Title: KGB: The Inside Story
Author: Christopher Andrew
Andrew, Christopher (1991) and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev. New York: HarperCollins Publishers
- Soviet Union. Komitet gosudarstvennoĭ bezopasnosti–History.
- Intelligence service–Soviet Union–History.
Date Updated: November 9, 2015
An earlier but still important account of the KGB’s foreign intelligence operations by noted British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew, pared this time with former KGB Colonel and Rezident-designate of the KGB Rezidentura in London, Oleg Gordievsky. Unknown to the KGB, Gordievsky had been an MI6 penetration of the KGB for eleven years (1974-1985) before he was betrayed. He was secretly infiltrated by MI6 to the U.K. from Moscow in a daring operation in 1985 (see Oleg Gordievsky, Next Stop Execution). While overtaken to some extent by the two-volume Mitrokhin Archive and relying to some extent on secondary sources, this work nevertheless contains useful additional information and insights.
When this early book on the KGB appeared it shocked the KGB because of its accurate insights into the KGB officers serving around the world. The KGB believed that publication of the book was an operation by U.S. and Western intelligence communities to expose and hinder their operations. They of course subsequently retaliated with publication of an exposé of CIA officers world-wide. While dated, this is still a useful counterintelligence reference to earlier KGB operations and personalities and the Cold War intelligence battle. This is one of several “intelligence textbooks” recommended by Dan Mulvenna, in his “The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf: An annotated bibliography,” compiled by Dan Mulvenna (updated December, 2011).
This book came was considered to be groundbreaking and astonishing as far as new information about Soviet operations goes. However, it is almost completely irrelevant. If one takes a close look at the book and compares it with “The Mitrokhin Files” (Mitrokhin being another KGB officer who defected several years later), it will be noted that much of the information Gordievsky should have known if he really had access to all top Soviet files is missing. This, along with several other contradictory statements, leads us to conclude that the Soviets knew of Gordievsky’s activities and so were using him to feed false and/or irrelevant information to the West.
Information obtained from defectors is dangerous. It may give enormous insight into another country’s aims and capabilities. It can also lead to accepting disinformation as truth which may lead to incredible blunders in foreign policy. In February of 2001 it was finally revealed that an Iranian defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed CURVEBALL, intentionally misled and outright lied about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction. This led to misadventure and embarrassment over invasion Iraq.
What follows is a summary of a talk given on July 11, 2010 by Nigel West on board Queen Mary 2, headed from New York to Southhampton, UK. Disclaimer: Any errors or omissions in the following are totally my own and should not be attributed to Nigel West.
Defectors are individuals who physically switch sides in a conflict and change their allegiance to an adversary. [See West, Nigel (2002). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. Lantham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, p. 81] Defectors are usually self-selected.
Firstly, defectors do not usually have the motivation claimed: the sudden declared interest in democratic values is suspect. Second, agencies to which a person defects typically do not believe the defector’s claims, regardless of the “forensic evidence” the agency may claim about the motivation. Third, really good agents recruit themselves. We will sometimes turn them away
Sometimes we are overwhelmed with defectors. They are the best sources of information, and the only really good Humint comes from defectors. Most realize that going back to Russia, or their home countries, would be a disaster. Still, they may have a hard time selling themselves in the West.
Agencies frequently give serious consideration to giving defectors back, as was the case for the first defector from the USSR in December, 1945 in Ottawa. Igor Gouzenko was a cipher clerk for the Soviets. He knew the Rezident, Pavlov and he had good knowledge of the GRU. He brought with him 109 documents including a diary, telegrams, and the names of 23 Soviet spies.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recognized a gold mine, but didn’t know how to use it. One of the spies named by Gouzenko was set to go to London (code name ERIC). The Brits were interested but couldn’t move. Washington recognized ALECK was a hot case.
First, it appeared that ERIC was a nuclear physicist from Cambridge, and above suspicion. He had worked at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. It turned out it could only be Allan Nunn May. He was put under surveillance in London. An MI5 agent, Klop Ustinov (father of the actor Peter Ustinov) was used to meet May. May was tipped off and didn’t show. By February, however, all 23 spies in Canada were arrested. Most of the 23 were convicted, but all but 2 got got their convictions quashed.
