Alexei Berest

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Alexei Berest
Berest, circa 1945.
Born (1921-03-09)March 9, 1921
Goryastovka, Sumy Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Died November 4, 1970(1970-11-04) (aged 49)
Rostov-on-Don, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Buried at Alexandrovskoye Cemetery, Rostov-on-Don[1]
Allegiance  Soviet Union (1939–1948)
Years of service 1939-1948
Rank Lieutenant
Battles/wars Soviet-Finnish War
World War II
Awards Order of the Red Banner
Order of the Patriotic War 1st class
Order of the Red Star
Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
Hero of Ukraine (posthumous)[2]

Oleksiy Prokopovych Berest (Ukrainian: Олексій Прокопович Берест. Russified: Алексей Прокопьевич Берест [Alexei Prokopievich Berest]; March 9, 1921 – November 4, 1970) was a Soviet political officer and one of the three Red Army soldiers who hoisted the Victory Banner.


Early life

Born to an impoverished family, seven of Berest's fifteen siblings died prematurely. He was orphaned when eleven years old, and raised by his older sisters. From the age of sixteen, he worked as a tractor driver. Berest volunteered into the Red Army in October 1939 and took part in the Soviet-Finnish War as a signaller. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, he was sent to the front once more. In March 1943, while stationed in the Volkhov Front, Corporal Berest joined the Communist Party. In December, he was sent to the Leningrad Military-Political School (Which at the time was located at Shuya, after being evacuated) and trained as a commissar. After graduation in September 1944, Lieutenant Berest was assigned as Captain Stepan Neustroev's deputy for political affairs (Zampolit) in the 1st Battalion of the 150th Rifle Division's 756th Regiment.[3]

Battle of Berlin

On 30 April 1945, after long days of street combat in Berlin, the 150th Division attacked the Reichstag. On 1 May, at about 03:00, Berest and two scouts - Meliton Kantaria and Mikhail Yegorov - hoisted one of nine Soviet flags given to the division's commanders[4] on the building's dome, fastening it to Wilhelm I's statue.[5][6] Although not the first to be placed, the flag was eventually proclaimed as the Victory Banner. Later, impostering as a Colonel, he negotiated with the German garrison of the Reichstag on the terms of their surrender. He received the Order of the Red Banner for his actions.[7]

Post-war years

In May 1945, Neustroev, Kantaria and many others who were involved in the Reichatag assault were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. For unknown reasons,[a 1] Berest did not attain the award and his part in the operation was silenced.[8][9] In 1948, he was discharged from the army and began working in the regional cinema department of Rostov-on-Don. In 1953, he was convicted of embezzlement and sent to ten years in prison, of which he served five.[10] After being released, he was employed in the local Rostselmash factory as a common laborer. On 3 November 1970, Berest was run over by a train as he saved a child who strayed on the railway. He died of his injuries in the early hours of the following day.[2]

He was posthumously granted the title Hero of Ukraine on 6 May 2005.[11]

Honours and awards



  1. The various sources cited in this article alternatively asserted that this was due to Berest's Ukrainian heritage, Marshal Georgy Zhukov's dislike for political officers or a confrontation with a Smersh officer several days before the battle. No conclusive data could be found on the subject.

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