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.
In the meantime, the political situation had changed sharply. Hitler had become Stalin's best friend and the communists likewise friends of the fascists. There ensued an exchange of gifts - the most up-to-date German military aeroplanes for Stalin (including the top secret ME109, JU87, JU88, DO217, HElll and even the ME110) in exchange for the surrender of all German communists who had taken political asylum in the Soviet Union. Hitler's calculation was very simple. In the short time before war broke out, the Russians would not be able to copy the planes, but he would have the heads of his political opponents. It was a fruitful deal for Stalin too. He was bored with the German communists and now he would be able to give them to the Gestapo in exchange for the best German aeroplanes. In addition to the ordinary members, there were members of the German Central Committee and the Politburo, together with the editors of the communist newspaper. These were not taken to Germany, but the Gestapo was told it could shoot them in situ, in the Moscow area. However, as far as the former GRU agents were concerned, the decision had been taken not to hand them over. They knew too much. The German embassy in Moscow was informed that they had all died in Spain and had never got as far as Moscow. The fascists did not object but suggested they would present one more aircraft at the same price. Unfortunately, the former agents, not knowing anything about the bargaining that was going on, again declared a hunger strike, and this decided their fate. The Soviet side now admitted to the fascists that they were in Moscow and proposed a compromise. The fascists could shoot their victims in the Soviet Union without talking to them. The execution took place among the huge coal bunkers of the Kashierski Electric Power Station. Beforehand, the Gestapo men had personally identified each of the people to be executed and photographed them; then, under cover of protracted whistling of locomotives, they shot them all. Afterwards, joint detachments of the GRU, the Central Committee of the Soviet communist party and the Gestapo burnt the bodies in the furnaces of the power station.
The Germans' mistake was threefold: they believed too quickly in the promises of the GRU; they insisted too strongly on the GRU's fulfilling its promises; and they forgot that if somebody puts a high enough price on the head of an agent, however good he may be, the GRU will sell him without hesitation.
In the meantime the Party, under the leadership of Stalin, arrived face to face with the ultimate necessity of subjugating all layers of Soviet society and utterly eradicating dissension. The decision was taken by the Party to purge the whole country of potential dissidents. Today we have irrefutable proof that the 'Great Terror' was carefully planned and prepared. On the testimony of A. Avtorhanov the Central Committee of the Party had, as long ago as 13 May 1935, taken the decision to create a special security commission for carrying out mass repressions in the country, which took place in 1937 to 1938.
For almost two years the Special Commission prepared the most bloody page in the history of mankind. Its members were Stalin, Zhdanov, Yezhov, Shkiriatov, Malenkov and Voyshinski. It is interesting to note that the then head of NKVD, Yagoda, was not a member of the Commission, and this was a sensible move. Before carrying out its massive blood- letting of the whole of society, the Party took pains to purge the surgical instrument itself, the NKVD organs. The purge began secretly as early as 1935 and at that stage concerned only the organs and the overseas residencies of the NKVD. In order not to frighten anybody, it was carried out secretly and without public trials. Naturally it was the GRU which was entrusted with the task of purging the NKVD overseas organs. In 1935 Yan Karlovich Berzin, the GRU's chief, travelled to the Far East with special powers and a group of trusted helpers. Secret orders appointing one I. S. Unshlikht and later S. T. Uritski as chief of the GRU were issued. But no order was issued for Berzin to relinquish his post. In other words, the appointment of Uritski was simply a cover-up for the long absence of Berzin. In the Far East Berzin and his assistants secretly liquidated the leading illegals of the NKVD. In the following year Berzin, with his assistants, appeared in Spain. His official job was Chief Advisor to the Spanish Government, a post in which he was extremely active. Firstly, he endeavoured to direct the activities of the Spanish Government along lines favourable to Moscow. Secondly, he personally ran from Spain the whole of the overseas network of the GRU. And finally, he did not forget his most important task. The head of the Foreign Directorate of the NKVD, Slutski, was also in Spain, also personally supervising the activities of all his overseas agents. In all probability Slutski was aware that Berzin and the GRU had some connection