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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1257
AUTHOR: Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (1894–1971)
QUOTATION: The living will envy the dead.
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to NIKITA S. KHRUSHCHEV, speaking of nuclear war.

Ed Zuckerman, “Hiding from the Bomb—Again,” Harper’s, August 1979, p. 36, attributes “the survivors would envy the dead” to Khrushchev. This issue of Harper’s was stamped in the Library of Congress on July 12, 1979. Senator Frank Church, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also attributed this same quotation to Khrushchev in hearings held July 11, 1979, and repeated the quotation in later hearings held July 16, 1979.—The Salt II Treaty, hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 96th Congress, 1st session, part 1, p. 333, and part 2, p. 27 (1979).

An Associated Press news release, dated August 4, 1979, summarized these meetings: “In a month of hearings on the SALT II treaty, many senators have … quoted and requoted the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who once said that after a nuclear exchange, ‘the living would envy the dead.’” The quotation has been widely used in the press since then, including The Washington Post, March 20, 1981, p. A23. No form of this quotation has been verified in the speeches or writings of Khrushchev.
SUBJECTS: Nuclear war