1960s espionage fiction was definitive for spy culture. Developing its own unique aesthetic, from Bond to The Saint to Harry Palmer, the vivid, flamboyant style of both the spies and their cinema incarnations created an iconic pop-phenomenon that survives to this day (as 007 is still going strong). Everyone knows 007, but few are aware of the more philosophical, science-fiction based British cult show, The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan.
Before he was the KGB’s top analyst, Lt. Gen. Nikolai Sergeevich Leonov was a field officer of the First Chief Directorate specializing in Latin America. With experience in Mexico and ties to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Leonov was a key player in the USSR’s strategy of prying Latin America from Washington’s grip. In 1968 a left-leaning military junta came to power in Peru – shortly thereafter, Leonov was sent to Lima on a fact-finding mission under journalistic cover.
I returned to Moscow at the very end of 1968, and I had just turned 40. My time in the service seemed to be going without any problems. Soon I was appointed the deputy chief of the Latin American Department. Such a promotion was unprecedented – I had immediately jumped through two positions. But at that time, I apparently ascribed to the maxim later formulated by future First Chief Directorate head Leonid Shebarshin: “Don’t ask for anything, and don’t refuse anything.” I still wholeheartedly believed that “the leadership saw things the clearest,” and consequently, it would know what to do.
KGB officer Vadim Nikolaevich Sopryakov – “Comrade Maxim” – tells of a key recruitment he made in 1968 while serving under diplomatic cover in Delhi, India. Sopryakov, a retired captain first rank, began his service in the KGB Border Guards naval units, then transferring to the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence), and even serving in the elite Directorate S (Illegals) and spetsnaz. In his account of his time in India, Sopryakov sheds light on the practical psychology applied by an intelligence officer for recruiting potential agents, in this case “Mr. B.,” whom the KGB would code-name “Herman.”
On the next-to-last day of a 1967 coming to its end, the Soviet intelligence resident in Delhi received an assignment from the Center:
Pinpoint individual “B.” Collect characteristics on him. Determine the expediency and practical possibility of his development for recruitment. Report on results.
Journalist and retired Soviet military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Nikolai Poroskov provides the inside story of Swedish Air Force Colonel Stig Wennerström, who ferreted out NATO secrets for the GRU for nearly 15 years from 1948 to 1962. Poroskov relies on the first-hand testimony of Wennerström’s case officer and friend, GRU General Vitaly Nikolsky.
On June 13th, 1952, a Soviet Mig-15 interceptor shot down a Swedish Douglas DC-3 on a reconnaissance mission over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea. There were eight crew members on board. At that time the Swedes announced that the plane was carrying out a training flight.
A half-century later, in 2003, 55 kilometers east of Gotland the Swedes uncovered the body of the airplane and raised it from a depth of 126 meters. The tail end of the vehicle was torn to pieces by machine gun fire. The bodies of four men were found; the fate of the other four has remained unknown.
KGB Maj. Gen. Yuri Drozdov, the legendary chief of Directorate S (Illegals), reflects on his time as KGB resident under diplomatic cover in Beijing from 1964 to 1968. Drozdov navigates the directed chaos of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and warns Moscow that China is planning for military action against the Soviet Union.
After my return from Germany, despite positive results at work, I was unable to find a place in Illegal Intelligence’s central apparatus. I was a newcomer for them – experienced, but still a newcomer, and such men weren’t selected with enthusiasm. Along with that, the leadership at that time knew of my views on organizing work and using illegals, which was taken by certain ranking officers in 1963 warily and with caution.
I didn’t argue and was sent by the Cadres Directorate to Operational Staff Qualification Courses (USO). Training in classes and an abundance of free time gave me the possibility to verify the correctness of my views and familiarize myself with the views on organization and intelligence collection of other intelligence officers.
Recently I was fortunate to go on Red Ice Radio with Henrik Palmgren. Henrik and I discussed Soviet intelligence operations, specifically the history of illegals, deep politics and geostrategy, and the course of Russian and Western culture.
Soviet intelligence experts Aleksandr Kolpakidi and Dmitry Prokhorov tell of the Soviet-Yugoslav split in 1948 and its fallout – Stalin’s plans to assassinate Yugoslavia’s Communist leader, Josip Broz Tito.
The establishment of Soviet control over the countries of Eastern Europe in the postwar years took place in a very tense environment. But if Communists of the Stalinist interpretation in Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Albania attained total victory, in Yugoslavia the triumphal march of Stalinism didn’t happen. As a result, at the end of the 1940s relations between the USSR and Yugoslavia were so poisoned that Soviet intelligence received the order from Stalin to liquidate Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito by any means.