with the mysterious disappearance of NKVD illegals. Evidence has been preserved which shows that Slutski and Berzin had clashes practically every day in Spain. However, at the same time, the intelligence chief of the NKVD was finding himself increasingly subject to the chief of Soviet military intelligence. At the end of September 1936 the NKVD chief, Yagoda, was dismissed from his post and the secretary of the Central Committee of the Party, Ezhov, was appointed in his place. Ezhov himself began a most cruel purge of the NKVD - and he no longer required the assistance of the GRU. More than 3,000 Tchekists were shot on Ezhov's orders, including Yagoda and Slutski themselves. It is interesting to note that Yagoda's death followed an open trial, but Slutski was murdered secretly, in the same way as his best illegal residents had been executed previously. After the Party, in the person of Ezhov and with the help of the GRU, had purged the NKVD, the time came for the Army to be dealt with. This purge began with the liquidation of the general staff - and the complete destruction of the GRU. Among those military leaders first executed together with Marshal Tukhachevski were army commanders Yakir and Uboreevich and Corps Commander Putna, the Soviet military attache in London. As might be expected, all military attaches are GRU officers; but Putna was not simply a military attache. Until his appointment to London he had been deputy chief of the GRU. His execution served as an extra excuse for the NKVD to carry out a special purge in the ranks of the GRU. Hatred which had been collecting for many years at last came out into the open. In the course of the purge first the acting head of the GRU, Uritski, was arrested and shot, and after him all the rest. The NKVD and GRU now exchanged roles. NKVD men with special powers went around the world destroying both GRU illegals and also those intelligence officers of the GRU and NKVD who had refused to return to the Soviet Union and certain destruction. In the course of the 1937 purge the GRU was completely destroyed- even down to the lavatory attendants and cooks on its payroll. Berzin, back from Spain, had to re-create the GRU from scratch.
By the autumn of 1937, by a special effort of the Comintern -particularly in Spain with the help and coercion of the International Brigades - the GRU had somewhat recovered its strength. A year later Soviet military intelligence had returned to its stormy activities. But in the summer of 1938, in the course of a second wave of terror, the GRU was again destroyed, losing its entire strength. This time Berzin himself, one of the cleverest and most successful leaders the GRU has had, was among the victims.
The blow delivered automatically meant a blow to all organisations subordinate to the GRU, that is to the intelligence directorates of the military districts. Here the death-dealing whirlwind came twice, literally destroying everything. During the pre-war years, in the areas of western military districts the intelligence directorates had extended the existing reserves of underground armies in case of the occupation of these areas by an enemy. Secret depots and stores of weapons and explosives had been established, radio sets had been secreted and refuges for partisans and intelligence officers had been set up. In the terror, all this was destroyed, and tens of thousands of trained partisans and saboteurs, ready to meet the enemy, were shot or perished in prisons and concentration camps. Military intelligence ceased to exist. And not only military intelligence; the Army had been bled white, and military industry, too. But Ezhov, the head of the NKVD, had made a fatal mistake in taking Berzin's place when he was executed on 29 July 1938. The very next day, Stalin received only one report on both GRU and NKVD activities, instead of the usual two. The implication was clear: a monopoly of secret activity had begun, and Stalin now had no way to balance the power of the NKVD. With his customary precision and deliberation he realised that his control of Soviet intelligence was slipping away and the same day, 30 July, he set in train the events which would lead to Ezhov's removal and execution.
In the winter of 1939/40 there occurred an improbable scandal. The Red Army, whose strength at the moment of the attack was more than four million men, was unable to crush the resistance of the Finnish Army, whose strength was only 27,000 men. Reasons for this were quickly found. Of course there was the cold. (The German Army's right to claim the same reason for its defeat in the winter of 1941 was unanimously denied.) The second reason was the intelligence service. In all Soviet historical works (which may be published only with the permission of the Propaganda Department of the Party Central Committee), even to this day, the cold and poor intelligence are the reasons always given. The Party forgets to specify that from 1937 to 1939 Soviet military intelligence was practically non-existent, at the Party's own wish.
