Old Photos: Van Cliburn

The history of the Soviet-American relations includes only a few episodes that achieved a mythical status and were passed down from the people who witnessed these events to their children just like tales were told and retold long time ago. Even though my generation was born or was too young to remember, all of us knew about Khrushchev’s trip to America, Soyuz-Apollo flight, Fischer- Spassky Chess Match, and Van Cliburn winning the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958.

Nikita S. Khrushchev (C) and wife manhandling (greeting) pianist Van Cliburn (L) at Soviet Embassy reception.©Time Inc. Ed Clark

Among the few records my Father cherished was Van Cliburn’s performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1. with probably one of the most recognizable openings in classical music.


Van Cliburn enjoyed immense popularity in the USSR and a triumphant return to the United States that rivaled the likes of Charles Lindbergh and General MacArthur. Subject of extensive press coverage on both sides of the Iron Curtain, Van Cliburn lives on as a reminder of the power of music to break down the most impenetrable of the walls.

US Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson (back L) singing to music played by pianist Van Cliburn (fore center).©Time Inc.Carl Mydans
Anastas I. Mikoyan (R) greeting pianist Van Cliburn (L) with Frol R. Kozlov (center).© Time Inc.Carl Mydans
©Time Inc.Alfred Eisenstaedt
©Time Inc.Alfred Eisenstaedt

Published by kcmeesha

From the bowels of the communist Motherland thrust into soulless grind of gears of capitalism. Only accent and good looks survive.