Inside soviet military intelligence
Copyright (c) 1984 by Viktor Suvorov
OCR: MadMax, May 2002
Viktor Suvorov. Inside soviet military intelligence
To the memory of Oleg Vladimirovich Penkovsky
1 The Triumvirate
3 The Pyramid
4 The GRU and the Military Industrial Commission (VPK)
5 But Why is Nothing Known about it?
6 The GRU and the 'Younger Brothers'
7 The GRU and the KGB
8 The Centre
9 The Procurement Organs
10 Fleet Intelligence
11 The GRU Processing Organs
12 Support Services
2 The Undercover Residency
4 Agent Recruiting
5 Agent Communications
6 The Practice of Agent Work
7 Operational Intelligence
8 Tactical Reconnaissance
9 The Training and Privileges of Personnel
For GRU Officers Only
Appendix A: Leaders of Soviet Military Intelligence
Appendix B: The GRU High Command and Leading GRU Officers
Appendix C: Some Case Histories of GRU Activities
There is but one opinion as to which country in the world possesses the most powerful secret intelligence service. Without the slightest doubt that country is the Soviet Union, and the name of the monstrous secret organisation without precedent in the history of mankind is the KGB. But on the question as to which country possesses the second most powerful secret organisation, the opinions of specialists differ. Strange as it may seem, the country to which this organisation belongs is also the Soviet Union, and the organisation itself is called the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff.
This book was written in order to confirm this simple fact.
At first it was conceived as an instructional manual for a narrow circle of specialists. Subsequently it was revised by the author for a wider public. The revision was confined mainly to the excision of certain definitions and technical details which would be of little interest. Even after this, there remained in the book many details of a technical nature, which may sometimes make for difficult reading. But though I may apologise, there is nothing to be done. In order to understand a disease (and the desire to understand a disease implies a desire to fight against it), one must know its pathology as well as its symptoms.
For one of their very first chosen myths, the communists decided to record that the organs of enforcement of the new State were not created until the nineteenth of December 1917. This falsehood was circulated in order to prove that Soviet power, in the first forty-one days of its existence, could dispense with the mass executions so familiar to other revolutions. The falsehood is easily exposed. It is sufficient to look at the editions of the Bolshevist papers for those days which shook the world. The Organs and subsequent mass executions existed from the first hour, the first minute, the first infantile wail of this Soviet power. That first night, having announced to the world the birth of the most bloodthirsty dictatorship in its history, Lenin appointed its leaders. Among them was comrade A. I. Rikov, the head of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs which sounds less innocuous in its abbreviation, NKVD. Comrade Rikov was later shot, but not before he had managed to write into the history of the Organs certain bloody pages which the Soviet leadership would prefer to forget about. Fifteen men have been appointed to the post of Head of the Organs, of which three were hounded out of the Soviet government with ignominy. One died at his post. One was secretly destroyed by members of the Soviet government (as was later publicly admitted). Seven comrades were shot or hanged, and tortured with great refinement before their official punishment. We are not going to guess about the futures of three still living who have occupied the post. The fate of the deputy heads has been equally violent, even after the death of comrade Stalin.
The paradox of this endless bloody orgy would seem to be this. Why does the most powerful criminal organisation in the world so easily and freely give up its leaders to be torn to pieces? How is the Politburo able to deal with them so unceremoniously, clearly not experiencing the slightest fear before these seemingly all-powerful personalities and the organisations headed by them? How is it that the Politburo has practically no difficulties in displacing not only individual heads of State Security but in destroying whole flocks of the most influential State Security officers? Where lies the secret of this limitless power of the Politburo?
The answer is very simple. The method is an old one and has been used successfully for thousands of years. It boils down to the principle: 'divide and rule'. In the beginning, in order to rule, Lenin divided everything in Russia that was capable of being divided, and ever since the communists have continued faithfully to carry out the instructions of the great founder of the first proletarian state.
Each system of governing the State is duplicated and reduplicated. Soviet power itself is duplicated. If one visits any regional committee of the Party and then the Regional Executive Committee one is struck by the fact that two separate organizations having almost identical structures and deciding identical problems nevertheless take completely contradictory decisions. Neither one of these organisations has the authority to decide anything independently.
This same system exists at all stages and at all levels of the Government. If we look at the really important decisions of the Soviet leadership, those which are published in the papers, we will find that any one of them is taken only at joint sessions of the Central Committee of the Party and the Council of Ministers. I have in front of me as I write the last joint resolution on raising the quality and widening the range of production of children's toys. Neither the Council of Ministers of the gigantic State structure nor the Central Committee of the ruling Party is able, since neither has the power and authority, to take an independent decision on such an important matter. But we are not talking here just about Ministers and First Secretaries. At all lower levels the same procedure is to be observed. For example, only a joint decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of a republic and the Council of Ministers of the same republic, or the Provincial Committee and the Provincial Executive Committee, is valid. At these levels of course, such crucial problems as the quality of children's toys are not decided; but the principle remains that no separate and independent decisions can be taken. In shape and form, Soviet power is everywhere duplicated, from the planning of rocket launchings into space to the organisation for the burial of Soviet citizens, from the management of diplomatic missions abroad to lunatic asylums, from the construction of sewers to atomic ice-breakers.
