech, "A Strategy of Peace," was reprinted in Russian in its entirety by the Soviet news agency, TASS.  

That his father, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, would allow it was a clear signal that relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were shifting. There was hope that the bellicosity between the two nations might simmer.  

That hope was realized when the U.S. and the Soviet Union signed on to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on August 5, 1963, which banned all atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. The younger Khrushchev, who at the time served as an engineer for Soviet military and space programs, was a witness to it all.

Sergei Khrushchev will discuss life in the Soviet Union during that time and his father’s actions during the Cold War as part of a symposium on Saturday in Ward 1 hosted by the Initiative for Russian Culture.

The symposium, titled "The Strength of Dialogue: In Honor of JFK’s Commencement Address (1963-2013)," also features James W. Symington, former Democratic congressman from Missouri; John Beyrle, former U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation; Vladimir O. Pechatnov, chair of the Department of European and American Studies at MGIMO University in Moscow; and Allen Pietrobon, AU graduate student and assistant director of research for the Nuclear Studies Institute.  

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As the son of the Soviet Premier, Khrushchev had a front-row seat to history, said Assistant Professor Anton Fedyashin, executive director of the IRC. Khrushchev was one of his father’s closest advisors and as such privy to the events that led up to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, which brought the two nations to the precipice of war.

"Sergei [Khrushchev] was a great champion of his father," Fedyashin said. "He had first-hand experience of people determining the fate of the planet."

Khrushchev, who has been a naturalized citizen of the U.S. since 1999, has written a number of books about his father, including the 2006 title, Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Reformer, 1945-1964. Most recently, Khrushchev was a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

The symposium, Fedyashin said, seeks to unpack Kennedy’s attempts to dispel some Soviet stereotypes in his speech.

"[The JFK speech] dovetails perfectly with the IRC’s raison d’être," he said. 

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The symposium will also focus on the advantages and shortfalls of the superpower mentality, the heightened expectations and disappointments of the post-Cold War era, and how to move beyond mutual stereotyping through cultural dialogue and personal contact.

By inviting both Russian and American scholars, diplomats and politicians, Fedyashin wanted to explore the speech’s resonance in both countries. He also wanted to air different points of view about Kennedy’s actions during that time and the Soviet response to them.

The first panel, featuring Khrushchev and Symington, begins at 2 p.m. with a viewing of part of Kennedy’s speech. The second panel with Beyrle, Pechatnov, and Pietrobon, begins at 4 p.m. after a coffee and dessert break.

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Following the symposium, there will be a reception in the Katzen Arts Center Rotunda featuring Russian and American music from the 1960s.

Business attire is required, as is a government-issued identification. The event is open to the public, but RSVPs are required by April 12. RSVPs may be e-mailed to irc@american.edu.

Details on Consortium shuttle transportation can be found on the event website, as is information about parking.