Monday, February 25, 2013

Jacqueline Kennedy and Nina Khruscheva–Just so, always and in everything

Photo credit: LiveInternet.ru

Kseniya Sobchak, the Russian TV personality/socialite/political activist just posted this photograph on Instagram with the following caption: "Жаклин Кеннеди и Хрущева. И так- всегда и во всем ..."– Jacqueline Kennedy and Khrushcheva– Just so, always and in everything. If I am not mistaken, the picture was taken in Vienna during Nikita and Jack's meeting that culminated in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty more than one year later. 

Sobchak's followers were divided in their reactions to the photograph. Some of them agreed with her assessment. "Russia" always was and will continue to be portly, unpolished, unsophisticated. "America" will always be a symbol of style, elegance, and class. Several people mentioned this picture embarrassed them. Others were offended and felt the caption was unnecessarily harsh. Several women pointed out that at the time the picture was taken, Nina Khruscheva was twice Jacqueline's age AND spoke several languages and was fairly educated and very erudite.

As a great admirer of Jacqueline, as I look at this picture, I still find myself rooting for Nina. It must have taken a lot of guts to stand poised next to a beauty queen and smile so pleasantly. I wish I knew what she wrote in her diary that night but I also suspect that she didn't keep one to begin with. 


What's your response to this image? Also, do you know much about Nina? I am finding very little info about her online.

16 comments:

  1. Funny that you say America is associated with class and elegance, whereas Russia with the exact opposite. Many people, including some Americans, often paint US citizens as unpolished and unsophisticated, especially in comparison with their European counterparts :) I don't agree with this, of course, but millions of people do :)
    As to this picture, I have an extreme aversion to absolutely everything Soviet, so my reaction will be considered biased. That's why I will watch my manners and not say a word :) However, even though I'm not a fan of Jackie O, her style is truly impeccable, can't deny that.

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    1. Yes! You are right. Every Eastern European, especially Russians, likes to point out that when you get on the subway, everybody is reading. And not trash either, LITERATURE.

      What I admire about Jackie is her love for books and history. I also like her style, but from when she was no longer the FLOTUS. There are fantastic images of her sitting barefoot on the floor at her office in Doubleday, wearing cords and simple crew-neck sweaters.

      If you don't mind me asking, why specifically do you hate EVERYTHING Soviet?

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    2. Oh, sorry, Petya, I didn't refresh my page & now I'm going to flood your page with comments :) My Soviet aversion is mostly due to personal reasons. I fully acknowledge the fact that I'm biased, though, so it will definitely be better to get an opinion from someone who is impartial. Which is not moi :)

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  2. Just out of curiosity, do you know who the other ladies in the photograph are? Can't find any information.

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    1. No! And it's driving me nuts. My guess is that the woman to Nina's left is the wife of the American Ambassador to Vienna. Again, unconfirmed, but based on what I read, I think the only time when Jacqueline and Nina met was during the Vienna Summit. The Ambassador at the time (1961) was Harrison Freeman Matthews Sr but I am unable to find any captioned photographs of him OR his wife.

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    2. Thanks! If I find anything else, I'll make sure to come back and leave you a note ;)

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    3. I will, too. My friend Ania writes The New Diplomat's Wife blog: http://www.thenewdiplomatswife.com and I've summoned her help. Surely, we can get to the bottom of this!

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  3. Interesting observation! It's fascinating how much can be read from a photograph.

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    1. I know! I checked back the original conversation on Instagram. The picture has been liked over 7,700 times and there are 421 comments under it. CRAZY!

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  4. To me, this image has nothing to do with Russia and America. It should be entitled "Capitalism and Communism or when the art and fashion are policies". Because if we compare the ladies of Imperial Russia with the wife of George Bush Sr (she was such a peasant) the picture will look different.

    I've never felt America as a symbol of style and elegance. It is only a symbol of pragmatism. Too exhausting for the human spirit. For example architecture. I have yet to find american city which does not look repulsive to me. The greatest city in the universe for example - New York - is, by the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, a product of pure greed. Europe is my place :)

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    1. I agree with your interpretation of the image. Capitalism is so seductive, right?

      I don't *love* American cities although I do find San Francisco pretty dreamy. What I love about America the most is its free spirit, which is why Europe is NOT my place. ;)

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    2. I agree with Petya. Although I'm European, I love American cities! Metaphorically speaking, I think Europe usually asks you "Where do you come from?", whereas America's question sounds more like "Where do you want to go?" I can see that attitude not only in my communication with actual human beings, but in the very bones and structures of American roads & buildings. When it comes style, I also lean towards American architects & designers. They can effortlessly "marry" style & function in a practical, yet elegant manner. Which doesn't mean I don't appreciate European culture, of course. I simply prefer the New World spirit :)

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    3. Seductive, well said. Somehow I had a feeling that you'll come up with San Francisco... I have to confess, that though the American cities are not pleasant to the(my) eye, they bear the pattern of the spirits of Freedom and Future. The latter especially can be attractive as an integrated circuit, but that is :)

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  5. Petya, your post got me really interested, and I started looking for more information on Soviet first ladies. It seems like they were treated horribly in way too many cases, which is sad really. Nina was the first one who started to appear publicly alongside her husband. Even nowadays, with the Soviet days long gone, Russia's president has kept his wife away from public eyes and there are thousands of rumors about her fate!

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    1. I am so glad you enjoyed this and I would love it if you share with me any interesting articles you find on this subject.

      I think that the reason why people are having such a strong reaction to this particular image is that it is so rare! During communism, it was very rare to actually see the spouses of our political leaders and you knew about their personal lives even less. There are two reasons for that. First, unlike their American counterparts many of these women were actually working women. The wife of the Bulgarian communist leader, for example, was a medical doctor. Raisa Gorbacheva was a university professor. Who has time for a garden party when there are papers to grade?! I kind of love this about them. Second, we now know that the lives of the party elite were quite extravagant; not quite in tune with their public social equality rhetoric. They had to keep their private lives quite private in order to be able to sustain their lifestyles.

      Fascinating, no?

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  6. Nina Khrushcheva was a housewife, a Kremlin housewife. A dedicated party worker who spread the word of communism across Ukrainian villages and hung Engels, Marx and Lenin's portraits in her dining room. She was a strong woman and many believed she had Khrushchev under her heel. She still did have a proper education, did speak some English and was trained to be secretive and very correct in her role of a "first lady." First lady is a strictly American concept though. That's right, if someone is chosen a president or First Secretary of the Communist Party, who is to say that his wife has to quit her job and dedicate her life to charity and garden parties :)
    If you want to research some more into Kremlin Wifes, there is a lovely book by Larissa Vasil'eva, Kremlin Wives. Great readin, gives a great insights on what you seem to be interested in: the development of the "first lady" in Soviet Russia.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kremlin-Wives-Larissa-Vasilieva/dp/1559702605/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1362436912&sr=1-1

    Thank you for the great post!

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