Nikita Khrushchev's shoe-banging incident occurred during the 902nd Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York City in 1960. During the session on 12 October, Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, pounded his shoe on his delegate-desk in protest at a speech by Philippine delegate Lorenzo Sumulong.
In 2003, American scholar William Taubman reported that he had interviewed some eyewitnesses who said that Khrushchev had brandished his shoe but not banged it. He also reported that no photographic or video records of the shoe-banging had been found. However, in his biography of Khrushchev, he wrote that he accepted that the shoe-banging had occurred. There is at least one fake photograph, where a shoe was added into an existing photograph. However, the Italian public broadcaster RAI has published footage that it says shows the shoe during the incident.
Description of incident
On 12 October, head of the Filipino delegation Lorenzo Sumulong referred to "the peoples of Eastern Europe and elsewhere which have been deprived of the free exercise of their civil and political rights and which have been swallowed up, so to speak, by the Soviet Union". Upon hearing this, Khrushchev quickly came to the rostrum, being recognized on a Point of Order. There he demonstratively, in a theatrical manner, brushed Sumulong aside, with an upward motion of his right arm—without physically touching him—and began a lengthy denunciation of Sumulong, branding him (among other things) as "a jerk, a stooge, and a lackey", and a "toady of American imperialism" and demanded Assembly President Frederick Boland (Ireland) call Sumulong to order. Boland did caution Sumulong to "avoid wandering out into an argument which is certain to provoke further interventions", but permitted him to continue speaking and sent Khrushchev back to his seat.
According to some sources, Khrushchev pounded his fists on his desk in protest as Sumulong continued to speak, and at one point picked up his shoe and banged the desk with it. Some other sources report a different order of events: Khrushchev first banged the shoe then went to the rostrum to protest. Sumulong's speech was again interrupted. Another Point of Order was raised by the highly agitated Romanian Foreign Vice-minister Eduard Mezincescu, a member of the Eastern Bloc. Mezincescu gave his own angry denunciation of Sumulong and then turned his anger on Boland, managing to provoke, insult and ignore the Assembly President to such an extent that his microphone was eventually shut off, prompting a chorus of shouts and jeers from the Eastern Bloc delegations. The chaotic scene finally ended when Boland, crimson-faced with frustration, abruptly declared the meeting adjourned and slammed his gavel down so hard he broke it, sending the head flying.
This incident was reported at the time by a number of newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Times, and Le Monde. The New York Times featured a photo that pictured Khrushchev and Andrei Gromyko, with a shoe on Khrushchev's desk.
Khrushchev was reported to be delighted with his performance, but other members of Communist delegations to the UN were embarrassed or displeased. Khrushchev was removed as leader in 1964, and he was criticized for the incident: "a shameful episode that he still presents as an act of valor".
In 1961, revolutionary philosopher Frantz Fanon commented: "And when Mr. Khrushchev brandishes his shoe at the United Nations and hammers the table with it, no colonized individual, no representative of the underdeveloped countries laughs. For what Mr. Khrushchev is showing the colonized countries who are watching is that he, the missile-wielding muzhik, is treating these wretched capitalists the way they deserve."
Khrushchev mentioned the shoe-banging in his memoirs, writing that he was speaking strongly against the Franco regime in Spain. A representative of Spain took the floor to reply and, after his speech, the delegates from Socialist countries made a lot of noise in protest. Khrushchev wrote: "Remembering reports I have read about the sessions of the State Duma in Russia, I decided to add a little more heat. I took off my shoe and pounded it on desk so that our protest would be louder." The footnote to this text says that Khrushchev's recollections are mistaken. The Times reported that Khrushchev launched an "angry tirade" against Franco on 1 October.
Khrushchev's granddaughter Nina L. Khrushcheva writes that, after years of embarrassed silence, her family explained their recollection of the event. According to Nina, Khrushchev was wearing new and tight shoes, so he took them off while sitting. He started pounding the table with his fist during his angry response, and his watch fell off. When he was picking it up, his discarded shoes caught his eye and he took the opportunity to pick one up and pound the desk with it. She also mentions that many versions of the incident have been in circulation, with various dates and occasions.
Nina's account is very similar to that of Khrushchev's long-time interpreter Viktor Sukhodrev, who sat with him during the event and reported that his boss pounded on his delegate-desk so hard that his watch stopped, which only infuriated him further and prompted the switch to the shoe.
Sergei Khrushchev (Nikita's son) stated that he could not find any photo or video evidence of the incident. Both NBC and CBC ran a search in their archives but were unable to find a tape of the event. However, the Italian public broadcaster RAI has published footage that it says shows the shoe during the incident.
