Russia: The Connoisseur Speaks

"What sort of smear is this?" gasped Nikita Khrushchev as he strolled past rows of abstract paintings in a Moscow art gallery last week. "You cannot figure out whether they were painted by human hands or daubed by a donkey's tail!" With these words, the Kremlin's ruler doused hopes of Soviet painters that a new liberal era of artistic freedom was under way in Russia.

Approaching the painter of an avantgarde canvas titled Self-Portrait, Khrushchev asked, "Have you a mother?" "She's dead," stammered the artist. Replied Nikita: "She would die a second time...

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