In addition to the governing organs which give orders and see that they are carried out, there also exist Central Control Organs which are independent of the local authority. The basic one of these is of course the KGB, but independently of the KGB other powerful organs are also active: the innocent-sounding People's Control for example, a secret police organisation subordinated to a Politburo member who exercises almost as much influence as the Chief of the KGB. In addition to the People's Control, the Ministry of the Interior is also active and this is subordinated neither to the KGB nor to Control. There is also the Central Organ of the press, a visit of which to a factory or workshop causes hardly less anger than a visit of the OBHSS, the socialist fraud squad. On the initiative of Lenin, it was seen as essential that each powerful organ or organisation which is capable of taking independent decisions be counter-balanced by the existence of another no less powerful bureaucratic organisation. The thinking goes: we have a newspaper Pravda, let's have another on a similar scale — Izvestia. Tass created, as a counter-balance to it, APN. Not for competition but simply for duplication. In this way the comrades in the Politburo are able to live a quieter life. To control everybody and everything is absolutely impossible, and this is why duplication exists. Everybody jealously pursues his rival and in good time informs whoever he should inform of any flashes of inspiration, of any deviation from the established norm, any effort to look at what is going on from the standpoint of a healthy critical mind. Duplication in everything is the prime principle and reason behind the terrifying stagnation of all walks of life in Soviet society. It is also the reason for the unprecedented stability of the regime. In duplicating the Organs, the Politburo was able to neutralise any attempt by them to raise the standard of revolt against their creators, and thus it has always been.
The creation of a system of parallel institutions began with the creation of the Tcheka, an organisation called into existence to counter-balance the already growing powers of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs. During the course of the whole of the civil war these two bloody organisations existed independently, and as rivals, of each other. Their influence grew to immense proportions, and Lenin suggested the creation of yet another independent organ to carry out the task of control and retribution, the Rabkrin. This organ, known today as the People's Control, is still waiting for somebody to research into its history. The Rabkrin was Lenin's love-child, remembered by him even on his deathbed. The Rabkrin or, more formally, the Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorate was not created as an organ of repression for the whole population, but as an organisation for the control of the ruling Bolshevik elite and, above all, the Tcheka and the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs.
In the meantime the tentacles of the Tcheka had spread out over the frontiers and the Bolkshevik leaders were forced to create yet another parallel organisation to the Tcheka, capable of counterbalancing its external activities. Neither the People's Commissariat nor the Rabkrin was able to fulfill this role. On the personal order of the indefatigable Lenin on 21 October 1918, an external intelligence service, completely independent of the Tcheka, was created under the meaningless title of the Registered Directorate of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. At the present time it is called the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Soviet Army, and also known by its military classification as 'unit 44388'. In history there is a number of examples of similar organisations within repressive regimes. The most obvious of these is of course Hitler's Germany. The SS and the SA and, on the front, the Wehrmacht Divisions and the Divisions of the SS, all existed under the same duplication principle, as did the two Intelligence Services, the Gestapo and the Abwehr.
This multiplication of institutions can only be explained by the desire of the ruling class to guarantee the stability of its regime. It is important to clarify this, so that one can understand the role of Soviet military intelligence in Soviet society and in the international arena, and, in addition, the reason why this organisation has remained throughout Soviet history largely independent from the KGB, in spite of the many ordeals it has been subjected to.
The Party, the KGB and the Army form the triumvirate which rules the Soviet Union. All other institutions and organisations, including those which appear officially to wield State power, occupy a subordinate position. But no single one of the three holds absolute power. They are all interdependent and have to share power with their rivals. There is a constant underlying struggle between these three forces, with attacks and retreats, bloody skirmishes, victories, defeats, armistices, secret alliances and permanent treachery.
The Party cannot exist without a continuous repression of the people, in other words without the KGB. The KGB in turn cannot exist without a continuous fanning of the flames of communist fanaticism and the deception of the people, in other words without the Party. Each of the two considers its own function to be the important one and the function of its rival merely supplementary. Thus the Party and the KGB are striving for undivided rule, but with this in mind each understands that it is not possible to kill off its rival. Too much depends on the continued existence of that rival. Both the Party and the KGB need the Army, which plays the part of a performing crocodile, ensuring a quiet life for the other two. In the triumvirate system the Army is the most powerful element but it is also the most deprived as regards its rights. Unlike the Party and the KGB, the Army has never played the leading role in the trio. Should this ever happen, the Party and the KGB would be swiftly destroyed. The fact is that this crocodile does not need either the Party or the KGB. Its natural state is a free life in a swamp, enjoying the ability to gobble up whatever it wishes. Both the Party and the KGB are Perfectly well aware that they, in the role of trainers of the performing crocodile, would be its first victims should the crocodile ever be set at liberty. So why has the crocodile never gobbled up its trainers?
