We will bury you
"We will bury you!" (Russian: «Мы вас похороним!», romanized: "My vas pokhoronim!") is a phrase that was used by Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev while addressing Western ambassadors at a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow on November 18, 1956. The phrase was originally translated into English by Khrushchev's personal interpreter Viktor Sukhodrev.
While addressing the Western Bloc at the embassy on November 18, 1956, in the presence of communist Polish statesman Władysław Gomułka, First Secretary Khrushchev said: "About the capitalist states, it doesn't depend on you whether or not we exist. If you don't like us, don't accept our invitations, and don't invite us to come to see you. Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!" The speech prompted the envoys from twelve NATO nations and Israel to leave the room.
During Khrushchev's visit to the United States in 1959, the Los Angeles mayor Norris Poulson in his address to Khrushchev stated: "We do not agree with your widely quoted phrase 'We shall bury you.' You shall not bury us and we shall not bury you. We are happy with our way of life. We recognize its shortcomings and are always trying to improve it. But if challenged, we shall fight to the death to preserve it". Many Americans meanwhile interpreted Khrushchev's quote as a nuclear threat.
In another public speech Khrushchev declared: "We must take a shovel and dig a deep grave, and bury colonialism as deep as we can". In a 1961 speech at the Institute of Marxism–Leninism in Moscow, Khrushchev said that "peaceful coexistence" for the Soviet Union means "intense, economic, political and ideological struggle between the proletariat and the aggressive forces of imperialism in the world arena". Later, on August 24, 1963, Khrushchev remarked in his speech in Yugoslavia, "I once said, 'We will bury you,' and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you," a reference to the Marxist saying, "The proletariat is the undertaker of capitalism" (in the Russian translation of Marx, the word "undertaker" is translated as a "grave digger," Russian: могильщик,) based on the concluding statement in Chapter 1 of the Communist Manifesto: "What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable". In his memoirs, Khrushchev stated that "enemy propaganda picked up the slogan and blew it all out of proportion".
Some authors suggest that an alternative translation is "We shall be present at your funeral" or "We shall outlive you". Authors have suggested the phrase, in conjunction with Khrushchev's overhead hand clasp gesture meant that Russia would take care of the funeral arrangements for capitalism after its demise. In an article in The New York Times in 2018, translator Mark Polizzotti suggested that the phrase was mistranslated at the time and should properly have been translated as "We will outlast you," which gives a different sense to Khrushchev's statement.
First Secretary Khrushchev was known for his emotional public image. His daughter admitted that "he was known for strong language, interrupting speakers, banging his fists on the table in protest, pounding his feet, even whistling". She called such behavior a "manner, which suited his goal... to be different from the hypocrites of the West, with their appropriate words but calculated deeds". Mikhail Gorbachev suggested in his book Perestroika and New Thinking for Our Country and the World that the image used by Khrushchev was inspired by the acute discussions among Soviet agrarian scientists in the 1930s, nicknamed "who will bury whom", the bitterness of which must be understood in the political context of the times.
In popular culture
- Khrushchev's phrase was used as the title of Jan Šejna's book on communist Cold War strategies, a 1962 documentary We'll Bury You and a comic book with the same title.
- The phrase appears in Sting's song "Russians" (1985).
- In the opening scene of the 2020 film The Courier, Khrushchev closes his speech with the same words.
- "We Will Bury You!", Time Magazine, November 26, 1956
- "Khrushchev Tirade Again Irks Envoys", The New York Times, November 19, 1956, p. 1.
- The quote, cited on Bartleby.com and QuotationsPage.com.
- Умер личный переводчик Хрущева и Брежнева Виктор Суходрев. Komsomolskaya Pravda (in Russian). Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- "Envoys Stalk Again As Nikita Rants". The Milwaukee Sentinel. November 19, 1956. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
- "Foreign News: We Will Bury You!". Time magazine. Time magazine. November 26, 1956. Archived from the original on September 13, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2021.
- "Khrushchev Tirade Again Irks Envoys". The New York Times. November 19, 1956. Archived from the original on June 18, 2018. Retrieved September 13, 2021.
- "Founding and history". Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
- James Stuart Olson, Historical dictionary of the 1950s, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, p. 157
- Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, Sergey Khrushchev, George Shriver, Stephen Shenfield. Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Statesman, 1953–1964, Penn State Press, 2007, p. 893
- Dr. Stuart J. Birkby. "'We will bury you' How Mistranslation Heightened Cold War Tensions" (PDF). Galaxy. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
- Nikita Khrushchev on QuotationsPage.com
- Arnold Beichman. The Long Pretense: Soviet Treaty Diplomacy from Lenin to Gorbachev. Transaction Publishers. p. 96. ISBN 1412837685.
- Moshe Lewin, The Soviet Century
- Bill Swainson, The Encarta Book of Quotations
- Robert Legvold, Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-first Century and the Shadow of the Past
- Morton Deutsch; Peter T. Coleman; Eric C. Marcus, eds. (2011), "Culture and Conflict", The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, Wiley, p. 630, ISBN 9781118046906
- "Why Mistranslation Matters; Would history have been different if Khrushchev had used a better interpreter?" by Mark Polizzotti, The New York Times, July 28, 2018.
- Perestroika and New Thinking for Our Country and the World, Harper & Row, 1987, p. 150, ISBN 0060390859
- Sinclair, Carla (March 6, 2022). "Sting's haunting "Russians" is more relevant today than when he wrote it years ago". Boing Boing.
- Thomas, Rob. "Benedict Cumberbatch excels as an ordinary spy in 'The Courier'". The Capital Times.
- Quotations related to Nikita Khrushchev at Wikiquote