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THE MITROKHIN ARCHIVE
This book is based on unprecedented and unrestricted access to one of the world's most secret and closely guarded archives—that of the foreign intelligence arm of the KGB, the First Chief Directorate (FCD). Hitherto the present Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR (Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedki), has been supremely confident that a book such as this could not be written. When the German magazine Focus reported in December 1996 that a former KGB officer had defected to Britain with "the names of hundreds of Russian spies," Tatyana Samolis, spokeswoman for the SVR, instantly ridiculed the whole story as "absolute nonsense." "Hundreds of people! That just doesn't happen!" she declared. "Any defector could get the name of one, two, perhaps three agents—but not hundreds!"
The facts, however, are far more sensational even than the story dismissed as impossible by the SVR. The KGB defector had brought with him to Britain details not of a few hundred but of thousands of Soviet agents and intelligence officers in all parts of the globe, some of them "illegals" living under deep cover abroad, disguised as foreign citizens. No one who spied for the Soviet Union at any period between the October Revolution and the eve of the Gorbachev era can now be confident that his or her secrets are still secure. When the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) exfiltrated the defector and his family from Russia in 1992, it also brought out six cases containing the copious notes he had taken almost daily for twelve years, beforehis retirement in 1984, on top secret KGB files going as far back as 1918. The contents of the cases have since been described by the American FBI as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source."
The KGB officer who assembled this extraordinary archive, Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin, is now a British citizen. Born in central Russia in 1922, he began his career as a Soviet foreign intelligence officer in 1948, at a time when the foreign intelligence arms of the MGB (the future KGB) and the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) were temporarily combined in the Committee of Information. By the time Mitrokhin was sent on his first foreign posting in 1952, the Committee had disintegrated and the MGB had resumed its traditional rivalry with the GRU. His first five years in intelligence were spent in the paranoid atmosphere generated by the final phase of Stalin's dictatorship, when the intelligence agencies were ordered to conduct witch-hunts throughout the Soviet Bloc against mostly imaginary Titoist and Zionist conspiracies.
In January 1953 the MGB was officially accused of "lack of vigilance" in hunting down the conspirators. The Soviet news agency Tass made the sensational announcement that for the past few years world Zionism and Western intelligence agencies had been conspiring with "a terrorist group" of Jewish doctors "to wipe out the leadership of the Soviet Union." During the final two months of Stalin's rule, the MGB struggled to demonstrate its heightened vigilance by pursuing the perpetrators of this non-existent plot. Its anti-Zionist campaign was, in reality, little more than a thinly disguised anti-Semitic pogrom. Shortly before Stalin's sudden death in March 1953, Mitrokhin was ordered to investigate the alleged Zionist connections of the Pravda correspondent in Paris, Yuri Zhukov, who had come under suspicion because of his wife's Jewish origins. Mitrokhin had the impression that Stalin's brutal security supremo, Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria, was planning to implicate Zhukov in the supposed Jewish doctors' plot. A few weeks after Stalin's funeral, however, Beria suddenly announced that the plot had never existed, and exonerated the alleged conspirators.
By the summer of 1953 most of Beria's colleagues in the Presidium were united in their fear of another conspiracy—that he might be planning a coup d'état to step into Stalin's shoes. While visiting a foreign capital in July, Mitrokhin received a top secret telegram with instructions to decipher it himself, and was astonished to discover that Beria had been charged with "criminal anti-Party and anti-state activities." Only later did Mitrokhin learn that Beria had been arrested at a special meeting of the Presidium on June 26 after a plot organized by his chief rival, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev. From his prison cell, Beria wrote begging letters to his former colleagues, pleading pathetically for them to spare his life and "find the smallest job for me":
You will see that in two or three years I'll have straightened out fine and will still be useful to you ... I ask the comrades to forgive me for writing somewhat disjointedly and badly because of my condition, and also because of the poor lighting and not having my pince-nez.
No longer in awe of him, the comrades simply mocked his loss of nerve.
On December 24 it was announced that Beria had been executed after trial by the Supreme Court. Since neither his responsibility for mass murder in the Stalin era nor his own record as a serial rapist of under-age girls could be publicly mentioned for fear of bringing the Communist regime into disrepute, he was declared guilty instead of a surreal plot "to revive capitalism and to restore the rule of the bourgeoisie" in association with British and other Western intelligence services. Beria thus became, following Yagoda and Yezhov in the 1930s, the third Soviet security chief to be shot for crimes which included serving as an (imaginary) British secret agent. In true Stalinist tradition, subscribers to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia were advised to use "a small knife or razor blade" to remove the entry on Beria, and then to insert a replacement article on the Bering Sea.
The first official repudiation of Stalinism was Khrushchev's now-celebrated secret speech to a closed session of the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in February 1956. Stalin's "cult of personality," Khrushchev declared, had been responsible for "a whole series of exceedingly serious and grave perversions of Party principles, of Party democracy, of revolutionary legality." The speech was reported to the KGB Party organization in a secret letter from the Central Committee. The section to which Mitrokhin belonged took two days to debate its contents. He still vividly recalls the conclusion of the section's chairman, Vladimir Vasilyevich Zhenikhov (later KGB resident in Finland): "Stalin was a bandit!" Some Party members were too shocked—or cautious—to say anything. Others agreed with Zhenikhov. None dared ask the question which Mitrokhin was convinced was in all their minds: "Where was Khrushchev while all these crimes were taking place?"
In the aftermath of the secret speech Mitrokhin became too outspoken for his own good. Though his criticisms of the way the KGB had been run were mild by Western standards, late in 1956 Mitrokhin was moved from operations to the FCD archives, where his main job was answering queries from other departments and provincial KGBs. Mitrokhin discovered that Beria's personal archive had been destroyed on Khrushchev's orders so as to leave no trace of the compromising material he had collected on his former colleagues. Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov, chairman of the KGB from 1954 to 1958, dutifully reported to Khrushchev that the files had contained much "provocative and libelous" material.
Mitrokhin was an avid reader of the Russian writers who had fallen out of favor in the final years of Stalinist rule and began to be published again during the mid-1950s. The first great literary event in Moscow after Stalin's death was the publication in 1954, for the first time since 1945, of new poems by Boris Pasternak, the last leading Russian author to have begun his career before the Revolution. Published in a literary magazine under the title "Poems from the Novel Doctor Zhivago," they were accompanied by a brief description of the epic but still unfinished work in which they were to appear. However, the completed text of Doctor Zhivago, which followed the meandering life of its enigmatic hero from the final phase of Tsarist rule to the early years of the Soviet regime, was judged far too subversive for publication and was officially rejected in 1956. In the novel, when Zhivago hears the news of the Bolshevik Revolution, "He was shaken and overwhelmed by the greatness of the moment, and thought of its significance for the centuries to come." But Pasternak goes on to convey an unmistakable sense of the spiritual emptiness of the regime which emerged from it. Lenin is "vengeance incarnate" and Stalin a "pockmarked Caligula."
Pasternak became the first Soviet author since the 1920s to circumvent the banning of his work in Russia by publishing it abroad. As he handed the typescript of Doctor Zhivago to a representative of his Italian publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, he told him with a melancholy laugh: "You are hereby invited to watch me face the firing squad!" Soon afterwards, acting on official instructions, Pasternak sent a telegram to Feltrinelli insisting that his novel be withdrawn from publication; privately, however, he wrote a letter telling him to go ahead. Published first in Italian in November 1957, Doctor Zhivago became a bestseller in twenty-four languages. Some Western critics hailed it as the greatest Russian novel since Tolstoy's Resurrection, published in 1899. Official outrage in Moscow at Doctor Zhivago's success was compounded by the award to Pasternak of the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. In a cable to the Swedish Academy, Pasternak declared himself "immensely thankful, touched, proud, astonished, abashed." The newspaper of the Soviet Writers' Union, the Literaturnaya Gazeta, however, denounced him as "a literary Judas who betrayed his people for thirty pieces of silver—the Nobel Prize." Under immense official pressure, Pasternak cabled Stockholm withdrawing his acceptance of the prize "in view of the significance given to this award in the society to which I belong."