Gouzenko alerted the West to huge Soviet espionage efforts. Up till then, nobody had a clue about what the USSR was doing covertly.
In September, 1945 Konstantin Volkov tried to defect in Istanbul. He revealed that Russia was reading the British signals to London. Even better, he offered what was a bombshell. He was a career NKVD officer and knew all NKVD in Turkey, and in virtually all the world. He said there were 9 Soviet spies in London, 3 in the Foreign Office. One, he said, was filling the role as head of the department of British counterintelligence. It was not clear whether he meant SIS or MI5. Volkov would be expensive to take care of but the information he offered was quite valuable.
The British called in Kim Philby to find who the mole could be. He determined to handle it himself. Bu the time Volkov was to meet Philby, there was no sign of Volkov. Apparently he was kidnapped and taken back to Russia. Philby blamed lax security on the British consulate in Istanbul. It is known that Volkov returned to the Soviet Consulate, from whence he quickly disappeared. The last seen of him was a heavily bandaged figure being hustled aboard a Soviet transport plane bound for Moscow.
Volkov’s revelation haunted MI5 and SIS for years. The hunt went on. In 1947 a GRU defector, and by 1954 the flood gates opened. This provided the information for the first time to really understand soviet Intelligence network. After Stalin died, Beria’s coup attempt failed. Those in NKVD who were close allies of Stalin became worried they would be purged and sought asylum.
Yuri Rastvorov defected to the British but opted to go the U.S. to the CIA. He had learned British intelligence had been penetrated. He provided a wealth of information. Then Nicolai Khokhlov, a hit man for the KGB, and a Ukranian who killed with an ingenious gas gun containing prussic acid defected. Prussic acid left no trace within 15 minutes. Khokhlov could identify people in SMERSH. He had a German girlfriend, very devout, who convinced him to quit.
Another defector, Peter S. Deriabin, described by the Central Intelligence Agency as the highest ranking Soviet intelligence officer to have defected to the West up until 1954, provided huge information. He had been a bodyguard for Stalin. He provided information on decision making in the Kremlin. He was the only defector to become a CIA officer. The so-called Penkovsky Papers were actually the material obtained from Deriabin.
There were two more crucially important defectors in Australia, this being the Petrov case. The Petrovs – Vladimir and Evodokia – came to Australia in February 1951 to work in the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. Vladimir was rezident and Evodokia was a cipher clerk. Vladimir wanted to defect and told everyone. He was concern he was about to be recalled. His dentist was glad to help him out since he was a full-time Australian agent. All Petrov really wanted, he said, was a chicken farm. Of course when he defected all hell broke loose. His wife was taken by Soviet thugs and frog-marched onto a plane bound for Moscow.
An Australian agent arranged for her to get a phone call a Darwin when the plane landed for refueling. She was separated from the thugs in the airport. She was able to talk to her husband. As a result she too defected.
The two of them supplied terrific information. Everyone concerned with the affair seems to have written a book. They were resettled on a chicken farm and never left Australia again.
MI5 interviewed them in Australia in 1954. There was concern about moles in SIS, and also the possibility of fabrication of agents to keep interest up. The Soviet defector in Canada, Igor Gouzenko, had said MI5 knew all the time about moles. MI5 had heard that there was a mole, ELLI, a leading Soviet spy that Sonia aka Ursula Hamburger, Beurton, and Ruth Kuczynski were running in Oxford until 1943. After the British defections it was clear there had been spy penetration. What would Petrov have to say? After the defections in 1951 no one knew where Burgess and Maclean were. Petrov said he knew they were in Moscow. He said they were recruited at university and that there were plenty others.
Suspicion to this point was only on Philby, Burgess, and Maclean, assuming it could never be at the top, only mid-level people of little interest. Now that it was apparent there was much more to be said was truly troubling.
