GRU Maj. Gen. Dmitry Polyakov (1921-1988) was a decorated veteran of the Great Patriotic War (World War II) and an old-line Stalinist. Yet beginning in 1959, when on assignment under diplomatic cover at the UN Mission in New York, he was also a US intelligence asset after he volunteered his services to the FBI. Until his arrest in 1986, Polyakov shared the GRU’s most guarded secrets on its international agent networks with Washington, making him the highest-ranking and most damaging mole in the history of Soviet intelligence. Polyakov was finally brought to heel in 1986, when the KGB tracked him down thanks to leads from their own moles – CIA officer Aldrich Ames and FBI special agent Robert Hanssen. The KGB’s Third Chief Directorate, military counterintelligence, swung in to action.
From the last decade of the Soviet Union presented in the FSB Museum’s “Spy Gallery,” it especially follows to turn our attention to a photograph of an elderly man sitting in the dock of the accused in the proceedings hall of the Supreme Court’s Military Collegium.
He knew his punishment beforehand and wasn’t hoping for leniency. Almost 25 years of work for the FBI and CIA could not be atoned for by his candid admissions. On the conscience of former General Dmitry Feodorovich Polyakov was the blood of Soviet secret intelligence officers, the shattered fates of his colleagues in intelligence, and the most important state secrets betrayed to the adversary. Continue reading Washington’s GRU General
Colonel Aleksei Mikhailovich Kozlov (1934-2015) was a deep-cover intelligence officer in the KGB’s elite Directorate S, the Illegals, during the height of the Cold War. Posing as a traveling German businessman, he was captured by South African counterintelligence in 1980, but not before passing onto Moscow Center shocking information on joint South African-Israeli nuclear weapons tests. This December 20th, 2009 interview with the newspaper Izvestia provides another fascinating inside look at the global-scale operations of KGB Directorate S.
Izvestia: How did you get into Illegal Intelligence?
Kozlov: In 1953 I arrived in Moscow from Vologda to go to the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO). My character brought me to humanities, and I very much loved the German language. I had wonderful teacher in school – Zelman Shmulevich Pertsovsky. He was a Polish Jew who in 1939, when the Germans entered Poland, crossed the Bug River and turned up on our side. He was simply in love with the German language and quoted Schiller and Goethe by heart. He called me a “slacker” and helped a lot with preparing for higher education. Continue reading Deep Cover in South Africa
On radio program Esoteric Hollywood, Jay Dyer and I discuss spy films and how they relate to real-world espionage in the ongoing Great Game. From depictions of KGB Directorate S in the current hit show The Americans to the shadowy backers of 1989’s silly propaganda bomb Red Scorpion, we delve into the lesser-known aspects of spy culture that reflect the realities of intelligence history.
Before the murder of John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald – or even possibly a double – visited the Soviet embassy in Mexico City. Retired KGB Lt. Gen. Nikolai Leonov, then on assignment in Mexico’s capital as an intelligence officer, met Oswald that day, and he has little doubt the young American was just a pawn in a much wider plot.
An intelligence officer’s workdays were full of work with active agent networks, with those who had been brought into partnership with Soviet intelligence by previous shifts of our colleagues, and with agents arriving from other countries, etc.
Continue reading Oswald & the KGB in Mexico
Former KGB General Filipp Bobkov was a veteran counterintelligence officer and chosen by Yuri Andropov to head the Fifth Chief Directorate (Ideological Counter-Subversion), which he led from 1969 to 1983. Bobkov recounts the twilight war of counterespionage waged between the CIA and KGB – a contest with deadly consequences.
In the Cold War, as in any other war, there were successes and defeats – failures and miscalculations that at times led to inescapable consequences. Any intelligence service will suffer the blows of the enemy with difficulty, and the KGB also had to undergo not a few such blows. Betrayals by apparatus officers – those with whom you spend all day, whom you see in the elevator and at meetings, with whom you’re connected by constant engagement in shared matters – these were taken especially painfully.
Continue reading Treachery at Lubyanka
The great Russian White emigre philosopher Ivan Aleksandrovich Ilyin (1883-1954) was not just an erudite thinker, but also a practitioner of espionage and underground political work. Before he was exiled in 1922, Ilyin was active in the anti-Bolshevik resistance. This article, written at some point during the 1930s or 1940s, addresses Soviet NKVD provocations and subversion in the Russian White emigration abroad.
The word “tradecraft” signifies a conspiracy. The art of tradecraft is in the ability to run “conspiracies” secretly and bring them to a successful completion. This art has its own inviolable rules: whoever doesn’t observe them dooms his undertaking, and possibly himself and all like-minded men far and near. Here amateurism is tantamount to failure and death.
Continue reading Ivan Ilyin vs. the NKVD
From the memoirs of legendary Soviet intelligence officer Maj. Gen. Yuri Ivanovich Drozdov comes the incredible story of a false-flag recruitment operation by the KGB’s Directorate S (Illegals) against West Germany’s own intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) during the height of the Cold War. The following 1995 article from German Focus magazine tells the tale:
Former KGB General Yuri Drozdov admits: “Our valued agent in the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has still not been uncovered.”
Firm handshakes, pats on the shoulder – the old guard in its narrow circle.
The men, in a predominant majority over 70 years old, are dressed strictly according to protocol. On this hot summer day they’re wearing austere coats and shirts with ties. Guests are received by Yuri Drozdov, general of the KGB, the former Soviet secret service, who just a short time later, over a glass of vodka, would allow himself to loosen his tie.
Continue reading Operation Scorpion