the Empty Pots
NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV WAS DEAD. On September 11, 1971, a "nonperson"—everywhere in the socialist camp except for Tito's Yugoslavia—had ceased to exist. Members of his family gave the information to Western journalists, but nothing appeared in the Soviet press or on Soviet radio or television. It was a weekend, and those who would make such decisions were away from their offices. His name had been excised from history books and encyclopedias. The event had no importance. In contrast the newspapers in Belgrade carried extensive articles with reminiscences by prominent members of the government. He had been a "long-time friend," they said. A foreign reporter in the Soviet Union, eager to spread the news, told some people on the streets of Moscow. One woman said: "My God!" and went on her way. Another replied: "That's sad." A citizen in Moscow could not be too careful when talking with a stranger. Someone from the KGB might be lurking in the vicinity. Two days later Pravda carried a brief obituary, noting "with sorrow" the death of a "special pensioner." The newspaper gave no details about his funeral. As a former high official of the Communist party and the Soviet government, Khrushchev merited an ostentatious state ceremony, with long speeches followed by interment in the Kremlin wall. But not as a "special pensioner." The only fireworks displays in the capital that day honored the country's tank forces. The earthy, noisy, plain-speaking Khrushchev was quietly laid to rest in the midst of artists, poets, and academicians, not close to the tombs of Lenin and Stalin.
The Cuban news media ignored the event for a week, and then a small article appeared in Bohemia, with an impersonal account of the former first secretary's career. Radio Havana focused on a new agreement with the