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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Maitre d' Spills Beans On Soviet-Era Etiquette Errors




Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once stunned guests at a state dinner by attempting to drink blue water intended for washing his hands. Another time, high-ranking Arab guests were indignant when Kremlin waiters served them pork tongues.


Such diplomatic blunders are still fresh in the memory of Akhmet Sattarov, the Kremlin maitre d' from 1959 to 1972, who recalled the episodes in a story published Tuesday in the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.


Sattarov was fresh out of the military when he was recruited for the job by the KGB. He then spent two years studying cooking, foreign language and diplomatic protocol. But soon after his career started, he found out he still had a lot to learn.


"We were silly enough to serve Saudi Arabian guests pork tongues and pork sausages at a Kremlin dinner in 1962," Sattarov recalled. Devout Moslems do not eat pork.


Soviet leaders had frequent problems with etiquette, Sattarov said. Khrushchev constantly used the silverware intended for fish to consume appetizers.


One of Khrushchev's worst blunders occurred at a White House dinner in 1964 when he picked up lemon slices from a crystal bowl filled with blue water intended for washing one's hands, recalled Sattarov, who traveled with the Soviet leader.


Khrushchev ate the lemons and then moved to drink the water. The waiter, who realized Khrushchev's intention, promptly took away the bowl, leaving everyone at the table with greasy hands.


Sattarov said he resigned after growing tired of the secretiveness and paranoia surrounding his work.


"In 1966, they nearly executed me on suspicion of poisoning India's prime minister," who died shortly after a Kremlin banquet. Sattarov and his waiters were arrested and spent a day in a prison cell before it became known that the Indian guest died of a heart attack, not poison.


"This story has left me stuttering to this day," Sattarov said.