Anatoliy Fyodorovich Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, arrived at Washington's Union Station on March 15, 1962. With him was his wife Irina.
Dobrynin wore gold-rimmed spectacles and in remarks about the United States and the Soviet Union noted that "the two peoples are much alike." Then, as women loaded Irina's arms with red roses and carnations, Dobrynin gave Americans the first display of the wit and charm that would mark his time here.
"You are receiving quite a welcome," U.S. Deputy Chief of Protocol William J. Tonesk told the new envoy.
"Yes," Dobrynin replied with a laugh. "We had better get out of here while everyone is feeling so friendly."
Today, 24 years later, Dobrynin is getting out of here, going home to his new post with the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee. And by and large, everyone is still feeling friendly. Dobrynin as Diplomat
Kissinger had described Dobrynin in his book "The White House Years" as "suave not just by Soviet standards -- which leaves ample room for clumsiness -- but by any criteria." At Kissinger's book party in 1979, Dobrynin arrived late but rated special treatment.
"I'm coauthor," a grinning Dobrynin explained to onlookers.
"He's one of the chief characters," Kissinger conceded.
"I'm in one-fourth of the book. I should get some royalties," Dobrynin countered.
"You can take them out of the royalties when you print it in Russia," Kissinger needled.
Zbigniew Brzezinski also liked to twit Dobrynin. In his book "Power & Principle," Brzezinski writes that Dobrynin "never lost his cool, except -- and invariably -- whenever I suggested Georgi Arbatov (the director of the Soviet Institute on America) was an influential Soviet figure. Dobrynin would become red in the face and vehemently inform me that Arbatov was a man of no standing and little influence -- a creation of the American media."
Former secretary of state Dean Rusk said yesterday that he was the one who first asked Dobrynin to use the State Department garage, rather than the public entrance, whenever he came over to talk.
"I asked him to come up on my private elevator without having to go through the front door, where all the reporters would be waiting," Rusk said. "So I was a little annoyed in the early Reagan years when we had somebody back out of that arrangement and make Dobrynin come in through the front door. Dobrynin never asked for that privilege; it had been I who asked him to do it."
But Alexander M. Haig Jr., who was secretary of state the day Dobrynin was denied garage entrance, said he "wasn't at all mad, which shows the professionalism of the fellow."
"It was a small thing," Haig said yesterday, "but we were entitled to set new ground rules . . . From here on we were going to apply [diplomatic] reciprocity. The Soviet bureau was interpreting that as a blanket application, and we were not being treated with it in Moscow."
Dobrynin "never blinked an eye," Haig said. "I always felt his professionalism led him to be affable when it served his purposes. When not, he could be abrasive and uncommunicative." Dean of the Corps
Shortly after the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza government in Nicaragua, Malcolm Toon, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1976 to 1979, kiddingly accused Dobrynin of personally engineering the coup. That way, Toon teased, Dobrynin was able to get rid of Somoza's ambassador, Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, who had been dean since 1958. Dobrynin, who said he already had plenty to do without dealing with the problems of more than 130 other countries, didn't think it a bit funny. " 'You don't believe that!' " Toon remembered Dobrynin protesting. " 'I don't want this job.' " Old Pals
Shirley Temple Black was sworn in as Gerald Ford's chief of protocol just in time to make the introductions at a White House diplomatic reception.
"I flew east [from California] studying pictures of all the ambassadors, and after the swearing-in, somebody briefed me and said that as chief I had to stand slightly back so I could introduce the guests to the president. I was not to shake hands, and one way to keep from doing this was to keep my hands behind my back.
"Everything went well until Dobrynin came along. When he saw me, he said 'Shirley!' and he threw his arms around me and kissed me on both cheeks. The president stood there and watched," said Black, who knew Dobrynin off and on over the years. "Dobrynin broke protocol completely, but fortunately it was all right."
Occidental Petroleum's Armand Hammer first met Dobrynin, then head of the American section in the Soviet Foreign Ministry, during a 1961 trip to Moscow. At the end of a meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, Hammer said he told the Soviet leader he wanted to see the pencil factory where Hammer had worked 31 years earlier but that authorities had given him the runaround.
"Khrushchev turned to Dobrynin and said, 'See that he sees his old pencil factory.' I said, 'It has to be today because I'm leaving tomorrow,' " Hammer recalled.
By the time Hammer got to the U.S. Embassy there was already a message from Dobrynin that a car would be waiting to take him out to the factory. "I don't know how they did it, but Dobrynin had arranged a banquet of caviar and champagne and toasts with all the old employes who were left. And they all came," Hammer remembered. "That was my first example of how Dobrynin gets things done." Dobrynin as Social Butterfly
Dobrynin's social skills included singing, ballroom dancing and storytelling. Washington hostess Evelyn Zlotnick once seated Dobrynin next to CIA Director William Casey just to see if any sparks might fly. They didn't. "They had a lovely discussion," said Zlotnick.
