Jump to content

Socialist fraternal kiss

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love, a graffiti painting on the Berlin Wall depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing East German leader Erich Honecker

The socialist fraternal kiss was a special form of greeting between socialist state leaders. The act demonstrated the special connection that exists between Communist countries, consisting of an embrace, along with a series of three kisses on alternate cheeks.[1] In rare cases, when the two leaders considered themselves exceptionally close, the kisses were given on the mouth rather than on the cheeks.[2]

The socialist fraternal embrace consists of a series of three deep hugs, alternating between the left and right sides of the body, without kissing. This modified greeting was adopted by Marxist–Leninist leaders in Asia, which lacks a tradition of cheek kissing as greeting. During the Cold War, Marxist–Leninist leaders in Asia consented to receive kisses from Europeans and Cubans, but they themselves omitted the kiss.


Tsar of Russia Nicholas II gives a kiss of peace to a soldier, 1916.

This ritual originated in the European practice of cheek kissing as a greeting between family members or close friends. It has also been associated with the Eastern Orthodox fraternal kiss.[2] It was in use already in the Russian Empire, among soldiers and officers.[3]

With the expansion of Communism after World War II, the Soviet Union was no longer isolated as the only Communist country. The fraternal socialist kiss became a ritualised greeting among the leaders of Communist countries. The greeting was also adopted by socialist leaders in the Third World,[4][5] as well as the leaders of socialist-aligned liberation movements such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the African National Congress of South Africa.[6][7]


Kremlinologists paid attention to whether the fraternal embrace was exchanged between Communist leaders. The omission of the customary embrace indicated a lower level of relations between the two countries.[8]

After the Sino-Soviet split, the Chinese refused to embrace their Soviet counterparts or to address them as "comrade".[9] When Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev tried to embrace Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong on a visit to Beijing in 1959, Mao stepped back to avoid the embrace and offered a handshake instead.[10] Even with the normalization of relations in 1989, the Chinese continued to omit the fraternal embrace when greeting Soviet leaders.[11] This was done to emphasize that Sino-Soviet relations were not returning to the pre-split level of the 1950s; Chinese protocol specifically insisted on "handshake, no embrace."[12]

Cheek kissing[edit]

The socialist fraternal kiss should not be confused with ordinary cheek kissing between world leaders. For example, it is traditional for the President of France to greet world leaders by kissing them on both cheeks.[13][14]


  1. ^ Smale, Alison (25 May 1987). "Romania Cool Toward Gorbachev's First Visit". Associated Press News. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Nicolae Ceausescu, who has openly attacked recent Kremlin reforms, greeted each other warmly today as Gorbachev began his first visit to this maverick East bloc nation. The two leaders embraced and kissed each other three times on both cheeks.
  2. ^ a b Belton, Padraig; Citron, Lana (11 February 2016). "The Politics of the Kiss". New Statesman. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  3. ^ 1915-1916 Grandduchess Anastasia Romanova album, photo n° 207. 1916.
  4. ^ Russian President Podgorny Greeted by President Kaunda. AP Archive. 27 March 1977.
  5. ^ Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez meets Chinese President Jiang Zemin. AP Archive. 24 May 2001.
  6. ^ Anderson, Forrest (5 October 1989). "Yasser Arafat & Deng Xiaoping". Getty Images. Chmn. Deng Xiaoping, (L), embracing PLO Chmn. Yasser Arafat, during mtg. in Beijing, China.
  7. ^ Nelson, Mike (18 May 1990). "Muammar Gaddafi". Getty Images. South African anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela (l) and Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi hug each other 18 May 1990 upon Mandela arrival to Tripoli.
  8. ^ Biers, Dan (15 May 1989). "Summit Stumper: Will Deng Hug Gorbachev?". Associated Press. Will they or won't they? The big question when the tightly orchestrated Soviet-Chinese summit between Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping begins is whether the leaders will embrace to symbolically end 30 years of strained relations.
  9. ^ Biers, Dan (15 May 1989). "Summit Stumper: Will Deng Hug Gorbachev?". Associated Press. When Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze visited Deng in Shanghai last February he received a warm and lengthy handshake, but no hug. Schevardnadze referred to the Chinese leader as "comrade," but the socialist honorific was not returned.
  10. ^ Coleman, Fred (1997). The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire. St. Martin's Press. p. 314. ISBN 9780312168162.
  11. ^ National Technical Information Service (1989). "Daily Report: People's Republic of China". United States Foreign Broadcast Information Service (20–29). But the Chinese leader did not embrace Mr. Shevardnadze, as he usually does with visiting personalities from communist nations.
  12. ^ Radchenko, Sergey (2014). Unwanted visionaries: the Soviet failure in Asia at the end of the Cold War. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 166. ISBN 9780199938773. The main question of protocol, mulled over by the media, was whether Deng would bear-hug Gorbachev or offer him a handshake. This came under careful scrutiny of policy makers at the highest level. "Embracing might shock the world," Deng said with an eye to the West's reaction. Therefore, the Chinese protocol specifically provided for "handshake, no embrace" to highlight the new character of Sino-Soviet relations.
  13. ^ Arrivée en France du président Hu Jintao on YouTube
  14. ^ "Sarkozy and Merkel inject new life into alliance". RFI English. Reuters. 4 February 2010. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel kissing at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 4 February

External links[edit]