Дипломат Брежнев

The Master said:
"The noble man focuses on duty and righteousness,
the small man focuses on gain.

The Diplomat. Brezhnev Alexei A.

Alexei Arkadievich Brezhnev was an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, First Class. For many years he served as a diplomat in China, and witnessed and participated in developments of Sino-Soviet relations from the 1950s to the 1970s.

In the later years of his diplomatic career he was in charge of the Moscow office of the International Labor Organization (ILO), and afterwards headed the Department of Publishing and Documentation of the ILO in Geneva. Aleksei Brezhnev also held a PhD degree in History.

He was the author of several publications, including the book China: A Thorny Path to Neighborly Relations. Memoirs and Reflections, a book based on official documents and personal impressions of the author.



Aleksei Brezhnev was born on July 19, 1930 in Ulyanovsk. From 1930 to 1948 he lived with his parents in Samara (formerly known as Kuibyshev). In 1948 he graduated Kuibyshev Secondary School #6 with distinction, and enrolled in the Historical and International Faculty of the Institute of International Relations, today known as the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Aleksei Brezhnev briefly described the story of his choice of profession in the chapter “On the Author” in his book China: A Thorny Path to Neighborly Relations. Throughout his life he recollected with gratitude the years spent within the walls of the Institute, its democratic and creative atmosphere, and the high quality of its teachers. The personality of E. V. Tarle, an academic with whom Aleksei Brezhnev was acquainted, left a deep impression on him.

In 1953, Aleksei Brenzhev graduated the institute with distinction and was assigned to work in the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the same year, he and his wife Enessa, also a graduate of the Institute of International Relations, were sent to the People´s Republic of China. The idea of traveling to China for the young diplomat was something unexpected, as he had graduated the Institute as a specialist on the United States of America. As Brenzhev wrote in his book: I found the idea attractive. China is a great and friendly country which at the time was quickly developing relations in different areas, and it was an ideal place where a young diplomat could test himself and get experience. I agreed to go. (p. 16)

Brezhnev commenced studies at the Soviet Embassy and attended lectures at People´s University in Beijing. Subsequently he enrolled as a full-time student at People´s University. The life in dormitories together with Chinese students gave him an opportunity not only to practice his Chinese language skills but also “to understand better the way Chinese people think, their psychology and the national characteristics of their behavior.” In 1955, after finishing examinations in the diplomatic school of People´s University, he started to work as a translator between Chinese, English and French and as an attaché at the Soviet Embassy. Later, Brezhnev became a member of the foreign policy group at the Embassy, where he prepared reference materials on Chinese foreign policy, worked with other colleagues on establishing guidelines for Sino-Soviet international relations, and maintained contacts with corresponding departments of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Brezhnev´s career as a sinologist-diplomat lasted more than 20 years. He worked with several Soviet ambassadors in China, including V.V. Kuznetsov, P.F. Iudin, S. V. Chervonenko, S. G. Lapin, and V.S. Tolstikov. Beginning in the second half of the 1960s, Brezhnev repeatedly served as the chargé d´affaires during period when the ambassador returned to Moscow.

From 1959 until 1961, Brezhnev worked as the third secretary of the Far East Department of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1961 he was again sent to the PRC in the capacity of second secretary to the Soviet ambassador, where he remained until 1967. Arriving with his wife and daughter at the Chinese capital in December, 1961, Brezhnev realized that circumstances in Beijing had changed drastically since 1959 with the onset of complications in Sino-Soviet relations. As a member, and later as leader, of the foreign policy group at the Embassy, Brezhnev focused his attention on analysis of the tense political situation, and prepared suggestions and advocated policies aimed at reducing tension between the PRC and the Soviet Union. “We [personnel at the Embassy] understood that China was experiencing one of the greatest moments of crisis in its history, and we strived for objectivity in our analysis, trying not to be carried away by our emotions,” he wrote.

In the summer of 1967, Brezhnev headed the Soviet embassy in Beijing for the first time as a temporary Soviet chargé d´affaires. At this time, diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and China were in danger of complete collapse. Following Moscow´s directions, Brezhnev followed a line combining firmness and decisiveness with flexibility and constantly demonstrated the wish of the Soviet side to preserve normal inter-government relations with China. “Not mindless gestures with fists but calculated actions, designed to solve concrete problems” – these were the working principles of Brezhnev and his team. This policy would turn out to be justified.

In 1968, Brezhnev returned to Moscow to begin work as an expert and consultant at the Department of Printing, and became a senior advisor to the Department of Foreign Policy Planning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1969 and 1970, he participated as an advisor to, and later as a member of, the government delegation to negotiations on Sino-Soviet border issues. The fact that negotiations began and continued represented a meaningful step forward, and contributed towards improvement of the actual situation at the border. Brezhnev and other members of delegation actively joined with the Chinese delegation to prepare the basis for real improvement in laying the groundwork for a solution to the border issues.

During the years he spent working in Moscow, Brezhnev often published articles on Sino-Soviet relations under pseudonyms. His articles appeared in the newspaper “Pravda” and the weekly publication “Za Rubezhom.”

