In April of 1963 the events around the Cuban Crisis were still strongly present. The political conflict between America and the Soviet Union had escalated and a war was becoming increasingly probable. The island of Cuba, where Soviet rockets had been stationed, was seen as a military threat by America. These developments also caused relations between the Socialist Republic of Cuba under Fidel Castro and its ally the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev to worsen. Castro was furious that the Soviet leader had made an agreement with John F. Kennedy behind his back. In order to pacify the Cuban leader Khrushchev invited him for a state visit to the USSR. Castro was accompanied by a small delegation which included his personal doctor, René Vallejo, the economics minister Boti, and the party secretary Emilio Aragones Navarro on a trip which lasted circa 40 days. After Moscow they visited Taschkent, Samarkand, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Bratsk, Krasnoyarsk and Leningrad followed by Kiev and then back to Moscow where Castro received an honorary doctorate from the university as well as a gold star medal as a hero of the Soviet Union on May 23 in the Kremlin. Castro and his delegates were warmly and enthusiastically received everywhere they went. For the Soviet people the Cuban leader was a real hero and a dedicated and honest socialist politician. His authentic, lively manner and his practice of breaking with protocol in seeking direct contact with the people greatly impressed the crowds. His often improvised speeches expressed the sincerity of his strong feelings. Khrushchev almost always accompanied him. In contrast to Castro the Soviet leader read his speeches and mumbled his words.
The photographer Alberto Korda also accompanied Castro on this trip. After his training as a commercial photographer he had advanced to becoming the most important chronicler of the Cuban revolution and followed the main protagonists over years. Korda’s first photographs of Castro were made in 1959 during Castro’s visit to Venezuela for “Revolución”. In the same year he also accompanied Castro to the USA. In 1960 he made the famous portrait of Che Guevara which was later titled “Heroic Guerrilla”. He gave the Cuban Revolution a representative face in the media. Korda documented Castro’s domestic and foreign trips up until 1968. Paradoxically in 1968 during the closing of all small and middle class private businesses in Cuba, his studio in Havanna was confiscated and nationalized. He was then made chief of the photography department of the Oceanography Institute in Cuba and started his career as an underwater photographer.
Eleven of the photographs in this group are amateur shots probably taken by a member of the delegation. – 11 prints faded, some with dicoloration spots, some with oxidation mirroring in edges, a few with small tears in edges, most with traces of glue from previous mounting on verso, several in good to very good condition.