September 01, 2013

Sino-Soviet Split

By the fall of 1963, relations between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China had seriously deteriorated. The Sino-Soviet friendship of the 1950s was a thing of the past, and no longer did strains of "The Russian and the Chinese are brothers forever. The union of peoples and races grows strong" resound across the Soviet Union.

Perhaps Mao Zedong really did not see the point of Khrushchev's criticism of Stalin, or perhaps, as he later claimed, he was just pretending, to see how his adversaries would react. In any event, soon after the 20th Soviet Communist Party Congress in 1956, all the "fraternal communist parties" were supporting the new policy and exposing Stalin's "cult of personality," and China was proclaiming "Let a hundred flowers bloom." But before long, any ideologically incorrect flowers started to be pulled out by their roots in China, and in 1958 the horrors of the Great Leap Forward began.

Backyard furnaces were set up outside residential buildings, supposedly to produce steel out of scrap metal, and people were posted on the roofs of buildings round the clock to swat away sparrows with sticks and rags as part of the Four Pests Campaign. In the end, with nowhere to land, more than a million birds died of exhaustion, but instead of leading to the expected boost in crop yield, the harvest was reduced because of swarming insects unchecked by their natural avian predators. Millions of Chinese starved to death.

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