Mitrokhin Archive

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The KGB sword and shield emblem appears on the covers of the six published books by Vasili Mitrokhin and Christopher Andrew

The Mitrokhin Archive, according to British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew, is a collection of handwritten notes made secretly by KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin during his thirty years as a KGB archivist in the foreign intelligence service and the First Chief Directorate. When he defected to the United Kingdom in 1992 he brought the archive with him.

The official historian of the MI5 Christopher Andrew[1] wrote two books, Sword and the Shield (1999) and The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (2005), based on material in the archives. The books give alleged details about much of the Soviet Union's clandestine intelligence operations around the world.

In July 2014, the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College released Mitrokhin's edited Russian-language notes for public research; the archives are the largest openly available KGB data trove.[2] The original handwritten notes by Vasili Mitrokhin are still classified.[3]

British and international investigations after publication of the books

The publication of the books provoked parliamentary inquiries in the UK, Italy, and India.[4] In the UK, the inquiry was conducted by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) after the first book was published in 1999, and it was named "The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report". The report was presented to the Parliament in June 2000. The Committee expressed concern because the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) knew the names of some spies years before the publication of the book, but decided not to prosecute them without informing the proper prosecuting authorities. The committee believed that this decision corresponded to the Law Offices, not to the SIS. The Committee also interviewed Vasili Mitrokhin, who told them that he was not content with the way the book was published, and that he felt he did not accomplish what he intended when writing the notes. He wished that "he had had full control over the handling of his material." The Committee also found that SIS had stated that they were clearing the UK chapters with the Home Secretary and the Attorney General as was required before publication of the book, but they did not do so. Additionally, the Committee found that SIS didn't handle the publication and the media matters appropriately.[5]

In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, who was Prime Minister at the time, opened an investigation in 2002 named Mitrokhin Commission to gather information about the KGB connections in Italy claimed in the Mitrokhin Archives. However, after not being able to verify any of the information in the book, he tried to use the Commission as a political tool against members of the Italian Left by setting them up. The Mitrokhin Commission ended in a scandal, and without evidence to tie any Italian politician.[6] Some Italian ministers said that the archive "is not a dossier from the KGB but one about the KGB constructed by British counter-espionage agents based on the confession of an ex-agent, if there is one, and 'Mitrokhin' is just a codename for an MI5 operation".[7]

In India, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, L. K. Advani, requested the Government a white paper to file defamation suits against Christopher Andrew.[8] The spokesperson of the Indian Congress party referred to the book as "pure sensationalism not even remotely based on facts or records" and pointed that the book is not based on official records from the Soviet Union.[9]

Origin of the Notes

Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin originally started his career with the First Chief Directorate of the KGB (Foreign Espionage) in Undercover operations. After Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech, Mitrokhin became critical of the existing KGB system and was transferred from Operations to the Archives. Over the years, Mitrokhin became increasingly disillusioned with the Soviet system, especially after the stories about the struggles of dissidents and the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, which led him to conclude that the Soviet system was un-reformable."[10]

By the late 1960s, the KGB headquarters at the Lubyanka Building became increasingly overcrowded, and the Chairman of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, authorized the construction of a new building outside of Moscow in Yasenevo, which was to become the new headquarters of the First Chief Directorate and all Foreign Operations. Mitrokhin, who was by that time the head of the Archives department, was assigned by the director of the First Directorate, Vladimir Kryuchkov, with the task of cataloging the documents and overseeing their orderly transfer to the new Headquarters. The transfer of the massive archive eventually took over 12 years, from 1972 to 1984.[10][11][12]

Unbeknownst to Kryuchkov and the KGB, while cataloging the documents, Mitrokin secretly took his own copies and immensely detailed notes of the documents which he smuggled to his dacha and hid under the floorboards. Mitrokhin made no attempt to contact any Western intelligence service during the Soviet Era. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union (in 1992) he traveled to Latvia with copies of material from the archive and walked into the American embassy in Riga. Central Intelligence Agency officers there did not consider him to be credible, concluding that the copied documents could be faked. He then went to the British embassy and a young diplomat there saw his potential and after a further appointment one month later with representatives of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) operations followed to retrieve the 25,000 pages of files hidden in his house, covering operations from as far back as the 1930s.[10][11]

Content of the notes

Notes in the Mitrokhin Archive claim that more than half of the Soviet Union's weapons are based on US designs, that the KGB tapped Henry Kissinger's telephone when he was US Secretary of State, and had spies in place in almost all US defense contractor facilities. In France, some 35 senior politicians were alleged to have worked for the KGB during the Cold War. In West Germany, the KGB was said to have infiltrated the major political parties, the judiciary, and the police. Large-scale sabotage preparations were supposedly made against the US, Canada and elsewhere in case of war, including hidden weapons caches; several have been removed or destroyed by police per Mitrokhin's information.[13][where?]

