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VOA Marks Fiftieth Anniversary of Khrushchev Iowa Visit

Risks taken 50 years ago by an American farmer and the leader of the Soviet Union are paying dividends

Washington, D.C., August 31, 2009 – Risks taken 50 years ago by an American farmer and the leader of the Soviet Union are paying dividends today with a close trading relationship between the United States and Russia, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilasck. The Voice of America’s Russian Service interviewed Vilsack and Sergey Khrushchev, son of Nikita Khrushchev, as part of its extensive coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Premier’s visit to Iowa.

Referring to Iowa farmer Roswell Garst, Vilsack said, "If you think about 50 years ago, an invitation was extended by a private citizen from the United States, which was a risk on the part of the citizen.” He added that it was “clearly a risk by Premier Khrushchev accepting the invitation coming to Iowa. But as a result of this risk taking, what we have is a beginning of a relationship that now has resulted in a close trade relationship between the two countries. As we know, history tells us, that countries that trade with one another, don't go to war with one another.”

Khrushchev’s trip to the United States in September 1959 included stops in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as Coon Rapids, Iowa. It provided a unique opportunity for Americans to interact with the highest levels of Soviet leadership.

In another of VOA's exclusive interviews highlighting the anniversary, Sergey Khrushchev, called the visit a half century ago a "tremendous experience." He added, "I remember a guy, and he was holding a banner: ‘Free Kazakhstan!’. I was very surprised: how did he learn about our Soviet Republic? Then he turned the banner, and showed us the other side of it. It said: ‘Welcome Khrushchev!’”

VOA's Russian Service covered the event 50 years ago by shortwave radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union. Today, the Service reaches Russia with timely news, information and analysis through its website,

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, please call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail