Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Psychologists have found that a person is pleased when he hears his name, as it establishes the person’s identity, separates him from the rest, and forces others to acknowledge his individuality, which is not less important than the human instinct of survival. The state official has a similar reaction when others pronounce or spell out the name of his country. And conversely, one is filled with a deep frustration and displeasure when his or his country’s name is mispronounced or misspelled.
In the beginning of the 1980s, the USSR had no diplomatic relations with South Korea. All Soviet representatives abroad were strictly forbidden to mingle or pay any attention to South Koreans during receptions and, instead, be amicable and attentive to North Koreans.

Senegal was one of the few countries that maintained good relations with both countries back then. Soviet diplomats who worked in Dakar had the opportunity to be present at events, which hosted Koreans from both Seoul and Pyongyang.

Once, when writing invitations for a reception in the honor of the October Revolution, the embassy’s protocol officer, the young and promising Viktor Ivanov, makes a huge mistake. He mixes up the names and writes the name of the South Korean ambassador in the invitation for the North Korean ambassador while copying it from the official book of protocol.

A scandal breaks out, though the incident wasn’t worth a dime. The North Korean ambassador, who wasn’t a professional diplomat and who was a party functionary before his appointment in Dakar, not only boycotts the reception at the embassy, but also writes two notes of protest demanding that the "enemy of the two countries’ friendship”—the protocol officer—be fired.

Despite receiving an apology from the Soviet embassy in Dakar, the North Korean ambassador sends a note to his government asking that "the problem be discussed with the Kremlin.”

Ambassador Yuri Belsky, who was not only a professional but also a sympathetic and prudent individual, sends Ivanov back to Moscow. But even after that the North Korean ambassador doesn’t stop his demarches and complaints against the Soviet embassy in Dakar.

There was another protocol gaffe involving Slovenia and Slovakia after the geopolitical changes in Europe. When the President of Slovenia Milan Kučan arrived in Bucharest in 2002, the Romanians met him with the flag of Slovenia, but the band played the Slovak national anthem. People have mixed up the two countries on numerous occasions involving government, sports, cultural, and international events. The Slovenes were especially outraged when during an official meeting the US President George W. Bush addressed the Slovenian Prime Minister of the time, Janez Drnovšek, with the words "the honorable leader of Slovakia.”

A similar incident happened with the Armenian ambassador to Austria. When, after presenting his credential to the President of Austria Thomas Klestil, the ambassador called the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and introduced himself as the Armenian ambassador, the clerk at the ministry asked: "The Albanian ambassador?”

"No, I am the Armenian ambassador,” he repeated.

"Are you the Romanian ambassador?” the idiot asked on the other end.

"No, no, I am the Armenian ambassador,” said the ambassador with a surprising persistence, and feeling insulted that the heir of the Austria-Hungarian Empire had no idea about his ancient country.

Then the ambassador tried to resolve the situation through humor:

"Let me spell it for you,” he said and spelled it out, "A-R-M-E-N-I-A-N.”

"Oh yes, I see, you are the Iranian ambassador,” the ministry official concluded victoriously.
2302 reads | 13.08.2013

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