The Party and the KGB hold the crocodile firmly in check by means of two strong leashes. The Party leash is called the Political Department, that of the KGB the Special Department. Every organ of the Army is penetrated by the Political Department of the Party and the Special Department of the KGB. On those occasions when the Army has attacked the Party, which has happened several times, beginning with the military opposition of the twenties, the Tchekists of the KGB have come into action and quickly gained control over dissident elements in the Army. When the Army has attacked the KGB, as happened after the death of Stalin, the Party has gone into action against it. And at times when the KGB has been plotting against the Party, the Party has invariably allowed the crocodile to take a bite at the Tchekists, but not a bite to the death. After such incidents the situation has returned to normal -the crocodile's trainers have manipulated their leashes in such a way and from different sides that it is impossible for any quarrel to have a conclusion. They have even been able to give the crocodile a few kicks and, if necessary, to direct it to another side, as it is said 'against any aggressor'. Its dependent situation notwithstanding, the Army is sufficiently strong sometimes to pull its two trainers after it. Thus it is not possible for the Army to be left out of the triumvirate. None of the remaining inhabitants of the Soviet Union has any independent part to play in the concert. They fulfil an auxiliary role. They supply food to the trainers and the crocodile, put on their make-up for the show, announce the different acts and collect money from the terrified spectators.
The general staff of the Soviet Army is the brain of the crocodile, and military intelligence is its eyes and ears. The GRU is a part of the general staff, in other words a part of the brain. In fact it is that part which analyses what the eyes see and the ears hear, the part which concentrates the unblinking eyes of the crocodile onto the most interesting targets and trains its ears to hear with precision every rustle of the night. Although the crocodile is firmly tied to the Party and the KGB, the general staff and the integral GRU are practically independent of external control. Why this should be is explained by the Party's experience. In the period before the war, the Party supervised the general staff so carefully, and the Tchekists insisted strongly on the observance of every minute directive of the Party, that the general staff completely lost the ability to think independently. As a result the crocodile, despite its enormous size, completely lost its presence of mind, its speed of reaction and any capability to think and take independent decisions All this brought the system to the edge of catastrophe, as the Army became practically incapable of fighting. The Party learnt from this sad experience and realised that it must not interfere in the working of the crocodile's brain, even if this brain had ceased to think along Party lines. The Party and the KGB preferred, for purely practical reasons, to keep only the body of the crocodile under control and not to interfere with the work of its brain, of its sharp ears and piercing eyes.
Soviet military intelligence [The Russian version of the English 'intelligence' — razvedka — has wider significance and includes everything we understand by the terms 'intelligence', 'reconnaissance', 'surveillance' and all activity governing collection and processing of information about actual or potential enemies.] and its superior organ, the GRU, are an integral part of the Army. The history of Soviet intelligence can therefore only be surveyed in the light of the history of the development of the Army and consequently in the light of the continuous struggle between the Army, the Party and the KGB. From the moment of the creation of the first detachment of the Red Army, small intelligence groups were formed within these detachments quietly and often without any order from above. As the regular army developed into newly-formed regiments, brigades, divisions, army corps and armies, so these intelligence organs developed with it. From the outset, intelligence units at all levels were subordinated to the corresponding staffs. At the same time the superior echelons of intelligence exercised control and direction of the lower echelons. The chief of intelligence of an army corps, for example, had his own personal intelligence unit and in addition directed the chiefs of intelligence of the divisions which formed a part of his army corps. Each divisional intelligence chief, in his turn, had his own intelligence unit at the same time as directing the activities of the intelligence chiefs of the brigades which formed his division. And so on down the scale. On 13 June 1918 a front was formed, for the first time in the composition of the Red Army. This front received the name of the Eastern Front, and in it there were five armies and the Volga military flotilla. On the same day there was created a 'registrational' (intelligence) department in the Eastern Front. The department had the intelligence chiefs of all five armies and the flotilla reporting to it. These intelligence chiefs of the front possessed a number of aircraft for aerial reconnaissance, some cavalry squadrons and, most important, an agent network. The agent network for the Eastern Front was first formed on the basis of underground organisations of Bolsheviks and other parties which supported them. Subsequently the network grew and, during the advances of the Eastern Front in the Urals and in Siberia, agent groups and organisations intervened in the rear of the enemy before the main forces attacked. Subsequent to the formation of the Eastern Front, new fronts were added to the Red Army: the Southern, Ukrainian, Northern, Turkistan and, later, Caucasian, Western, South- Eastern, North-Eastern and others. The intelligence set-up for each front was organised in the same way as that for the Eastern Front. There were also some independent and separate armies which did not form part of the fronts, and these, as a rule, had their own independent networks.