Some comments by Roy Berkeley:
Site 57: 18 Kensington Palace Gardens. When Oleg Penkovsky told his debriefers in the early 1960s that fully 60 per cent of Soviet embassy personnel throughout the world were with the KGB or the GRU, he probably didn’t surprise anyone. This particular embassy had long been under MI5 surveillance—from the upstairs bedroom of the house opposite one of the main gates, from the “choke points” at either end of this elegant street, and from a safe-house in the next street.
MI5’s mobile Watchers worked from cars repainted every three months. Number plates were changed even more frequently from a selection carried in each car. But the Soviets had good counter-surveillance, electronic and otherwise, and even without additional assistance from inside MI5, the Soviets could routinely outwit the Watchers. Some Watchers were so readily identifiable, Peter Wright tells us, that at one time they were systematically approached by KGB officers trying to suborn them—one KGB officer pressed an envelope stuffed with money upon a Watcher in a pub.
One remedy, of course, was to restrict the number of official Soviet personnel in London (Penkovsky had strongly recommended it), and in 1971 MI5 persuaded the government to do just that: 90 KGB and GRU officers were expelled from London and another 25 on leave in the Soviet Union were denied readmission. “The expulsions marked a major turning point in the history of KGB operations in the United Kingdom,” writes Christopher Andrew in KGB: The Inside Story, his first book with former KGB rezident Oleg Gordievsky. “The golden age of KGB operations” here was over. Because of these expulsions and because of the tighter surveillance that resulted, “the KGB found it more difficult to collect high-grade intelligence in London than in almost any other Western capital.” By the 1980s the embassy was running “only a handful of agents and ‘confidential contacts’, none of major importance,” Andrew and Gordievsky write in Instructions from the Center. 
During all these years, however, this embassy was paymaster to CPs throughout Africa and Latin America, according to recent revelations in Moscow by a former London rezident. A steady stream .of “guests” arrived here to collect the used pound notes sent by Moscow Centre via diplomatic bags. (Moscow Centre suffered some “disillusion”, The Sunday Times tells us, upon learning that “an unnamed Communist party from Africa was spending Moscow’s money on lavish entertainment for its leaders”.)
As to what else went on inside the embassy, perhaps MI5 picked it up by electronic means, perhaps not. Peter Wright describes a delicious plan devised by MI5 in the 1950s, using new technology to modify an ordinary object so that it would reflect sound waves; carrying no transmitter or receiver itself, the object was virtually undetectable. Why not modify some valuable object along these lines and give it to the Soviet ambassador? Wright consulted someone who knew the ways of the Soviet diplomatic community and had also been with MI5: Klop Ustinov, father of the actor. Ustinov suggested a bust of Lenin or a model of the Kremlin, something so sacred that the Soviets wouldn’t be tempted to sell it. Lenin was vetoed (“the smooth contours of Vladimir Ilyich’s skull were too rounded to be sure of reflecting sound waves,” Wright tells us) and ultimately the FO abandoned the project, for reasons we do not learn.
If the London embassy “never recovered” from the expulsions of 1971, as Andrew and Gordievsky write, the KGB operation here was truly devastated by Gordievsky’s escape in 1985: “For the first time in Soviet history, a KGB officer already identified as a Western mole had escaped across the Russian border.”
Gordievsky’s saga is better than the best fiction. Son of a stalwart NKVD man, brother of a brave “illegal”, he was raised among the privileged elite. He joined the KGB during the hopeful Khrushchev years but turned against the system after Moscow crushed the Prague Spring. By 1974 he was co-operating regularly with MI6 (in Copenhagen, then Moscow, then London), meeting sometimes twice a week with his case-officer until Moscow abruptly recalled him in 1985. Drugged, he somehow survived a hostile interrogation. Then, under constant surveillance, he managed to contact SIS twice in Moscow, elude his keepers again (while jogging), take a train to Leningrad, and evade KGB dogs and cars at the border. He had help. One can only imagine the details.
