Leaders of Soviet Military Intelligence
I soon realised that a history of the GRU would be a very fraught undertaking. It is clear that the very shortest history of the GRU would fill several massive tomes and could only be written after the fall of communist power. The history written in this book consists only of isolated details, only vague outlines of a continent shrouded in the mists. The picture may be made clearer by studying the destiny of those individuals who have held the highest power in Soviet military intelligence. In their destinies the whole history of the organisation is reflected.
ARALOV, Simon Ivanovich: 18.12.1880 - 22.5.1969. He was born in Moscow to rich merchant parents and educated to follow his father's profession. In 1905 he joined the Tsar's army and served in WWI as a major in military intelligence. A participant in the October Revolution he was one of the creators of the Tcheka. In January 1918 he became chief of the Operational Department of the Moscow military district. Rapidly promoted, in October 1918 he became the first chief of military intelligence until July 1920. In 1920 he moved down to chief of intelligence, 12th Army, and then regained ground commanding intelligence of the S.W. front. After 1921 he was a deputy of the chief of military intelligence, working in Turkey, Latvia and Lithuania as undercover ambassador and later was responsible for setting up residencies in the United States, Germany and Japan. In 1937, dismissed from all posts, he was employed as a deputy director of the Literature Museum. Arrested in 1938, he spent three years under interrogation. In 1941 he was serving as a private in a penal battalion. Four years later, he was a colonel, and when the war was over he was taken back into the GRU. Then, arrested in 1946, he spent ten years in a concentration camp. On his liberation he was immediately appointed deputy to the chief of the GRU. In 1957 he was again dismissed in the Zhukov/ Shtemyenko purge, but lived quietly until his death.
STIGGA, Oskar Ansovich: 1894 - 29.7.38. Born in Latvia, he served in WWI and became a communist after the Revolution, and a leader of the Red Latvian Riflemen. He engaged in suppressing counterrevolutionaries in Moscow and became a private bodyguard of Lenin. In October 1918 he was a deputy of the chief of military intelligence and immediately moved as an illegal into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. In 1919 he became chief of intelligence of the Western front, and in August 1920 became chief of military intelligence. Reduced to deputy status after 1922, he travelled extensively as an illegal to create new networks until his recall to Moscow in 1938, when he was shot.
NIKONOV, A.M. (Nikonson): ? - 29.7.38. It remains uncertain whether this was his real name or simply a party pseudonym like Lenin, Stalin, Trotski, Zinoviev and others. His date of birth is unknown. He was chief of military intelligence after Stigga, but it is not known whether Berzin took over from him or from another, so far unidentified, chief of military intelligence. He too was executed in the great terror of 1938.
2nd Grade Army Commissar BERZIN, Yan Karlovich (real name Kyuzis Peteris): 13.11.1889 - 29.7.38. Born in Latvia, Berzin joined the Social-Democratic Party in 1904. He was conscripted into the army in the First World War but deserted and went underground. He took part in the October Revolution and afterwards he worked in the central apparatus of the NKVD and in the NKVD in Latvia. One of the main organisers of the 'Red Terror', he initiated the hostages system. He was also a fervent supporter of the establishment of a communist dictatorship in Latvia and one of the organisers and leaders of the Latvian Red Army (subsequently the 15th Army). He was head of a special department of this army and played a part in the suppression of the Russian sailors' mutiny at Kronstadt. He particularly distinguished himself in the course of the pursuit and liquidation of captured sailors. >From April 1921 he was Deputy Head of Intelligence Directorate (GRU) but, from his first days in military intelligence, he was, de facto, its head. With effect from March 1924 he became its head legally as well. He was one of the most talented, industrious and successful heads of intelligence, the creator of the most powerful and successful intelligence organisations in existence anywhere. He personally recruited and ran the most outstanding intelligence officers - Yakov Mrachkovski (Gorev), Moshe Milstein (Mikhail M), Ruth and Rolf Werner, Richard Sorge, Lev Manevich, Sandor Rado, Karl Ramm, Aino Kuusinen, Ignati Reis and the most eminent intelligence officer of the 20th century, Konstantin Efremov. In 1936 Berzin transferred the Soviet military intelligence command post from Moscow to Madrid, where he carried out his most notable recruitments while he was working under cover, officially designated as chief military adviser to the Republican Government. In order to sustain this cover story his deputies Uritski and Unshlikht carried out his duties in Moscow. On returning from Spain he continued to lead military intelligence. On 13 May 1938 he was arrested and on 29 July he was shot.