After the Finnish scandal, Stalin did not order a purge of the GRU. It is probable that at that time there was nobody to purge, but he still ordered the execution of General Proskurov, the new head of the GRU, and his staff because of Proskurov's disagreement with him over the Hitler-Stalin pact. In June 1940 General Filipp Golikov was appointed chief of the GRU. Under Golikov the GRU was reborn amazingly quickly into an effective intelligence force. There has been much speculation about this period. Did the GRU know of the plans for Germany's attack on the Soviet Union or not? The best answer to the question must lie in Golikov's own survival. Seven leaders before him and two after him were murdered, yet he went on to become Stalin's Deputy of Personnel and Marshal of the Soviet Union. The political leadership may not take the right decision, even with the best information that Golikov could give, but it will not bite the hand that feeds it.
The war had begun with a catastrophic defeat for the Soviet Union. In the first few hours the German Army succeeded in securing a strategic initiative. Thousands of serviceable aircraft were destroyed on their airfields and thousands of tanks burned in their own parks.
It may have been that Stalin spared Golikov in order to give him a testing assignment. He was certainly told to take himself abroad and revive and renew the GRU agent network which had been cut off immediately. He went first to England and then to the United States and, to give him his due, this time he succeeded in carrying out his work in an exemplary manner. For his visits to Great Britain and the United States he naturally did not use faked documents. He came, with a numerous entourage, as the head of an official Soviet military delegation to obtain American and British armaments. For the chief of the GRU and his colleagues the doors of secret factories and laboratories were opened - the very places Soviet intelligence had been trying for decades to penetrate. This historical visit was the beginning of intense penetration by Soviet military intelligence of the armaments industries of America and Britain. Golikov also succeeded, albeit only temporarily, in establishing communications with GRU illegals who were functioning on territory occupied by Germany; but this also signalled the beginning of GRU penetration of the German general staff from many different quarters. The consequences of this were that, beginning with Stalingrad, even top secret plans of the German High Command were known to Soviet front-line generals before they were known to the German field commanders. And the Soviet military leadership was equally enlightened as to the plans of its allies, the Americans and the British. Churchill bears witness to the fact that Stalin enumerated several points as to the contents of British top secret plans, though he attributes such enlightenment to Stalin's genius in foreseeing the future. The only thing that is not clear is why Stalin did not display a similar clairvoyancy with regard to Hitler's intentions in 1941 and the beginning of 1942.
In the autumn of 1941 Golikov returned from the United States, an another exceptionally successful visit. He could not, of course, expect to keep his post, but he stayed alive, and even kept his General's rank. On 13 October he was relieved of the command of the GRU and appointed commander of the 10th Army.
Later, in 1944, Stalin gave Golikov yet another chance to expiate his guilt with regard to the sudden German attack. In October he was appointed plenipotentiary of the Council of People's Commissars on Questions of the Repatriation of Soviet Citizens. At the same time as he was occupied with this task several of the former residents of the GRU in Europe were assigned to him. He acquitted himself again with great credit and, being able to count on the help of the GRU, succeeded in returning to the Soviet Union several million people who were practically all shot on arrival. Golikov's career was on the up and up, and he eventually reached the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union.
