Socialist fraternal kiss

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Graffiti painting from 1990 on the Berlin Wall called "My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love"

The socialist fraternal kiss or socialist fraternal embrace is a special form of greeting between the statesmen of Communist countries. This act demonstrates the special connection that exists between Socialist states.[1]

The socialist fraternal kiss consisted of an embrace, combined with a series of three kisses on alternate cheeks.[2] In rare cases, when the two leaders considered themselves exceptionally close, the kisses were given on the mouth rather than on the cheeks.[3]

The socialist fraternal embrace consists of a series of three deep hugs, alternating between the left and right sides of the body, without kissing.[4] This modified greeting was adopted by Communist leaders in Asia, which lacks a tradition of cheek kissing as greeting. During the Cold War, Communist leaders in Asia consented to receive kisses from Europeans and Cubans, but they themselves omitted the kiss.

Since the end of Communism in eastern Europe, the socialist fraternal kiss has died out. However, the socialist fraternal embrace continues to be exchanged between Communist leaders in Asia. In addition, Cuba has also adopted the Asian form of the ritual.[5][6]


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- or Easter Kiss,[3] which through its entrenchment in the rites of the Orthodox Church carried a substantial strength of expression and so found use in daily life.

As a symbol of equality, fraternity and solidarity, the socialist fraternal kiss was the expression of the pathos and enthusiasm of the emergent Workers' movement between the middle and end of the 19th century. In the years after the October Revolution and the subsequent Communist International, a ritualisation of the so far spontaneous gesture succeeded into an official greeting between Communist comrades. The symbolic reinforcement of the feeling of camaraderie also gained success through the fact that many Communists and Socialists had to make long, arduous and dangerous trips to then the isolated Bolshevik Russia. That way the much-experienced international Solidarity found expression in stormy embraces and kisses.

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,[7][8] as well as the leaders of socialist-aligned liberation movements such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the African National Congress.[9][10]


Some Kremlinologists studying the USSR paid close attention to whether the fraternal embrace was exchanged between Communist leaders. The omission of the customary embrace is taken to indicate a lower level of relations between the two countries.[11]

For example, after the Sino-Soviet split, the Chinese refused to embrace their Soviet counterparts or to address them as "comrade."[12] Even with the normalization of relations in 1989, the Chinese continued to omit the fraternal embrace when greeting Soviet leaders, even as they exchanged the fraternal embrace with leaders from other Communist countries.[13] This was done to emphasize that Sino-Soviet relations were not returning to the level that they were in the 1950s, prior to the split; Chinese protocol specifically insisted on "handshake, no embrace."[14][4]

Because of its symbolic significance, Communist leaders will often exchange the fraternal embrace even if serious disagreements exist, to avoid giving the public impression that relations are strained. For example, although China and Vietnam dispute the ownership of the Spratly Islands, Chinese and Vietnamese leaders continue to exchange the socialist fraternal embrace.[4]

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.[15][16] This is not a socialist fraternal kiss because there are only two kisses, and it carries no ideological meaning. It is practiced by Gaullist presidents as well as Socialist presidents.

In popular culture[edit]

The fraternal kiss became famous via Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev, who were photographed exercising the ritual. The photograph became widespread and it was subsequently transformed into a graffiti painting on the Berlin Wall named My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.


  1. ^ "Photos: A History of Lip-Locking in Russia, Home of the "Socialist Fraternal Kiss"". Vocativ. 20 August 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  2. ^ Smale, Alison (25 May 1987). "Romania Cool Toward Gorbachev's First Visit". Associated Press. 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.
  3. ^ a b Belton, Padraig; Citron, Lana (11 February 2016). "The Politics of the Kiss". New Statesman. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Chinese Premier Li Keqiang begins Vietnam visit. Reuters. 13 October 2013 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ "Chinese President Xi Jinping awarded Cuba's Jose Marti Medal". English. Xinhua. 23 July 2014. Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) hugs Cuban President Raul Castro after being awarded Cuba's Jose Marti Medal in Havana, capital of Cuba, July 22, 2014. (Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng)
  6. ^ "Castro brothers' China complex". 23 July 2014. Fidel Castro and then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji hug each other on Castro's second visit to China on Feb 27,2003.
  7. ^ Russian President Podgorny Greeted by President Kaunda. AP Archive. 27 March 1977.
  8. ^ Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez meets Chinese President Jiang Zemin. AP Archive. 24 May 2001.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Arrivée en France du président Hu Jintao on YouTube
  16. ^ "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

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