UNSHLIKHT, losif Stanislavovich: 19.12.1879 - 29.7.1938. An hereditary Polish nobleman and an active member of the Polish (left-wing) Social-Democratic Party, he was one of the leaders of the October Revolution. Immediately after the revolution he became a member of the NKVD college. He began the policy of state terror before Dzerzhinsky, and at one time he was considered by Soviet historians as the 'first founder of the Tcheka' at the same time as Dzerzhinsky was considered the 'chief founder of the Tcheka'. A fervent supporter of the establishment of communism in Poland, in 1920 he was a member of the 'Polish Revolutionary Government'. From 1921-23 he was deputy chairman of the All-Russian Tcheka and one of the fathers of the 'Red Terror". From 1923 he was deputy head of the registration directorate (GRU). In the interests of cover he constantly filled responsible posts in the Soviet Government and the Red Army. He travelled abroad several times with false documents to organise illegal work in Poland, Lithuania and Germany. In 1935-36 during Berzin's absence he carried out the duties of chief of the GRU although he remained in fact only deputy to Berzin. He was shot with Berzin in the cellar of the 'Hotel Metropole' in Moscow.
Corps Commander URITSKI, Solomon Petrovich: 1895-1937 was chief of the GRU during Berzin's absence. He was shot in the first wave of the Terror.
Commissar-General of State Security EZHOV, Nikolai Ivanovich: 1895- 1940. A petty official who only joined the Bolsheviks when it became clear that they had won, he occupied insignificant party posts in the provinces, but from 1927 Ezhov was in Stalin's personal secretariat. In 1930 he was in charge of the Central Committee Personnel Department and in 1935 Party Secretary, controller of NKVD work. In 1936 he became Peoples' Commissar for Internal Affairs and Commissar-General for State Security. In 1937-38 there began under his leadership the 'great purge' which started as a purge of the NKVD and was then extended to the army, the party and the entire country. On 29 July 1938 there was a repeat purge of the GRU and, having liquidated the whole of the leadership and the operational staff, he took over its control, thus establishing a monopoly of secret activities in the state. From this moment on it would be impossible for the activites of the GRU and NKVD to be subject to reciprocal checking. However, the monopoly alarmed Stalin and 29 July saw the beginning of Ezhov's downfall. In October he was removed from his post. He was arrested in January 1939 and liquidated after atrocious torture. According to unconfirmed data, he was buried alive at the NKVD sanatorium at Sukhanovo.
One of the bloodiest careers in the history of mankind. Ezhov was the shortest serving Chief of the GRU and suffered the most painful death. The date of his death has not been established with certainty; there are grounds for thinking it could have been on 4 June 1940. There are also grounds for believing that Ivan Serov, a future chief of the GRU, played a personal part in Ezhov's death.
Lieut-General of Aviation PROSKUROV, Ivan losifovich: ? - 5.7.1940. An outstanding Soviet intelligence officer and fighter pilot, he combined both these professions simultaneously. In 1937-38 he served as a Soviet Military Adviser in Spain. He took part in air battles and shot down several enemy aircraft. At the same time he carried out a series of first-class recruitments amongst internationalists of many countries and assured a regular flow of military and military-technical intelligence. On his return from Spain he became chief of the GRU, a post he occupied from the end of 1938 to July 1940. He openly came out against the pact with Hitler. On the 4 July 1940 he was arrested, and the following day shot without trial.
Marshal of the Soviet Union GOLIKOV, Filipp Ivanovich: 16.7.1900 - 29.6.1980. He entered the Red Army as a volunteer in 1918 and took an active part in the suppression of anti-communist peasant riots on the staff of the 3rd Army Special Punitive Brigades. After the civil war he commanded a regiment, brigade, division and corps. In September 1939 he fought in Poland as commander of the 6th Army. In 1940 he became the chief of the GRU. After Hitler's invasion and the loss of contact with the most important agent network he transferred the GRU command point from Moscow to London under the guise of the Soviet military mission. In October 1941 he returned to the USSR. He commanded an army, then a front. From April 1943 he was deputy to Stalin for Red Army cadres, and, at the same time, from 1944 directed operations against the Russian Liberation Army and the search for, and liquidation of, the leaders and those taking part in the Russian anti-communist opposition. Golikov de facto directed the forcible repatriation and destruction of more than a million people who did not want to return to the USSR. Golikov directed the post-war purge of the Army. When it was over he himself was removed from all his posts. He spent two years in prison, but by 1950 he was commanding another army and, from 1956, he was Academy Chief. >From 1958 he was head of the Chief Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and, simultaneously, Director of a Party Central Committee Department. Golikov agreed to be Army Controller on the side of the Party. In 1961 he was made Marshal of the Soviet Union. In May 1962 he was removed from office without much rumpus or scandal, however. Golikov may be said to have had the most distinguished career in the whole Soviet Army.