Though Pasternak was not one of his own favorite authors, Mitrokhin saw the official condemnation of Doctor Zhivago as typifying Khrushchev's cultural barbarism. "The development of literature and art in a socialist society," Khrushchev boorishly insisted, "proceeds ... as directed by the Party." Mitrokhin was so outraged by the neo-Stalinist denunciations of Pasternak by Moscow's literary establishment that in October 1958 he sent an anonymous letter of protest to the Literaturnaya Gazeta. Though he wrote the letter with his left hand in order to disguise his handwriting, he remained anxious for some time that his identity might be discovered. Mitrokhin knew from KGB files the immense resources which were frequently deployed to track down anonymous letter-writers. He was even worried that, by licking the gum on the back of the envelope before sealing it, he had made it possible for his saliva to be identified by a KGB laboratory. The whole episode strengthened his resentment at Khrushchev's failure to follow his secret speech of 1956 by a thoroughgoing program of de-Stalinization. Khrushchev, he suspected, had personally ordered Pasternak's persecution as a warning to all those inclined to challenge his authority.
As yet, however, Mitrokhin pinned his faith not on the overthrow of the Soviet regime but on the emergence of a new leader less tainted than Khrushchev by his Stalinist past. When, late in 1958, Serov was replaced as KGB chairman by one of his leading critics, Aleksandr Nikolayevich Shelepin, Mitrokhin believed that the new leader had emerged. Aged only forty, Shelepin had made his reputation as a guerrilla commander during the Second World War. As head of the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) from 1952 to 1958, he had mobilized thousands of young people from Khrushchev's "Virgin Lands" campaign to turn vast areas of steppe into arable farmland. Though many of the new collective farms were later ruined by soil erosion, in the short term the campaign seemed a spectacular success. Soviet newsreels showed endless lines of combine-harvesters as they advanced through prairies rippling with grain and stretching as far as the eye could see.
As Mitrokhin had hoped, Shelepin rapidly established himself as a new broom within the KGB, replacing many veteran Stalinists with bright young graduates from Komsomol. Mitrokhin was impressed by the way that when Shelepin gave televised speeches, he looked briefly at his notes, then spoke directly to the viewer—instead of woodenly reading from a prepared text like most Soviet leaders. Shelepin sought to give the KGB a new public image. "Violations of socialist legality," he claimed in 1961, "have been completely eliminated ... The Chekists [KGB officers] can look the Party and the Soviet people in the eye with a clear conscience." Mitrokhin also remembers Shelepin for an act of personal kindness to a close relative.
Like Beria before him and Andropov after him, Shelepin's ambitions stretched far beyond the chairmanship of the KGB. As a twenty-year-old university student, he was once asked what he wanted to become. According to the Russian historian Roy Medvedev, he instantly replied, "A chief!" Shelepin saw the KGB as a stepping stone in a career which he intended to take him to the post of First Secretary of the CPSU. In December 1961 he left the KGB but continued to oversee its work as chairman of the powerful new Committee of Party and State Control. The new KGB chairman was Shelepin's youthful but less dynamic protégé, thirty-seven-year-old Vladimir Yefimovich Semichastny. On Khrushchev's instructions, Semichastny resumed the work of pruning the archives of material which too vividly recalled the Presidium's Stalinist past, ordering the destruction of nine volumes of files on the liquidation of Central Committee members, senior intelligence officers and foreign Communists living in Moscow during the Stalin era.
Mitrokhin continued to see Shelepin as a future First Secretary, and was not surprised when he became one of the leaders of the coup which toppled Khrushchev in 1964. Memories of Beria, however, were still too fresh in the minds of most of the Presidium for them to be prepared to accept a security chief as Party leader. For most of his colleagues, Leonid Ilich Brezhnev, who had succeeded Khrushchev as First (later General) Secretary, was a far more reassuring figure—affable, lightweight and patient in reconciling opposing factions, though skillful in outmaneuvering his political rivals. By 1967 Brezhnev felt strong enough to sack the unpopular Semichastny and sideline the still-ambitious Shelepin, who was demoted from heading the Committee of Party and State Control to become chairman of the comparatively uninfluential Trade Union Council. On arriving in his spacious new office, Shelepin found that his predecessor, Viktor Grishin, had what Medvedev later euphemistically described as "a specially equipped massage parlor" in an adjoining room. Shelepin took revenge for his demotion by circulating stories about Grishin's sexual exploits around Moscow.
The main beneficiary of the downfall of Semichastny and the sidelining of Shelepin was Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov, who became chairman of the KGB. Andropov had what some of his staff called a "Hungarian complex." As Soviet ambassador in Budapest during the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, he had watched in horror from the windows of his embassy as officers of the hated Hungarian security service were strung up from lampposts. Andropov remained haunted for the rest of his life by the speed with which an apparently all-powerful Communist one-party state had begun to topple. When other Communist regimes later seemed at risk—in Prague in 1968, in Kabul in 1979, in Warsaw in 1981—he was convinced that, as in Budapest in 1956, only armed force could ensure their survival,n Since leaving Hungary in 1957 Andropov had been head of the Central Committee Department responsible for relations with Communist parties in the Soviet Bloc. His appointment in 1967 as the first senior Party official brought in to head the KGB was intended by Brezhnev to secure political control of the security and intelligence systems. Andropov went on to become the longest-serving and most politically astute of all KGB chiefs, crowning his fifteen years as chairman by succeeding Brezhnev as General Secretary in 1982.
THE FIRST GREAT crisis of Andropov's years at the KGB was the attempt by the Czechoslovak reformers of the Prague Spring to create what the Kremlin saw as an unacceptably unorthodox "socialism with a human face." Like Khrushchev's Secret Speech, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the forces of the Warsaw Pact in August 1968 was an important staging post in what Mitrokhin calls his "intellectual odyssey." Stationed in East Germany during the Prague Spring, Mitrokhin was able to listen to reports from Czechoslovakia on the Russian-language services of the BBC World Service, Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle and the Canadian Broadcasting Company, but had no one with whom he felt able to share his sympathy for the Prague reforms. One episode about a month before Soviet tanks entered Prague left a particular impression on him. An FCD Department V ("special tasks") officer, Colonel Viktor Ryabov, said to Mitrokhin that he was "just off to Sweden for a few days," but made clear by his expression that Sweden was not his real destination. A few days after Ryabov's return, he told Mitrokhin there would be an interesting article in the following day's Pravda, implying that it was connected with his mission. When Mitrokhin read the report the next day that an "imperialist arms dump" had been discovered in Czechoslovakia, he realized at once that it had been planted by Ryabov and other Department V officers to discredit the reformers.
Soon after the crushing of the Prague Spring, Mitrokhin heard a speech given by Andropov in the KGB's East German headquarters at Karlshorst in the Berlin suburbs. Like Shelepin, Andropov spoke directly to the audience, rather than—like most Soviet officials—sticking to a prepared platitudinous text. With an ascetic appearance, silver hair swept back over a large forehead, steel-rimmed glasses and an intellectual manner, Andropov seemed far removed from Stalinist thugs such as Beria and Serov. His explanation for the invasion of Czechoslovakia was far more sophisticated than that given to the Soviet public. It had, he insisted, been the only way to preserve Soviet security and the new European order which had emerged from the Great Patriotic War. That objective political necessity, Andropov claimed, was accepted even by such unorthodox figures as the great physicist Pyotr Kapitza, who had initially shown some sympathy for the Prague revisionists. Mitrokhin drew quite different conclusions from the Warsaw Pact invasion. The destruction of Czechoslovak "socialism with a human face" proved, he believed, that the Soviet system was unreformable. He still vividly recalls a curiously mythological image, which henceforth he saw increasingly in his mind's eye, of the Russian people in thrall to "a three-headed hydra": the Communist Party, the privileged nomenklatura and the KGB.
