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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 2 July 1916Petrograd, Russian Empire [now St. Petersburg, Russia]
Date of Death 21 November 1998Claremont, California, USA  (heart failure)

Mini Bio (1)

Valentin Berezhkov was the last living man who personally dealt with Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill at the times of the Second World War.

He was born Valentin Mikhailovich Berezhkov on July 2, 1916, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Young Berezhkov was interested in history and languages. He graduated from Kiev University in 1938, then served in the Pacific Fleet in 1938-1939. At that time Berezhkov was recruited by the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs because interpreters were in short supply due to the purges during the "Great Terror" under dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.

Berezhkov was First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Berlin. In November of 1940 he served as interpreter at the talks between Vyacheslav Molotov and Adolf Hitler and Joachim von Ribbentrop. On June 22, 1941, the day Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Berezhkov interpreted at a meeting between German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Russian Ambassador to Germany Vladimir Dekanozov. Ribbentrop explained invasion as a preemptive attack, although, he plead "Make it known in Moscow that I was against the invasion!" In July of 1941 Berezhkov was appointed to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow as Assistant to Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov for Soviet-American relations.

Berezhkov served as personal interpreter to Joseph Stalin and Molotov at the Teheran conference in 1943, and also at the Yalta conference in 1945. In Teheran he interpreted Stalin's communication with Franklin D. Roosevelt when the two leaders met for the first time. Berezhkov also interpreted at the tree-way meetings between Stalin, Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in Teheran. Berezhkov was chosen for the job by Vyacheslav Molotov, although, he was not entirely confident in English at that time. By the time of the Yalta conference he further upgraded his English and was appointed the principal interpreter. Berezhkov's service at the Teheran and Yalta conferences became the highlight of his career. He also interpreted the intelligence unit's transcripts of conversations inside the bugged rooms of other delegates, which was typed in English, so that Berezhkov had to translate it orally to Stalin, as the leader prepared his agenda for the day's session of talks.

At historic conferences Berezhkov had to work under pressure without much rest or sleep, or even a mealtime. At the Yalta conference he was especially overloaded with work. One episode he recalled later with humor. He was so busy with interpreting between English, American, and Russian officials that he did not have a moment to eat and became really hungry at the end of the first day. The dinner was served to Roosevelt, Curchill, and Stalin, but they kept talking, obligating Berezhkov to translate. At one moment he took a bite, and the same moment Stalin asked Roosevelt a question. Berezhkov was not able to translate with his mouth full for a few seconds, and received an angry comment from Stalin: "You came to work, not to eat!" Berezhkov later recalled that his appetite was immediately gone.

Molotov shielded Berezhkov from prosecution, but could not prevent the termination of his diplomatic career. In 1945 Berezhkov turned to journalism and became an editor of the Soviet weekly 'New Times'. From 1969-1988 he was Chief Editor for the Soviet monthly journal 'USA-Economics, Politics, Ideology'. Berezhkov received a doctorate from the Institute of USA and Canada Studies in 1974, and taught at Moscow State University and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. From 1978-1983 he served in the Soviet Embassy in Washington as First Secretary. He also taught at the Monterrey Institute of Internationl Studies, Claremont Colleges and Occidental College in California. He wrote seven books with a circulation in Russian and English of over two million copies, including his last book "I was Stalin's Interpreter" (1991), which was re-issued in the United States in 1994 as 'At Stalin's Side'.

Valentin Berezhkov was living in California during the later years of his life. Berezhkov was the last living person who personally dealt with Hitler, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. He died on November 20, 1998, in Los Angeles.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

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