Preparations are underway to recognize the 50th anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Iowa.
The Soviet Premier toured a farming operation in Coon Rapids run by Roswell and Elizabeth Garst.
Their granddaughter, Rachel Garst, was one-year-old at the time. She says many people viewed her grandfather’s invitation as controversial since the U.S. and Soviet Union were in the depths of a Cold War.
“What my grandfather always told me is that hungry people are dangerous people and if you want peace in the world, let’s start by getting everybody fed,” Garst said. “So, he and Khrushchev used food and agriculture to forge a real human relationship and set aside ideological differences to focus on how do we increase agricultural production.”
Khrushchev’s visit to Des Moines and Coon Rapids in 1959 spurred a host of exchanges between Russia and Iowa and helped thaw Cold War tensions. Garst is helping organize the Khruschev in Iowa 50 year commemoration, which will take place between August 27th and 30th. Khrushchev’s actual visit to Iowa happened on September 23rd of 1959.
Garst says one of the people attending the 50th anniversary event will be 75-year-old Serge Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet leader. “These dates worked best for him and also our delegation is going to continue on to the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, so the timing of their visit allows them to visit both Iowa and the Farm Progress Show,” Garst said.
Around 30 agribusiness leaders from Russia are expected to attend the Iowa events. Garst says she feels the 50th anniversary of Khrushchev’s visit comes at an important stage in American history.
“We have new ideological opponents in the world and it’s very easy to demonize people who have a different political system or different religion or we feel threatened by,” Garst said. “You know, people all over the world are just people and they all care about raising their kids and feeding their families.”
The Khrushchev in Iowa 50th anniversary commemoration will include a number of events in both Des Moines and Coon Rapids. A schedule is available online at www.creatinggreatplaces.org. Rachel Garst spoke today (Tuesday) at the Des Moines Library as part of a panel discussion titled “Iowans Remember Khrushchev.”