After his return to Moscow from East Germany, Mitrokhin continued to listen to Western broadcasts, although, because of Soviet jamming, he had frequently to switch wavelengths in order to find an audible station. Often he ended up with only fragments of news stories. Among the news which made the greatest impression on him were items on the Chronicle of Current Events, a samizdat journal first produced by Soviet dissidents in 1968 to circulate news on the struggle against abuses of human rights. The Chronicle carried on its masthead the guarantee of freedom of expression in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, daily abused in the Soviet Union.
As the struggle against "ideological subversion" intensified, Mitrokhin saw numerous examples of the way in which the KGB manipulated, virtually at will, the Soviet justice system. He later copied down the sycophantic congratulations sent to Andropov by A. F. Gorkhin, chairman of the Soviet Supreme Court, on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Cheka in December 1967:
The Soviet Courts and the USSR Committee of State Security [KGB] are of the same age. But this is not the main thing which brings us together; the main thing is the identity of our tasks ...
We are glad to note that the State Security agencies and the Courts solve all their complicated tasks in a spirit of mutual understanding and sound professional relations.
Mitrokhin saw mounting evidence both in the classified in-house journal, KGB Sbornik, and in FCD files of Andropov's personal obsession with the destruction of dissent in all its forms and his insistence that the struggle for human rights was part of a wide-ranging imperialist plot to undermine the foundations of the Soviet state. In 1968 Andropov issued KGB Chairman's Order No. 0051, "On the tasks of State security agencies in combating ideological sabotage by the adversary," calling for greater aggression in the straggle against both dissidents at home and their imperialist supporters. One example of this greater aggression which left Mitrokhin, as an ardent admirer of the Kirov Ballet, with a sense of personal outrage was the plan which he discovered in FCD files to maim the ballet's star defector, Rudolf Nureyev.
By the beginning of the 1970s Mitrokhin's political views were deeply influenced by the dissident struggle, which he was able to follow both in KGB records and Western broadcasts. "I was a loner," he recalls, "but I now knew that I was not alone." Though Mitrokhin never had any thought of aligning himself openly with the human rights movement, the example of the Chronicle of Current Events and other samizdat productions helped to inspire him with the idea of producing a classified variant of the dissidents' attempts to document the iniquities of the Soviet system. Gradually the project began to form in his mind of compiling his own private record of the foreign operations of the KGB.
Mitrokhin's opportunity came in June 1972 when the First Chief (Foreign Intelligence) Directorate left its overcrowded central Moscow offices in the KGB headquarters at the Lubyanka (once the pre-Revolutionary home of the Rossiya Insurance Company) and moved to a new building south-east of Moscow at Yasenevo, half a mile beyond the outer ringroad. Designed by a Finnish architect, the main Y-shaped seven-story office building was flanked on one side by an assembly hall and library, on the other by a polyclinic, sports complex and swimming pool, with pleasant views over hills covered with birch trees, green pastures, and—in summer—fields of wheat and rye. To the other KGB directorates, most of which worked in cramped conditions in central Moscow, Yasenevo was known—with more envy than condescension—as "The Woods."
For the next ten years, working from private offices both in the Lubyanka and at Yasenevo, Mitrokhin was alone responsible for checking and sealing the approximately 300,000 files in the FCD archive prior to their transfer to the new headquarters. While supervising the checking of files, the compilation of inventories and the writing of index cards, Mitrokhin was able to inspect what files he wished in one or other of his offices. Few KGB officers apart from Mitrokhin have ever spent as much time reading, let alone noting, foreign intelligence files. Outside the FCD archives, only the most senior officers shared his unrestricted access, and none had the time to read more than a fraction of the material noted by him.
Mitrokhin's usual weekly routine was to spend each Monday, Tuesday and Friday in his Yasenevo office. On Wednesdays he went to the Lubyanka to work on the FCD's most secret files, those of Directorate S which ran illegals—KGB officers and agents, most of Soviet nationality, working under deep cover abroad disguised as foreign citizens. Once reviewed by Mitrokhin, each batch of files was placed in sealed containers which were transported to Yasenevo on Thursday mornings, accompanied by Mitrokhin who checked them on arrival. Unlike the other departments, who moved to the new FCD headquarters in 1972, Directorate S remained based in the Lubyanka for a further decade.
Mitrokhin thus found himself spending more time dealing with the files of Directorate S, the most secret in the FCD, than with those of any other section of Soviet foreign intelligence. The illegals retained a curious mystique within the KGB. Before being posted abroad, every illegal officer was required to swear a solemn, if somewhat melodramatic, oath:
Deeply valuing the trust placed upon me by the Party and the fatherland, and imbued with a sense of intense gratitude for the decision to send me to the sharp edge of the struggle for the interest of my people ... as a worthy son of the homeland, I would rather perish than betray the secrets entrusted to me or put into the hand of the adversary materials which could cause political harm to the interests of the State. With every heartbeat, with every day that passes, I swear to serve the Party, the homeland, and the Soviet people.
The files showed that before the Second World War the greatest foreign successes had been achieved by a legendary group of intelligence officers, often referred to as the "Great Illegals." After the Second World War, the KGB had tried to recreate its pre-war triumphs by establishing an elaborate network of "illegal residencies" alongside the "legal residencies" which operated under diplomatic or other official cover in foreign capitals.
The records of Directorate S revealed some remarkable individual achievements. KGB illegals successfully established bogus identities as foreign nationals in a great variety of professions ranging from Costa Rican ambassador to piano tuner to the Governor of New York. Even in the Gorbachev era, KGB propaganda continued to depict the Soviet illegal as the supreme embodiment of the chivalric ideal in the service of secret intelligence. The retired British KGB agent George Blake wrote in 1990:
Only a man who believes very strongly in an ideal and serves a great cause will agree to embark on such a career, though the word "calling" is perhaps appropriate here. Only an intelligence service which works for a great cause can ask for such a sacrifice from its officers. That is why, as far as I know, at any rate in peacetime, only the Soviet intelligence service has "illegal residents."
The SVR continues the KGB tradition of illegal hagiography. In July 1995, a month after the death of the best-known American-born illegal, Morris Cohen, President Yeltsin conferred on him the posthumous title of Hero of the Russian Federation.
The files of Directorate S noted by Mitrokhin reveal a quite different kind of illegal. Alongside the committed FCD officers who maintained their cover and professional discipline throughout their postings, there were others who could not cope when confronted by the contrast between the Soviet propaganda image of capitalist exploitation and the reality of life in the West. An even darker secret of the Directorate S records was that one of the principal uses of the illegals during the last quarter of a century of the Soviet Union was to search out and compromise dissidents in the other countries of the Warsaw Pact. The squalid struggle against "ideological subversion" was as much a responsibility of Directorate S as of the rest of the FCD.
MITROKHIN WAS UNDERSTANDABLY cautious as he set out in 1972 to compile his forbidden FCD archive. For a few weeks he tried to commit names, codenames and key facts from the files to memory and transcribe them each evening when he returned home. Abandoning that process as too slow and cumbersome, he began to take notes in minuscule handwriting on scraps of paper which he crumpled up and threw into his wastepaper basket. Each evening, he retrieved his notes from the wastepaper and smuggled them out of Yasenevo concealed in his shoes. Gradually Mitrokhin became more confident as he satisfied himself that the Yasenevo security guards confined themselves to occasional inspections of bags and briefcases without attempting body searches. After a few months he started taking notes on ordinary sheets of office paper which he took out of his office in his jacket and trouser pockets.