Prominent KGB spies named in the files

Latin American leaders accused of being informants or agents of the KGB

Christopher Andrew states that in the Mitrokhin Archive there are several Latin American leaders or members of left wing parties accused of being KGB informants or agents. For example FSLN leader Carlos Fonseca Amador was described as "a trusted agent" in KGB files.[19][20] Nikolai Leonov was Sub-Director of the Latin American Department of the KGB between 1968–1972. In 1998 he gave a lecture where he made statements that contradicted these claims. For instance he said that the KGB was not allowed to recruit members from communist or other left wing parties.[21]

Daniel Ortega agreed to "unofficial meetings" with KGB officers.[not specific enough to verify] He gave Nikolai Leonov a secret program of the Sandinista movement, which stated the FSLN's intent to lead class struggle in Central America, in alliance with Cuba and the Soviet bloc.[22] However Leonov stated that he became friends with many Latin Americans including some leaders, and that he and other Soviets supported the struggles of left wing groups. But he clarifies that he did not let people know that he was a KGB agent and that his relationships with them did not involve Intelligence.[21]

KGB operations revealed in the files

Accused but unconfirmed

  • Richard Clements, journalist and editor of the Tribune, and later an advisor to Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock as leaders of the British Labour Party. Clements was not named in Andrew and Mitrokhin's book in 1999, but an article in The Sunday Times made the allegation that he was the unidentified agent of influence codenamed DAN.[29] According to the Mitrokhin Archive, DAN disseminated Soviet propaganda in his articles in the Tribune, from his recruitment in 1959 until he severed contact with the KGB in the 1970s.[30] Clements denied the allegation, saying that it was an over-inflated claim and "complete nonsense", and that the allegation was not subsequently repeated.[31] Those defending Clements against the charges included David Winnick and Andrew Roth.[32]
  • Romano Prodi (see Italian Mitrokhin Commission).

Disinformation campaign against the United States

Andrew described the following active measures by the KGB against the United States:[33]

Installation and support of communist governments

According to Mitrokhin's notes, Soviet security organizations played key roles in establishing puppet Communist governments in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan. Their strategy included mass political repressions and establishing subordinate secret police services at the occupied territories.

The KGB director Yuri Andropov took suppression of liberation movements personally. In 1954, he became the Soviet Ambassador to Hungary during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. After these events, Andropov had a "Hungarian complex":

... he had watched in horror from the windows of his embassy as officers of the hated Hungarian security service were strung up from lampposts. Andropov remained haunted for the rest of his life by the speed with which an apparently all-powerful Communist one-party state had begun to topple. When other Communist regimes later seemed at risk—in Prague in 1968, in Kabul in 1979, in Warsaw in 1981, he was convinced that, as in Budapest in 1956, only armed force could ensure their survival.[42]

Andropov played a key role in crushing the Hungarian Revolution. He convinced a reluctant Nikita Khrushchev that military intervention was necessary.[43] He convinced Imre Nagy and other Hungarian leaders that the Soviet government had not ordered an attack on Hungary while the attack was beginning. The Hungarian leaders were arrested and Nagy was executed.

During the Prague Spring events in Czechoslovakia, Andropov was a vigorous proponent of "extreme measures".[43] He ordered the fabrication of false intelligence not only for public consumption, but also for the Soviet Politburo. "The KGB whipped up the fear that Czechoslovakia could fall victim to NATO aggression or to a coup". At that moment, Soviet intelligence officer Oleg Kalugin reported from Washington that he had gained access to "absolutely reliable documents proving that neither CIA nor any other agency was manipulating the Czechoslovak reform movement". But, Kalugin's messages were destroyed because they contradicted the conspiracy theory fabricated by Andropov.[44] Andropov ordered many active measures, collectively known as operation PROGRESS, against Czechoslovak reformers.[45]

Assassinations attempts and plots

Penetration of churches

The book describes establishing the "Moscow Patriarchate" on order from Stalin in 1943 as a front organization for the NKVD, and later, for the KGB.[53] All key positions in the Church, including bishops, were approved by the Ideological Department of CPSU and by the KGB. The priests were used as agents of influence in the World Council of Churches and in front organizations such as World Peace Council, Christian Peace Conference, and the Rodina ("Motherland") Society founded by the KGB in 1975. The future Russian Patriarch Alexius II said that Rodina has been created to "maintain spiritual ties with our compatriots" and to help organize them. According to the archive, Alexius worked for the KGB as agent DROZDOV, and received an honorary citation from the agency for a variety of services.[54]

