MOSCOW — Oleg Troyanovsky, who served for nine years as the Soviet Union's ambassador to the United Nations, where his sense of humor and cool composure earned him the respect of his Western adversaries, has died, the Foreign Ministry said Monday. He was 84.
Troyanovsky died Sunday after a long illness. No further details were immediately available.
As Moscow's ambassador to the U.N., he calmly handled the furor over the 1983 Soviet attack on a Korean jumbo jet. He listened with pokerfaced indifference while the U.S. ambassador played a tape recording of radio transmissions from Soviet fighter pilots who shot down the plane, killing all 269 people aboard, including a U.S. congressman and 60 other Americans. Troyanovsky later vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned the Soviet attack on the airliner.
But Troyanovsky could also be charming, lightening the mood when the occasion demanded it.
In 1980, two members of a dissident Marxist group sneaked into the U.N. Security Council chamber and doused Troyanovsky and U.S. Ambassador William vanden Heuvel with red paint. Unruffled, the paint-spattered Russian quipped, "Better red than dead."
Troyanovsky was born in Moscow. His father, Alexander, served as the first Soviet ambassador to the United States, from 1934 to 1938. While in the United States, 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 in the Red Army. Early in his career, Troyanovsky served as an assistant and interpreter for Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Troyanovsky served as ambassador to Japan from 1967 to 1976 -- a post also once held by his father. After leaving his position at the U.N., Troyanovsky was named ambassador to China.
When he left the U.N. for Beijing in 1986, U.S. diplomat Herbert Okun praised Troyanovsky 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 in Russia and abroad, according to the website for Russia's premier diplomatic school.
He is survived by his wife, Tatyana, and daughter, Maria, according to a Foreign Ministry website.