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Russian Personalities

People well-known in art, sport, film, fashion

Shadow Man – Victor Sukhodrev

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Leonid Brezhnev and U.S. President Richard Nixon before a meeting in the Kremlin. In the center – Victor Sukhodrev. Photo: www.ria.ru


Interpreter Victor Sukhodrev (December 12, 1932 – May 16, 2014) spent 30 years next to world leaders.
A shadow man – interpreter is a very important person. He always knows more than others, but like the priest keeps the great mysteries of the world.
Viktor Sukhodrev was a true legend in the world of interpreters. For three decades, he was next to Soviet leaders. He served as personal interpreter for Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin, Mikhail Gorbachev.
After the end of his career Sukhodrev wrote memoirs, where he told about many interesting episodes of his professional career. But the big mystery remains a mystery – as Victor said, “For the interpreter, the man who hears and knows a lot, it is important to know when to stop talking.”

It all started in 1939 when six-year-old Victor with his mother went to Britain. The boy’s mother worked as a representative of People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade of the USSR, and her little son was surrounded by people who spoke an incomprehensible language. Children learn foreign languages faster and easier than adults. And at the age of 8 Victor was able to translate spoken language at the request of adults.
Because of the outbreak of World War II in 1941 Victor and his mother had to stay abroad. By the time he returned to the Soviet Union in 1945, Sukhodrev spoke English as naturally as Russian.
Victor’s father was a scout, who worked in the United States for 10 years. In 1956, Victor graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages, where he studied French, and his father’s colleagues, GRU officers, intended to bring him to work in intelligence. However, Victor’s father was against it, “Over my dead body!” So young man joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As he spoke English perfectly, Sukhodrev became a personal interpreter for the USSR leaders.
On the first working day young interpreter accompanied Khrushchev at a long informal conversation with the charge d’affairs of India. Since then Sukhodrev had become almost indispensable.
Country leaders’ personal interpreter akin sapper could be wrong only once. Victor knew it all and was brilliant.
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Mohammed Ali, Victor Sukhodrev, Leonid Brezhnev


Victor’s hobby was collecting pipes. He had dozens of unique rarities in his collection. For example, one of the pipes, the work of the famous company Dunhill, was presented to him by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who was a famous pipe collector.
Personal interpreter of the powerful persons never asked for anything. During his career, he had one gift from the leader – Leonid Brezhnev presented him with watch “Omega”.
Sukhodrev retired from the diplomatic service in the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the First Class, equated with the military rank of Colonel-General. No one interpreted wasn’t able to achieve such rank.
In 1999, Victor published the book “My tongue is my friend”.
Victor Sukhodrev, “Witness to an Era”, died on May 16, 2014.
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Victor Sukhodrev. 2012


Personal life
His first wife was Inna Kmit.
Inga Okunevskaya, an English teacher and the daughter of Soviet actress Tatyana Okunevskaya, was his second wife. As a result of the marriage Sukhodrev became the stepfather of musician and film director Alexander Lipnitsky, Inga’s son from her first marriage.
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Indira Gandhi, Victor Sukhodrev, Andrei Gromyko

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Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan. In the right corner – Victor Sukhodrev

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Margaret Thatcher, Victor Sukhodrev, Mikhail Gorbachev

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