In the spring of 1918, besides the agent, aerial and other types of intelligence services, the diversionary intelligence service came into being. These diversionary detachments reported to the intelligence chiefs of fronts, armies, corps and sometimes divisions, and were called the 'cavalry of special assignments'. Formed from the best cavalrymen in the Army, they dressed in the uniform of the enemy and were used to carry out deep raids in the enemy's rear, to take prisoners — especially staff officers — to collect information on enemy positions and activities and to undermine and sometimes physically destroy the enemy's command structure. The number of these diversionary units and their numerical strength constantly increased. In 1920, on the Polish Front, on the staff of the Soviet forces, there was a separate cavalry brigade for 'special assignments' with a strength of more than two thousand cavalrymen, and this was on top of several regiments and separate squadrons. All these units were dressed in Polish uniform. Much later these diversionary units received the name Spetsnaz, now given to all special forces of the GRU.
>From its inception, military intelligence suffered the greatest Possible antagonism from the Tchekists. The Tcheka had its own central agent network and an agent network in local areas. The Tchekists jealously guarded their right to have secret agents and could not resign themselves to the idea that anyone else was operating similar secret networks. The Tcheka also had units of 'special assignments' which carried out raids, not in the enemy's rear, but in its own rear, destroying those who were dissatisfied with the communist order.
During the civil war the Tcheka strove to unite all special assignment units under its own control. Several cases are recorded of the Tchekists trying to take over organs of military intelligence. One such attempt occurred on 10 July 1918 when the Tcheka shot the whole staff of the Eastern Front intelligence department, which had been in existence for only twenty- seven days, together with the entire staff of the front and the commander himself, M. A. Muravev, who had been trying to intervene in favour of his intelligence department. The whole of the agent system of military intelligence passed into the control of the Tchekists, but this brought the front to the very edge of catastrophe. The new commander, I. I. Vatsetis, and his chief of staff had no intelligence service of their own, and were unable to ask for the necessary information. They could only request information in a very tactful way, being well aware of the Tcheka's attitude to those it disliked. (As regards Vatsetis the Tchekists did indeed shoot him, but much later.)
Naturally while the agent network was under the control of the Tcheka, its own work was given priority, and any tasks set it by the Army Command were given very low priority. This of course brought the forces very near to complete defeat. If the army intelligence service is separated from the army staff, then the brain becomes nothing more than the brain of a blind and deaf man. Even if the blind man receives essential information from one source or another, his reaction will still be slow and his movements imprecise. The leader of the Red Army, Trotsky, placed an ultimatum before Lenin: either give me an independent military intelligence service or let Dzerzhinsky lead the Army with his Tchekists.
Lenin knew what the Tcheka was capable of but he also knew that its capabilities were extremely one-sided. He therefore ordered Dzerzhinsky not to interfere in matters of military intelligence. In spite of this, the Tcheka's attempts to swallow up military intelligence went on, and these efforts still continue on a reduced scale up to the present day.
Towards the end of 1918 the organisation of military intelligence from regimental staff level up to the level of front staff had been virtually completed. There remained only one staff which as deprived of its own intelligence service of the Republic, the staff of the Red Army (at that time called the Field Staff, later the General Staff). For this reason the general staff remained blind and deaf, obtaining information indispensable to its work at secondor third-hand. In addition to this, the absence of a superior intelligence organ meant a complete lack of co-ordination of the front intelligence services. Military intelligence had acquired a pyramid structure, but the top of the pyramid was missing. The Chief of the Army and in charge of all military production, Leon Trotsky several times approached Lenin with the demand that he should create such a superior military intelligence organ. Understanding the necessity for the creation of such an organ, but realising that this would inevitably mean a strengthening of the position of Trotsky, Lenin prevaricated and repeatedly refused Trotsky's suggestion. At the beginning of autumn, the position of the communists worsened sharply. Production, fuel and political crises became more acute. Armed uprisings were taking place against the communists. There was an attempt on the life of Lenin himself. In order to save the regime the communists decided on a desperate measure. In each town and village they would take hostages and, in the case of the slightest manifestation of discontent among the inhabitants, these hostages would be shot. The Soviet state was saved, by mass executions. Then another problem arose. The Tcheka, released from its restraints and drunk with blood, got out of control. In Tver and Torzhok the Tchekists, together with the hostages, destroyed communist leaders who displeased them. One threat to the stability of the state had been replaced by another, far worse. Lenin, not yet completely recovered, immediately resumed day-to-day leadership. Without restricting the terror, he took a number of steps to control it. The most important of his decisions were, firstly, to give to the People's Commissariats (i.e. the ministries), the provincial and town committees the right to take part in court cases against arrested communists. A communist would be declared not guilty if two members of the Party Committee testified in his favour. Secondly, Lenin directed his attention to the annulment of the Tcheka's monopoly of secret activity. He finally accepted Trotsky's proposal and on 21 October 1918 signed a decree, creating a superior organ of Soviet military intelligence which was to be called the Registrational Directorate of the Field Staff of the Republic.
