1959 Kitchen Debate

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1959 Kitchen Debate

July 1, 1959 Nixon-Khrushchev Kitchen Debate Vice President Nixon and Premier Krushchev waged an impromptu debate on the benefits of communism vs. capitalism, which became known as the… read more Nixon-Khrushchev Kitchen Debate Vice President Nixon and Premier Krushchev waged an impromptu debate on the benefits of communism vs. capitalism, which became known as the “kitchen debate.” They were standing before a new color television camera at an international trade exibition in Moscow. close
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1959 Kitchen Debate

In 1959, the Soviets and Americans had agreed to hold exhibits in each other’s countries as a cultural exchange to promote understanding. This was a result of the 1958 U.S. – Soviet Cultural Agreement. The Soviet exhibit in New York opened in June 1959, and the following month Vice President Nixon was on hand to open the US exhibit in Moscow. Nixon took Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on a tour of the exhibit. There were multiple displays and consumer goods provided by over 450 American companies. A centerpiece of the exhibit was a geodesic dome, which housed scientific and technical experiments in a 30,000 square foot facility. This was later purchased by the Soviets at the end of the Moscow exhibition. As recounted by William Safire who was present as the exhibitor’s press agent, the Kitchen debate took place in a number of locations at the exhibition but primarily in the kitchen of a suburban model house, cut in half for easy viewing. This was only one of a series of four meetings that occurred between Nixon and Khrushchev during the 1959 exhibition. Nixon was accompanied by President Eisenhower’s younger brother, Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower, former president of Johns Hopkins University.
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1959 Kitchen Debate

The Kitchen Debate was an illustrative exchange between US vice-president Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in which they discussed the merits of their respective societies. The context for this debate arose for a cultural agreement, signed in 1958 by the US and USSR, in which they promised a greater exchange of ideas and information. As part of this agreement, two trade exhibitions were scheduled for mid-1959 – a Russian exhibition in New York and an American exhibition in Moscow. Both governments saw these exhibitions as significant propaganda opportunities. The Soviets ploughed the equivalent of $US12 million into their exhibition, held in June 1959. Hosted on a custom-built venue spanning four acres, the centerpiece of the Soviet exhibition was the Sputnik I satellite, which two years earlier had been the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth. There were also displays of Russian farming techniques and production technology, as well as cultural performances like music, theatre and dance. Thousands of Americans piled through the exhibition to get a first-hand glimpse of Soviet life. Many could not resist the temptation to leave derogatory comments in the visitors books, one writing that he would have liked to have seen Russia’s “labour camps”.
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1959 Kitchen Debate

The Kitchen Debate was a series of impromptu exchanges (through interpreters) between then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow on July 24, 1959. For the exhibition, an entire house was built that the American exhibitors claimed anyone in America could afford. It was filled with labor-saving and recreational devices meant to represent the fruits of the capitalist American consumer market. The debate was recorded on color videotape and Nixon made reference to this fact; it was subsequently rebroadcast in both countries.
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1959 Kitchen Debate

1. The Kitchen Debate was an informal but illustrative exchange between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev. 2. It occurred at the second of two major exhibitions: one by the USSR in New York, the second by the US near Moscow. 3. These exhibitions were intended to showcase the economies, technical developments and culture of each nation. 4. The debate took place in an American display home, near a model kitchen featuring modern electrical appliances. 5. Nixon and Khrushchev engaged in banter about the respective merits of living and working in each nation. The debate was generally friendly, though there were some heated moments.
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1959 Kitchen Debate

In the US, three major television networks broadcast the kitchen debate on July 25. The Soviets subsequently protested, as Nixon and Khrushchev had agreed that the debate should be broadcast simultaneously in America and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets threatening to withhold the tape until they were ready to broadcast. The American networks, however, had felt that delay would cause the news to lose its immediacy. Two days later, on July 27, the debate was broadcast on Moscow television, albeit late at night and with Nixon’s remarks only partially translated.
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1959 Kitchen Debate

