World’s first DJ bag: from Soviets!

In the fall 2004 I spent one semester at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, the experience that changed my life and my writing career for good. There I heard about Nikita Khrushchev‘s visit in the American Midwest almost half a century ago. Until recently, I did not know of the special gift that the Soviet leader brought to the governor of Iowa: most probably the first DJ bag in history.

Khrushchev arrived in the United States on September 15th 1959. It was his first visit to America and he stayed for thirteen days. He insisted on visiting Disneyland, the United Nations and… the farm in Iowa.

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Khrushchev admired hybrid corn. On a farm near Coon Rapids in Iowa, the USA and the USSR – the world’s two superpowers and sworn enemies – took a step back from the brink of nuclear war by promoting peace through corn. Khrushchev put a new emphasis on boosting agricultural production. As he often put it, “Hungry people are dangerous people.”

But the Moscow leader also brought something to Iowa – a musical gift that remained forgotten until fall 2006. Local archivists and musicologists from State Historical Society of Iowa call it The Khrushchev Collection.

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This is a set of record albums in green velveteen, it has a blue binding and in the middle a Russian flag with the hammer and sickle on a red field and a shaft of wheat: the unique set of 78 rpm records, 20 albums in all.

More than 150 pieces include folk songs, propagandist hymns and classical masterpieces such as Pictures at an Exhibition from Modest Mussorgsky, played by legendary Sviatoslav Richter. There are songs by Federova sisters, Ukrainian folk song, Soviet Athletes‘ March or George Ots ballad The Lonely Accordion in Estonian.

 45 years later state’s former first lady, Amelia Loveless, donated the collection to Iowa.

Hey, mister deejay, these rare audio recordings are available for listening in the reading rooms of the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines and Iowa City, so put the record on!

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Richard Nixon & Nikita Khrushchev: TV debate, 1959
When Russia met Iowa | The Des Moines Register