Not once in the twelve years which Mitrokhin spent noting the FCD archives was he stopped and searched. There were, however, some desperately anxious moments. From time to time he realized that, like other FCD officers, he was being tailed—probably by teams from the Seventh (Surveillance) or Second Chief (Counterintelligence) Directorates. On one occasion while he was being followed, he visited the Dynamo Football Club sports shop and, to his horror, found himself standing next to two English visitors whom his watchers might suspect were spies with whom he had arranged a rendezvous. If he was searched, his notes on top secret files would be instantly discovered. Mitrokhin quickly moved on to other sports shops, hoping to convince his watchers that he was on a genuine shopping expedition. As he approached his apartment block, however, he noticed two men standing near the door to his ninth-floor flat. By the time he arrived, they had disappeared. FCD officers had standing instructions to report suspicious incidents such as this, but Mitrokhin did not do so for fear of prompting an investigation which would draw attention to the fact that he had been seen standing next to English visitors.
Each night when he returned to his Moscow flat, Mitrokhin hid his notes beneath his mattress. On weekends he took them to a family dacha thirty-six kilometers from Moscow and typed up as many as possible, though the notes became so numerous that Mitrokhin was forced to leave some of them in handwritten form. He hid the first batches of typescripts and notes in a milk-churn which he buried below the floor. The dacha was built on raised foundations, leaving just enough room for Mitrokhin to crawl beneath the floorboards and dig a hole with a short-handled spade. He frequently found himself crawling through dog and cat feces and sometimes disturbed rats while he was digging, but he consoled himself with the thought that burglars were unlikely to follow him. When the milk-churn was full, he began concealing his notes and typescripts in a tin clothes-boiler. Eventually his archive also filled two tin trunks and two aluminum cases, all of them buried beneath the dacha.
Mitrokhin's most anxious moment came when he arrived at his weekend dacha to find a stranger hiding in the attic. He was instantly reminded of the incident a few years earlier, in August 1971, when a friend of the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had called unexpectedly at his dacha while Solzhenitsyn was away and surprised two KGB officers in the attic who were probably searching for subversive manuscripts. Other KGB men had quickly arrived on the scene and Solzhenitsyn's friend had been badly beaten. Andropov cynically ordered Solzhenitsyn to be "informed that the participation of the KGB in this incident is a figment of his imagination." The incident was still fresh in Mitrokhin's mind when he arrived at the dacha because he had recently noted files which recorded minutely detailed plans for the persecution of Solzhenitsyn and the "active measures" by which the KGB hoped to discredit him in the Western press. To his immense relief, however, the intruder in the attic turned out to be a homeless squatter.
During summer holidays Mitrokhin worked on batches of his notes at a second family dacha near Penza, carrying them in an old haversack and dressing in peasant clothes in order not to attract attention. In the summer of 1918 Penza, 630 kilometers southeast of Moscow, had been the site of one of the first peasant risings against Bolshevik rule. Lenin blamed the revolt on the kulaks (better-off peasants) and furiously instructed the local Party leaders to hang in public at least one hundred of them so that "for hundreds of kilometers around the people may see and tremble ..." By the 1970s, however, Penza's counter-revolutionary past was long forgotten, and Lenin's bloodthirsty orders for mass executions were kept from public view in the secret section of the Lenin archive.
One of the most striking characteristics of the best literature produced under the Soviet regime is how much of it was written in secret. "To plunge underground," wrote Solzhenitsyn, "to make it your concern not to win the world's recognition— Heaven forbid!—but on the contrary to shun it: this variant of the writer's lot is peculiarly our own, purely Russian, Russian and Soviet!" Between the wars Mikhail Bulgakov had spent twelve years writing The Master and Margarita, one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, knowing that it could not be published in his lifetime and fearing that it might never appear at all. His widow later recalled how, just before his death in 1940, Bulgakov "made me get out of bed and then, leaning on my arm, he walked through all the rooms, barefoot and in his dressing gown, to make sure that the manuscript of The Master was still there" in its hiding place. Though Bulgakov's great work survived, it was not published until a quarter of a century after his death. As late as 1978, it was denounced in a KGB memorandum to Andropov as "a dangerous weapon in the hands of [Western] ideological centers engaged in ideological sabotage against the Soviet Union."
When Solzhenitsyn began writing in the 1950s, he told himself he had "entered into the inheritance of every modern writer intent on the truth":
I must write simply to ensure that it was not forgotten, that posterity might some day come to know of it. Publication in my own lifetime I must shut out of my mind, out of my dreams.
Just as Mitrokhin's first notes were hidden in a milk-churn beneath his dacha, so Solzhenitsyn's earliest writings, in minuscule handwriting, were squeezed into an empty champagne bottle and buried in his garden. After the brief thaw in the early years of "de-Stalinization" which made possible the publication of Solzhenitsyn's story of life in the gulag, One Day in the Lift of Ivan Denisovich, he waged a time-consuming struggle to try to prevent the KGB from seizing his other manuscripts until he was finally forced into exile in 1974. It did not occur to Mitrokhin to compare himself with such literary giants as Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn. But, like them, he began assembling his archive "to ensure that the truth was not forgotten, that posterity might some day come to know of it."
THE KGB FILES which had the greatest emotional impact on Mitrokhin were those on the war in Afghanistan. On December 28, 1979 Babrak Karmal, the new Afghan leader chosen by Moscow to request "fraternal assistance" by the Red Army which had already invaded his country, announced over Kabul Radio that his predecessor, Hafizullah Amin, an "agent of American imperialism," had been tried by a "revolutionary tribunal" and sentenced to death. Mitrokhin quickly discovered from the files on the war which flooded into the archives that Amin had in reality been assassinated, together with his family and entourage, in an assault on the Kabul presidential palace by KGB special forces disguised in Afghan uniforms.
The female clerks who filed KGB reports on the war in the archives after they had been circulated to the Politburo and other sections of the Soviet hierarchy had so much material to deal with that they sometimes submitted to Mitrokhin thirty files at a time for his approval. The horrors recorded in the files were carefully concealed from the Soviet people. The Soviet media preserved a conspiracy of silence about the systematic destruction of thousands of Afghan villages, reduced to forlorn groups of uninhabited, roofless mud-brick houses; the flight of four million refugees; and the death of a million Afghans in a war which Gorbachev later described as a "mistake." The coffins of the 15,000 Red Army troops killed in the conflict were unloaded silently at Soviet airfields, with none of the military pomp and solemn music which traditionally awaited fallen heroes returning to the Motherland. Funerals were held in secret, and families told simply that their loved ones had died "fulfilling their internationalist duty." Some were buried in plots near the graves of Mitrokhin's parents in the cemetery at Kuzminsky Monastery. No reference to Afghanistan was allowed on their tombstones. During the Afghan War Mitrokhin heard the first open criticism of Soviet policy by his more outspoken colleagues at Yasenevo. "Doesn't the war make you ashamed to be Russian?" an FCD colonel asked him one day. "Ashamed to be Soviet, you mean!" Mitrokhin blurted out.
When Mitrokhin retired in 1984, he was still preoccupied with the Afghan War. He spent the first year and a half of his retirement sorting through his notes, extracting the material on Afghanistan, and assembling it in a large volume with a linking narrative. Despite Gorbachev's call for glasnost after he became Party leader in 1985, Mitrokhin did not believe the Soviet system would ever allow the truth about the war to be told. Increasingly, however, he began to think of ways of transporting his archive to the West and publishing it there.
One novel method suggested itself on May 28, 1987, when a single-engine Cessna piloted by a nineteen-year-old West German, Matthias Rust, crossed the Finnish border into Soviet airspace and flew undetected for 450 miles before landing in Red Square. After an hour of confusion, during which Kremlin security guards wondered whether Rust was an actor in a film, he was taken away to the KGB's Lefortovo Prison. Mitrokhin briefly considered but quickly abandoned the idea of using a microlite from a KGB sports club to fly with his archive in the opposite direction to Finland.
