News your connection to The Boston Globe

Oleg Troyanovsky, at 84; esteemed Soviet ambassador

MOSCOW -- Soviet diplomat Oleg Troyanovsky, whose affable personality ran counter to the stereotype of the stone-faced Russian official during the Cold War, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 84.


No further details were immediately available on his death.

Mr. Troyanovsky served for nine years as the Soviet Union's ambassador to the United Nations, where he earned the respect of his Western adversaries with his sense of humor and cool composure.

He calmly handled the furor over the 1983 Soviet attack on a Korean jumbo jet, listening with pokerfaced indifference while US ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick played a tape recording of radio transmissions from Soviet fighter pilots who shot down the plane, killing all 269 people aboard. Mr. Troyanovsky later vetoed a resolution that would have condemned the plane's destruction.

But the ambassador could also be charming, lightening the mood when the occasion demanded it.

In 1980, two members of a dissident Marxist group sneaked into the UN Security Council chamber and doused Mr. Troyanovsky and US Ambassador William vanden Heuvel with red paint. Unruffled, the paint-spattered Russian quipped, "Better red than dead."

Once when introducing an agenda item to the UN General Assembly, Mr. Troyanovsky was interrupted by delegates' complaints that they were not hearing the English translation to his Russian remarks.

Turning to the American delegation nearby, Mr. Troyanovsky said, "No matter. It wasn't interesting what I was saying."

Mr. Troyanovsky was born in Moscow. His father, Alexander, served as the first Soviet ambassador to the United States from 1934 to 1938. While living in the United States, Mr. Troyanovsky attended Sidwell Friends, a Quaker prep school in Washington, D.C., and spent a year at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

He joined the Russian Foreign Ministry in 1944 after two years of service in the Red Army.

Mr. Troyanovsky served as an assistant and interpreter for former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. On a 1959 visit to the United States, Mr. Troyanovsky is reported to have rephrased the former Soviet leader's harsher and provocative remarks into more diplomatic language.

He served as ambassador to Japan from 1967 to 1976 -- a post once held by his father. After leaving his position at the United Nations in 1986, Mr. Troyanovsky was ambassador to China until he retired in 1990.

When Mr. Troyanovsky left for Beijing, US diplomat Herbert Okun praised him as "a virtuoso performer for the Soviet Union at the United Nations; a smart, respected adversary."

He retired and left China in 1990 but continued to keep a busy schedule, writing his memoirs and giving numerous lectures.

Globe Archives Sale
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months