In the autumn of 1941, after Golikov had relinquished his post, the GRU was divided into two. One of the newly-created organisations was directly answerable to Stalin and entitled the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Supreme High Command. In the hands of this organisation was concentrated the agent network controlled by illegals and undercover residencies of the GRU in a small number of Soviet embassies. The 'other' GRU was subordinated to the general staff and preserved its former name of Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff. But now this junior branch of the GRU co-ordinated the efforts of intelligence officers on all Soviet fronts in action against Germany. This new set-up was fully justified at that time. The GRU general staff was freed from having to make decisions on global problems which at that moment had lost their importance for the Soviet Union and instead was able to concentrate all its attention on carrying out intelligence operations against German forces. In order to distinguish between the two GRU's; the term 'strategic intelligence' was introduced for the first time and applied to the GRU of the Supreme Command, and the new title of 'operational intelligence' was given to the Intelligence Directorate of Fronts and the GRU of the general staff which controlled these directorates. Both the strategic and operational intelligence services of the Red Army conducted themselves with great distinction in the course of the war. The finest achievements of the strategic agent network were of course the penetration of the German general staff through Switzerland (via the illegal residency 'Dora') and the theft of American atomic secrets by way of Canada (through the residency 'Zaria'). Operational intelligence meanwhile developed activities unparalleled in scale. Besides its agent intelligence, a very large role was allocated to diversionary intelligence. Groups of guard-minelayers were formed in the intelligence units of the fronts and armies whose basic purpose was to hunt down the German military staff. Parallel with these diversionary elements of the GRU, analogous groups of NKVD men were in action at the rear of German forces. Between these two groups the traditional enmity fostered by the Party continued.
After the war, military intelligence was once again fused into one organisation, GRU General Staff, which independently carried out strategic intelligence and directed operational and tactical intelligence. At this time the Party and Stalin took care to weaken the Army and the Ministry of State Security, both of which had strengthened their positions during the war to such an extent that they had stopped acknowledging the civil leadership, i.e. the party. The leading commanders, headed by Zhukov, were dismissed from the Army and Beria was also deprived of the leadership of the Tchekists. It would obviously not be a simple matter to expel him, so Stalin technically promoted him, appointing his deputy to succeed him, but in fact this deprived him of direct leadership of the Organs of State because his title of minister was taken away. Within the framework of the programme for weakening the Army and the Ministry of State Security, Stalin decided to remove intelligence from both the Army and State Security. This plan was put into effect in 1947. The GRU and the organs of political intelligence of the Ministry of State Security were joined together in one organisation called the KI: the Committee of Information. The man closest to Stalin was appointed to lead this organisation, and this was the activist of the Politburo, Molotov. Thus the Army and Ministry of State Security were deprived of intelligence. All intelligence work would henceforth be subordinate to the Party. Such a situation did not suit the Army or the Ministry of State Security, and they for the first time united against the Party.
>From its inception the Committee of Information was an utterly ineffective organisation. The intelligence officers of the Ministry of State Security and the GRU, who formed the nucleus of the Committee of Information, strove by all means to return from under the control of the Party back to their own former organisations. Both sets of officers strove to sabotage the activities of the Committee of Information. The Ministry of State Security and the Army, acting in collusion, informed the Central Committee that they could no longer work effectively since they were receiving their information at second hand. Then they exerted pressure on their former officers in order to try to make the Committee of Information collapse from inside. The Central Committee of the Party made efforts to improve the effectiveness of the Committee of Information. In less than a year four chiefs were appointed and dismissed, for the reason that not one of them was able to counter the unified strength of the Ministry of State Security and the Army. After long struggles behind the scenes Abakumov, a pupil and favourite of Beria, became Chief of the Committee of Information.
At a stroke, all the intelligence services passed to the control of the Ministry of State Security. Stalin immediately saw that a mistake had been made. In his opinion, the creation of one intelligence service, even if it was under the leadership of the Party, must sooner or later lead to the Tchekists seizing power over this organisation, and this would mortally endanger the Party. There was only one way out of such a situation: immediately to liquidate the Committee of Information and divide the intelligence service into two hostile camps - military intelligence to the Army, and political intelligence to State Security. But the coup was not an easy one. To get round the problem, the Party naturally found support from the Army which had not been at all happy with State Security's monopoly of the intelligence service. On the instructions of Stalin, the first deputy of the chief of the general staff, General Shtemyenko, made a report to the Politburo on the subject of the 'blind general staff, after which the GRU was removed from the control of Abakumov and given to the Army. For his distinguished services, Stalin immediately appointed General Shtemyenko as chief of the general staff-the senior curator of the GRU. After two years Shtemyenko and the GRU, seeking to please Stalin, presented documents about the existence of an agreement among subordinates of Abakumov. Abakumov was immediately shot, the Committee of Information finally abolished, and the usual purge carried out in the ranks of State Security.