The most practical of the various schemes considered by Mitrokhin before the collapse of the Soviet Union was to get a position on the local Party committee which issued permits for foreign travel, obtain permits for himself and his family, then book reservations on a cruise from Leningrad to Odessa in the Black Sea. At one of the cruise's West European ports of call, Mitrokhin would make contact with the authorities and arrange to leave his archive in a dead letter-box near Moscow for collection by a Western intelligence agency. He eventually abandoned the idea because of the difficulty of separating himself from the Soviet tour group and the ever-watchful group leaders for long enough to tell his story and arrange the hand-over.
As the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989 and the Soviet Bloc began to disintegrate, Mitrokhin told himself to be patient and wait for his opportunity. In the meantime he carried on typing up his handwritten notes in his Moscow flat and at the two family dachas, assembling some of them in volumes covering the FCD's chief target countries—first and foremost the United States, known in KGB jargon as the "Main Adversary." He shared the relief of most Muscovites at the failure of the hardline coup in August 1991 to depose Gorbachev and reestablish the one-party Soviet state. It came as no surprise to Mitrokhin that the chief ringleader in the failed coup was Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kryuchkov, head of the FCD from 1974 to 1988 and chairman of the KGB from 1988 until the coup.
Though Kryuchkov proved better at public relations than most previous KGB chairmen, he had long represented much of what Mitrokhin most detested in the FCD. As a young diplomat at the Soviet embassy in Budapest, Kryuchkov had caught the eye of the ambassador, Yuri Andropov, by his uncompromising opposition to the "counter-revolutionary" Hungarian Uprising of 1956. When Andropov became KGB chairman in 1967, Kryuchkov became head of his personal secretariat and a loyal supporter of his obsessive campaign against "ideological subversion" in all its forms. The files seen by Mitrokhin showed that, as head of the FCD, Kryuchkov collaborated closely with the KGB Fifth (Ideological Subversion) Directorate in the war against dissidents at home and abroad. He had made a senior member of the Fifth Directorate, I. A. Markelov, one of the deputy heads of the FCD with responsibility for coordinating the struggle against ideological subversion. The failed coup of August 1991 marked an appropriately discreditable end to Kryuchkov's KGB career. Instead of shoring up the Soviet Union and the one-party state, it served only to hasten their collapse.
On October 11, 1991, the State Council of the disintegrating Soviet Union abolished the KGB in its existing form. The former FCD was reconstituted as the SVR, the foreign intelligence service of the Russian Federation, independent of the internal security service. Instead of repudiating its Soviet past, however, the SVR saw itself as the heir of the old FCD. Mitrokhin had seen the FCD file on the SVR's newly appointed head, Academician Yevgeni Maksimovich Primakov, previously Director of the Institute of World Economics and International Relations and one of Gorbachev's leading foreign policy advisers. The file identified Primakov as a KGB co-optee, codenamed MAKSIM, who had been sent on frequent intelligence missions to the United States and the Middle East. Primakov went on to become Boris Yeltsin's Foreign Minister in 1996 and Prime Minister in 1998.
IN THE FINAL months of 1991, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the relative weakness of frontier controls at the new borders of the Russian Federation at last opened the way to the West for Mitrokhin and his archive. In March 1992 he boarded an overnight train in Moscow bound for the capital of one of the newly independent Baltic republics. With him he took a case on wheels, containing bread, sausages and drink for his journey on top, clothes underneath, and—at the bottom—samples of his notes. The next day he arrived unannounced at the British embassy in the Baltic capital and asked to speak to "someone in authority." Hitherto Mitrokhin had had an image of the British as rather formal and "a bit of a mystery." But the young female diplomat who received him at the embassy struck him as "young, attractive and sympathetic," as well as fluent in Russian. Mitrokhin told her he had brought with him important material from KGB files. While he rummaged at the bottom of his bag to extract his notes from beneath the sausages and clothes, the diplomat ordered tea. As Mitrokhin drank his first cup of English tea, she read some of his notes, then questioned him about them. Mitrokhin told her they were only part of a large personal archive which included material on KGB operations in Britain. He agreed to return to the embassy a month later to meet representatives from the Secret Intelligence Service.
Emboldened by the ease with which he had crossed the Russian frontier in March, Mitrokhin brought with him on his next trip to the Baltic capital 2,000 typed pages which he had removed from the hiding place beneath his dacha near Moscow. Arriving at the British embassy on the morning of April 9, he identified himself to the SIS officers by producing his passport, Communist Party card and KGB pension certificate, handed over his bulky typescript and spent a day answering questions about himself, his archive and how he had compiled it. Mitrokhin accepted an invitation to return to the embassy about two months later to discuss arrangements for a visit to Britain. Early in May the SIS Moscow station reported to London that Mitrokhin planned to leave Moscow on an overnight train on June 10. On June 11 he arrived in the Baltic capital carrying a rucksack containing more material from his archive. Most of his meeting with SIS officers was spent discussing plans for him to be debriefed in Britain during the following autumn.
On September 7, escorted by SIS, Mitrokhin arrived in England for the first time. After the near chaos of post-Communist Moscow, London made an extraordinary impression on him—"the model of what a capital city should be." At the time, even the heavy traffic, dotted with the black cabs and red doubledecker buses he had seen only in photographs, seemed but proof of the capital's prosperity. While being debriefed at anonymous safe houses in London and the countryside, Mitrokhin took the final decision to leave Russia for Britain, and agreed with SIS on arrangements to exfiltrate himself, his family and his archive. On October 13 he was infiltrated back into Russia to make final arrangements for his departure.
On November 7, 1992, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Mitrokhin arrived with his family in the Baltic capital where he had first made contact with SIS. A few days later they arrived in London to begin a new life in Britain. It was a bittersweet moment. Mitrokhin was safe and secure for the first time since he had begun assembling his secret archive eighteen years previously, but at the same time he felt a sense of bereavement at separation from a homeland he knew he would probably never see again. The bereavement has passed, though his attachment to Russia remains. Mitrokhin is now a British citizen. Using his senior citizen's railcard to travel the length and breadth of the country, he has seen more of Britain than most who were born here. Since 1992 he has spent several days a week working on his archive, typing up the remaining handwritten notes, and responding to questions about his archive from intelligence services from five continents. Late in 1995 he had his first meeting with Christopher Andrew to discuss the preparation of this book. Though The Sword and the Shield could not have been written in Russia, Mitrokhin remains as convinced as he was in 1972 that the secret history of the KGB is a central part of the Soviet past which the Russian people have the right to know. He also believes that the KGB's worldwide foreign operations form an essential, though often neglected, part of the history of twentieth-century international relations.
NO WORD LEAKED out in the British media about either Mitrokhin or his archive. Because material from the archive was passed to so many other intelligence and security services, however, there were, unsurprisingly, some partial leaks abroad. The first, slightly garbled reference to Mitrokhin's archive occurred in the United States nine months after his defection. In August 1993 the well-known Washington investigative journalist Ronald Kessler published a bestselling book on the FBI based in part on sources inside the Bureau. Among his revelations was a brief reference to a sensational "probe by the FBI into information from a former KGB employee who had had access to KGB files":
According to his account, the KGB had had many hundreds of Americans and possibly more than a thousand spying for them in recent years. So specific was the information that the FBI was quickly able to establish the source's credibility ... By the summer of 1993, the FBI had mobilized agents in most major cities to pursue the cases. A top secret meeting was called at Quantico [the FBI National Academy] to plot strategy.
Kessler did not name any of the "many hundreds of Americans" identified by the defector. An unnamed "US intelligence official" interviewed by the Washington Post "confirmed that the FBI had received specific information that has led to a `significant' ongoing investigation into past KGB activities in the United States," but declined to be drawn in on "how many people are implicated." Time reported that "sources familiar with the case" of the KGB defector had identified him as a former employee of the First Chief Directorate, but had described Kessler's figures for the number of "recent" Soviet spies in the United States as "highly exaggerated."
