The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—I did not ask to see Premier Nikita Khrushchev on my recent trip to the Soviet Union, because I felt nothing useful could come from an interview.

He would know quite well that I had no power to change anything that our government was doing, and the head of a state naturally is interested in talking only to people who have such authority.

Also, I have learned that certain facts that are accepted by the Russians are so diametrically opposed to what we consider as true in the world of today that conversations with the Soviets are almost futile. Unless both of us are ready to discuss frankly these differences and perhaps on both sides to make certain concessions, there is very little to be gained by argument.

And here is a good example. I had an appointment with Mme. Nina Popova, chief of VOX, which is an organization set up to deal with non-governmental, cultural exchanges between the Soviet Union and foreign countries. As I have said, it even seems foolish to talk about things in the non-governmental area, but Mme. Popova's organization works closely with the government organization set up under Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov. There was some hope that something might come out of our meeting.

She greeted me kindly and then launched forth into a statement on the importance of our finding points of agreement. I answered that I agreed with her entirely, and that this was important.

But, I added, since basically each of us accepted an opposing set of facts in the world situation and considered what the other nation accepted were not facts but lies, it was somewhat difficult to talk on any subject that would make a contribution to the basic changes of opinion on either side.

So anxious was she to stick only to points of agreement that she passed over my statement without any reply at all. So, we went on to talk about the success of the Moiseyev dancers, how much we hoped to have the Bolshoi theatre send a ballet group to the United States, and how valuable contacts between our people might be made.

Mme. Popova stressed to me that the Soviets are trying to meet the interests of all people coming to the Soviet Union and to allow them to see whatever they wished to see, even in the areas that are usually closed to visitors. This, I think, may be quite true, for if due notice is given ahead these committees do try to see that the people who have expressed an interest to visit any particular part of the country are accommodated.

I believe the U.S. has also offered to lift all restrictions, which we placed on areas of our country in retaliation when the Soviets were restricting travel in certain areas over there, but we do require that they reciprocate and permit broader travel.

This is a natural requirement, but I cannot help but believe that it would be to our credit if we lifted all restrictions purely as a demonstration of what it means to live in a free country. Of course, this does not mean that those areas that are not open to our own citizens would suddenly become open to everyone. But it does mean that we could point with pride to the fact that only those areas that are considered necessary to the security of the country were barred to our own citizens as well as citizens of any other country.

This tit-for-tat business, however, leaves out of consideration the fact that we are an older and more mature country that boasts of its freedom. And if we want to demonstrate that freedom to the world we cannot copy the methods of dictatorships.

I think I stressed last year that I was impressed by the real appreciation of learning for its own sake that is prevalent among young and old in the Soviet Union. I was again impressed with this. There are rewards in every field for intellectual attainments, and this, of course, has a deep effect upon the young people of the country.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1958, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 9, 1958

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.