Roy Essoyan: Reporter who exposed a rift in Sino-Soviet relations

Saturday 31 March 2012

Roy Essoyan, who died on 22 March aged 92, was a reporter who in 1958
exposed a serious split between China and the Soviet Union. Born in a
Japanese fishing village just after his refugee family, originally
from Armenia, landed there in 1919 after fleeing the Russian
revolution, Essoyan arrived in the Soviet Union nearly four decades
later as an American journalist, having become a US citizen after the
Second World War.

But after three years of associating with the Soviet Premier Nikita
Khrushchev and other communist leaders, the Associated Press
reporter's Cold War adventure ended in 1958 when he was expelled for
reporting that a serious breach had developed between the Soviet Union
and Mao Zedong's China. The foreign ministry called it "a rude
violation of Soviet censorship",' but Essoyan had exposed what became
known in diplomatic parlance as the 'Sino-Soviet split'.

Being banished from Moscow did not end his interaction with Soviet
officials. During a visit to Indonesia years later, Khrushchev spotted
a familiar face, Essoyan's, among the press, and to the dismay of
other reporters invited the American to join him for a private talk.
As they chatted in Russian, Khrushchev made a joke about Essoyan's
baseball cap: "Why do you wear those silly beanies?'' Essoyan
responded by putting the cap on the Soviet leader's head, a moment
captured by photographers.

Based in Hong Kong after leaving Moscow, Essoyan helped the Associated
Press cover the early days of the Vietnam War, accompanying South
Vietnamese troops and their US advisers on helicopter-borne
operations. He described one such mission as "gamesmanship,
beautifully orchestrated and achieving absolutely nothing, because the
Viet Cong knew what was happening, the [South] Vietnamese didn't want