Soviet National Exhibition in New York City

The Soviet National Exhibition in New York City was the outgrowth of a new emphasis on cultural exchanges by both the United States and the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. In January 1958, the two nations signed an agreement designed to increase cultural contact and specifically cited the “usefulness of exhibits as an effective means of developing mutual understanding.” At the end of 1958, both nations agreed to host national exhibitions from the other nation. The Soviet National Exhibition came to New York City in June 1959, and ran until late July. The focal point of the exhibition was Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that had gone into orbit around the earth in 1957. There were also exhibits on Soviet industry and agriculture, as well as musical and theatrical performances. Unknown to most of the U.S. public, until the Times article of July 5, 1959, was that the Soviets had placed comment books around the exhibition hall. Americans, never shy in expressing their opinions, gladly obliged by filling the books up as quickly as they were placed. To a large degree, the comments reflected the existing Cold War animosities. A typical remark was, “I think the main perspective of this Russian exhibit is to show the average American citizen how lucky he is to be an American.” Another sarcastically noted, “I missed seeing your typical Russian home (dump) and your labor camps (slave camps).” And after a performance of Russian folk music, one “critic” declared, “Russian music is for the birds. If they’ll take it.” Other comments were considered too “coarse” to be reprinted.

Soviet exhibition in New York coliseum. © Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Gilt grill examined on car used only by officials at Soviet exhibit.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

This is a Soviet luxury automobile Chaika which was used by the government officials and never sold to the public. Here is a better view (not taken at the exhibit).

Delegates arriving in their cars for party being given by the Indian embassy.© Time Inc.Howard Sochurek

Model showing prefabricated walls to simplify apartment construction at Soviet exhibit.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

These buildings were built all around the USSR and were continued to be built all the way into the 80’s. For the people in the 1950’s they were a giant upgrade from old houses and barracks with outdoor plumbing. People tended to overlook the problems and many apartments were remodeled by the handy owners. Many cities in the USSR have areas that looked like this. While these buildings are slowly being replaced, most of them are still standing.

Power station "Mosges", which operates on gas.© Time Inc.Carl Mydans

Sample apartment with 3 rooms for four people at the Soviet exhibition in New York coliseum.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Four people were lucky to live in a three room apartment, 2 per room was still a luxury.

Kitchen model at Soviet exhibition.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Notice a nice touch – a shiny Russian samovar  sitting next to the teakettle.

Largest commercial airliner Soviet turbo jet TU 114 on display at Idlewild airport.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Russian plane designer Andrei Tupolev standing in front of Soviet turbo jet TU 114 he designed.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Andrei Tupolev put TU in Tu-114 -the largest and fastest passenger plane at the time.

Richard M. Nixon (C) with others at Soviet exhibit.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

This is a model of the Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. It has since acquired a roof.

V.I. Lenin bust at Soviet exhibit. On the right and on the left. You can't ever have too many Lenin's. © Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Soviet fashion model in a fashion show at the Soviet exhibition.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Russian Sputnik III on display at Soviet exhibit.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Cut-away model of atomic icebreaker "Lenin" at Soviet exhibition.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

The world’s first nuclear-powered surface ship Icebreaker Lenin was decommissioned in 1989.