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Alexei Kosygin

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From the Estate of Llewellyn E. Thompson,

United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union

Kosygin thanks Ambassador Thompson for sympathies on the death of his wife

Aleksei Nikolayevich Kosygin, 1904-1980.  Soviet Cold War-era statesman; Chairman of the Council of Ministers and First Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union, 1964-1980.  Scarce Typed Letter Signed in Russian, A. Kosygin, one page, 8" x 11¼", on plain stationery, Moskow, [U.S.S.R.], May 18, 1967.  In Russian, with translation.

Only a few days before the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, and just more than a month before his summit with President Lyndon B. Johnson at Glassboro, New Jersey, Kosygin thanks Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson for sympathies on the death of Kosygin's wife, Klavdiya (Claudia).  In fullI ask that you and your wife accept my deep thanks for your condolence on the passing away of my wife.  With respect . . . .

Kosygin met Klavdiya Andreyevna Krivosheina (1908-1967) when he worked in Siberia.  She was from a large, wealthy family.  They were married in 1927, when Kosygin was 23 and she was 19.  Soon thereafter their only child, their daughter, Lyudmila Alexeevna, was born.

Klavdiya died on May 1, 1967.  Before her death, Kosygin was constantly at her bedside as she lay critically ill in the hospital.  State duties required that he stand with other Soviet leaders atop the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow to review troops during the annual May Day parade.  He was stunned to learn during the parade that she had died, but he nevertheless had to stay until the parade was over before he could express his grief.

Kosygin became Premier in 1964 with the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev, who had succeeded Josef Stalin in 1953.  From the beginning, however, he shared power with Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a more visible position typically synonymous with that of the leader of the Soviet Union.  Brezhnev was jealous of the popular Kosygin and thwarted his attempt to implement economic reforms by shifting Soviet economic emphasis from heavy industry and military production to light industry and the production of consumer goods.  Although Kosygin's early efforts at economic reform were successful, and the Soviet standard of living improved, by 1969 the joint Kosygin-Brezhnev system was failing on various fronts.  Soon Brezhnev had become the de facto leader by transferring some of Kosyginʼs powers to others and then consolidating them to himself.  When Kosygin resigned after he became ill in 1980, he was stripped of all of his government perks.  Members of the Politburo, his aides, and even security guards ignored him, and he died alone.

Kosygin combined ambition with a willingness to work, an excellent memory, and outstanding negotiation skills.  The youngest mayor of Leningrad at age 33, he caught the attention of Premier Josef Stalin and rose continuously through the Soviet ranks.  Although innately cautious, he proved himself to be one of the more independent and pragmatic Soviet leaders.  The Soviet people liked him, and he remains an important person in both Russian and Soviet history.

Thompson (1904-1972) was a career American diplomat who served at a critical time in history as the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Johnson.  He joined the Foreign Service in 1928, and during his long and distinguished career he served as the United States Ambassador to Austria from 1955 to 1957 before Eisenhower appointed him Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1957.  Kennedy reappointed him to Moscow in 1961.  He resigned in 1962, but Johnson reappointed him in 1967, and he served until 1969.  He also held the posts of Career Ambassador and Ambassador At Large.  He was part of the Executive Committee to the National Security Council, or ExComm, which advised Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, and he was present at Johnson's 1967 summit with Kosygin.  He came out of retirement to advise President Richard Nixon on the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) negotiations with the Soviet Union and represented the United States in the SALT talks from 1969 until he died in 1972.

Kosygin has signed this letter in blue ballpoint.  The letter has a single horizontal mailing fold that touches neither the text nor the signature, and Thompson has written a tick mark and his initial "T" in red in the blank area below the date to denote that he read the letter.  The paper is toned, slightly darker at the top portion except for a narrow band at the top blank margin.  The letter is in fine condition.

Kosyginʼs autograph material is scarce.  Our search of auction records found only half a dozen pieces that have sold during the last 39 years.  This very personal letter has an excellent historical association as well, written as it was to Thompson on the eve of Kosyginʼs summit with Johnson in June 1967.  It is an outstanding piece from the period from the height of the Cold War.

Provenance:  This letter comes directly from the Thompson estate.  It has never been offered on the autograph market before.




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