Support of international terrorism

The Andrew and Mitrokhin publications briefly describe the history of the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, who established close collaboration with the Romanian Securitate service and the Soviet KGB in the early 1970s.[55] The KGB provided secret training for PLO guerrillas.[56] However, the main KGB activities and arms shipments were channeled through Wadie Haddad of the PFLP organization, who usually stayed in a KGB dacha BARVIKHA-1 during his visits to the Soviet Union. Led by Carlos the Jackal, a group of PFLP fighters carried out a spectacular raid on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries office in Vienna in 1975. Advance notice of this operation "was almost certainly" given to the KGB.[55]

Many notable operations are alleged to have been conducted by the KGB to support international terrorists with weapons on the orders from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, including:

Italian Mitrokhin Commission

In 2002 the Italian Parliament, then led by Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing coalition, the Casa delle Libertà, created a commission, presided over by Senator Paolo Guzzanti (Forza Italia) to investigate alleged KGB ties to opposition figures in Italian politics. The commission was shut down in 2006 without having developed any new concrete evidence beyond the original information in the Mitrokhin Archive.[59] However, former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko said that he had been informed by FSB deputy chief, General Anatoly Trofimov (who was shot dead in Moscow in 2005), that "Romano Prodi is our man [in Italy]".[60]

A British Member of the European Parliament for London, Gerard Batten of United Kingdom Independence Party, demanded a new inquiry into the allegations.[61] A report by the Conflict Studies Research Centre of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom from May 2007 noted that Trofimov was never the head of the FSB, which did not oversee intelligence operations, had never worked in the intelligence directorate of the KGB or its successor the SVR, nor had he worked in the counterintelligence department of the intelligence services, nor had he ever worked in Italy, making it difficult to understand how Trofimov would have had knowledge about such a recruitment. Henry Plater-Zyberk, the co-author of the report, suggested that Trofimov was "conveniently dead", so "could neither confirm nor deny the story." He noted Litvinenko's history of making accusations without evidence to back them up.[62]

Preparations for large-scale sabotage in the West

Notes in the archive describe extensive preparations for large-scale sabotage operations against the United States, Canada, and Europe in the event of war, although none was recorded as having been carried out, beyond creating weapons and explosives caches in assorted foreign countries.[63] This information has been corroborated in general by GRU defectors, Victor Suvorov[64] and Stanislav Lunev.[65] The operations included the following:

  • A plan for sabotage of Hungry Horse Dam in Montana.[66]
  • A detailed plan to destroy the port of New York (target GRANIT). The most vulnerable points of the port were determined and recorded on maps.[66]
  • Large arms caches were hidden in many countries to support such planned terrorism acts. Some were booby-trapped with "Lightning" explosive devices. One such cache, identified by Mitrokhin, was found by Swiss authorities in the woods near Fribourg. Several other caches in Europe were removed successfully.[67][where?]
  • Disruption of the power supply across New York State by KGB sabotage teams, which were to be based along the Delaware River in Big Spring Park.[66]
  • An "immensely detailed" plan to destroy "oil refineries and oil and gas pipelines across Canada from British Columbia to Montreal" (operation "Cedar") was prepared; the work took twelve years to complete.[68]

Reception and reviews

The historian Joseph Persico described the revelations as

"Though much of The Sword and the Shield is drawn from Andrew's earlier works and collaborations, the book does contain fresh revelations" and then he adds that "several of the much-publicized revelations, however, hardly qualify as such. For instance, the authors tell how the K.G.B. forged a letter from Lee Harvey Oswald to E. Howard Hunt, the former C.I.A. officer and later Watergate conspirator, in order to implicate the C.I.A. in the Kennedy assassination. Actually, this story surfaced in Henry Hurt's Reasonable Doubt, written 13 years ago. Similarly, the story that the K.G.B. considered schemes for breaking the legs of the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev for defecting to the West was first reported in a book written six years ago." And he added that "it does seem odd that a key K.G.B. archivist never had access to a copying machine, but had to copy thousands of pages in longhand. Still, the overall impact of this volume is convincing, though none of the material will send historians scurrying to rewrite their books."[69]

The Central European Review described Mitrokhin and Andrew's work as

"fascinating reading for anyone interested in the craft of espionage, intelligence gathering and its overall role in 20th-century international relations," offering "a window on the Soviet worldview and, as the ongoing Hanssen case in the United States clearly indicates, how little Russia has relented from the terror-driven spy society it was during seven inglorious decades of Communism".[70]

David L. Ruffley, from the Department of International Programs, United States Air Force Academy, said that the material

"provides the clearest picture to date of Soviet intelligence activity, fleshing out many previously obscure details, confirming or contradicting many allegations and raising a few new issues of its own" and "sheds new light on Soviet intelligence activity that, while perhaps not so spectacular as some expected, is nevertheless significantly illuminating."[71]

The Economist reviewed the book as:

"curiously unsatisfying. Much of it is an elegantly presented narrative of information already in the public domain about Soviet mischief-making during the cold war." and the reviewers wonder "how much more confusion was sown when a filleted selection of information about KGB operations in the West was published under Mitrokhin's name in 1999, the non-secret world will never know. The same applies to this second volume, which details Kremlin dirty tricks in the third world. As with the first, Mitrokhin has a co-author, Christopher Andrew, an historian who enjoys close ties with Britain's security and intelligence services."[72]

Reg Whitaker, a professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, gave a review at the The Intelligence Forum about the book:

"The Mitrokhin Archive arrives from a cache under a Russian dacha floor, courtesy of the British intelligence community itself, and its chosen historian, Chris Andrew. The provenance of this archive is itself a matter of some controversy." After questioning and discussing the source of the book he adds that "the hand of British intelligence is evident, and Andrew clearly has a 'special relationship' with SIS." Then, Reg Whitaker goes on to talk about the British Media when it comes to spies and says that "ever since Burgess and Maclean made their run to Moscow in 1951, the British have treated espionage as a branch of pornography", adding that "it is doubtful that many readers enticed by the advance publicity will actually get very far into this voluminous tome of close to 1000 name and date filled pages. A gripping read it ain't.","is remarkably restrained and reasonable in its handling of Westerners targeted by the KGB as agents or sources. The individuals outed by Mitrokhin appear to be what he says they were, but great care is generally taken to identify those who were unwitting dupes or, in many instances, uncooperative targets."[73]

Jack Straw (then Home Secretary) stated to the British Parliament in 1999:

"In 1992, after Mr. Mitrokhin had approached the UK for help, our Secret Intelligence Service made arrangements to bring Mr. Mitrokhin and his family to this country, together with his archive. As there were no original KGB documents or copies of original documents, the material itself was of no direct evidential value, but it was of huge value for intelligence and investigative purposes. Thousands of leads from Mr. Mitrokhin's material have been followed up worldwide. As a result, our intelligence and security agencies, in co-operation with allied Governments, have been able to put a stop to many security threats. Many unsolved investigations have been closed; many earlier suspicions confirmed; and some names and reputations have been cleared. Our intelligence and security agencies have assessed the value of Mr. Mitrokhin's material world wide as immense."[74]

The author Joseph Trento commented that

"we know the Mitrokhin material is real because it fills in the gaps in Western files on major cases through 1985. Also, the operational material matches western electronic intercepts and agent reports. What MI6 got for a little kindness and a pension was the crown jewels of Russian intelligence."[75]

Historian of UCLA, in the American Historical Review (106:2, April 2001): found Mitrokhin's material to be "fascinating," but he also questioned plausibility that Mitrokhin could have smuggled and transcribed thousands of KGB documents, undetected, over 30 years.[76]

The former Indian counter-terrorism chief, Bahukutumbi Raman, pointed out that Mitrokhin did not bring either the original documents or photocopies. He brought handwritten/typed notes of the contents of the documents. He also observed that "one finds it very difficult to believe" that Mitrokhin could have had access to the files and copied them, which should have been impossible if standard intelligence agency safety rules were followed. Regarding the MI5 and MI6, Raman commented that "their interest seems to have been only in the publication of a book on the misdeeds of the KGB", going so far as to suggest that "The Mitrokhin notes and the two books based on it written by Andrew are part of the MI6's psywar against Russia".[77]

Scholar Amy Knight stated that "the story of Mitrokhin's defection ... strains credulity". Like Raman, she expressed bewilderment as to how Mitrokhin could have acquired access to the documents and was able to copy them unnoticed—"incredibly, given the rigorous security rules in all Soviet archives"—as well as take the archive to a Baltic country unhindered. Apart from that, she described the book as "the latest example of an emerging genre of spy histories based on materials from the KGB archives." She believes that the book does not reveal anything really new and significant:

"While The Sword and the Shield contains new information ... none of it has much significance for broader interpretations of the Cold War. The main message the reader comes away with after plowing through almost a thousand pages is the same one gleaned from the earlier books: the Soviets were incredibly successful, albeit evil, spymasters, and none of the Western services could come close to matching their expertise. Bravo the KGB."[78]


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  • Andrew, Christopher; Vasili Mitrokhin (1999). The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00310-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Andrew, Christopher, Vasili Mitrokhin (1999) The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9358-8.
  • Andrew, Christopher; Vasili Mitrokhin (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Andrew, Christopher, Vasili Mitrokhin (2000). The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00312-5.
  • Vasiliy Mitrokhin (2002), KGB Lexicon: The Soviet Intelligence Officer's Handbook, Frank Cass & Co. Ltd, 451 pages, ISBN 0-7146-5257-1
  • Andrew, Christopher; Vasili Mitrokhin (2005). The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00311-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Andrew, Christopher, Vasili Mitrokhin (2005). The Mitrokin Archive II: The KGB and the World. Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9359-6.

External links