In Sergei's opinion, it would be very unlikely that Nikita Khrushchev intentionally removed his shoe. There was little space under the desk, and the Soviet leader, being somewhat overweight, could not reach his feet. This specific issue was addressed in 2002 by a former UN staffer, who said that Khrushchev could not have spontaneously removed his shoe at his desk but had previously lost it after a journalist stepped on it. The UN staffer then retrieved the shoe, wrapped it in a napkin, and passed it back to Khrushchev, who was unable to put it back on and had to leave it on the floor next to his desk; the same staffer also confirmed that she saw him later bang the shoe on the desk, thus functionally confirming the reports by Nina Khrushcheva and Viktor Sukhodrev.
According to German journalist Walter Heinkels, a shoe producer in Pirmasens said he had seen a picture of the shoe in a newspaper and recognized it as being from his production. The Federal Ministry of Economics explained that the West German Federal Republic had sent 30,000 pairs of shoes to the Soviet Union. Among them were 2,000 pairs of good low shoes, and one of them might have found its way to Khrushchev.
- Peter Carlson (2010). K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist. Read How You Want. pp. 408–412.
- Michele Ingrassia (6 December 1988). "Krushchev brought chaos to UN in 1960". The Milwaukee Journal. Newsday. p. 87.
- Taubman, William (2003), Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, W.W. Norton & Co., pp. 475–476, 657, ISBN 978-0-393-32484-6
- William Taubman (26 July 2003). "Did he bang it?: Nikita Khrushchev and the shoe". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- Taubman, William (2003), Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, W.W. Norton & Co., p. 657, ISBN 978-0-393-32484-6
- Fred Bals (15 July 2009). "K Blows Top!". Dreamtime.
- "La Scarpa di Kruscev". Rai Storia.
- Frances Romero (23 September 2008). "Khrushchev Loses His Cool". Time. Using the fake photo.
- "Khrushchev Addressing United Nations General Assembly". Associated Press. The original photo from the AP.
- Faisal J. Abbas (16 December 2008). "Shoe Fetishism...The Arab Way!". The Huffington Post. Using the fake image.
- Хрущев кричал в ООН про кузькину мать, чтобы поглумиться над переводчиками [Khrushchev was shouting at the UN about the gruel to mock translators] (in Russian). КОМСОМОЛЬСКАЯ ПРАВДА (Komsomolskaya Pravda). 29 March 2004.
- Yulia Latynina (3 October 2008). Трагические последствия победы [The Tragic Consequences of Victory] (in Russian). The Daily Journal. Russian oppositional site using the original picture.
- Official Records, 15th Session of the UN General Assembly
- Other translations exist, see Nina Khrushcheva's article
- Amy Janello; Brennon Jones, eds. (1995). A Global Affair: An Inside Look at the United Nations. p. 230. ISBN 1-86064-139-3.
- William Taubman; Sergei Khrushchev; Abbott Gleason; David Gehrenbeck (May 2000). Nikita Khrushchev. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07635-5.
- Benjamin Welles (13 October 1960). "Khrushchev Bangs His Shoe on Desk". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012.
- "Enraged K Cries "Jerk", Gavel Breaks in Uproar: Enraged K Waves Shoe, Calls Opponent "Jerk"". The Washington Post. 13 October 1960.
- "UN adjourned in disorder: Mr K bangs desk with his shoe, President breaks his gavel". The Guardian. 13 October 1960.
- ""If I Go to the Bottom I Shall Drag You Down Too": Mr K's Parting Shot at UN". The Times. 14 October 1960. p. 10.
- "M. Khrouchtchev affirme que si ses propositions sont rejetées les peuples colonisés seront contraints de prendre les armes". Le Monde. 14 October 1960.
- Carl T. Gossett Jr. "Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev with his shoe before him, at the United Nations, 1960". New York Times Store. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012.
- Taubman, William (2003), Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, W.W. Norton & Co., p. 476, ISBN 978-0-393-32484-6
- Taubman, William (2003), Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, W.W. Norton & Co., pp. 476, 762, ISBN 978-0-393-32484-6
- Frantz Fanon (2004). The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Richard Philcox. Grove Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-8021-4132-3.
- Sergei Khrushchev (2007). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. Vol. III: Statesman. Penn State Press. p. 269. ISBN 0-271-02935-8.
- "Mr K Rebuked by UN Assembly President: Angry Tirade against General Franco". The Times. 3 October 1960. p. 7.
- Nina Khrushcheva (2 October 2000). "The case of Khrushchev's shoe". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 23 November 2006.
- "La Scarpa di Kruscev". Rai Storia.
- А был ли ботинок? [Was there a shoe?]. Izvestia (in Russian). 9 August 2002. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- Walter Heinkels, Adenauers gesammelte Bosheiten. Eine anekdotische Nachlese, Exon, Düsseldorf / Vienna, 1983, pp. 55/56.