From July 1941 to July 1942 Aleksei Pavlovich PANFILOV was Chief of the GRU. He was shot in 1942. In 1942-43 the GRU leadership was held by Ivan Ivanovich ILICHEV. He was also shot.
Colonel-General KUZNETSOV, Fedor Fedotovich: 6.2.1904 - 1979. A country boy who came to Moscow and became a factory worker, he quickly assessed the situation, joined the Party and embarked on an meteoric career. By 1937 he was 1st Secretary of the Proletarski district of Moscow, and in the heat of the great purge he showed exceptional cruelty. In 1938 he was called up into the Army and appointed deputy head of the Chief Political Directorate. He was an active participant in the army purge which included the GRU, and from 1943 he was chief of the GRU. On his appointment Stalin asked him whether he could be as good an intelligence officer as he had been earlier Party Controller of the Army. Kuznetsov's reply-'Is there any great difference?'-has become proverbial. Kuznetsov at work demonstrated that there was no great difference between the cruel, bloody struggle within the party and intelligence work. He was one of the cruellest but also one of the most successful chiefs of the GRU. In 1943 he received the plans of operation 'Citadel' (the German attack near Kursk) before General-Field Marshal E. von Manstein, whose duty it was to implement those plans. Kuznetsov had a special role to play in the organisation and carrying out of the great powers' conference in Teheran and, as a reward for his success in this, received the rank of Colonel-General. In 1945 he played an active part in the preparations and implementation of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences and also personally directed operations to steal American atomic technology.
In 1948, at the height of the post-war purges Stalin appointed Kuznetsov supreme Party Controller of the Army - Head of the Chief Political Directorate. He held this post right up to the time of Stalin's death, mercilessly purging the Soviet Army of dissidents. After Stalin's death a slow decline set in, first to the post of Head of the Chief Personnel Directorate at the Ministry of Defence, then Academy Head and, finally, Head of the Political Directorate of the Northern Group of Forces. He retired in 1969.
General of the Army SHTEMYENKO, Sergei Matveevich: 7.2.1907 - 23.4.1976. Shtemyenko joined the Red Army as a volunteer. He completed military training and two academy courses, and from 1940 was on the General Staff. His rise was swift. In 1943 he was head of the Operations Directorate of the General Staff and one of the principal Soviet military planners and the closest to Stalin. He accompanied Stalin to the Teheran conference. He became chief of the GRU from April 1946, General of the Army and Chief of the General Staff from November 1948. In June 1952, at the time of the squabble between Stalin and the Politburo he came out on Stalin's side and was, by Politburo decree, stripped of all his posts, demoted to Lieut-General and despatched to command the Volga military district staff. In 1956, at Marshal Zhukov's demand, he was returned to Moscow, reinstated in his rank of General of the Army and re- appointed chief of the GRU. In October 1957 during the conspiracy against Zhukov, he came out on Zhukov's side. Once again he was stripped of his offices, demoted to Lieut-General and sent off to command a military district staff. In June 1962 he was Chief of Staff for Land Forces. In 1968 his rank of General of the Army was restored and he was appointed First Deputy Chief of the General Staff - Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Pact. He was still in favour when he died.
Shtemyenko's career was feverish as well as resilient. He was pat forward three times for the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union, the first time at the age of forty-one, but he never received the honour. He is considered to have been the most energetic, erudite and merciless of all GRU chiefs.
General of the Army KURASOV, Vladimir Vasilievich: 7.7.1897 - 29.11.73. A Russian Army officer who went over to the side of the communists after the revolution. He served on various staffs, and from 1940 was deputy head of the General Staff Operations Directorate. During the war he was Chief of Staff of the 4th Shock Army, and later a front. After the war he was Commander-in-Chief of the Central group of forces in Austria. Promoted General of the Army, he was made chief of the GRU in February 1949. In the same year he was removed from this office and appointed Chief of the General Staff Academy. From 1956-61 he was Deputy Chief of the General Staff. His career ran smoothly. It has been said that, having accepted the GRU post and learning of the fate of all his predecessors Kurasov, on a specious pretext, declined the office and transferred to a less hazardous post. This story is corroborated by several independent sources
Marshal of the Soviet Union ZAKHAROV, Matvei Vasilievich: 5.8.1898 - 31.1.1972.