Television personality Deena Clark said it never took much persuading to get the Dobrynins to sing at parties. The night she gave one for movie director Rouben Mamoulian, the Dobrynins sang a duet, "Moscow Nights," which had everybody toasting everybody else when it was over.
At a dinner the Zlotnicks gave, the Dobrynins again brought down the house. That performance featured Irina looking at her husband and singing "That Doggie in the Window."
Irina was the perfect guest, according to Zlotnick. In a town where some people do and some people don't, Irina never forgot to write a thank-you. Lunch Breaks
As gregarious as he could be wily, Dobrynin kept up his contacts regardless of which American political party was in power. Long after he had left the State Department, Kissinger continued to see Dobrynin three or four times a year, usually over lunch at the Soviet Embassy.
"He's very skillful at appealing to American masochism, American guilt feelings, that anything in the world that happens is our fault and has been inflicted on the long-suffering Soviet Union," Kissinger said yesterday.
Washington attorney Leonard Marks, whose name provided Dobrynin opportunities for punning ("A Marks is always welcome in the Kremlin," Dobrynin said when Lyndon Johnson named Marks head of the U.S. Information Agency), was invited to lunch often. Once, when the lunch hour was moved ahead, Marks noticed as he was leaving that the large dining room was being prepared for yet another lunch. Dobrynin the Family Man
The Dobrynins had been in Washington about eight years when they brought back from Moscow a 5-month-old baby. She was Katya, the granddaughter whom they later adopted. Katya was Americanized to a point -- and not only about the relative merits of McDonald's and Burger King.
Dobrynin brought her to a United Nations charity event here -- "He dragged me into it," she explained -- and introduced her as Katya to Vice President Bush. She introduced herself as "Kathy" to then-Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler.
"Kathy? That doesn't sound Russian enough," Heckler said.
"Okay, call me Katrina," the teen-ager replied.
When Heckler asked Dobrynin if he was her "tutor and mentor," he said he was. But the last word belonged to Katya, who was already planning to return to the Soviet Union the following year to attend school (a signal to many Dobrynin watchers that he would not stay much longer in Washington).
Said Katya: "I have my own mind." Watching the Americans
Dobrynin liked to see Americans at home. After a United Nations meeting, then-Secretary of State William P. Rogers invited Dobrynin and Gromyko up to his U.N. Plaza apartment, where Adele Rogers had been entertaining Irina Dobrynin at lunch. There was some talk about the Middle East, but Rogers' Soviet guests were equally interested in his apartment and its spectacular view of the East River. One of them asked if it was provided by the government. Rogers said no, that he owned it. Dobrynin left it to Gromyko to ask how much it cost.
"Look," Rogers replied, "I'm not even telling capitalists how much it costs, so I'm certainly not going to tell any communists."
Averell and Pamela Harriman once invited the Dobrynins to dinner at their home outside New York City. Pamela Harriman remembered that it was summertime and the Dobrynins fell in love with the place.
"There are lots of birches and they reminded the Dobrynins of the trees in their own land," Harriman said. "They exclaimed over it all and said how wonderful it would be to wake up there in the morning. So on the spur of the moment I said, 'Why not spend the night?' They said, 'We'd love to.' And they did, without suitcase or anything." Dobrynin at Leisure
The Soviets bought 45 acres at Pioneer Point in Queen Anne's County on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1972 for $1 million as a vacation resort for Russian diplomats in the United States. Dobrynin liked to go there for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the chance it gave him to drive his own car.
Almost every Sunday night he drove Katya to the Pizza Hut in nearby Kent County because she had a "passion for pizza," he later told Douglas Cater, a former Johnson aide who is now president of Washington College.
The FBI opened an office in nearby Centreville shortly after the Russians moved in, and what once had been a sleepy little community woke up one morning to find itself a strategic location of sorts.
Writing about it in The New York Times later, Cater said after the Soviets shot down the South Korean airliner, the State Department revised its listings of American localities where Russian diplomats could travel. Kent County was out. Cater said everybody was perplexed but he soon concluded that "the Pizza Hut had provoked the embargo. In the Machiavellian game of tit-for-tat that engages superpower relationships, the Sunday night forays of the ambassador and his granddaughter must have caught the attention of a Foggy Bottom bureaucrat. Someone had moved with a vengeance to cut off the Dobrynins' pizza."