Anatoly Dobrynin, the cold-war era ambassador from the Soviet Union to Washington, dead this week at 90, loved American culture, they are saying this morning. Oh yes he did. The spring of 1962, newly arrived in town, he hosted a delegation of American Quakers. Worried about nuclear bombs, they picketed the White House and then walked to the Russian embassy. He received the little group in a large sitting room. They sat on silk-covered couches facing the ambassador. Between them was a gulf of differing world views and a table filled with bottled drinks, American brands all.
The ambassador made sympathetic sounds. He wore a tailored dark suit, and a steady smile, lips tightly closed. He had wire-frame glasses, ahead of his time here, and hair slicked fashionably back. A 12-year-old boy, brought along for this most educational trip, marveled mainly, though, at the ambassador’s footwear. They were black, patent leather loafers without tassels, so shiny that reflections of the chandelier above danced on the toes as he casually tossed one leg across the other. The thought occurred: This must be the most elegant man in Washington, this representative of the people’s socialist republic.