How was he discovered? Perhaps, thought Gordievsky, he erred in alerting the SIS to Bettaney (see Site 53 42 Holland Park); perhaps, with time on his hands in prison, Bettaney had deduced the truth about who had put him there. Gordievsky is confident that “nothing leaked to Moscow” from MI5, MI6, or-the FO. By 1994 he had a more likely prospect: the CIA’s Aldrich Ames, for many years a Soviet agent.
After the abortive coup of 1991, the new head of the KGB finally allowed Gordievsky’s wife and daughters to leave Russia and join him in England. Little outcry had come from human-rights campaigners during the family’s six-year separation, writes Lord Bethell in a poignant column. “After all, he is a traitor,” Bethell was often told by British friends. Even in the early 1990s, with all that was known by then about the Soviet Union, some people still couldn’t bring themselves to oppose it.
Some comments by Roy Berkeley:
Continuing round to the Strand again, take Lancaster Place on to Waterloo Bridge. Ahead of you on the far shore you’ll see the Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre; on your left, just where the bridge comes down over the South Bank, is Site 97: the bus stop, Waterloo Bridge. On the evening September, 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian intellectual who taken refuge in the West in 1969, was waiting for a bus here when a stranger jabbed him in the right thigh with an ordinary-looking umbrella and disappeared into a passing taxi. At 2 am Markov’s body temperature was 104°F and his wife called an ambulance.
Four days later Markov was dead. But he had told his wife about the incident at the bus stop. A close examination of Markov’s thigh yielded a tiny metal ball, 1. 7 mm in diameter, of a platinum-iridium alloy that would not cause rejection in the victim’s body. The ball had two microscopic holes filled with the exotic poison ricin. More deadly than cobra venom, ricin has no known antidote.
Who was responsible for the murder of Georgi Markov? Substances like ricin had been the subject of extensive research in the 1970s by Soviet bloc scientists; some of this research, surprisingly, was published. But the fingerprints are even clearer. Two weeks earlier in Paris another exiled Bulgarian intellectual, Vladimir Kostov, had been hit in the lower back with an identical pellet, probably fired from an air pistol. This attempt was less successful; the pellet did not disintegrate and Kostov survived.
Both Markov and Kostov had been writing for Bulgarian dissident journals and attracting the attention of the Durzhavna Sigurnost, Bulgaria’s KGB-controlled secret police. Markov had also been <broadcasting in his native language over BBC, Radio Free Europe and Deutsche Welle, telling his countrymen the truth about the Bulgarian communist dictatorship; he had been reading chapters of·his memoirs, not so much attacking the dictator Todor Zhivkov as ridiculing him. Kostov reports in his book The Bulgarian Umbrella that Markov had been warned to “stop his broadcasts or he would be killed. Kostov believes that the chief of DS, General Dimitar Stoyanov, decided to synchronize the killing of both troublesome defectors with Zhivkov’s birthday.
By early 1991 Zhivkov was on trial in his own country—merely for fraud and embezzlement, but it was a start (and he was, in time, convicted)—and the new President was promising trials connected with Markov’s murder. By the end of 1991 the Bulgarian government was admitting the involvement of its own secret police in Markov’s murder. Andrew and Gordievsky had already revealed in 1990 in KGB: The Inside Story that the pellet came from a KGB laboratory ·./and that the KGB created the weapon from an American-bought (umbrella. By early 1993 a former KGB general had revealed that the KGB did indeed supply the poison, at Stoyanov’s request; later in 1993 this general, Oleg Kalugin, was arrested at Heathrow Airport, questioned briefly, and released. The Russians still officially deny any responsibility and Bulgarian files have (of course) been destroyed, but I suspect that it isn’t a matter of doubt in anyone’s mind at this point—as it wasn’t, in fact, to many people when it happened.
