Volume #26 - 351.|
UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
VISIT OF FIRST DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE SUPREME SOVIET OF THE SOVIET UNION TO HALIFAX
Memorandum from Head, Protocol Division,|
to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
December 2nd, 1959|
MR. MIKOYAN IN HALIFAX|
As you know, the Prime Minister sent a radio message to greet Mr. Mikoyan as his airplane approached Canada and asked the Minister of Fisheries to represent the Government during the stop-over in Halifax. I accompanied Mr. MacLean for the purpose of assisting in arrange-ments; Mr. M.A. Crowe (of Economic Division I and former Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of the Canadian Embassy in Moscow) came with us to provide the assistance of his command of the Russian language and to assess the significance of any Soviet initiative in the economic field.414
2. The stop-over visit can be regarded as successful from both the Canadian and the Soviet viewpoints. There was even cooperation from the weather which had earlier been so unruly that the Ambassador's T.C.A. flight had serious difficulty in landing at Halifax, the second T.C.A. flight was diverted to Sydney and Mr. MacLean's D.O.T. aircraft was forced to spend the night at Moncton. Mr. Mikoyan's Ilyushin 18 turbo-prop, however, sat down at the Shearwater Naval Air base under clear skies. The Ambassador and I went aboard and Mr. Mikoyan alighted a few minutes later to be greeted by the Minister of Fisheries, the Premier of Nova Scotia and other dignitaries. After inspection of a naval guard of honour he spoke in affable terms to the press for about ten minutes before proceeding to Government House where he, his two sons, his daughter-in-law and the Ambassador stayed as the guests of the Lieutenant-Governor and Mrs. Plow.
3. Shortly after arrival there, a telephone message was received stating that a large number of journalists and radio and television operators were awaiting Mr. Mikoyan in the main studio of radio station C.H.N.S. Neither the Nova Scotian authorities nor I had any knowledge of such arrangements but, rather than adopting a flatly negative approach, the matter was mentioned to Mr. Aroutunian who spoke to Mr. Mikoyan; the latter immediately agreed to go to C.H.N.S.
4. Upon arrival at the studio the party was greeted by Mr. Robert McCleave, M.P., who, introducing himself as the chairman, turned to the Ambassador saying "Thank you for arranging this interview. I am very glad that I sent you the telegram proposing it." There was no subsequent explanation as to why Mr. Aroutunian kept it a secret from those responsible for the visit.
5. When Mr. McCleave asked if Mr. Mikoyan could spare half an hour, I, having earlier consulted with Soviet officials, indicated that in view of Mr. Mikoyan's press interview at the airport and of his crowded engagements, it was necessary to establish a limit of about 15 minutes. Astonishingly, however, Mr. Mikoyan began with a twenty-minute statement and then answered questions for an additional thirty minutes despite repeated suggestions from myself to the Ambassador that the interview be terminated.
6. Mr. Mikoyan was very adroit, evasive, amusing, forceful, voluble and friendly. An exceedingly amicable atmosphere prevailed until the end when Mr. McCleave, with the apparent desire of terminating on a sweet note about babies, knitting or cooking, invited a young lady in the back row to ask the final question. The climate changed, however, with explosive suddenness when she enquired concerning the "planned execution of 150 Hungarian students."415 The dominant impression carried by those leaving the studio was undoubtedly that made by the undisguised anger in Mr. Mikoyan's reply.
7. Salt was rubbed into his wound because on his return to Government House he observed a group of Hungarians (with perhaps some sympathizers) parading with signs reading "Remember Budapest!" etc. Fortunately, the demonstration was orderly and well controlled by police and consequently no incidents occurred.
