Khrushchev and Kennedy

Author & Director:
Kerstin Mauersberger | Juergen Ast

Commissioning Editor:
Martin Huebner


astfilm productions | for MDR | ARTE // ARTE

Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy, directly they met only twice in their life. The first time during the visit of Khrushchev in the U.S., on September 16th 1959 in Washington D.C. Nikita Khrushchev, the most powerful man in the communist world, invited for a cup of tea in the afternoon. John F. Kennedy, then a young senator of Massachusetts, he was not able to get a word edgeways during the small talk of the prominent guests.

At that moment, both could not imagine that very soon, they were going to become the main players of the most dangerous time during the Cold War. The real play of power between them started in January 1961, when the 43 years old John F. Kennedy took his office as the President of the United States. The battle experienced and at that time 67 years old leader Nikita Khrushchev had reached the top of his political power. He believed that he would have an easy time with this young challenger. And right in the beginning of his presidency, Kennedy has taken flak concerning the disaster at the Bay of Pigs.

The play of power between the two leaders, more and more it was like a game of chess. No one could make any move without anticipating the next moves of the opponent. But contrary to the game of chess, no rules existed in this game, a lot of room for irrationalism and misunderstandings. One could easily get the impression that both players - although the converse was argued - were not really aware of the price that possibly had to be paid. During the climax of the Cuba crisis in October 1962, the world stood at the edge of a nuclear inferno.

The documentary tells the story of two very exceptional politicians, of two "ideal types" and their social and ideological system. It is a story full of hopes and illusions, misunderstandings and schemes. The duel between both politicians is told against the background of the then global political constellations, turning one's attention also on the biographical and psychological dispositions of the counterparts.