The newly created directorate did not increase or decrease the importance of the front and army intelligence services, it merely co- ordinated them. But at this time the directorate began the creation of a new network of agents which could be active in countries all over the world, including those where the front networks already had active agents. The organisation created in 1918 has, in principle, survived to the present day. Certainly the founding rules are fully applicable to our own time. These are, firstly, that each military staff must have its own independent intelligence set-up. Secondly, the intelligence set-up of subordinate staffs is to be fully under the command of the intelligence of superior formations. Thirdly, the agent network must be part of the composition of the general staff intelligence network and part of the composition of the front and fleet intelligence services. (In peace-time this means military districts and groups of forces.) Fourthly, diversionary intelligence is subsidiary to agent intelligence. It must be found on front or fleet level, military districts and groups of forces and also at the level of armies and flotillas. And, fifthly and most importantly, military intelligence must be quite separate from the organs of enforcement and their intelligence services. Since 1918, each one of these rules has been broken at least once, if not more often, but invariably the mistake has been summarily corrected.
The creation of the GRU [The GRU, like the KGB, has been through several name changes in its history; at this time it was called 'Registraupr', later 'Razvedupr'. For our present purposes the name GRU will be used consistently.] was not only an act of self-preservation on Lenin's part from the ravages of the Tcheka, but also a concession to Trotsky. Having entrusted this weapon to Trotsky and the Army, Lenin was careful to equip it with a safety device by the name of Simon Ivanovich Aralov, who came from the V. Tcheka. On becoming chief of the registrational directorate, Aralov formally remained a member of the collegium of the Tcheka. This step was taken in the interests of subterfuge, and even up to the present day has confused many researchers. Remaining formally within the Tcheka, Aralov, from the first day of his work in military intelligence, had to become a rival and consequently enemy of the Tchekists. This had entered into Lenin's calculations; he had not been slow to see that it would be impossible for Aralov to avoid daily skirmishes with the Tchekists on the most mundane questions, and that this would inevitably lead to a confrontation which would preclude any possibility of Aralov being exploited as a trusted Tchekist. But this was not all. In the case of any agreement with the Army, not one of the Army's chiefs would dare to trust Aralov. The GRU would be a part of the Army but the Army would not be able to make use of the GRU in the struggle against the Party and the Tcheka.
Lenin's calculations proved themselves sound remarkably quickly. In the spring of 1919 the reinforced army under Trotsky's leadership openly came out against the Party's meddling in the affairs of the Army. A united group of Army delegates, the so-called 'Military Opposition', at the eighth congress of the Party in March 1919, demanded de facto independence of the Army from Party influences. At that time it was still permitted to express personal opinions at party conferences, and more than 100 delegates out of 269 declared themselves in favour of the military programme. There were widespread abstentions and the Party and the Tcheka found themselves in a minority at their own conference.
Only a few votes were necessary to secure the complete and legal victory of the Army, but at this point the delegates from the military intelligence service, knowing the heavy hand of Aralov, maintained an icy silence and strict neutrality. Then at the most dramatic moment of the session Aralov spoke critically of the military opposition, after which the delegates of the military intelligence service with one voice supported the Party. The number of supporters of the military opposition shrank to ninety-five, a clear defeat. The session closed with a victory for the Party. The military opposition crumbled and many of its members never again took any action against the Party. The Army had learnt a lesson. In the struggle against the Party, never count on the support of the military intelligence service. Emboldened by victory, the Tcheka renewed its penetration of the Army. Many unrepentant members of the military opposition were arrested and shot. The humiliation of the Army inevitably affected military intelligence too, and on 13 May 1919 the Tchekists executed members of the staff of military intelligence in the 7th Army who had displeased them. Military intelligence naturally objected sharply to the Tcheka's taking the law into its own hands, and from that time on it was its sworn enemy. Lenin was delighted. Military intelligence henceforth was an inseparable part of the Army, but its chief was the personal enemy of both the Army and the Tcheka. Another unwritten rule was established in the organisation of the GRU, too, which was that the chief of the GRU must be appointed only from among the senior officials of the Tcheka secret police (historically known as the V. Tcheka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MGB, MVD and KGB and unofficially as 'the Organs'). This rule has also been broken several times, but the Party has always been able to correct its mistake in time.
