UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS, TRIPS TO. For decades, Eleanor Roosevelt had wanted to travel to the Soviet Union, only to have her plans canceled. ER’s chance to visit finally came in the late 1950s. “I do not feel,” she wrote in her autobiography,* “that we, as individuals, or as a nation, gain either in dignity or in prestige by refusing to know the people who lead the great opposition to our way of life” (Roosevelt, 435). Acting on her own advice, ER made two trips to the Soviet Union, one in 1957 and the other in 1958. These visits afforded her the opportunity to draw her own conclusions about the Soviet Union, the nation that dominated American foreign policy considerations in the post– World War II* years.
ER’s first visit, in 1957, was as a journalist reporting for the New York Post, which had purchased the flagship rights to her “My Day”* column the previous year. The trip made an indelible impression. Like all American travelers to the Soviet Union, ER found the clothes drab and tourist schedules rigid. Like all tourists, her ability to meet typical Soviet citizens was severely limited. In addition to the standard tourist sites such as Lenin’s mausoleum and Moscow State University, Roosevelt visited state farms and a Baptist church in Moscow, as well as many educational and medical facilities. Upon the advice of Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas, ER also traveled to Soviet Central Asia.
But it was clear ER was no ordinary tourist. Her arrival was noted on the front page of all the major Soviet newspapers, and she was given the same furniture and translator Franklin D. Roosevelt* had used at the Yalta Conference in 1945. Few tourists or even journalists could aspire to interview Premier Nikita Khrushchev or Andrei Gromyko, the minister of foreign affairs. The culmination of ER’s trip was a three-hour interview with Khrushchev at his vacation home in Yalta—his first major