Secret History of the KGB
New York: Basic Books, 1999, 700 pages
This heavy 700-page volume is based on an "unprecedented, top-secret archive" which the FBI has termed "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever achieved from any source." It provides the reader with astounding details concerning the KGB's secret operations in the United States and Europe. It identifies hundreds of Soviet agents for the first time. As a result of this book, "no one who spied for the Soviet Union at any point between the Bolshevik Revolution and the 1980s can now be sure that his or her secrets are safe."It has happened before, and it can happen again. Some venal Americans and Europeans will sell their souls and bodies to a foreign enemy at great risk to our political freedom. You and I and our descendants who do not know, who forget, or who ignore the lessons of history, are doomed to relive it.
This is really an historical specialist's book, but it can give any literate person some valuable insight into how the Communists affected American society, especially in the 1930s, even while left-leaning American intellectuals were protesting that nothing subversive was taking place.
In the early and mid-1930s American and West-European security systems were primitive, and America and the West generally were vulnerable to penetration by very capable Soviet agents. If this book is accepted as factual, which is almost surely to be the case, the KGB infiltrated every branch of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, precisely as many loyal conservative Americans fervently believed at the time. Over the years, as this book points out, the KGB encouraged and contributed to the assassination of many loyal uncorrupted American officials. It discredited J. Edgar Hoover as a homosexual; it successfully infiltrated not only Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign, but also the entourages of Pope John Paul II, Andrei Sakharov, and prominent dissidents worldwide; along with the FBI, it contributed to the smearing of Martin Luther King; it used Communist Sandinistas for terrorist attacks against U.S. targets; it successfully manned eavesdropping operations against Henry Kissinger; it intercepted major defense and technological secrets from Boeing, Brookhaven National Laboratory, IBM, Lockheed, Hughes, Sperry Rand, and other American companies (dust jacket). All the while American liberals insisted that "political right-wingers" were raising false specters.Orthodox readers will be especially interested in the chapter "The Penetration and Persecution of the Soviet Churches," pp. 486-507, and will find that the book greatly supports the biblical injunction: "Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation."
The hero of this work is Vasili Nikitch Mitrokhin, an employee for almost thirty years in the KGB intelligence archive in Moscow, who assembled and reassembled KGB data over a period of twelve years beginning in July 1972. At that time, since the KGB offices in the Lubyanka in central Moscow had become seriously over-crowded, the First Chief (Foreign Intelligence) Directorate moved to a new building at Yasenevo, southeast of Moscow, beyond Moscow's Garden Ring. Mitrokhin was made solely responsible for checking and sealing the approximately 30,000 files in the archive before they were transported to the new headquarters. His routine was to spend Wednesdays at the Lubyanka inspecting the most secret files (of Directorate S), checking them, compiling inventories, and writing index cards. Once he personally reviewed them, batches of files were placed in sealed containers and transported from the Lubyanka to Yasenevo where he checked them again.
Mitrokhin spent increasingly more time working with the Directorate S files. These dealt with the so-called "illegals," KGB intelligence officers and agents, mostly of Soviet nationality, who worked under deep cover abroad as foreign citizens. They were named in contrast to "legals," who worked under diplomatic cover or in other official capacity in foreign capitals, but essentially pursued the same Communist goals.
Before World War I the "illegals" had been hugely successful worldwide.
These "illegals" understood themselves and were depicted as self-sacrificing heroes in a great cause. It should be noted that contemporary Russia, though freed from the more deadly yoke of Communism, still celebrates them. Shortly after the death in 1995 of the best-known American illegal, Morris Cohen, President Yeltsin conferred on him the posthumous title of Hero of the Russian Federation (p.9).They successfully achieved bogus identities as foreign nationals in a variety of professions, including Costa Rican ambassador, piano tuner, and Governor of New York State!
Incredibly, in twelve years of service in the archives, Mitrokhin was never once searched. At great potential danger to himself he collected data from 1972 until his retirement in 1984, spent years sorting through his notes and assembling his data in a large volume with linking narrative, while he waited for the opportunity to make his information available to the world. Not until the break-up of the Soviet Union with attendant weakening of frontier controls at the borders of the new Russian Federation, was he able, in March 1992, to bring samples to the British embassy in the capital of one of the new independent Baltic republics.
There he told the British that the samples were only a part of a large personal archive which included material on KGB operations in Britain. He agreed to return a month later to meet representatives of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). By September 1992 he was on his way to Britain in the company of the SIS, and in November he was able to move his family out of Russia to England. Now a British citizen, he has been spending several days a week working on his archive and responding to questions from intelligence services on five continents.
Mitrokhin reveals that the early and mid-1930s were an era of remarkable Soviet success in the establishment and implementation of a group called "the Great Illegals." This was composed of young, remarkably talented, ideological, and highly dedicated individuals, not only Russians, but a variety of multi-lingual Central Europeans who shared a visionary faith in the "Communist millennium." They went about successfully acquiring diplomatic ciphers and documents from agents motivated by money and sex rather than ideology. It is perhaps noteworthy that Soviet intelligence made use of the prestigious Tsarist Okhrana which had as a major priority the theft of foreign ciphers to assist in code breaking.
Among the inter-war heroes of Soviet foreign intelligence were the "Magnificent Five." This group of five young Cam-.bridge University students was recruited by Arnold Deutsch, an Austrian Jew, considered by many the most talented of the Great Illegals. The Five were Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, John Caincross, Donald MacLean, and Kim Philby. They supplied such a volume of high-grade intelligence from the British Foreign Office and intelligence community that the Soviets had a hard time keeping up with it. How each of these men was able to accomplish his huge contribution to Soviet intelligence is reported in great detail.Documents from the 1930s relating to negotiations between British leaders and the highest leadership of Nazi Germany are still kept in secret archives of the British Foreign Office to conceal the British policy of collusion with Nazi Germany in the latter's eastern move against the Soviet Union (p. 55).
Most Americans are too young to have lived through the dangerous years of subversion by Soviet agents and their American and British "fellow travelers." Left-leaning politicians and academics have largely ignored facts in painting a rosy picture of our relations with the Soviet Union before and during World War II. As a result, the great genocides and enormous injustices perpetrated by the Communists against their own people and other nations have been glossed over compared with the demonization of Hitler and the Nazis. It would be good if younger Americans were made aware of the extent to which American and West European institutions had been successfully infiltrated by Communist agents over many years, and of the ways in which these infiltrations have contributed to the present breakdown of American culture.
This is a fascinating book. It forewarns of the constant danger that other men and women will be tempted to sell their souls and their country to a foreign power for ideological reasons, or simply for hard cash, as predatory forces arise to threaten us in the future. We are already witnessing how far this danger has progressed from the side of Chinese Communism.