The assassination of John F. Kennedy might never have occurred if it wasn’t for the dull nightlife of Minsk in the 1960s.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin accused of shooting President John F. Kennedy, defected to the USSR in the early ’60s, after he was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps. His hope was to attend the Moscow State University, but instead the Soviet authorities sent him to work as a lathe operator in Minsk.
Apart from his job at Gorizont Electronics, which produced radios, televisions and electronics for space and military use, he was given Russian lessons and a government-subsidized studio apartment in downtown Minsk, more luxurious than any working class Russian could dream of. He even met a pharmacology student Marina Prusakova there, and married her in 1961.
The apartment and cushy lifestyle did come with a price. As a U.S. citizen, Oswald and his wife were under constant surveillance from the neighboring apartment. A KGB agent on duty could hear the married couple’s conversation through the thin walls and there was even a peephole with a magnifying lens into their bedroom.
Oswald’s life in the USSR did not pan out the way he expected. In his diary he wrote, “I am starting to reconsider my desire about staying. The work is drab, the money I get has nowhere to be spent. No nightclubs or bowling alleys, no places of recreation except the trade union dances. I have had enough.” Shortly afterwards, he wrote to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow requesting his American passport back, since he never formally renounced his U.S. citizenship.
The following year, Oswald returned to the U.S., along with his wife and their infant daughter. He made history a few years later, when he was accused of killing President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Who knows, if Minsk had had in the ’60s a fraction of the night clubs, bars, bowling establishments, cinemas and restaurants it has today, history might have taken a completely different turn.
Know Before You Go
The apartment is a private residence and is not open to the public, but it is possible to see the building from the outside. There are no signs indicating which unit it is. Some sources suggest the apartment was at the top right of the building while others say the bottom left. There is, however, a hostel in the same building at the top left facing the square.