The agent network of the GRU was reinforced at almost lightning speed. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, inside Russia after the Revolution, in her central provinces alone, there were more than four million foreigners: Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Koreans, Bulgars, Serbs, Croats and others. Most of them were former prisoners of war. More than three hundred thousand of them voluntarily enlisted in the Red Army. There was no need to recruit such people. The overwhelming majority of them were convinced, fanatical communists. Military intelligence simply sent them off to their own countries as GRU agents. Secondly, after the Revolution Moscow became the Mecca of communism, and after the foundation of the Comintern, communists from all countries flocked to Moscow. The Comintern openly declared as its aim the destruction of capitalism, and in this manifesto it was helped from all sides, the Tcheka and the GRU in particular developing their espionage activities. On the orders of the Comintern [The Communist International, grouping together the communist parties of the world and declaring itself as 'the headquarters of the worldwide communist revolution'.], thousands of communists spread into foreign states worldwide under the control of the Soviet intelligence organisations. Some of these, like the German communists Richard Sorge and Karl Ramm, the Finnish communist Otto Kusinien, the Hungarian Sandor Rado, are now well known to history, but thousands more remained unknown, activists labouring strenuously to fulfil the will of Soviet intelligence. Thirdly, after the Revolution millions of emigres appeared from Russia, all over the world. Any Soviet intelligence officer who had undergone the most elementary linguistic training could move about freely from country to country without attracting the slightest suspicion.
External circumstances favoured communism too. After the First World War the world veered sharply towards communist doctrines. Communist parties were strong and united. In Germany and Hungary there were communist revolutions. The heat of the conflagration was felt in Spain, France and China. Soviet intelligence skilfully exploited the situation which was unfolding. The First World War also left behind a legacy of despair — the world had given way and there were many people who had lost their hopes and ideals. Embittered and depressed, their recruitment presented no difficulty whatsoever. In one of the early GRU instruction manuals there is the following advice: 'If you need a facilities agent (a radio operator, owner of a safe house or transmission point) find a tall handsome man who has lost a leg or an arm in the war.'
One last, but by no means negligible factor, is that Russia has always possessed too much gold. After the Revolution, mountains of gold from millions of people killed in the torture chambers of Soviet power were added to the State Treasury. In addition to this, communists plundered churches all over Russia which from ancient times had been famous for their wealth. Great profit was harvested from the domes of the richest cathedrals, for these were roofed with solid gold. In looting the churches, the communists said, 'For the needs of the world revolution.' What they meant was, 'For the needs of espionage.'
There were many elementary errors and failures in the work of these early field officers who had no experience whatsoever. For example, the counter-intelligence officers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which at the time were independent states, simply told any suspicious person who claimed to be a fugitive Russian officer, or engineer or doctor, to tie a necktie. In 1920, by this method alone, more than forty GRU agents were unmasked in these three small countries. The GRU was unperturbed by these failures, however, its philosophy being that if it could not have quality it would go for quantity. It was an astute calculation. If one agent in a hundred sent abroad showed himself to be talented, and his natural talent made up for his lack of education, then that was enough. Nobody was worried about the agents who were discovered. Let them get out of the mess if they could. The Soviet Union will never admit that the people it sends out belong to Soviet intelligence.
This large-scale attack was highly successful. Out of the thousands of intelligence agents sent abroad, some dozen began to give positive results. The help of communists abroad also began to tell. Gradually quality began to creep into the work of the GRU. One of the first outstanding successes was the creation of the so-called 'Mrachkovski Enterprises' or, as it was officially called in GRU documents, 'the network of commercial undertakings'. Jacob Mrachkovski (his brother was a member of the Central Committee) was sent to Germany where he organised a small shop and then a small factory. Subsequently he bought, in fictitious names, several factories in France, Great Britain, Canada, the United States and finally China. The money put into these undertakings quickly grew and, after several years, the Mrachovski undertakings began to show profits of tens of millions of pounds. The money earned was used by the GRU as its chief source of 'clean' money, that is, money which had never been on Soviet territory and consequently could be used for agents' operations. In addition to obtaining money the Mrachkovski undertakings were widely used for the legalisation of newly posted intelligence officers who by now were beginning to be better trained. Journeying from country to country, they found help and support from the Mrachkovski network. They got themselves jobs and after some months received the most laudatory references and went off into other countries where the same thing took place. This went on until the agent was able to stand on his own two feet. The security of the network was so tight that no undertaking ever suspected the existence of another. Mrachkovski himself travelled all over the world, buying up new enterprises, installing one or two of his own people and obtaining perfectly legal and highly lucrative licences and patents.