Zakharov was in Petrograd in the First World War and avoided being conscripted into the Army. He came out actively against the war, joined the Red Guard in April 1917 and stormed the Winter Palace. He then took part in the suppression of anti-communist manifestations and held unimportant posts in the Red Army. By 1936 he had worked himself up to the command of a regiment. The great purge opened up many vacancies, and in July 1937 Zakharov was Chief of Staff of the Leningrad Military District, and, from May 1938, Deputy Chief of the General Staff. During the war he was Chief of Staff of the 9th Army and later front, and, after the war, Head of the General Staff Academy. He became chief of the GRU in January 1949. In June 1952 a fierce struggle broke out about convening the 19th Party Congress. The Politburo insisted, Stalin objected. The Chief of the General Staff Shtemyenko, and the Chief of the GRU Zakharov, supported Stalin and were dismissed from their posts. After Stalin's death Zakharov's fall continued, but in May 1953 he was appointed Commander of the Leningrad Military District and was able to hold on to this post. In October 1957 a struggle broke out between the Politburo and Marshal Zhukov. Zakharov was fully on the side of the Politburo and for this he was immediately appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. In 1959 he was made Marshal of the Soviet Union, and Chief of the General Staff in 1960. In 1963 he was dismissed. He took an active part in the conspiracy against Khruschev and, after the successful coup d'etat was re-appointed Chief of the General Staff where he served up to September 1971-practically up to the time of his death.
Colonel-General SHALIN, Mikhail Alekseevich was chief of the GRU from 1951-56 and from November 1957 to December 1958.
General of the Army SEROV, Ivan Alekseevich. An officer of military intelligence, at the time of the purges of the GRU he managed not only to survive but also to transfer to work in the NKVD. On 12 June 1937 he appeared in the capacity of executioner of Marshal Tukhachevski and other leading figures of the Red Army. Amongst all the protagonists of the terror he distinguished himself as the most fervent exponent of 'scenes on a massive scale'. He took part in the pursuit and liquidation of the inhabitants of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940 and in 1944-47. Data exists as to his personal involvement in the murder of the Polish officers in Katyn. During the war Serov was one of the leaders of Smersh, and in August 1946 he personally took part in the execution of the command of the Russian Liberation Army under Lieut-General Vlasov. Subsequently he betrayed his leaders in Smersh and the NKGB, going over in time to the camp of the victorious groups. He deserted Abakumov's group for that of Beria and betrayed him (as did General Ivashutin - the present GRU leader). In 1953 he was deputy chief of the GRU and one of the conspirators against Beria. After the fall of Beria, Serov became Chairman of the KGB. Together with Ambassador Andropov he seized the leaders of the Hungarian revolution by deceit and took part in their torture and execution. In December 1958 Serov became chief of the GRU. As an ex-KGB and Smersh officer he had many enemies in the GRU. Under Serov's leadership, corruption in GRU attained unbelievable proportions. In 1962 he was dismissed and quietly liquidated.
Serov's was the dirtiest career in the history of the GRU. He displayed a high degree of personal sadism. The years when Serov was chief of the GRU were also the most unproductive in its history. It was the only period when GRU officers voluntarily made contact with Western services and gave them much more valuable information than they took from them.
General of the Army IVASHUTIN, Peter Ivanovitch: 5.9.1909. A volunteer in the punitive formations of the Special Purpose Units, Ivashutin came into Army counter-intelligence from 1931. During the war he held leading posts in Smersh. Even at this time Ivashutin had powerful enemies in the NKGB. In 1944-45 he was chief of Smersh on the 3rd Ukrainian Front and in that capacity waged a ferocious struggle against the Ukrainian insurgent army and played an active role in the establishment of communist order in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Hungary. It was at this time that he first met Brezhnev, and in all subsequent activities the two men always supported each other. At the end of the war Ivashutin took part in the forcible repatriation of Soviet citizens who did not want to return to the Soviet Union. He also played a special part in the liquidation of soldiers and officers of the Russian Liberation Army. After the disbandment of Smersh he managed to outlive its other leaders by a timely transfer out of the Abakumov faction into that of Beria. At Beria's downfall he went over to the Serov faction and was appointed head of the KGB 3rd Chief Directorate. He then took part in the arrest and liquidation of Serov. On Brezhnev's recommendation in 1963, Ivashutin was appointed chief of the GRU. In this position he had a number of very serious confrontations with the KGB and personally with Andropov. However, Ivashutin defended the interests of the Army with more vigour than any of his predecessors and, therefore, in spite of his past ties with the KGB, enjoyed unlimited support from the first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers, the chairman of the Military Industrial Complex Smirnov as well as Marshals Ustinov and Ogarkov. After Andropov's coming to power Ivashutin held on to his post in view of powerful support within the Army.