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On the Marshal’s Desk


Pictured: Marshal Chuikov at his desk in Moscow, 19 June 1968, with thumbnails of the journal Oгонёк and Chichkov’s book В погоне за Мексикой (Chasing Mexico).


In a diversion from the topic of authentic leadership, this blog post focuses on the Marshal’s reading material. To share a bit of the story behind the entry, there exists a photo of Marshal Chuikov at his desk in 1968 taken by TASS photographer Vladimir Savostyanov. When I first saw this photo, I focused on the magazine in front of him. After examining the black and white photograph, I immediately recognized the images on the journal’s cover—a stone head crafted by Olmec artisans and a step pyramid located at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. These photos were taken in Mexico, and I was immediately intrigued. I was compelled to discover the magazine contents, as I have been interested in the ancient civilizations of Mexico, including the Mayans and Olmecs, since my youth.


After conducting a Google search using various combinations of terms, I was finally able to locate the journal. It is the May 1968 No. 22 issue of Oгонёк (Ogonyek, which means “spark”), and the photos were taken by Pravda Latin America Correspondent Vasily Chichkov for his book titled Chasing Mexico. In an article titled “Mexican Olympus,” Chichkov recalled his travels, including his conversation with his colleagues about filming a documentary (titled “Difficult Starts Mexico City,” which was released in 1970). After driving through the jungle, he described climbing the steps of the grand pyramid of Chichen Itza in awe of the sheer size of the structure. Later in the article, Chichkov wrote about the 1968 Olympics taking place in Mexico City, pondering the fortune spent on the construction of facilities and hotels to accommodate athletes and supporters.


I enjoy this type of research because such study provides insight into the quiet moments of a person’s daily life. In 1968, Marshal Chuikov served in the strategic position of Chief of the USSR’s Civil Defense and was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. He also continued writing, as he was a prolific author. However, he found time to do some “light” reading as is evidenced by the journal placed prominently on his desk. Within issues of Oгонёк, there were articles covering a variety of topics, and each publication included a crossword puzzle. No doubt Marshal Chuikov enjoyed solving the clues and filling in the answers as he found a moment or two of respite during his busy days.

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