Veteran UPI foreign correspondent Henry Shapiro dead at 84

MADISON, Wis. -- Henry Shapiro, a 36-year veteran reporter for United Press International who covered the Soviet Union, died Thursday night of a stroke, an official with Meriter Hospital said. He was 84.

When he retired in 1973, Shapiro had reported from Moscow longer than any other U.S. newsman.


After earning a law degree from Havard University and practicing in New York for a year, Shapiro went to the Soviet Union in 1933 to study comparative law. But under the dictatorship of Josef Stalin the Soviet legal system became a shambles, and in 1934 Shapiro joined Reuters News Service and later worked for the London Morning Post.

He joined United Press as a correspondent in 1937 and, with the exception of a few short breaks to visit the United States, remained in Moscow with the wire service until his retirement.


In more than 30 years of reporting from the Soviet Union, Shapiro covered almost every event of importance over three decades.

He was on hand for the infamous treason trials of the 1930s and its blood purges. He covered the Soviet Union during World War II. He was there through the years of Stalin's rule, covered the dictator's death and its aftermath, and saw the emergence of Nikita Khrushchev, whom he interviewed frequently.

Shapiro witnessed Khrushchev's fall, scoring a notable world beat when it came. He reported the birth of the space age with the first Sputnik and the subsequent manned space flights.

In looking back, Shapiro once said he considered his toughest assignment to be the Russian counteroffensive on the Stalingrad front in 1942.

No reporter was more qualified to tell the story of communism's first half century than Shapiro, who was a first-hand observer for most of it.

A naturalized American since 1928, Shapiro was born April 19, 1906, in Vaslui, Romania, and immigrated to the United States with his family, which settled in New York in 1920.

He was a graduate of the City College of New York and Harvard. He was a member of the New York Bar and he held degrees from Columbia University and the Geneva School of International Studies.


Besides speaking English and Russian, Shapiro also spoke Romanian, French, German and Spanish. He married the former Ludmilla Nikitina, daughter of a professor at Moscow University, in 1938. They had one daughter, Irene.

Shapiro returned to Harvard for several months in 1954 as a Nieman Fellow. His book, 'The USSR After Stalin,' was published the same year.

Among his many journalistic honors, Shapiro in 1965 won the Sigma Delta Chi award for foreign correspondents.

After retiring from UPI, Shapiro took a professorship at the University of Wisconsin.

Shapiro was a studious man who could work effectively under pressure for 24 to 36 hours at a stretch. He was driven by a combination of intellectual curiosity and competitive zeal, and went after news with persistence and tenacity equal to the toughest beat in journalism.

Shapiro's fluency in the Russian language was of priceless value to him during the Khrushchev years. Often Khrushchev would ask Shapiro to go to his office and during their conversation the Russian premier would ask the American correspondent how people in the United States would react if he did this or that. While Shapiro appreciated Khrushchev's confidence, he never gave him any information that might be detrimetal.


Khrushchev and Shapiro regarded each other with equal admiration. Khrushchev liked Shapiro because of his understanding of Russian customs and his fluency in the language and its idiom. Shaprio respected Khrushchev for his leadership qualities and quick wit.

In recalling an encounter with the Soviet leader, Shapiro once said Krushchev asked him, 'Why aren't you dancing?' when he saw the reporter at a Kremlin reception. 'With whom?' Shapiro asked. 'With your wife, of course,' Khrushchev replied.

'This gave me an opportunity to explain the feudal, oriental practice introduced since the end of World War II under which only correspondents and not their wives were invited to receptions,' Shapiro recalled.

'Angrily, Khrushchev turned to his press chief who was standing behind him and ordered him to invite wives to the next reception. And so a few weeks later I was able to dance with Ludmila at the gala New Year's ball. But that was the last time. The next year Khrushchev was out.'

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