In 1972, A. Brezhnev was appointed Advisor and Envoy of the Soviet Embassy in Beijing, where he arrived in 1972 with his wife and son. As the second-highest ranking official at the embassy, he headed the embassy in the absence of the ambassador, for periods adding up to roughly two years. Together with the ambassador and relevant members of the embassy, Brezhnev worked through decisions on the most important and complicated political issues, maintained regular contacts with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other Chinese departments, carried out work within the diplomatic corps, and performed administrative duties at the Soviet Embassy.

In his book, Brezhnev describes relations with missions to China from the United States of America, which were led by the future president George Bush Sr. Brezhnev was able to meet Bush informally when Bush invited him and his wife along with the Tolstikovs for a visit.

The political direction of Brezhnev´s work during this period was dictated by the need to reduce alienation and hostility in Sino-Soviet relations. This direction became even more of a priority after 1976, following a string of changes at the highest levels of the Chinese government and in different spheres of Chinese society. In a series of ambassadorial documents which Brezhnev helped to prepare, a program of measures was laid out for using the given circumstances to prepare conditions for normalizing relations between the USSR and the PRC. At that time, however, these suggestions failed to receive support in Moscow for subjective reasons. In 1978, Brezhnev was recalled to the USSR and assigned to work in the historic-diplomatic office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Brezhnev´s recall from Beijing was related to information he sent to Moscow in which he drew attention to a significant reduction of sharp criticism in the Chinese media towards Soviet leadership.

While working in the historic-diplomatic office, Brezhnev used documents to dismantle the myth of the supposed permanent hostility between the Soviet Union and China. He organized the publication of collections of research by Soviet historians under the title “The Documents Debunk,” targeting the falsification of the history of Russian and Chinese relations. The collection included one paper written personally by Brezhnev, in which he researched the position taken by government circles and society in Russia towards the Taiping Rebellion, the most serious agricultural uprising in Chinese history.  Brezhnev was awarded a Ph.D. degree for the publication of this paper.

In October 1982, Brezhnev was named director of the Moscow branch of the ILO. He used his appointment to this position to explore the possibilities which participation in the ILO gave to our country. With the support of the All-Union Central Trade Council, he helped to organize the Russian publication of “The ILO Encyclopedia on Security and Hygiene of Labor.”

From 1986 to 1991, Brezhnev worked in the Secretariat of the ILO in Geneva as the director of the Department of Printing and Documentation, one the largest departments in the ILO. In addition to performing the duties of the director of the department, Brezhnev helped to organize the translation into Russian and publication of ILO materials of particular interest to the Soviet Union. As the director of an ILO department, he negotiated and signed an agreement with the USSR Committee on ILO affairs on cooperation in the field of publication.

Among the informational materials prepared by Brezhnev in Geneva is an analytical note from 1987 on a new approach to stimulate cooperation between Soviet government offices and the ILO. The approach that Brezhnev suggested was accepted. The diplomatic services performed by Brezhnev were recognized with the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, a Medal of Honor, a Medal for Labor Merit and a Medal for Valorous Labor (which was instituted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lenin´s birth). He was also recognized as a Veteran of Work. He was awarded the rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Second Class in 1972, and First Class in 1985.

Brezhnev´s social activities began with membership in the Komsomol (Communist Youth League) from 1946 until 1956. From 1946 to 1948 he was the secretary of the Komsomol organization of his secondary school, and was a member of the Kuibyshev City Committee Komsomol. From the mid-1950s he served as deputy secretary and secretary of the Komsomol organization at the Soviet Embassy in China. He became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1957. In the first half of the 1960s, he served as the secretary of the party organization of the diplomatic staff at the embassy, and in the 1970s he served as a member of the United Local Committee of Soviet Organizations in Beijing.

Brezhnev regularly was involved in lecturing work. In the 1970s he served as the Chairman of the Council on Foreign Policy Propaganda at the Soviet Embassy in the PRC. In the beginning of the 1980s, he delivered a series of lectures on the history of international relations and foreign policy of the USSR at the affiliated night school of Marxism-Leninism in the Kievskiy District of the Moscow City Council Communist Party. In the second half of the 1980s, he served as deputy chairman and chairman of the Methodology Council of the Party Committee of USSR Representatives in Geneva, and a member on the Council on Foreign Policy Propaganda.

Since his student years, Brezhnev contributed articles to various publications. He authored a series of articles appearing in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions of the “Diplomatic Dictionary.” Brezhnev´s final work was an academic note on the experience of publishing and distributing documents on the part of high-level government offices in the USA, based on personal acquaintance with the work of the U.S. Government Printing Office and published the journal “Soviet Government and Law” in 1990.

Wife: Brezhneva, Enessa Izmailovna, b.1930. Graduated the Historical-Diplomatic Faculty of the Institute of Foreign Affairs together with her husband. Accompanied AAB on all diplomatic assignments. Well-acquainted with routines of diplomatic work, she provided her husband with invaluable help. Brezhnev´s “China: The Thorny Path of Neighborly Relations” was written at her suggestion.

Daughter: Agapkina (née Brezhneva), Tatiana Alekseevna
Son: Brezhnev, Vladimir Alekseevich
Aleksei Brezhnev died on May 17, 2008 after a serious protracted illness. He was buried at the Troekurovo Cemetery