Nothing should be lost in translation - Soviet leaders’ translator

“In my profession, at the level that I worked, nothing is lost in translation. If it is, then the interpreter is out, never to come back,” says Viktor Sukhodrev, personal translator to Soviet leaders during the Cold War.

Sukhodrev worked with Soviet diplomat Andrey Gromyko, who was involved in complicated talks in which the fate of post-war Europe was decided.

“I began to work with Gromyko right after graduation from University. That was in 1956. That was already the height of the Cold War. So I went through all the ups and downs, the really bitter periods of the Cold war. But also I went through the time of detente during the 70s,” remembers Sukhodrev.

The Caribbean crisis when the USSR and USA were on the verge of nuclear war was one of the most difficult periods of the Cold War.

“He (Khrushchev) had this crazy idea of putting missiles into Cuba, into the US backyard. But then, of course, the US had missiles in Turkey, which is just as much our backyard as Cuba to America,” recalls Viktor Sukhodrev.

Sukhodrev also translated for Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who was in power just when the Cold War came to its end.

“I think he was very proud of presiding over that period,” says Sukhodrev. “But he was not too or sufficiently well-prepared to play his part.”