The Soviet Reaction to JFK’s Assassination

With the United States and the Soviet Union locked in the Cold War at the time President John F. Kennedy, Jr. was shot dead, it was probably understandable, if rash, that many in the U.S. were quick to consider the USSR as masterminds behind the president’s assassination. (This perspective remains one of the myriad JFK conspiracy theories still bumbling around today. More widely accepted is the idea that Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was to some extent influenced by the time he spent in Soviet Belarus.)

The USSR was quick to respond to the assassination, denying any involvement and instead heaping the blame at the feet of conservative states who, the Kremlin alleged, took issue with Kennedy’s aims to improve relations with the Soviets — notwithstanding, of course, the start of the Vietnam War and that little missile crisis down by Florida.

In the video below, Walter Cronkite delivers the Soviet reaction and deflection, his voice dripping with contempt for that other superpower across the world.

(Just to be clear: The person who posted this video on YouTube appears to believe it contributes to whichever JFK conspiracy theory they’ve chosen to believe. We don’t. But, uh, thanks for the video.)

An unsealed FBI document also helps to establish the mood in the USSR following the assassination, much of which jives with the Cronkite video.

A source who has furnished reliable information in the past and who was in Russia on the date of the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy advised on December 4, 1963, that the news of the assassination of President Kennedy was flashed to the Soviet people almost immediately after its occurrence. It was greeted by great shock and consternation and church bells were tolled in the memory of President Kennedy.

According to our source, officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the “ultraright” in the United States to effect a “coup.” They seemed convinced that the assassination was not the deed of one man, but that it rose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part. They felt those elements interested in utilizing the assassination and playing on anticommunist sentiments in the United States would then utilize this act to stop negotiations with the Soviet Union, attack Cuba and thereafter spread the war. As a result of these feelings, the Soviet Union immediately went into a state of national alert.

Our source further stated that Soviet officials were fearful that without leadership, some irresponsible general in the United States might launch a missile at the Soviet Union. It was the further opinion of the Soviet officials that only maniacs would think that the “left” forces in the United States, as represented by the Communist Party, USA, would assassinate President Kennedy, especially in view of the abuse the Communist Party, USA, has taken from the “ultraleft” as a result of its support of peaceful coexistence and disarmament policies of the Kennedy administration.

The record, as we’ve come to define it, shows that Oswald had deep communist sympathies, the Soviet Union had nothing to do with the assassination, and the nukes stayed home.