Mitrokhin's notes do indeed contain the names of "many hundreds" of KGB officers, agents and contacts in the United States active at various periods since the 1920s. Kessler, however, wrongly suggested that this number applied to "recent years" rather than to the whole history of Soviet espionage in the United States. Though his figures were publicly disputed, the suggestion that the KGB defector had gone to the United States rather than to Britain went unchallenged. When no further information on the unidentified defector was forthcoming, media interest in the story quickly died away.
There was no further leak from Mitrokhin's archive for over three years. In October 1996, however, reports in the French press alleged that Charles Hernu, Defence Minister from 1981 to 1985, had worked for Soviet Bloc intelligence services from 1953 until at least 1963, and that, when informed by the French security service, the DST, President François Mitterrand had hushed the scandal up. Le Monde reported that from 1993 onwards British intelligence had passed on to the DST "a list of about 300 names of diplomats and officials of the Quai d'Orsay alleged to have worked for Soviet Bloc intelligence." In reality, French diplomats and Foreign Ministry officials made up only a minority of the names in Mitrokhin's notes supplied by the SIS to the DST. Charles Hernu was not among them. None of the media reports on either side of the Channel related the SIS lists of Soviet agents in France to Kessler's earlier story of a defector with extensive access to KGB files.
In December 1996 the German weekly Focus reported that, according to "reliable sources," SIS had also provided the BfV, the German security service, with the names of several hundred German politicians, businessmen, lawyers and police officers who had been involved with the KGB. On this occasion the SIS source was identified as a Russian defector who had had extensive access to the KGB archives. A later article in Focus reported:
The Federal Prosecutor has been examining numerous detailed new leads to a hitherto undiscovered agent network of the former Soviet secret service, the KGB, in Germany. The researchers in Karlsruhe are primarily concentrating on Moscow sources who were taken on by the successors to the KGB and have probably been reactivated since the end of the Cold War.
The basis for the research is extensive information on agents which a Russian defector smuggled into London from the Moscow secret service. After intensive analysis, the British secret service passed all information on KGB connections in Germany to the BfV in Cologne in early 1996.
In July 1997 another leak from Mitrokhin's archive occurred in Austria. Press reports quoted a KGB document giving directions for locating a secret arms dump of mines, explosives and detonators, codenamed GROT, hidden in a dead letter-box near Salzburg in 1963, which had been intended for use in sabotage operations:
Leave the town of Salzburg by the Schallmoser Haupstrasse leading to Highway No. 158. At a distance of 8 km from the town limit, in the direction of Bad Ischl-Graz, there is a large stone bridge across a narrow valley. Before reaching this bridge, leave the federal highway by turning right on to a local road which follows the valley in the direction of Ebenau; then go on 200 meters to the end of the metal parapet, which stands on the left-hand side of the road. On reaching the end of the parapet, turn left at once and follow a village road leading in the opposite direction. The DLB is located about 50 meters (60 paces) from the turn-off point leading from the main road on to the village road ...
Though the Austrian press did not mention it, the document came from Mitrokhin's archive, which also revealed that in 1964 road repair works had covered the entrance to the DLB, raised the ground level, and changed the layout of the surrounding area. The KGB had decided not to try to recover and relocate the GROT arms dump. Attempts by the Austrian authorities to find the dump in 1997 also failed. Mitrokhin's notes reveal that similar KGB arms and radio caches, some of them booby-trapped, are scattered around much of Europe and North America.
The press leak which came closest to revealing the existence of Mitrokhin's archive was a further article in the German weekly Focus, in June 1998. Focus reported that a colonel in the FCD registry with access to "all the files on Moscow's agents" had smuggled handwritten copies of them out of KGB headquarters to his dacha near Moscow. In 1992 he had defected to Britain and, according to Focus, SIS agents had brought the "explosive" notes hidden in the dacha back to London. Four years later, in an operation codenamed WEEKEND, SIS had allegedly briefed the BfV on the German material in the archive. According to Focus, "The defector has presented the BfV with hundreds of leads to Moscow's spy network in the Federal Republic of Germany." A "high-ranking BfV official" was said to have commented, "We were quite shocked at how much [the defector] knew. Moscow clearly possesses tons of blackmail material." The BfV was reported to have received new leads on fifty espionage cases and to have begun twelve new investigations.
The Focus article, however, inspired widespread skepticism—partly because the story of a top secret KGB archive exfiltrated from a Russian dacha seemed inherently improbable, partly because the only detailed example given by Focus of the intelligence it contained was the sensational allegation that the former Chancellor, Willy Brandt, "the icon of Germany's Social Democrats," had been a Soviet spy during the Second World War. The Brandt story was instantly dismissed as "completely absurd" by Yuri Kobaladze, head of the SVR press bureau. When asked why in this instance the SVR was abandoning its usual practice of not commenting on individuals alleged to be Russian spies, Kobaladze replied:
It would naturally be very flattering to have such a high-ranking politician on our list of credits, but in the interests of preserving historical truth we felt it necessary to reject this fiction, which could be misused for political purposes.
Kobaladze also dismissed the story of the secret archive in a KGB colonel's dacha as a myth. The source of the Brandt story, he insisted, could only be a former KGB major in the Oslo residency, Mikhail Butkov, who had defected to Britain in 1991.
Though wrong about the secret archive, Kobaladze was right to reject the allegation that Brandt had been a Soviet spy. Mitrokhin's notes reveal that the KGB archives do indeed contain a file on Brandt (codenamed POLYARNIK), which shows that while in Stockholm during the Second World War he passed on information to the NKVD residency. But, as the file makes clear, Brandt was also in touch with British and American intelligence officers—as well as with the Norwegian former secretary of Leon Trotsky, regarded by the NKVD as the greatest traitor in Soviet history. Brandt's overriding motive was to provide any information to all three members of the wartime Grand Alliance which might hasten the defeat of Adolf Hitler. In the case of the Soviet Union, he calculated—accurately—that his best channel of communication with Moscow was via the Stockholm residency. The real embarrassment in the POLYARNIK file concerns the role not of Brandt but of the KGB. In 1962, almost certainly with Khrushchev's personal approval, the KGB embarked on an operation to blackmail Brandt by threatening to use the evidence of his wartime dealings with the Stockholm residency to "cause unpleasantness" unless he agreed to cooperate. The attempted blackmail failed.
LIKE THE BfV and Austrian counter intelligence, a number of other security services and intelligence agencies around the world from Scandinavia to Japan have been pursuing leads from Mitrokhin's archive for several years—usually unnoticed by the media. Most of the leads have been used for counterintelligence purposes—to help resolve unsolved cases and neutralize SVR operations begun in the KGB era—rather than to mount prosecutions. There have, however, been a number of convictions which derive from Mitrokhin's evidence.
On one occasion, Mitrokhin himself was almost called to give evidence in court. The case concerned Robert Lipka, an army clerk assigned in the mid-1960s to the National Security Agency (NSA, the US SIGINT service), whom Mitrokhin had identified as a KGB agent. In May 1993 FBI agent Dmitri Droujinsky contacted Lipka, posing as "Sergei Nikitin," a GRU officer based in Washington. Lipka complained that he was still owed money for his espionage over a quarter of a century earlier, and was given a total of $10,000 by "Nikitin" over the next few months. He appeared confident that he could no longer be prosecuted. "The statute of limitations," he told "Nikitin," "has run out." "Nikitin" corrected him: "In American law the statute of limitations for espionage never runs out." Lipka replied that, whatever the legal position, he "would never admit to anything." After a lengthy FBI investigation, Lipka was arrested in February 1996 at his home in Millersville, Pennsylvania, and charged with handing classified documents to the Soviet Union.
