Viktor Sukhodrev

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Viktor Sukhodrev
Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon talks in 1973.png
Sukhodrev (center) interpreting during the Brezhnev–Nixon meeting, 1973
Born12 December 1932
Died16 May 2014(2014-05-16) (aged 81)
OccupationLinguistic interpreter and translator

Viktor Mikhaylovich Sukhodrev (Russian: Виктор Михайлович Суходрев; 12 December 1932 – 16 May 2014) was a Russian–English interpreter for high-ranking Soviet politicians including Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Alexei Kosygin.

Early life and education[edit]

Sukhodrev was born into the family of a Soviet intelligence officer who worked in the United States.[1] As a young boy during World War II, Sukhodrev spent six years in London with his mother, who worked at the Soviet trade mission.[2] He attended the Soviet Embassy School in London beginning at age 8.[3] He returned to Moscow at the age of twelve and later graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages.[2]


In 1956, Sukhodrev began his career in the translation bureau of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Sukhodrev translated Nikita Khrushchev's famous quote "We will bury you",[2] among others. In the 1980s Sukhodrev was the deputy head of the Department for the United States and Canada at the Soviet MFA.[1] In 1999 he penned the memoir book Yazyk moy – drug moy (My Tongue is My Friend).

During a career of nearly thirty years, Sukhodrev was present at numerous high-profile summits and deal-makings. Richard Nixon called Sukhodrev "a superb linguist who spoke English as well as he did Russian",[4] while Henry Kissinger called him "unflappable" and a "splendid interpreter".[5] According to the International Herald Tribune, "Sukhodrev was present but not present, emptying himself of ego, slipping into the skin of the man who was speaking, feeling his feelings, saying his words".[6]

Soviet and U.S. officials alike considered him to be the best interpreter in the world between Russian and English and he would sometimes be the only interpreter at bilateral meetings.[7] He had a very good understanding of idiomatic expressions in English with a firm grasp of the varied nuances of meaning in different parts of the English-speaking world. His memory was prodigious: he only required a few notes to be able to deliver a perfect translation of a 20-minute speech.[7] In 2012, Sukhodrev received the Russian national prize Translator of the Year.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Sukhodrev was married twice. His first wife was actress Inna Kmit. His second wife was Inga Okunevskaya. Sukhodrev died in Moscow on 16 May 2014 at the age of 81.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Умер личный переводчик Хрущева и Брежнева Виктор Суходрев" (in Russian). Komsomolskaya Pravda. Archived from the original on 16 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Viktor Sukhodrev, interpreter at key Soviet-US summits, dies at 81". The Guardian. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  3. ^ Mydans, Seth. "The man in the middle of Cold War politics" ( Archived 2016-03-28 at WebCite). The Age. October 2, 2005. Retrieved on March 28, 2016. See the version at Archived 2015-10-05 at the Wayback Machine The Daily Telegraph
  4. ^ Nixon, Richard (2013). RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1476731837.
  5. ^ Kissinger, Henry (2001). Years of Upheaval: The Second Volume of His Classic Memoirs. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0857207180.
  6. ^ Torikai, Kumiko (2009). Voices of the Invisible Presence: Diplomatic Interpreters in Post-World War II Japan. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 9027224277.
  7. ^ a b Lodal, Jan M. (July 2017). "Brezhnev's Secret Pledge to 'Do Everything We Can' to Re-Elect Gerald Ford". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 26 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Скончался переводчик советских руководителей Виктор Суходрев" (in Russian). Vesti. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.