The first part, which took place in New York the month before, featured an exhibition of Soviet Union goods geared to the American public. Both exhibits were part of the 1958 U.S. Cultural Agreement that hoped to foster understanding between the Cold War foes.
According to the U.S. State Department: “The American Exhibits to the U.S.S.R. were the centerpiece of America’s cultural exchange agreement with the Soviet Union, spanning five decades from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. Beginning with the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959, the exhibitions showcased American ingenuity in 87 separate showings of 19 exhibitions across 12 time zones of the USSR. On display were diverse examples of American technology, from graphic arts to agriculture, outdoor recreation to medicine.”
But in an effort to also educate Soviets about the innovation occurring at home, the USSR opened its own expo next to the American exhibition in Moscow’s Sokolniki park in 1959. As documented by photographer Thomas O’Halloran, the exhibit features an array of items that offer a glimpse into the soviet zeitgeist. From chocolate to Sputnik, O’Halloran’s photos show us not only what the USSR was, but what it hoped to be.
The two exhibitions received a nearly 3 million visitors in 1959. While they were dramatically different, their juxtaposition also underscored the commonalities in the two countries. As Khrushchev told Nixon: “The Americans have created their own image of the Soviet man. But he is not as you think. You think the Russian people will be dumbfounded to see these things, but the fact is that newly built Russian houses have all this equipment.”
Even after Nixon showed him a dishwasher, Khrushchev responded, “We have such things.”
Here are some of those things:
Shoes. (Thomas O’Halloran/Library of Congress)
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