Secret history: How Emil Gilels gave comfort to Nikita Khrushchev

Secret history: How Emil Gilels gave comfort to Nikita Khrushchev


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2017

When Nikita Khrushchev was toppled by the Kosygin-Brezhnev putsch in October 1964, he became an non-person. Send to live in his dacha, far from Moscow, he was abandoned by all his former friends. A year later, he was sent to live in an even smaller dacha to intensify his isolation.

Khrushchev’s daughter, Rada Adzhubei, relates on the Emil Gilels memorial site that the number of visitors her father received after leaving office could be counted on the fingers of one hand. People were warned off from having anything to do with the fallen leader.

Among the few visitors was Emil Gilels and his wife, Farizet. Risking official sanction, they refused to allow a Soviet edict to interfere with their human relations. It took courage. Gilels was a brave, good man.

Read here (in Russian).

Khrushschev (in power) with pianists



  • esfir ross says:

    Brezhnev brother Yakov and his daughter Luba visited him. Yakov B.was instrumental to overthrough N.Khrushchyov, at his dacha. N.K. became a good gardener. No danger for career people to visit him-he wasn’t a dissident.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Even so, I find it moving that as high flying an international artist Gilels visited him. To me that seems like a purely friendly gesture. He couldn’t have anything to gain, could he? (I don’t read Russian.)

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I’d try this…

    Kommissar: Why do you want to visit Kruschev???

    Friend: He still hasn’t repaid me the five Rubles I loaned him for lunch in 1959 and I’m not letting him get away with it!

  • M2N2K says:

    In a totalitarian society such as USSR, any overthrown leader is treated as if he (can’t recall any totalitarian female leaders) has an acute case of leprosy. Therefore any ordinary person (which in this case means anyone not belonging to the new “royal court”) who dares to visit the deposed former ruler must be truly defiant and courageous indeed.

    • Robert Holmén says:

      We should note that it was Khruschev’s careful unwinding of Stalinism over the previous decade that allowed the fairly benign result in his case.

      Unlike previous power struggle losers, he wasn’t arrested and executed on phony treason charges, he just lost his job and had to get happy with that.

    • buxtehude says:

      It depends, at least in the former SU after Stalin. GenSec K was he first ruler in 70 years to have a soft landing and there could be a little slack in his Retirement here and there. An astonished acquaintance of mine once ran into him (almost literally) wandering around his semi-suburban Moscow district — he’d remove a plank in the fence surrounding his house and slip away.

      A related and much more interesting question, is the nature of Richter’s slack, over a long period.

      • Furzwängler says:

        A related and much more interesting question, is the nature of Richter’s slack, over a long period.

        What are you alluding to with “Richter’s slack”?

      • Mark says:

        If you are referring to Richter’s relationship with the Soviet government (and the KGB in particular), it’s a fascinating topic. It is difficult to imagine the remarkable degree of freedom afforded him came without a price. One vignette – when the violinist Boris (Busya) Goldstein left the USSR and settled in West Germany in the 1970s, Mme. Dorliac (Richter’s companion) remarked during a dinner party Moscow “As long as we (she and Richter) perform in Germany, Busya Goldstein will not have any career there”. This was intended as a warning to the Soviet musicians planning to emigrate. Fortunately, Goldstein performed and taught in Europe with great success.

  • Harald says:

    A brave man and what a fantastic pianist he was!

  • M2N2K says:

    The regime certainly became less murderous after 1953, but otherwise its nature remained essentially the same until 1985.

  • esfir ross says:

    Brave man was Mstislav Rastropovich that support dissident A.Soljenitsin and had to suffer consequences of lost concert career, forced to emigrate, his wife G.Vishnevskaya get punish the same way. The only protest from SR in form not to perform in Odessa where his father-musicologist, organist was executed by Soviet government. SR became a sacre cow, cult figure and behaved. SR never got honest account on his performances. I was to his not so great concerts.

  • esfir ross says:

    Thank you Mark for quote Mademoiselle N.Dorliac-never was Mademe Richter, the spokesman for playing safe on political keyboard SR