Since Lipka denied all charges against him, Mitrokhin expected to give evidence at his trial in the U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, in May 1997. But, in what the Philadelphia Inquirer termed "a surprising turnaround" in the courtroom, Lipka "exploded into tears as he confessed that he had handed over classified information to KGB agents." Lipka had been persuaded by his lawyer, Ronald F. Kidd, to accept a prosecution offer of a plea bargain which would limit his sentence to eighteen years' imprisonment with time off for good behavior, rather than continue to plead not guilty and face the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail. Though Mitrokhin's name was never mentioned in court, it was the evidence he had obtained from KGB files which seems to have prompted Lipka's change of heart. "We saw how significant the evidence was," his lawyer told reporters. "But the government also realized they couldn't go through a full trial and not have the mystery witness exposed." The "mystery witness" was Mitrokhin. After Lipka's confession, U.S. Assistant Attorney Barbara J. Cohan admitted, "We had a very sensitive witness who, if he had had to testify, would have had to testify behind a screen and under an assumed name, and now we don't have to surface him at all." "I feel like Rip Van Spy," said Lipka when he was sentenced in September 1997. "I thought I had put this to bed many years ago and I never dreamed it would turn out like this." As well as being sentenced to eighteen years' imprisonment and fined 10,000 dollars, Lipka was ordered to repay the further 10,000 dollars from FBI funds given him by "Nikitin."
There are many other "Rip Van Spies" whose memories of Cold War espionage are likely to be reawakened by Mitrokhin's archive. Some will recognize themselves in the pages which follow. About a dozen important cases which are still being actively pursued—including several in leading NATO countries—cannot be referred to for legal reasons until they come to court. Only a small minority of the Soviet agents whose codenames appear in this volume, however, are likely to be prosecuted. But, as the SVR embarks on the biggest and most complex damage assessment in Russian intelligence history, it has to face the unsettling possibility that some of the spies identified by Mitrokhin have since been turned into double agents.
After each of the revelations from Mitrokhin's archive mentioned above, the SVR undoubtedly conducted the usual damage assessment exercise in an attempt to determine the source and seriousness of the leak. Its official statement in 1996 (effectively reaffirmed as recently as June 1998), which dismissed as "absolute nonsense" the suggestion that the names of several hundred Soviet agents could possibly have been given by a defector to any Western intelligence agency, demonstrates that the conclusions of these exercises were very wide of the mark. Not until the publication of this book was announced in 1999 did the SVR seem to begin to grasp the massive hemorrhage of intelligence which had occurred.
SOME OF THE files noted by Mitrokhin give a vivid indication of the ferocity with which the Centre (KGB headquarters) has traditionally responded to intelligence leaks about its past foreign operations. The publication in 1974 of John Barron's KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, based on information from Soviet defectors and Western intelligence agencies, generated no fewer than 370 KGB damage assessments and other reports. The resident in Washington, Mikhail Korneyevich Polonik (codenamed ARDOV), was instructed to obtain all available information on Barron, then a senior editor at Reader's Digest, and to suggest ways "to compromise him." Most of the "active measures" used by the KGB in its attempts to discredit Barton made much of his Jewish origins, but its fabricated claims that he was part of a Zionist conspiracy (a favorite theme in Soviet disinformation) appear to have had little resonance outside the Middle East.
The active measures employed against some of the journalists who wrote articles based on Barron's book were more imaginative. Doctored versions of blank "information cards" from the Austrian Stapo (security police) registry previously obtained by KGB agents were used to compromise Austrian journalists judged to have used material from KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents to undermine the "peace-loving" policies of the USSR. Fabricated entries on the cards prepared by Service A, the FCD active measures specialists, purported to show that the Stapo believed the journalists concerned to be hand-in-glove with the CIA. Photocopies of the cards were then circulated among the Austrian media. The files noted by Mitrokhin list other KGB countermeasures against Barron's book in countries as far afield as Turkey, Cyprus, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Somalia, Uganda, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
The other study of the KGB which did the most to arouse the ire of the Centre was the history published in 1990 by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev, which drew on KGB documents and other information obtained by Gordievsky while working as a British agent inside the KGB from 1974 to 1985. The Centre predictably responded with active measures against both the book and its authors. (Some indication of its continuing hostility to Gordievsky is provided by the fact that, at the time of this writing, he is still under sentence of death in Moscow.) There was, however, one important new element in the reaction of the KGB, and of its chairman Kryuchkov in particular, to the publication of the history by Andrew and Gordievsky. In a top secret "Chairman's Order" of September 1990 emphasizing the importance of influence operations and other active measures ("one of the most important functions of the KGB's foreign intelligence service"), Kryuchkov instructed that "wider use should be made of archive material" to publicize a "positive" image of the KGB and "its more celebrated cases."
The first approach to a Western writer offering material from KGB archives intended to create this "positive" image was to the mercurial John Costello, a freelance British historian who combined flair for research with a penchant for conspiracy theory. In 1991 Costello published a book on the mysterious flight to Britain fifty years previously of Hitler's deputy Führer, Rudolf Hess, which drew on KGB records selected by the SVR as well as Western sources, and argued (implausibly, in the view of most experts on the period) that the key to the whole affair was a plot by British intelligence. Two years later, in collaboration with the SVR consultant (and former FCD officer) Oleg Tsarev, Costello published a somewhat less controversial biography of the inter-war Soviet intelligence officer Aleksandr Orlov which was described on the dustjacket as "The first book from the KGB archives—the KGB secrets the British government doesn't want you to read." The book began with tributes to the disgraced former chairman of the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov, and the last head of the FCD, Leonid Vladimirovich Shebarshin, for initiating the project. Costello added a note of "personal gratitude" to the SVR "for the ongoing support that they have given to this project which has established a new precedent for openness and objectivity in the study of intelligence history, not only in Russia, but the rest of the world."
The Costello-Tsarev combination set the pattern for other collaborations between Russian authors selected or approved by the SVR and Western writers (who have included both well-known historians and a senior retired CIA officer): a project initially sponsored, but later abandoned, by Crown Books in the United States. For each volume in the series, which covers topics from the inter-war period to the early Cold War, the SVR has given the authors exclusive access to copies of previously top secret documents selected by it from KGB archives. All the books published so far have contained interesting and sometimes important new material; several are also impressive for the quality of their historical analysis. Their main weakness, for which the authors cannot be blamed, is that the choice of KGB documents on which they are based has been made not by them but by the SVR.
The choice is sometimes highly selective. During the 1990s, for example, the SVR has made available to Russian and Western authors four successive tranches from the bulky file of the KGB's most famous British agent, Kim Philby. In order to preserve both Philby's heroic image and the reputation of Russian foreign intelligence, however, the SVR has been careful not to release the record of Philby's final weeks as head of the SIS station in the United States (the climax of his career as a Soviet spy), when money and instructions intended for Philby were mislaid, and he fell out with his incompetent controller who was subsequently recalled to Moscow in disgrace. Mitrokhin's notes on those parts of the Philby file still considered by the SVR unsuitable for public consumption reveal this farcical episode for the first time.
The SVR has publicly denied even the existence of some of the files which it finds embarrassing. While writing a history of KGB-CIA rivalry in Berlin before the construction of the Wall, based partly on documents selected by the SVR, the Russian and American authors (one of them a former deputy head of the FCD) asked to see the file of the KGB agent Aleksandr Grigoryevich Kopatzky (alias Igor Orlov). The SVR replied that it had no record of any agent of that name. Its only record of "Igor Orlov" was, it claimed, of a visit made by him to the Soviet embassy in Washington in 1965, when he complained of FBI harassment and enquired about asylum in the USSR. Though still officially an unperson in the SVR version of Russian intelligence history, Kopatzky was in reality one of the KGB's most highly rated agents. His supposedly non-existent KGB file, noted by Mitrokhin, reveals that he had no fewer than twenty-three controllers.
