We will bury you
"We will bury you!" (Russian: "Мы вас похороним!", transliterated as My vas pokhoronim!) is a phrase that was used by Soviet premier 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 Westerners at the embassy on November 18, 1956 in the presence of Polish Communist statesman Władysław Gomułka, 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 rant prompted the envoys from twelve NATO nations and Israel to leave the room.
In his subsequent 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 USSR 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", 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." Khrushchev also expressed this Marxist thesis at a meeting with journalists in the US in September 1959. Many Americans interpreted the quote as a nuclear threat.
Some authors suggest that an alternate translation is "We shall be present at your funeral" or "We shall outlive you". Perhaps the closest translation into English in terms of sentiment would be the phrase, "It's your funeral."
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.
Borrowings of the phrase
Khrushchev's phrase was used as the title of Jan Šejna's book on communist Cold War strategies and of a comics book. The phrase also appears in Sting's song "Russians". The quote, paraphrased as "We will bury them!", was used as a taunt in the video game Red Alert 2, in which the Soviet Union wages World War III against the Western Allies.
- "We Will Bury You!", Time Magazine, November 26, 1956
- "Khrushchev Tirade Again Irks Envoys", The New York Times, Nov. 19, 1956, p. 1.
- The quote, cited on Bartleby.com and QuotationsPage.com.
- Умер личный переводчик Хрущева и Брежнева Виктор Суходрев (in Russian). Komsomolskaya Pravda. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- "Envoys Stalk Again As Nikita Rants". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Nov 19, 1956. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
- Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, Sergeĭ 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 17 April 2016.
- Nikita Khrushchev on QuotationsPage.com
- James Stuart Olson, Historical dictionary of the 1950s, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, p. 157
- 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
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