Relations with the Tchekists were gradually stretched to their limit. The Party was striving to inflame the hostility between the GRU and the Organs of State. Lenin made a great success of this, as did his successors. The next conflict broke out in the spring of 1920. Both Lenin and Trotsky considered themselves outstanding thinkers, theoreticians and practical men; men of deep knowledge as regards military affairs and international relations. Naturally neither one nor the other took any notice of evaluated intelligence. They both demanded that the intelligence material should be laid before them 'grey' and unevaluated: they would then draw their own conclusions and analyse the material on the basis of Marxist doctrine. But Marxism had very precisely and categorically foretold that there would be a world war in Europe which would be the last war of mankind. The imperialist war would develop into a worldwide revolution, after which a golden age would begin. Yet the war had finished two years before and no worldwide revolution had happened. Intelligence reported that there were no signs of this revolution coming about, so both Lenin and Trotsky were either compelled to admit that Marxism was wrong or to take measures to bring the revolution about. They decided to trigger off a revolution in Europe, starting with Poland. Intelligence assessments were ignored, and naturally the adventure ended in complete failure. Both the organisers immediately started to hunt for a scapegoat. The only possible explanation for the scandal was that the intelligence service had done its work badly. Lenin announced to the rank and file of the Party, 'We have suffered this defeat as a result of the negligence of the intelligence service.' But the GRU was a completely unknown entity, even to some of the highest representatives of the Soviet bureaucracy, and much more so to the rank-and-file Party members. All eyes turned towards the Tchekists. Their unpopularity among the people, even before this, was evident. After Lenin's announcement their authority finally fell. Dzerzhinsky caused a scandal in the Kremlin and demanded explanations from the Politburo. In order to calm the Tchekists and to support his own version of the story, Lenin permitted the Tchekists to purge the GRU. The first bloody purge took place in November 1920. On Lenin's orders hundreds of intelligence officers who had allegedly failed to evaluate the situation correctly were shot.
Up to this time there had been no need to account for the GRU's activities, but now information was made available to some Party members. This has led some specialists to the mistaken conclusion that the GRU did not exist until this time.
However, the GRU did not take long to recover from the 1920 Purge. This may be explained mainly by the fact that the overseas organs of the GRU were practically untouched, and this for eminently sound reasons. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky had any idea of shooting the intelligence officers who were overseas, not only because they were manifestly innocent, but also because their deaths would have absolutely no salutary effect on others since nobody would hear about them, not even the many members of the Central Committee. The other reason for the quick recovery of the GRU was that its agent intelligence network in the military districts was also left untouched. At the end of the civil war, the fronts were tranformed into 'military districts', but the chain of command in the new districts did not undergo any essential changes. A 'registration' department was included on the strength of the staff of each district which continued in peace-time to carry on agent intelligence work in countries where the district would have to carry out military activities in any future war. Up to the time of the 1920 purge there were fifteen military districts and two fleets in the Red Army. They all carried out, independently from each other, agent intelligence work of a very intensive nature.
The internal military districts were no exception. Their intelligence centres were moved out to the frontiers and it was from there that the direction of agents was undertaken. Each internal military district also has its tasks in wartime, and its intelligence work is based around these tasks. The direction of activities of a frontier district is very precisely defined; at the same time the internal district, independent of circumstances, may operate in different directions. Consequently its agent network in peacetime operates in different directions, too. For example, in 1920 agents of the Moscow military district operated on the territories of Poland, Lithuania (at that time still independent) and Finland. This system has prevailed in all respects, except that the districts and fleets have become more numerous, as also has money available for intelligence. We are richer now than we were then.
After 1927 Soviet military intelligence began to blossom. This was the year in which the first five-year plan was drawn up, which aimed (as all subsequent five-year plans have) exclusively at the growth of the military potential of the country. The plan stipulated the creation and speedy growth of the tank, ship-building, aviation and artillery industries. The Soviet Union set itself the target of creating the most powerful army in the world. The Soviet leadership made haste and demanded from its designers not only the creation of new kinds of weaponry and military technology, but also that Soviet armaments must be the best in the world. Monumental sums of money were spent to attain this aim: prac-tically the whole of Russia's gold reserves was thrown into the task. At Western auctions the Soviet authorities sold off Russian corn and wood, pictures by Rembrandt and Nicholas II's stamp collection. A tidy sum of money was realised.
All GRU residents received book-length lists of foreign military technology which they would have to steal in the near future. The lists included equipment for bombers and fighters, anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, howitzers and mortars, submarines and torpedo boats, radio valves and tank engines, the technology for the production of aluminium and equipment for boring out gun barrels. Yet another GRU tradition first saw the light of day in this period: that of stealing analogous kinds of armaments at the same time in different countries and then studying them to select the best. Thus, at the beginning of the 1930s, Soviet military intelligence succeeded in stealing samples or plans of torpedoes in Italy, France, the United States, Germany and Great Britain. It was hardly surprising that the Soviet torpedo, manufactured in the shortest possible time, conformed to the highest international standards. Sometimes Soviet copiers selected the best assemblies and components and constructed out of them a new type which often turned out to be the very best in the world. Luck too was on the side of Soviet military intelligence. Nobody took very seriously the efforts of the Soviet Union in the military sphere, and few countries went to great pains to hide their secrets from it. Communists the world over were obsessed by the idea of helping Soviet intelligence, Soviet residents were able to throw their money round, and finally the great depression threw into the arms or Soviet intelligence thousands of opportunists who feared losing their factories, workshops or offices. Soviet intelligence, by the beginning of the 1930s, had attained unprecedented heights of power. Within Soviet territory the GRU had practically no political influence. In the international sphere it did not very much seek to enter into the political life of parties and states, but in the field of clean espionage the GRU already clearly occupied the leading position in the world, having by far overtaken the political intelligence work of the OGPU. At the beginning of the 1930s the GRU budget was several times larger than the overseas budget of the OGPU. This situation remains true today.