As well as initiating an unprecedented series of collaborative histories for publication in the West, the SVR has produced a number of less sophisticated works for the Russian market. In 1995, to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Soviet foreign intelligence service, of which it sees itself as the heir, the SVR published a volume on the careers of seventy-five intelligence officers—all, it appears, sans peur et sans reproche—which differs little from the uncritical hagiographies of the KGB era. In 1995 the SVR also began the publication of a multi-volume official history of KGB foreign operations which by 1997 had reached the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. Though a mine of mostly reliable factual information, it too presents a selective and sanitized view of Soviet intelligence history. It also preserves, in a mercifully diluted form, some of the traditional conspiracy theories of the KGB. The literary editor of the official history, Lolly Zamoysky, was formerly a senior FCD analyst, well known within the Centre and foreign residencies for his belief in a global Masonic-Zionist plot. In 1989 he published a volume grandly entitled Behind the Façade of the Masonic Temple, which blamed the Freemasons for, inter alia, the outbreak of the Cold War.
The underlying rationale for the SVR's selection of topics and documents for histories of past operations is to present Soviet foreign intelligence as a dedicated and highly professional service, performing much the same functions as its Western counterparts but, more often than not, winning the contest against them. Even under Stalin, foreign intelligence is presented as the victim rather than the perpetrator of the Terror—despite the fact that during the later 1930s hunting down "enemies of the people" abroad became its main priority. Similarly, the SVR seeks to distance the foreign intelligence operations of the FCD during the Cold War from the abuse of human rights by the domestic KGB. In reality, however, the struggle against "ideological subversion" both at home and abroad was carefully coordinated. The KGB took a central role in the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968, the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the pressure on the Polish regime to destroy Solidarity in 1981. Closely linked to the persecution of dissidents within the Soviet Union were the FCD's PROGRESS operations against dissidents in the rest of the Soviet Bloc and its constant harassment of those who had taken refuge in the West. By the mid-1970s the FCD's war against ideological subversion extended even to operations against Western Communist leaders who were judged to have deviated from Moscow's rigid Party line.
On these and many other operations, Mitrokhin's archive contains much material from KGB files which the SVR is still anxious to keep from public view. Unlike the documents selected for declassification by the SVR, none of which are more recent than the early 1960s, his archive covers almost the whole of the Cold War. Most of it is still highly classified in Moscow. The originals of some of the most important documents noted or transcribed by Mitrokhin may no longer exist. In 1989 most of the huge multi-volume file on the dissident Andrei Sakharov, earlier branded "Public Enemy Number One" by Andropov, was destroyed. Soon afterwards, Kryuchkov announced that all files on other dissidents charged under the infamous Article 70 of the criminal code (anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda) were being shredded. In a number of cases, Mitrokhin's notes on them may now be all that survives.
Vasili Mitrokhin has thus made it possible to extend what John Costello praised in 1993 as the "new precedent for openness and objectivity in the study of intelligence history" set by Kryuchkov and his SVR successors far beyond the limits any of them could have envisaged.
|Abbreviations and Acronyms|
|The Evolution of the KGB, 1917-1991|
|The Transliteration of Russian Names|
|1||The Mitrokhin Archive||1|
|2||From Lenin's Cheka to Stalin's OGPU||23|
|3||The Great Illegals||42|
|4||The Magnificent Five||56|
|7||The Grand Alliance||104|
|9||From War to Cold War||137|
|10||The Main Adversary - Part 1: North American Illegals in the 1950's||162|
|11||The Main Adversary - Part 2: Walk-ins and Legal Residencies in the Early Cold War||176|
|12||The Main Adversary - Part 3: Illegals after "Abel"||190|
|13||The Main Adversary - Part 4: Walk-ins and Legal Residencies in the Later Cold War||203|
|14||Political Warfare: Active Measures and the Main Adversary||224|
|15||PROGRESS Operations - Part 1: Crushing the Prague Spring||247|
|16||PROGRESS Operations - Part 2: Spying on the Soviet Bloc||262|
|17||The KGB and Western Communist Parties||276|
|19||Ideological Subversion - Part 1: The War Against the Dissidents||307|
|20||Ideological Subversion - Part 2: The Victory of the Dissidents||322|
|21||SIGINT in the Cold War||337|
|22||Special Tasks - Part 1: From Marshal Tito to Rudolf Nureyev||356|
|23||Special Tasks - Part 2: The Andropov Era and Beyond||374|
|24||Cold War Operations Against Britain - Part 1: After the "Magnificent Five"||397|
|25||Cold War Operations Against Britain - Part 2: After Operation FOOT||417|
|26||The Federal Republic of Germany||437|
|27||France and Italy during the Cold War: Agent Penetration and Active Measures||460|
|28||The Penetration and Persecution of the Soviet Churches||486|
|29||The Polish Pope and the Rise of Solidarity||508|
|30||The Polish Crisis and the Crumbling of the Soviet Bloc||517|
|31||Conclusion: From the One-Party State to the Yeltsin Presidency||544|
|App. A||KGB Chairmen, 1917-26||566|
|App. B||Heads of Foreign Intelligence, 1920-99||567|
|App. C||The Organization of the KGB||568|
|App. D||The Organization of the KGB First Chief Directorate||569|
|App. E||The Organization of a KGB Residency||570|
Posted May 7, 2001
Anyone who is seriously interested in how to conduct government is the most responsible way should read this book. In addition, those who love spy stories, histories, and novels will be rewarded with many new details and perspectives on Soviet and Russian foreign intelligence activities since the Russian Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century. This book surprised me in several ways. First, I did not expect to learn that the KGB did not have a lot of important successes that were not already known publicly. Second, the KGB's effectiveness was more related to Western mistakes than to KGB brilliance. Third, the Soviet perceptions of the United States and Britain seem to have come from Fantasyland. The Soviet state made very poor use of terrific foreign intelligence because its leaders were such poor thinkers and the system did not encourage free discussion. Fourth, helping the dissidents inside the Soviet Union could have helped undo Communism much sooner. What makes this book unique is the combination of having had access to almost all of the foreign intelligence archives of the KGB for 12 years and having those archives interpreted by someone in the KGB who was interested in the need to reform Soviet socialism. By having Christpher Andrew join Vasili Mitrokhin in authoring this book, you do get a Western overlay but the fundamental Russian perspective is still there. I found the 'big picture' aspects of the book far more rewarding than the specific examples. The rise of fascism clearly was Moscow's greatest resource in getting information from the West. The most effective spies (like Kim Philby and the other Magnficent Five in Britain) were as much motivated by anti-fascism as they were by helping the U.S.S.R. Although some are always willing to sell out for money or sex, idealism is the most dangerous motivation for traitors. Interestingly, leaks from the United States about the atomic and hydrogen bombs related again to idealism -- concern about avoiding a world in which those bombs might be used. How might future offensive and defensive technology breakthroughs create similar actions? It's a chilling thought. At the same time, the failure of the Soviet system eventually limited its ability to gain new traitors. The human rights abuses of the Soviets made Communism seem as dangerous to many idealists as fascism had earlier. Stalin doomed the Soviet system as much as its structural flaws did. On the other hand, Lenin was just as committed to controlling through secret police and intelligence gathering as Stalin was. Clearly, the Communist hand at the tiller in Moscow would have slipped much sooner if severe repression and fear had not been used. I also wondered how many of the problems that Western democracies had with the KGB could have been eliminated by having focused on proper security earlier. The shocking lapses of the British foreign service prior to World War II and in the Roosevelt administration clearly allowed a disproportionate share of the Soviet gains through foreign intelligence. It would also be very interesting to read about how Western democracies could have countered these foreign intelligence operation
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Posted July 2, 2013
No text was provided for this review.