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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khrushchev's Son to Be American




CRANSTON, Rhode Island -- Sergei Khrushchev is home.


Home, for the favorite son of Nikita Khrushchev, is a clapboard ranch house in the suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island f a two-bedroom model surrounded by look-alike houses, driveways full of Buicks and Dodges and finely manicured grass.


A rocket engineer who designed missiles that were pointed at the United States during the Cold War, Khrushchev is now living out his later years on a half-acre of American suburbia, which he calls "retirement paradise."


What could better illustrate how the Cold War has come full circle than this barbecue-loving suburbanite dabbling about his American dacha?


This is the son of the guy who banged his shoe on the table at the United Nations. The guy who declared, "We will bury you." The guy who oversaw the building of the Berlin Wall, who ordered Soviet tanks to crush a revolt in Hungary, who sent nuclear missiles to Cuba in 1962.


And now his son, Sergei, just days shy of his 64th birthday f the age his father was at the height of his power f is to become a U.S. citizen on July 12 .


"If you are living in a country, and you plan to live in that country for a long time, I think it is your obligation to become its citizen," Khrushchev said in an interview recently. Would his father approve? "I would hope that my father would be supportive," he says. "After all, it's not as if I am defecting."


On the walls of his house, giants of history stare from black-and-white photographs f Nikita Khrushchev, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mrs. Nina Petrovna Khrushchev, grinning nervously on the steps of the president's retreat at Camp David, Maryland; Nikita Khrushchev, Sergei and his toddler, Nikita Jr., strolling the grounds of the leader's country gardens in 1962; Sergei with Yury Gagarin.


Especially from the side, Sergei Khrushchev looks uncannily like his father. The resemblance is so striking that when he first came to lecture at Brown University in September, 1991, students, faculty, even mailmen, would stop and stare "as if I were a white elephant."


Even today, he says, little old ladies sometimes stop him in the supermarket and ask: "Didn't I see you the other night on the History Channel?"


It's a far cry from his sheltered, privileged Soviet upbringing and work as chief of the Soviet Missile Design Bureau from 1958 to 1968, as first deputy director at the Control Computer Institute in Moscow and as professor of missile guidance systems at Moscow Technical Institute.


Now, Khrushchev rises at 7 a.m., breakfasts on plain yogurt and coffee, and sits down at his mahogany desk to write. For five hours at a stretch, he scratches out his memoirs. Then his wife, Valentina, scoops up the scribbles, sits on a stool in the kitchen and types it out on an electric Olympia.


In his three books published in America, Khrushchev does his best to soften history's verdict on his father. He describes his father's love of family, his efforts to provide cheap housing, to get Soviet farmers to plant corn, to produce more consumer goods. His fourth book, "Creation of Superpower," is due out next year. "I feel pressure, on the inside, to fulfill an obligation to myself, my father, my country, to America, to the world," he says.


He reads the Russian papers and watches the Moscow evening TV news via satellite in his tiny office at Brown's Center for International Studies. He lectures one day a week, but otherwise is free to hit the speaking circuit. He's spoken at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, on Royal Olympic cruise ships, at farm forums in Montana and at political science conferences from Florida to California.


"If there's one bad thing I picked up from my father," he says, "it would have to be that I talk too much."