Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Cold War

Music History Monday: A Cold War Miracle

Four years ago today, the pianist, cultural icon and “Cold War Musical Envoy” Van Cliburn died at his home in Fort Worth Texas. He was 78. Van Cliburn’s celebrity was shaped not just by his talent but also by what were – and remain – earth-shaking historical events. Joseph Stalin – “the Leader and Teacher; the Friend of Children; the Great Helmsman; the Great Father of the Nation; the Great Railway Engineer” – was born in 1878. He initially rose to power in 1924; by 1927 he had crushed all opposition to become the all-powerful Soviet dictator that he remained until his death in 1953. Stalin was also a butcher, and while the numbers vary, the eminent English historian Norman Davies claims that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of some 50 million human beings – excluding wartime – between 1924 and 1953. Stalin could not have done it alone, however, and he surrounded himself with a cadre of ruthless goons and henchmen disguised as “government officials”. Among those henchmen was Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (1894-1971). Khrushchev was a short (5’3”), round, peasant-born operative who did what he was told to do, which included strapping on the leather apron and rubber […]

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