Protests of African students in Moscow, 1963

On December 18, 2007, I wrote about the march organized by African students in Moscow in 1963 as a protest against the murder of a student from Ghana. One of our readers, Mark Thorpe, wrote to me saying that he had found an old issue of Green Bay Press-Gazette (Wednesday evening, Decenber 18, 1963, number 172, published in Green Bay, WI) with an article about these events. Mark has kindly scanned and sent this article to me, and now you can read it below.

African Students Storm Kremlin in Racial Riot

Med Student’s Knifing Death Causes Protest

by Preston Grover MOSCOW (AP) — Several hundred students from Ghana and other African nations stormed into Red Square today right under Premier Khrushchev’s office windows, fought with police and tried to break into the Kremlin. The students said they were protesting the fatal stabbing of a student from Ghana by a Russian last Friday. The Africans broke past barricades into Red Square, where Russians march on May Day and on the anniversary of the October Revolution. But the scene was more reminiscent of the wild days of the revolution in 1917.

‘Moscow Like Alabama’

The students bore a sign showing a knife plunged into the head of an African. Another sigh declared: “Friend today, the devil tomorrow.” “Moscow is a second Alabama,” shouted one student. The students fought police all the way to the Red Square from the Ghanian Embassy a mile away where they first gathered. They stormed over a barricade of Soviet trucks at the entrance to Red Square, fighting police on top of the trucks and underneath. The big gates of Spasky Tower, the main entrance from the Kremlin into Red Square, banged shut as students rolled over police opposition and tried to get into the Kremlin.

Past Khrushchev’s Office

They stormed past the office of Khrushchev. They were separated from his office by the big red brick wall of the Kremlin. Whether he was inside his office was not known. Inside the Kremlin, the Soviet Parliament was meeting, discussing the new budget. Police apparently at no time used their guns to control the students. Instead they wheeled out loudspeakers appealing for them to go home. “Red Square is closed,” one of the sound trucks blared out. But the students payed no attention. Shortly after 2 p.m., crowds of shoppers who had swarmed into the square were ordered out along with foreign correspondents.

Riot Attracts Curious

People continued to pile into adjoining streets, never having seen an angry demonstration of foreigners against Russians. The students remained in the square for a time and were reinforced later by some 200 more who came, apparently carrying a message of protest. They made their way to Spasky Gate, where a Kremlin official came out and said a delegation of 10 would be received by the Ministry of Higher Education. A group of the demonstrators then headed for the ministry with their petition of complaint. By 3 p.m., Red Square had been cleared. The barricades were withdrawn and the demonstration was over. It was the first such demonstration by foreign students here directed at the Russians. Ghanian students demonstrated last February in Communist Bulgaria, claiming racial persecution.

Medical Student Killed

Thousands of African students are studying in Communist schools, many of them with all expenses paid. The dead man was identified as Asare Addo, who was studying medicine at Kalinin 100 miles northwest of Moscow. He was said to have been killed Friday. Some students said Soviet officials issued a statement blaming the death on natural causes, but the Africans disputed this. Emerging from a conference in the Kremlin, some of the students said Education Minister Vyacheslav Yelutin denied that the student, Asare Addo, was stabbed. They said Yelutin told them Addo was drunk, had fallen down in the street, and died of cold. The minister told a full investigation had been ordered. Several students who were at the conference told reporters they did not believe this report. They said they were informed that Addo wanted to marry a Russian girl and was killed by a Russian man who was opposed to the marriage. Students said they prepared for today’s demonstration by sending telegrams to Ghanian students in Odessa, Kharkov and other university towns, asking them to come to Moscow. Each was given a red head band, a sign of mourning in Ghana. At the outset, the protest was orderly. When it became apparent that the students planned to carry their protest through the streets, police reinforcements were rushed in. Some rocked a police car, threatening to overturn it. Others forced their way between and under the trucks blocking the entrance of Red Square.