The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

By Christopher Andrew; Vasili Mitrokhin | Go to book overview

ONE
THE MITROKHIN ARCHIVE

This book is based on unprecedented and unrestricted access to one of the world's most secret and closely guarded archives--that of the foreign intelligence arm of the KGB, the First Chief Directorate (FCD). Hitherto the present Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR (Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedhi), has been supremely confident that a book such as this could not be written. When the German magazine Focus reported in December 1996 that a former KGB officer had defected to Britain with "the names of hundreds of Russian spies," Tatyana Samolis, spokeswoman for the SVR, instantly ridiculed the whole story as "absolute nonsense." "Hundreds of people! That just doesn't happen!" she declared. "Any defector could get the name of one, two, perhaps three agents--but not hundreds!"1

The facts, however, are far more sensational even than the story dismissed as impossible by the SVR. The KGB defector had brought with him to Britain details not of a few hundred but of thousands of Soviet agents and intelligence officers in all parts of the globe, some of them "illegals" living under deep cover abroad, disguised as foreign citizens. No one who spied for the Soviet Union at any period between the October Revolution and the eve of the Gorbachev era can now be confident that his or her secrets are still secure. When the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) exfiltrated the defector and his family from Russia in 1992, it also brought out six cases containing the copious notes he had taken almost daily for twelve years, before his retirement in 1984, on top secret KGB files going as far back as 1918. The contents of the cases have since been described by the American FBI as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source."

The KGB officer who assembled this extraordinary archive, Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin, is now a British citizen. Born in central Russia in 1922, he began his career as a Soviet foreign intelligence officer in 1948, at a time when the foreign intelligence arms of the MGB (the future KGB) and the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) were temporarily combined in the Committee of Information.2 By the time Mitrokhin was sent on his first foreign posting in 1952,3 the Committee had disintegrated and the MGB had resumed its traditional rivalry with the GRU. His first five years in intelligence were spent in the paranoid atmosphere generated by the final phase of Stalin's dictatorship, when the intelligence agencies were ordered to

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