All posts by Nina Kouprianova

I am an independent analyst of geopolitics and culture. I earned a PhD (History) from the University of Toronto, focusing on modern and contemporary Russia, culture, and U.S. foreign policy. The primary purpose of using this platform is to disseminate previously inaccessible historic and contemporary Russian thought translated into English. I do not necessarily endorse the content of each piece in its entirety and leave it up to the reader's own discretion. On occasion, this project will be accompanied by my own thoughts, too—those I DO endorse! Some of my (un)related projects are here: https://about.me/NinaByzantina | https://500px.com/NinaByzantina | http://instagram.com/ninakouprianova

Death of a Russian Samurai

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was to prove advantageous for Japan and its Western maritime backers Britain and the United States, while the conflict was a multifaceted disaster for Russia. Amidst the bloodshed, however, were found moments of chivalry exemplified by the warriors of each side. Here is one such account:


Hunter and scout Vasilii Timofeevich Riabov was born in 1871 and grew up in the village of Ivanovka outside Penza. Almost a century and a half has gone by, yet his memory persists through the centuries.

After his discharge from active military duty and joining the reserve, Riabov relocated to the neighboring village of Lebedevka. He was a brave and active man, he loved the theater and his wife, even though he sometimes hit her after drinking. And sometimes he used other people’s things without permission. That happened too. But he atoned for all his sins with his act of bravery. Continue reading Death of a Russian Samurai

The Spy with the Broken Bracelet

Veteran chief of the KGB’s elite Alpha Group Maj. Gen. Gennady Nikolaevich Zaitsev recounts the 1977 operation to arrest CIA intelligence officer Martha Peterson, who worked out of the US Embassy under diplomatic cover. Peterson had been handling a valuable agent – Aleksandr Ogorodnik, code-named Trigon, a highly-placed staffer at the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Little did Peterson know at the time that Ogorodnik had already been arrested and committed suicide in custody with poison supplied from Langley. The trap carefully laid by the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate was set…


It so happened that I had the opportunity to participate in an arrest of a spy even before joining the spetsnaz Alpha Group. At that time, I served in the Seventh Directorate of the KGB of the USSR. Do you remember the film TASS is Authorized to Declare …? It told the story of how the KGB exposed Trigon, an enemy agent. In reality, this was Alexander Ogorodnik (Trigon), a staff member at the American Department of the Directorate for Planning Foreign Policy Measures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He committed suicide during arrest. Continue reading The Spy with the Broken Bracelet

Putin’s Path to the KGB

Using his unique access to the Kremlin, German journalist Alexander Rahr shares the inside story on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s formative years in Leningrad and his path to the KGB. 


Putin never concealed his background. Spiridon, his grandfather on the father’s side, was a cook, but not a regular one. Initially, he prepared meals for Lenin, then—for Stalin. A person working in such a position and in such proximity to the Kremlin’s leaders could not not be a staffer at the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), KGB’s predecessor. Spiridon served the dictator daily, and it is beyond any doubt that he was being watched much more closely than any Politburo member.

Continue reading Putin’s Path to the KGB

Mission to Syria

The Soviet Union’s first ambassador to Egypt, Nikolai Vasilievich Novikov, recounts his pioneering role in establishing diplomatic relations in 1944 with Syria. Novikov provides a rich context to the genesis of Russo-Syrian partnership, describing the geopolitical arena and its attendant intrigues conducted by rival great powers like Britain and France. Novikov’s passage serves as an excellent background to an alliance between Russia and Syria that has regained strategic significance in the Great Game of our own day. 


One hellishly hot day, June 15, when all the thoughts of Cairo’s residentscharred from heatturned if not toward the relaxing beaches of Alexandria, then toward a cool bath or a shower, a respectable-looking stranger from Syria showed up at the Soviet Embassy. Met by advisor Daniil Solod, he introduced himself as Naim Antaki, a member of Syria’s parliament from Damascus, and the former Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Naim Antaki confided that he had arrived in Cairo with a secret message from the Syrian government and can only discuss it with the Ambassador. Continue reading Mission to Syria

Hitler’s Plot to Assassinate Stalin

While it is known that German intelligence targeted Soviet leader Josef Stalin during World War II, how close did they come to succeeding? The following tells the story of SS Operation Zeppelin and the brilliant counter-moves, known as Operation Fog, undertaken by Soviet military counterintelligence (SMERSH) officer Grigorii Grigorenko, who would go on to head the KGB Second Chief Directorate during the Cold War. 


Much has been said and written about the attempt to liquidate Stalin during the Second World War—at the same time, nothing specific, but rather things at the level of speculation or fiction.

The failed assassination of the Supreme Commander of the Soviet Union, planned by German saboteurs, is a thrilling subject, after all. And they indeed planned to kill him. However, the story of capturing terrorist saboteurs turned into the prequel to one of the most successful operations by Soviet counter-intelligence, codenamed Fog and carried out by Major Grigorii Fedorovich Grigorenko, a resident of Poltava, today’s Ukraine. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) recently declassified this operation.

Continue reading Hitler’s Plot to Assassinate Stalin