"It was not a big deal to the Soviets," says Sergei Khrushchev of the infamous day in 1960 when his father, Nikita, pounded his shoe on a table at the United Nations, creating the one image of him that many Americans still remember. "But when I moved here, people started to ask." Khrushchev, who is on the staff of the Watson Institute for International Studies, was prompted by one of those queries to rummage through his garage, where he found a few boxes of his father's old shoes.
A few years ago Sergei Khrushchev donated his papers to the John Hay Library. When curator Mark Brown arrived to sort them, the two men came across the shoes in the garage. "Would you like my father's shoes?" Khrushchev asked.
"The shoes in John Hay Library are not The Shoes," he says. "I found an AP photograph of my father wearing sandals at the United Nations." What happened, he thinks, is this: "My father came from Moscow in ordinary shoes, but when he got
to New York it was hot, so he switched to sandals. It was those sandals that he wore to the United Nations that day." The sandals - "My father had very small feet: size seven or eight, like a boy" - were eventually thrown out.
And so the shoes in the archives are ones Nikita brought with him to New York but didn't wear.
"Ordinary shoes," says Sergei. "So it is nothing special. Nothing at all."