The image of Nikita Khrushchev flickered onto Soviet television screens today for the first time since he was ousted from power in October 1964.
In what seems to be an extraordinary about-face, Soviet authorities decided to show again a joint Soviet-Indian movie about Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, putting back the footage of Khrushchev that had been censored three weeks ago.
There was no explanation for the decision to show the Nehru documentary again on the first national channel. It was suggested that this constituted a gesture toward Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who is Nehru's grandson.
Soviet censors cut the footage of Khrushchev for the first showing on Jan. 26. The Indian version of the film showed Khrushchev meeting and conferring with Nehru and also included lengthy shots from Khrushchev's triumphal tour of India.
Marshal Nikolai Bulganin, who served as premier under Khrushchev but was subsequently disgraced for alleged "antiparty" activities, originally was shown as greeting Nehru on his arrival in Moscow. It was Bulganin's first appearance on Soviet television since 1957, when Khrushchev defeated his opponents, whom Bulganin allegedly supported.
Today's showing retained the footage of Bulganin but also showed Khrushchev on at least three occasions. Khrushchev was seen greeting Nehru in Moscow. He was clearly identifiable on two subsequent occasions as a camera closed in on him laughing and joking with Nehru.
The late Soviet leader was also shown during his triumphal tour of New Delhi accompanied by Bulganin and Nehru.
The footage of Khrushchev was eliminated in late January even though the then-prime minister, Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi, asked that the documentary show her father's close ties with Khrushchev. The film includes shots of Nehru's dealings with a number of world figures, ranging from Mao Tse-tung to John F. Kennedy.
The fact that Khrushchev's image had finally been shown on national television on prime weekend time apparently involved a high-level decision.
Since his ouster in 1964, Khrushchev's name had appeared three times in the Soviet media. The first occasion involved criticism of the former leader in connection with the publication of his memoirs in the United States. The second time it was a brief announcement of his death. The only positive mention of Khrushchev came under the late Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and involved Khrushchev's prominent role in the battle of Stalingrad.
No picture of Khrushchev had appeared here for two decades. Today's action was not seen as indicating that Khrushchev was soon to be restored to the pantheon of Soviet heroes. By and large, he remains a nonperson.
Joseph Stalin, whom Khrushchev turned into a nonperson, is now enjoying a renaissance. Although Stalin's domestic policies and terror in the 1930s are officially described as serious mistakes, his role as a diplomat and military leader is now extolled in books and movies.