We then moved to the kitchen of the model house. Khrushchev and Nixon stopped in front of the kitchen display. Now, they started up the debate again. Everybody thinks the debate was started in the kitchen. It actually started in the studio. It got hot and heavy, but it was civil. Nixon was pointing out these things and then Khrushchev would tell what his country had done. Journalists and everybody were squished in there. William Safire, the famous New York Times columnist, was with the public relations firm and his assignment was the model house. So, he was in the kitchen looking out and the AP guy couldn’t do anything, so he threw Safire the camera. Safire took the picture.
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1959 Kitchen Debate

In late 1958, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to set up national exhibitions in each other’s nation as part of their new emphasis on cultural exchanges. The Soviet exhibition opened in New York City in June 1959; the U.S. exhibition opened in Sokolniki Park in Moscow in July. On July 24, before the Moscow exhibition was officially opened to the public, Vice President Nixon served as a host for a visit by Soviet leader Khrushchev. As Nixon led Khrushchev through the American exhibition, the Soviet leader’s famous temper began to flare. When Nixon demonstrated some new American color television sets, Khrushchev launched into an attack on the so-called “Captive Nations Resolution” passed by the U.S. Congress just days before. The resolution condemned the Soviet control of the “captive” peoples of Eastern Europe and asked all Americans to pray for their deliverance. After denouncing the resolution, Khrushchev then sneered at the U.S. technology on display, proclaiming that the Soviet Union would have the same sort of gadgets and appliances within a few years. Nixon, never one to shy away from a debate, goaded Khrushchev by stating that the Russian leader should “not be afraid of ideas. After all, you don’t know everything.” The Soviet leader snapped at Nixon, “You don’t know anything about communism–except fear of it.”
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It was undoubtedly one of the most unorthodox – and therefore memorable – settings for a major political debate. On July 24th, 1959, the United States opened the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. The Soviets and Americans had agreed to hold exhibits in each other’s countries as a cultural exchange to promote understanding. The Soviet exhibit in New York opened in June, and the following month Vice President Richard Nixon went to Moscow to open the U.S. exhibit, and take Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on a tour of the exhibit.
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During the tour, Nixon and Khrushchev had a series of exchanges through interpreters debating the relative merits of capitalism and communism, which are now known as the Kitchen Debate. The Kitchen Debate took place in a number of locations at the exhibition but primarily in the kitchen of a suburban model house, cut in half for easy viewing.
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This exchange – which later became known as the ‘Kitchen Debate’ – was recorded on Ampex colour videotape (itself a new American invention). Nixon, who during the discussion had called for a freer exchange of ideas between the two countries, promised Khrushchev that his remarks would be broadcast, in full, to the American people, a promise that was later fulfilled. The ‘Kitchen Debate’ was also broadcast on Soviet television, though some of Nixon’s remarks were censored. The exchange was a rare one: two Cold War leaders, both vehement defenders of their political and economic systems, communicating their political views in person and in public.
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SHERMAN: I covered the famous kitchen debate between Khrushchev and Nixon. It isn’t generally remembered that that kitchen debate went on in two stages. The world only remembers the second stage when Nixon put it to Khrushchev. But, in fact, what happened was that this was the Eisenhower Administration’s effort to have some basis of working with Khrushchev. Nixon started out that visit, that was to the American pavilion at the trade fair there, being very diplomatic.
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The third visit occurred inside the kitchen on a cutaway model home. The model home in which the debate took place was furnished with a dishwasher, refrigerator, and range. It was designed to represent a $14,000 home that a typical American worker could afford. The fourth meeting was a debate that lasted for five hours at Khrushchev’s dacha. This meeting was not recorded.
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The American exhibition was scheduled to open in late July 1959 and was attended by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and US vice-president Richard Nixon. Both men had held high office for around six years, though Nixon’s rise had been steeper and more rapid than that of his Russian counterpart. A lawyer by training, Nixon was elected to Congress in 1947, where he attracted publicity as a vocal and active anti-communist. Nixon supported legislation to limit and monitor the activities of trade unions, then became a leading figure in the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during its investigation and prosecution of Alger Hiss. At the height of the Red Scare, Nixon’s anti-communist position saw his popularity rise. In 1950 he transferred to the US Senate, considered a stepping-stone to the White House. Nixon became Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential running mate in 1952 and was elected as vice-president in November of that year.

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