News / Europe

Lee Harvey Oswald Remembered in Belarus

Kennedy Assassin Remembered in Belarusi
X
November 22, 2013
For more than two years in the early 1960s, Minsk, then the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, was home to Lee Harvey Oswald. To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interviewed people who knew Oswald during his time in Minsk.

Kennedy Assassin Remembered in Belarus

TEXT SIZE - +
RFE/RL
— For more than two years in the early 1960s, Minsk, then the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, was home to Lee Harvey Oswald. Later on, he would fire the shots that killed President John F. Kennedy. To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interviewed three people who knew Oswald during his time in Minsk. It's the first time the three -- including Stanislau Shushkevich, the first post-Soviet leader of Belarus -- have appeared on camera to tell their stories. They agree that there was nothing to indicate that Oswald could become a president's assassin.
 
Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-declared Marxist, lived in Minsk following his defection to the Soviet Union.
 
The man later accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy tried to renounce his American citizenship and was sent from Moscow by Soviet authorities to work at a Minsk radio factory.
 
During his stay in Minsk, Soviet security services kept a close watch on Oswald, on his movements around the city and on those who surrounded him.
 
Stanislau Shushkevich was the first post-Soviet leader of Belarus. Long before entering politics, Shushkevich worked at the same factory with the American defector. He and another man became Oswald's Russian teachers.
 
"He was a rather closed person and it was hard to tell how educated he was. But his knowledge of Russian was pretty decent and he could exchange views when Sasha and I started teaching him, that's for sure," remembered Shushkevich.
 
A lengthy and highly detailed account of observations about Soviet living and working conditions, called The Collective, was attributed to Oswald during the investigation into Kennedy's death.
 
Shushkevich scoffs at the thought of Oswald authoring such a report.
 
“You know, if I had been asked to take him into my research team, I would have refused immediately, even though I would have been curious to work with an American. I didn’t see any inclination of inquiry or creativity in him. Maybe I'm being unjust, but he showed absolutely no interest in the things that seemed important to me," said Shushkevich.
 
Oswald was not only receiving language education; he was receiving an education in music as well. His new friends took him to hear classical music at Minsk's philharmonic concert hall.
 
Inna Markava met Oswald for the first time at a performance of Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E minor." She later visited Oswald at his small apartment, which was located in an exclusive section of Minsk.
 
Markava returned to the apartment to share her impressions of him.
 
"I can’t say he was easy to communicate with. He didn’t evoke any feelings that would leave an impression. Sometimes you meet someone and think, 'Goodness, what a pleasure.' I don’t remember having that feeling with him," recalled Markava.
 
Markava said she thought Oswald was rather ordinary, unathletic, generally reserved, and even boring most of the time. However, she also recalled seeing flashes of something else.
 
"Once, I saw anger in him. Someone said something he didn't like and he became so angry that his face even contorted… He controlled [his emotions] to some degree -- but every now and then, they jumped out," said Markava.
 
At the Institute of Foreign Languages, located near his apartment, Oswald was known for his keen interest in the female students, regularly socializing at the dormitories there. He later wrote of his successes with women, but Markava says not all were impressed.
 
"The girls and I often wondered why he had left America. He could have studied there, worked there. But he cut all his ties. Everybody thought he was odd, like he had crossed some line," remembered Markava.
 
Markava also remembered Oswald teaching language students how to dance "The Twist," and him sometimes going dancing at the Palace of Culture of Trade Unions. It was at one of these events that he met Marina Prusakova.
 
Just six weeks later, in the spring of 1961, Oswald married Marina. Within a year, his wife gave birth to their daughter, June.
 
"Whatever they write about him now - that he was a psychopath, a hot-tempered or threatening person - absolutely none of that is true. I knew him as an absolutely different person, a family person.  I liked him. I don't agree with anything that has been written about him," said Inessa Yakhliel, a close friend of the couple.
 
Documents written by Oswald and discovered after the assassination give the impression he had contradictory views regarding the United States and the Soviet Union. Sometimes he praised one country or the other, while at other times condemning them.
 
Yakhliel remembers hearing Oswald, who used the name Alek, speak highly of President Kennedy.
 
"One day he was at our house and the television was showing a meeting between Khrushchev and Kennedy. You may remember that meeting; I don't remember what year it was exactly. And he spoke about Kennedy very sympathetically. He said he was the only sensible president. Those were his words," said Yakhliel.
 
The commission led by U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded Oswald acted alone in killing the president, but Shushkevich, Markava, and Yakhliel can't accept that conclusion. They believe there must have been some form of conspiracy.
 
"It is my absolute conviction that they found a passive, calm, compliant boy, and used him as the guilty one. And then they washed their hands of it. As for the conclusions of the Warren Commission, I don’t believe them one bit. I have studied them and I don’t think it was the work of my student," said Shushkevich.
 
"I didn't believe he could have done it. It seemed to me that he was framed, using the whole situation with the Soviet Union. I didn't think he could have done it. Or he would have been completely insane to do it,” added Markava.
 
"None of us, none of his friends here, believed it. Some knew him a lot less that I did - actually, they knew Marina more than Alek. But I came to know him well. I don't believe it," Yakhliel said.
 
Lee Harvey Oswald appeared to be a different man in different places with different people. He showed the world many faces.
 
Nonetheless, the face the world saw in Dallas will be forever associated with the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid