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Nikolai Erastovich Berzarin (Russian Николай Эрастович Берзарин) (April 1, 1904 in St. PetersburgmarkerJune 16, 1945 in Berlinmarker) was a Soviet Red Army General during the Stalinist era and the Second World War, famous for many war crimes against civilian population in the Baltic countries and Germanymarker. In June 1941 he was responsible for the deportation of 47,000 Balts to Soviet concentration camps. In 1945 he became commander of the Soviet occupying forces in Berlin.


Berzarin was born the son of a pipefitter and a seamstress. He had one brother and four sisters.

In 1925, he married bank employee Natalja Prosinjuk, with whom he had two daughters, Larissa and Irina.


In 1918 Berzarin enlisted in the Red Army and fought against invading troops in Archangelskmarker. Between 1921 and 1923 he received more military training at the Leningrad Command Courses, machine gun course at he "Vistrel" and a command course at the Siberian Military District. In 1922, he became a member of Komsomol. In 1923 he was assigned to Siberiamarker.

In 1926, after officer training, he became a member of the CPSU.

Military career

Begun service as an enlisted soldier in the Soviet Union in the then Petrograd, and after service on the Northern Front against the Intervention also participated in the suppression of the Kronstadt Rebellion (1921). In 1924 he was serving as a junior officer in the Amur region against the bandit raiders.In 1927 he returned to Siberia, where he was an assistant to commander of an officers training unit in Irkutskmarker. From 1933 to 1935, he served in the staff of the Separate Far Eastern Army; from 1935 to 1937 he led the 77th Infantry Regiment of the 26th Infantry Division of the Far East Army. Until 1938, he was the chief instructor of the Amur group.

During the Great Purge, he was accused of owing his career to the "enemies of the people", but was supported by various Communist Party members. As division commander, he repelled Japanese attacks at Lake Khasanmarker (1938), for which he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

After his appointment as Major General, he was transferred at his own request to Rigamarker, and became commander of the 27th Army in May 1941.

He fought against the German armed forces after their assault on the Soviet Union. From December 1941 to May 1944 he was Commander-in-Chief of several armies; he was badly wounded in March 1943 and was hospitalized for six months.

He received the Order of Lenin and was promoted to Colonel General for his success in breaking through German lines in the Jassy-Kishinev Offensive. After conquering Kishinevmarker in August 1944, the Belorussian and Ukrainian Fronts began their march on Berlin.

Commander of Berlin

Berzarin's 5th Shock Army reached the outskirts of Berlin on April 21, 1945 as the first Soviet Army to do so. On April 24, he was appointed commander of the city by Marshall Zhukov.

According to book "Berlin - The Downfall 1945" by Anthony Beevor, the forces under his command raped several thousand women and girls under the siege and in the weeks to come.

Like every other Allied commander, he worked to re-establish order, creating a city police force and supplying the population with food. He appointed the first postwar municipal authorities and strove for a revival of the cultural life of the city.

On June 16 1945, after 55 days in office, he died in a motorcycle accident in a truck convoy in Berlin, aged 41.

Honorary freeman of Berlin

Plaque of Berzarin by Fritz-Georg Schulz at the Bersarinplatz in Berlin-Friedrichshain, Germany
In 1975 the regime of the German Democratic Republicmarker made him a honorary citizen of East Berlin. He was formally removed from the roll of honorary citizens by the city of Berlin government in 1992 because of accusations made by the Baltic states that Berzarin should be considered a war criminal. These accusations were based on Berzarin's alleged participation in 1941 deportation of "undesirables" by the Soviet administration following the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states in 1940. While the deportations were carried out mainly by the NKVD and the NKGB, Red Army personnel from Berzarin's Baltic Military District also participated in the arrest teams.

However, after the successor to the East Germany's Communist Party, the PDS, came to power in coalition with SPD, Berzarin was restored to honorary citizen status again on February 11, 2003. The decision caused an uproar among groups concerned with human rights and democracy in Germany and the Baltic countries.

In 2005, the PDS politician Thomas Flierl had a bridge named in honour of Berzarin.

External links


  1. Estonia 1940–1945: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes against Humanity (Tallinn, 2006), ISBN 9949130409, p. 369, citing contemporary reports from the Communist Party of Estonia held by the Estonian State Archives.
  2. Presse- und Fototermin: 60. Jahrestag - Feierstunde mit Senator für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur, Dr. Thomas Flierl, Bezirksbürgermeister Dr. Uwe Klett, Botschaftern und weiterer politischer Prominenz am 21. April vor dem ersten befreiten Haus ...

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