While it may be common in Russian culture to gift an elaborately gilded ceremonial drinking horn, but it’s not something that happened every day between Russians and Americans in the 1960’s. Nonetheless, President Kennedy found himself the proud owner of a beautiful drinking horn at the height of the Cold War courtesy of his most famous nemesis, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
If you’re up on your Soviet history, you’ll remember that the Berlin wall was built in 1961 after a three year long crisis involving Khrushchev and the three amigos, US, Great Britain and France. In an early attempt at solving the Berlin problem, the Premier sent the First Couple an invitation to sit down and talk about the Berlin problem, which was accompanied by a drinking horn and a case of wine that the secret service would not allow the President to drink.
As you may also remember, Khrushchev later “solved” the Berlin problem by building the Berlin wall, and was also the guy who planted a few missiles on Cuba aimed straight for Florida, at which point I’m guessing he was well beyond sending any more drinking horns to the President.
This beautifully polished beast of a drinking horn is made from cow horn adorned with silver and niello, which is a metallic alloy made from silver and sulfur. The mouthpiece is shaped like a bird, and the horn is attached to a silver chain strap. I’m probably overthinking, but drinking horns have traditionally been connected with warriors, which seems to make this an odd choice as a peace offering.
Maybe if the Premier had sent mead instead of wine, things would have gone differently.