8. Mr. Mikoyan went to some effort to make a good public impression because, in addition to the press conference at the airport and the interview at the C.H.N.S. studio, he seized two opportunities to talk to groups of people. As he left Government House en route to the studio he (to the concern of myself and presumably of the R.C.M.P.) walked up to a crowd (mostly women) gathered on the street outside and spoke (in Russian) to the following effect: "I bring you a message from the women of the Soviet Union. They send greetings of friendship to you women of Canada and want me to tell you that their greatest wish is for peace throughout the world so that they - and the women of all countries - can live in happiness with their families." This was received with applause, so he asked: "Have you a message for me to take back to the women of Moscow?" The reply was: "We want peace too," one woman adding: "At any price." There was no heckling or uncomplimentary comment.
9. Upon departure from the studio he similarly walked up to the crowd on the sidewalk and shook many of the hands extended to him. His public relations stunt met with a very cordial response again.
10. At the cocktail hour at Government House he was genial in the extreme, talking with vivacity and humour about his grandchildren - and other less important subjects.
11. The dinner in his honour was given by the Premier of Nova Scotia in the Chamber of the former Legislative Council in Province House. The so-called "Red Chamber" provided a magnificent setting for what proved to be a very successful evening. Only the small head table was formally seated - Mr. Mikoyan, the Ambassador, Mr. Borisov with the Premier, the Lieutenant-Governor, the Minister of Fisheries, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislature and the Deputy Mayor of Halifax.
12. As arrangements were very impromptu, it was wise to permit the remaining guests to choose their own places at the small tables for eight. The buffet was sumptuous, decorative and well served. The guest list of about 120 included Ministers of the Nova Scotian Government, members of the Legislature, university presidents, clergy, consuls, civic officials, re-presentatives of the armed services and members of the Soviet Embassy. Very few from Mr. Mikoyan's party attended although the Nova Scotian hosts had, in effect, issued a blanket invitation to all - leaving the nomination to the Ambassador.
13. The Premier (generally regarded as a poor orator) made a remarkably fine speech. He began in a light vein by (1) summarizing the history of the province as "settled by the French, conquered by the English but subsequently taken over by the Scots," (2) suggesting that as other Nova Scotians could even live in comparative peace with the Cape Bretoners, the people of all countries should be able to live in amity with each other, and (3) making particular reference to his friend, the Leader of the Opposition, as this function might not be well understood by his distinguished Soviet guests.
14. Mr. Stanfield than spoke of the Sebastopol Monument, erected in Halifax following the Crimean War, and made an eloquent plea for the effective continuance of efforts to maintain and strengthen the peace which has existed between the Russian people and our own since that time.
15. Mr. Mikoyan, in his reply, also began in a humorous tone by including "Mr. Opposition" among the dignitaries to whom he specially addressed his remarks. He, however, became rather heavy-handed by at length practically brandishing nuclear bombs before the dinner guests; his main theme was however "Let us put aside all thoughts of war - which can be only mutually destructive - and engage in a struggle on the economic field. We are advancing economically much more rapidly than you and will soon surpass the high standard of living which I have observed here. If you feel we are catching up, why don't you go ahead faster?"
16. All in all, the evening was a great success from everyone's standpoint. Mr. Mikoyan was obviously sincere in repeating his appreciation after the dinner and again in the early, rainy dawn of next morning when the Minister of Fisheries and I bade him good-bye and bon voyage. The Ambassador also stated that Mr. Mikoyan had never expected such cordial and elaborate hospitality during the few hours of what was an in-transit stop-over and not an official visit.
17. The Halifax Chronicle-Herald gave full, fair and accurate coverage of what was said and done. Clippings are attached to this memorandum. The only noteworthy omission relates to Mr. Mikoyan's reply concerning Algeria on which he is reported as saying "the Soviet Government supports the right of all nations to independence and self-determination ... and would continue to support the Algiers stand on this basis." He also indicated his government's approval of the recent de Gaulle proposals "if they work out as we hope they are intended for the benefit of the Algerian people;" whispered prompting by the Ambassador made Mr. Mikoyan add "and of France."
414Note marginale :/Marginal note:
415En octobre 1959, on rapporta que les jeunes Hongrois condamnés pour leurs activités en 1956 seraient exécutés dès qu'ils atteindraient l'âge de 18 ans. Voir MAE 8619-40.