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Paul Coates -- Mikoyan interview, January 13, 1959

January 13, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Interview With Coates

Russian Stars on TV Show

By Paul V. Coates, Mirror News Columnist

Paul_coates When President Eisenhower sits down with Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan on Saturday to plan give-and-take with West Berlin and Germany, it'll be Ike who'll have to do the giving.

This, Mikoyan made clear to me in an exclusive interview last night.

"We have advanced our proposals," the traveling trouble-shooter from the Kremlin said. "Now it is up to your side."

About West Berlin

The latest Russian "solution" to the current tensions that West Berlin be made an unarmed "free" city until the eastern and western divisions are united, that Red China should have a voice in any final decision and that all foreign troops should be removed within one year.

"Do you think that the Berlin dispute could ignite a war between your country and mine?" I asked.

Quick Reply

The deputy premier threw back an immediate answer.

"We," he stressed, "do not want any war."

Mikoyan sandwiched his stern warning to the White House between small talk which included the revelation that his daughter-in-law, Zena, was one of theMoiseyey ballet troupe which so successfully visited the United States last year, and a confession that he was becoming slightly weary of the zealous protection offered him by our police and State Department on his current national barnstorming tour.

Previous U.S. Tour 1959_0113_mirror_cover_2

"I spent two months traveling around the United States in 1936," he pointed out during our KTTV interview last night. "Your State Department sent one very fine representative to accompany me.

"This time," he continued, "let me just say that I would certainly enjoy having a cocktail with each of these men who are assigned to me, individually.

"But," he added, "I prefer to travel alone."

The deputy premier arrived at the studio for his U.S. television debut in a roaring caravan heavily guarded by Los Angeles police and federal agents.

His main concern before air time was what type of commercial would be inserted in the program.

Not quite understanding, I explained that they'd probably be automobiles, rugs, food -- some similar products.

"I can check and tell you exactly," I said.

An aide in the party shrugged. "What we mean," he said, questioningly, "there will be no political advertisements?"

Second to Khrushchev

Mikoyan also made the suggestion that no questions be asked pertaining to his position as the USSR's No. 2 citizen.

"To answer that would put me in the position of being immodest," he explained.

But on camera, he was smiling and ready with glib replies.

Through his official interpreter, Oleg Troyanovski, son of the Soviet Union's World War II ambassador to the United States, he touched on his childhood, "humble" background, lack of a college education and favorable impression of the American "common man."

"I have found that the mass of people this time are as friendly to our country as they were the first time I visited," he said. "The American people want peace."

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans adopt a Korean orphan and the U.S. is investigating the Dodgers.
He was favorably impressed by Sen. Humphrey's recent visit to Moscow; he acknowledged U.S. progress in building roads and bridges, and in our industrial plants and housing; and he felt -- a feeling which he's been most vocal on since his arrival here -- that more trade between the United States and Russia could quickly stimulate a better relationship.

"There Is No God"

Only once did the "goodwill" ambassador permit his careful guard to relax.

I asked him: "As a former seminary student, do you feel that Marx was right in saying that religion is the opiate of the people?"

"I do," he answered immediately. "At the time of the revolution, I became convinced that there is no God.

"I did it in spite of what my teachers tried to tell me."

When the television interview was finished, Mikoyan seemed particularly anxious to know if I had been pleased with it.

Interview Success

"Tell him," I told the interpreter, "that I thought it was a very successful interview, and that I certainly am pleased with it."


The interpreter translated my remark to the deputy premier.

Fingering the gold star on his lapel --  a medal which he received in World War II for his efforts "in supplying the front" -- he considered it. Then he said something in Russian toTroyanovski. 

Russian Adieu

"Mr. Mikoyan thanks you," the interpreter told me. "But he would like to know if you are just saying this to be kind, or if you really mean it."

"Please tell the deputy premier," I replied, "that I really mean it. I don't say things that I don't mean just to be nice."

The information was duly reported to Mr. Mikoyan.

He received it, beamed, got up, shook my hand and said -- I guess -- the Russian equivalent of "Good night."