Back in the thirties and forties the Soviets murdered enemies like Leon Trotsky, Ignace Reiss, and Jan Masaryk in rather an unsubtle manner. But by the fifties they were beginning to bring to their mokrie dyela (wet or messy doings) the subtlety that characterized their other covert ops. This new sophistication can be seen in their false-flag recruitment of assassins like Mehmet Ali Agca and Lee Harvey Oswald and in their use of hard-to-detect poisons like ricin. One of their hit-men, Nikolai Chochlov, defected in 1954 rather than carry out his assignment to murder the leader of an anti-Soviet emigre group in West Germany. He not only confessed to West Germany’s BND but also turned over the murder weapon—a “cigarette case” firing bullets coated with potassium cyanide. Chochlov did a lot of talking about mokrie dyela and related matters especially to the media. He then suffered strange and irremediable symptoms: hideous blotches, black-and-blue swellings, bleeding skin, hair loss, internal cramps. His bones decayed and his blood turned to plasma. When the West German doctors gave up on him, US: military doctors stepped in, persuaded to do so by the emigre leader whose life Chochlov had spared. Miraculously, Chochlov survived. He had been poisoned with the toxic metal thallium, which had been exposed to intense nuclear radiation to destroy his white cells.
A similar attempt on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s life took place in 1971 at a delicatessen counter in Novocherkassk. He developed dreadful blisters over much of his body from the same poison later used on Markov and Kostov; the unexplained “allergy” didn’t leave him for several months. The story only came to light in 1992 with the eyewitness account of a retired KGB colonel (the details were the supported by the suddenly enlightened Solzhenitsyn). The KGB’s successors denied it. Here is their poker-faced explanation for why the story is “absurd”: “If Yuri Andropov, then KGB chief, had ever dared to undertake such an action it would have inevitably caused a thunderstorm of public indignation all over the world.” The Russiaa journalist who broke the story in a Moscow newspaper says that he has a document from 1990 ordering the burning of 105 volumes of papers on Solzhenitsyn. Undoubtedly the order was carried out. The KGB wouldn’t have considered such an action “absurd”.
The mysterious death of Hugh Gaitskell, leader of the British Labour Party, may have been another mokrie dyela op. Gaitskell had led the fight to prevent extreme leftists from taking over the Labour Party. He died in 1963 of heart and kidney failure apparently caused by a form of lupus rarely seen in men over 40; he was 56. With Gaitskell gone, the Marxists were able to swing the Labour Party far to the left. MI5 became suspicious about Gaitskell’s death when Soviet defector Anatoli Golitsyn told Western Intelligence of plans to kill an opposition party leader in Europe. In the ensuing investigation, MI5 learnt that shortly before Gaitskell died he had taken coffee and biscuits at the Soviet consulate. And from Angleton of CIA, MI5 learnt that the Soviets had published medical papers i on successful experiments with a drug able to induce heart and kidney failure.
Was Gaitskell another victim of mokrie dyela? It was a GRU officer who said, “Anyone can commit a murder, but it takes a real artist to commit a good natural death.”
Retrace your steps on Waterloo Bridge, enjoying a postcard view of London: the Houses of Parliament on your L, the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral on your R. Several underground lines are nearby—at Embankment, Aldwych, and Temple stations. To start the next walk instead, descend the easy stone stairway from Waterloo Bridge to Victoria Embankment.
This is one of many books on the Department of Energy Hanford counterintelligence reading list. The entire list is as follows (with links when appropriate.) The entire list is found at Historical Dictionary of Cold War Counterintelligence
Andrew, Christopher (1991) and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev
Taschereau, Mr. Justice Robert (1946) et al. The report of the Royal Commission appointed under Order in Council P.C. 411 of February 5, 1946 to investigate the facts relating to and the circumstances surrounding the communication, by public officials and other persons in positions of trust, of secret and confidential information to agents of a foreign power. June 27, 1946. Hounourable Mr. Justice Robert Taschereau, Honourable Mr. Justice R. L. Kellock, Commissioners
 Andrew, Christopher (1991) and Oleg Gordievsky, eds. Instructions from the Centre: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations, 1975-1985. London: Hodder and Stoughton
 Kostov, Vladimir (1988). The Bulgarian Umbrella: The Soviet Direction And Operations of The Bulgarian Secret Service in Europe. New York: St. Martin’s Press [LCCN: 88022777]
 Andrew, Christopher (1991) and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev. New York: HarperCollins Publishers