The system in use today of recruitment and running of agents had already fully developed by the end of the 1920s. In agent organisations directly subordinated to the GRU the recruitment and running of agents was in the hands of 'illegals', that is, GRU officers posted abroad undercover with forged documents and offices, posing as Soviet diplomats, consuls, trade representatives, correspondents and so on. In agent organisations subordinated to military districts and fleets the recruitments of agents was carried out from the territory of the Soviet Union. Only rarely did certain officers of the intelligence directorates of districts travel abroad with forged documents for short periods. Before diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union, emphasis was concentrated on the activities of illegals, but after its recognition, undercover residencies were added to the numerous illegal residencies. The GRU illegals and undercover residencies acted independently from each other but in the pre-war period the communications of illegals from GRU residencies with the Centre were frequently accomplished through the Soviet embassies. This was a very serious mistake. With the beginning of the war when the embassies were closed or blockaded, the communication with illegals was disrupted. The mistake was subsequently rectified. Military district intelligence always operated independently of the GRU illegals and Soviet embassies, and for this reason at the beginning of the war it was practically unharmed. Gradually a tendency became noticeable in the operations of military district intelligence services to limit the use of Soviet officers even for short trips abroad. Faced with wartime conditions the military district intelligence services began to recruit and run their agents only from Soviet territory. The recruitment of new agents was carried out either on Soviet territory or on the territory of neighbouring countries by means of agents who had been recruited earlier.
There is an interesting story to be told about the recruitment of agents at this time, whose moral holds as true today. In the pre-war period, recruitment took up little time. The Comintern simply made a decision and immediately scores, sometimes hundreds of communists became Soviet secret agents. In the interests of successful agent work, the GRU always demanded from them that they should publicly resign from the communist party. The vast majority accepted this without demur. After all, it was only a camouflage, a Bolshevik manoeuvre to help defeat the lass enemy. Sometimes however, there were communists who were unwilling. In Germany, one group agreed to the GRU's demands only on condition that it was accepted into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The demand was a simple one, for it is not difficult for the GRU to write out a dozen new party cards, and as the new agent group was working so successfully, the GRU did not want to refuse. At a routine meeting the GRU case officer, an employee of the Soviet embassy in Berlin, informed the group's leader that their demands had been met. He congratulated the group on becoming members of the CPSU and informed them, in conclusion, that the General Secretary of the Party himself, comrade Stalin, had written out the party cards. As an exceptional case, the German communists had been accepted without going through the candidacy stage. Their party cards were naturally to be kept in the Central Committee.
At this news the group's productivity redoubled. It was supposed to receive a certain sum of money for its work, but the group members refused to accept the money. More than that, they began to hand over to their case officers sums of their own money, in order to pay their membership fees to the Soviet communist party. Punctually they handed over to their case officers all documents and payslips concerning their earnings together with their party subscriptions. This took up a great deal of time during the agent meetings, but the Germans were working very productively and nobody wanted to offend them.
Some time later, the Gestapo got on their trail, but all the members of the group managed to escape into Austria, then to Switzerland and finally through France to Spain where the civil war was going on. From Spain they were brought to Moscow, Terrible disappointments awaited them in the capital of the Proletariat of all the world, the chief of which was that nobody into at any time written out their party cards, or accepted them into the Soviet communist party. The GRU officials had of course assumed that the agents would never set foot in the Soviet Union on that therefore it would be very easy to dupe them. However, on their arrival in Moscow, the first thing the agents did was to declare a hunger strike and demand a meeting with the higher leadership of the GRU. The meeting took place and the GRU leadership did all in its power to help the Germans join the party, after going through the candidate stage, naturally. But foreigners can only be accepted in the CPSU through the Central Committee, and the natural questions arose: 'Were you ever members of the communist party? Why did you leave it?' The fanatics told exactly what had really happened but were damned out of their own mouths. To burn one's party card is a cardinal sin — and the Central Committee threw out their application. The Germans again declared a hunger strike and demanded a meeting with Stalin in person. At this point the NKVD offered its help to the Central Committee, but the GRU intervened, being in no way desirous that its agents should fall into the hands of the NKVD. So the ex-agents ended up in the GRU cellars.