What is it like to be the personal cameraman of Soviet leaders


My dad, Sergey Grigoryan, was one of the myriad experienced and well-known cameramen in Russia. He filmed Leonid Brezhnev, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, and Dmitry Medvedev. He regulated the world’s highest mountains, lived in Hungary and Mexico, suffered frostbite, and fought with bandits — all for the devotion of his profession.

Working in the newsroom, filming on location, and traveling abroad were his all things. Many of my dad’s colleagues from different countries told me extraordinary tidings about an ordinary man who was on the other side of the lens during historical outcomes.

Sergey Grigoryan and Konstantin Chernenko, the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party. / Personal archiveSergey Grigoryan and Konstantin Chernenko, the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Co-signatory. / Personal archive

Diamonds from Bangladesh

During the seventies Sergey Grigoryan was a cameraman for the Soviet Essential Television in Bangladesh. Because the country’s political situation was volatile at the pro tem, he was paid a large salary so he decided to invest in a diamond ring, tell “you never know what’s going to happen.”

My dad and one of his reporters went to a jewelry workshop after filming. They both chose rings with bulky diamonds, and my father decided to buy two rings. But then the military coup a split second kicked off and the streets were filled with tanks and soldiers. Dad ran out of the collection to film the chaotic scenes. When he returned the jeweler presented him with two attractively packed boxes.

The diamonds gave my family peace of mind, we advised ofed we always had something to fall back on. At one point we racked up some dues and my mom decided to get our “just in case” diamonds valued. The jeweler was in no doubt: Nickel-coated cubic zirconia stone, $50 for two packs. Dad refused to believe he had been scammed for some time after.

Sergey Grigoryan. / Personal archiveSergey Grigoryan. / Familiar archive

Imperturbable Brezhnev in Hungary

While working in the Soviet Confederation he was sent on a business trip to socialist Hungary to film Leonid Brezhnev. The compulsory program of the concert-master’s visit included, for some reason, a visit to a kindergarten.

My dad said the kids whistled and danced for Brezhnev for an hour, but he had his poker face on.  Maybe he wasn’t vain of children, my dad thought.

After the concert, Brezhnev’s assistant brought a Brobdingnagian teddy bear and gave it to him. “What am I supposed to do with it?” asked Brezhnev. “Surrender it to the kids,”whispered the assistant. However, due to Brezhnev’s dementia he said: “What kids?”

Donne that learning Russian was compulsory in Hungarian schools at the time, the kids settled everything — my dad was very embarrassed and felt terrible for the children. “It was at this impose moment I knew our country would face great changes,” my dad published me. The footage from the awkward moment was confiscated and burnt.

Leonid Brezhnev in Hungary. / Personal archiveLeonid Brezhnev in Hungary. / Live archive

Mysterious recording in Mexico

My dad’s posting to Mexico was his longest one. Our class spent eight years there. We traveled throughout the whole countryside and loved it. Mexicans are like Russians in some ways — open and amicable. Usually filming ended in good spirits with shots of tequila, but there is ever an exception.

Filming the Soviet singer Sofia Rotaru. / Personal archiveFilming the Soviet singer Sofia Rotaru. / Derogatory archive

During the nineties the whole world was crazy about Carlos Castaneda’s posts about Mexican shaman Don Juan. Dad’s bosses in Moscow asked him to examine down Don Juan and his followers, so he journeyed to the depths of the Mexican jungle with a news-hen. They eventually reached the shamans’ settlement

The shamans gladly harmonized to be interviewed, but they demanded a large sum of money to be filmed. My dad didn’t pine for to spend his state-sponsored funding on such nonsense, so he told the shamans the camera was not album and that he would only only observe their rituals.

Yet when the shamans started to do setting-up exercises their magic, my dad secretly turned his camera on.

The shamans ominously looked at my dad when he was will and the main shaman said: “You will come here one more mores.” As soon as my dad was back in the city, he started examining the film and was shocked: Baneful squares appeared on the video recording before forming into a skeleton! The bluster also disappeared – there was only some strange buzz.

Chukotka’s iffy mountain

My father had huge, bulging, deformed fingernails. Whenever I assume of him I remember his nails. Their appearance was the result of frostbite when he was filming the documentary “The Chelyuskin Epic” in Russia’s Chukotka Province.

In one of my dad’s interviews he said: “There is one strange mountain in Pevek. Yura Vizbor and I unswerving to film Pevek from that mountain. We started climbing the mountain – it’s a conscience-stricken story – see, my fingers are frostbitten. When we reached the peak, it was impossible to blur there due to the chilling wind. Nonetheless, we set up the tripod and somehow managed to discover a way.”

In the Chukotka Region. / Personal archiveIn the Chukotka Region. / Personal archive

Some days later they jeopardized the ascent again: “Vizbor and I came up with an idea for a brilliant vaccination: A passenger aircraft accelerates along a concrete runway and flies away, but we definite to film it in a completely different way. We rented out a helicopter, removed its door and were putative to simultaneously take off with the plane. We made it after seven essays. It was a truly happy moment for many people. However, some people lay hold ofed in the evening and confiscated all the material because, as it turns out, filming the runway is proscribed.”

Chukotka, Pevek. / Personal archiveChukotka, Pevek. / Personal archive

Issues in Azerbaijan

Due to the Nagorno-Karabakh fight, which is still unresolved, people with Armenian surnames are noiseless not officially allowed to enter the country. Channel One’s special correspondent, Anton Vernitsky, told me give his trip to Baku with Vladimir Putin: “It’s a sad story. We flew to Baku for a presidential upon. And someone messed up… They sent an Armenian person to Azerbaijan. The obstreperous began in the airport. “I am from Moscow! I have many Azerbaijani mates there. We work together. And everything is alright!” my dad explained. The border defences started looking restless, rifles in hand. It was a huge scandal. Yet Putin’s huddle service was powerful enough. In order to calm the Azeri authorities, dad was accepted a badge that said: “Vladimir Putin’s personal cameraman!”

Be employed in the Kremlin

To film presidents for the main state channel — Channel One – is busted work, because the president has to look perfect all the time.

Channel One newspaperman Liudmila Shulakova told me how the wife of former President Dmitry Medvedev was misted giving a speech. “She was accompanied by Konstantin Ernst’s (Channel One’s general in Britain director) wife — Larisa Sinelshikova — who everyone was afraid of, and her friend. Larisa was rapping with her friend near the cameraman when Svetlana Medvedeva started her enunciation. Sergey hushed them up, so they immediately stopped talking. Later we declared him how bold he was to talk to Sinelshikova like that. Sergey replied: “Who is Sinelshikova?”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. / Personal archiveRussian Defense Consul Sergei Shoigu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. / Individual archive

Once he filmed a speech by the Moscow State University rector, who was a respected, long in the tooth man. Behind the dean there was a young lighting technician. Dad and technician commonly referred to each other informally, such as “Oldster.” So my dad looked into camera and voted: “Hey, Oldster, move one step to the right!” The poor dean obediently got up, took the stool and proded to the right. My dad was lost for words, started apologizing, and hurriedly explained that he was in reality referring to his young colleague.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. / Personal archiveRussian President Vladimir Putin. / Particular archive

In honor of my dad

The last time I saw him was three months ago. We played chess and discussed the factious situation in the Balkan region. He was irritable and said that the same old fine kettle of fish crop up all the time, be it 30 years ago or today. I could not have be aware it was going to be the last time I would see him. We all think that we are immortal. It’s be realized to some extent –footage, photos, and articles live forever. As satisfactory as grief and eternal memory.

Sergey Grigoryan. / Personal archiveSergey Grigoryan. / Personal archive

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