But the Ministry of State Security did not forgive the general staff and the GRU for having taken such liberties. 1952 was a year of struggle between the Politburo and Stalin. The Ministry of State Security presented documents which they claimed proved the existence of a plot in the ranks of the GRU. This time it was the turn of the GRU and all the general staff to be purged. Stalin was opposed to the move, but the Politburo insisted. Shtemyenko was demoted to Lt-General and expelled from the general staff. The action continued against the general staff and the GRU, and even against Stalin himself who was removed as general secretary of the Communist Party later that year.
At the beginning of 1953, immediately after the death of Stalin, there ensued a fierce squabble among his disciples and comrades at arms for the distribution of the inheritance. The most dangerous pretender to the throne was, of course, Beria. The united strength of Army and Party was automatically against him. Beria was arrested at a joint session of Party and Army leaders and immediately done away with. After this there began the usual persecution of the Organs of State. During secret trials, incriminating documents were produced from the GRU concerning the leaders of the Ministry of State Security and many of its leaders were shot after frightful torture. The torture was carried out in the GRU cellars on Gogol Boulevard. At the beginning of 1954 the Ministry of State Security lost its status as a ministry and was transformed into a committee.
Simultaneously with the fall of the Ministry of State Security, the Army acquired more and more weight within the framework of the State. The 'Russian Bonaparte', Marshal Zhukov, became Minister of Defence, having returned from his exile under Stalin. After a short time Zhukov also became a member of the Politburo. He quickly effected the return of all the exiled generals and marshals and appointed them to key positions. The Ministry of State Security could not exercise any restraint on Zhukov and he was therefore able to appoint Shtemyenko to the post of Chief of the GRU, reinstating him as a full general after his demotion. The GRU became an organisation solely dependent on the Army. Zhukov's next step was a blow against Party influence in the Army. On his orders all political workers and Party commissars were expelled from the Army. He also ordered the Chief Political Directorate of the Soviet Army to stop interfering any more in Army affairs, and at the same time liquidated all the special departments of State Security present in the Army. The crocodile was clearly throwing off its bonds. In Politburo sessions Zhukov openly contradicted Khruschev and publicly abused him.
The party understood how rashly it had behaved in depriving the KGB of power, since the Party alone was clearly defenceless against the Army. There was absolutely no doubt that very soon the Army would become the only master of the situation. But in October 1957 Zhukov committed a grave error. He went on a visit to Yugoslavia and in his absence, a plenum of the Central Committee of the Party was hurriedly convened. Zhukov was secretly removed from the Politburo and also from his duties as Minister of Defence because of 'bonapartism'. The chief of the GRU, General Shtemyenko, learned about what had happened and immediately sent a telegram of warning to Zhukov in Yugoslavia, but it was intercepted by the KGB. Zhukov returned from Yugoslavia straight into renewed exile. Shtemyenko followed him, again reduced to the rank of lieutenant- general. (Some survive vicissitudes better than others: under Brezhnev, Shtemyenko was again reinstated.)
Now once more the post of chief of the GRU was held by a member of the KGB, Ivan Serov. Henceforth everything would go according to Lenin's teachings. Serov, on his appointment, automatically turned into an arch- rival and enemy of the KGB, and was not in the least interested in the fusion of these two organisations. But since he had been a general of the KGB, the Army could not exploit him against the Party and the KGB. That was not all. In order to control the Army in the interests of the Party, General Golikov, the former chief of the GRU, was appointed chief of the Political Directorate of the Soviet Army. Golikov was a former Tchekist and political worker and he was ready to serve anybody who desired his services and to report only the data which would please the leadership. Such a person was eminently suitable as far as the Party was concerned.
Serov's successor as chief of the GRU was Colonel-General of the KGB, Petr Ivashutin. General Yepishev, who had been from 1951 to 1953 Deputy Minister of State Security, succeeded Golikov as chief of the Political Directorate of the Soviet Army. In a word, the crocodile was again firmly on the leash.