Anatoly Gorsky

Anatoly Gorsky


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Anatoly Gorsky was born in Russia in about 1907. He joined the renamed People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) in 1928. He was sent to London in 1936. His cover was attaché, then second secretary of the Soviet embassy. Christopher Andrew has claimed that "Gorsky was a grimly efficient, humourless, orthodox Stalinist." (1)

Gorsky worked under Theodore Maly who at the time was running a network that included Maly recruited Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross and Anthony Blunt. By the summer of 1937, over forty intelligence agents serving abroad were summoned back to the Soviet Union. This included Maly. Nikolai Yezhov the head of the Administration of Special Tasks (AST) believed that Maly was a supporter of Leon Trotsky and he was executed. (2)

Gorsky now took Maly's job. He was not popular with his network and Blunt described him as "unsympathetic". (3) Moscow told Gorsky that his agents were probably not to be trusted as intelligence work in Britain "was based on doubtful sources, on an agent network acquired at the time when it was controlled by enemies of the people and was therefore extremely dangerous." (4) Gorsky was ordered to maintain contact with the British spies "in such a manner as to reinforce their conviction that we trust them completely". As Ben Macintyre, the author of A Spy Among Friends (2014) has pointed out that spies like Philby was not really trusted: "Philby was telling Moscow the truth, but he was disbelieved, and allowed to go on thinking he was believed; he was deceiving the British in order to aid the Soviets, who suspected a deception, and were in turn deceiving him." (5)

On 7th August, 1944, J. Edgar Hoover received an anonymous letter saying that Vassily Zarubin was an NKVD agent. It was claimed he was running a large network of Soviet agents "among whom are many U.S. citizens" including Earl Browder. As a result of the letter Zarubin was deported. Anatoly Gorsky was now sent to the United States as his replacement. (6) Kathryn S. Olmsted, the author of Red Spy Queen (2002) has argued: "Once in Washington, Gorsky supervised agents, cultivated presidential advisers, and recommended assassinations." (7)

Gorsky was now in control of the Soviet network that included the names of Elizabeth Bentley (code-name Miss Wise), Donald Hiss (Junior), Alger Hiss (Leonard), Harry Dexter White (Richard), Joszef Peter (Storm) Henry H. Collins (105th), Julian Wadleigh (104th), Harold Glasser (Ruble), Noel Field (Ernst), Abraham George Silverman (Aileron) and Lee Pressman (Vig). (8)

At first Gorsky mainly dealt with Bentley, who had taken over the group from Jacob Golos. "In an elaborate pas de deux, the two champion manipulators tried to placate, deceive, and outwit each other. A survivor of the Stalinist purges, Gorsky plainly thought that he could handle this difficult American woman. Like his predecessors, though, he had no idea of the strength and shrewdness of his adversary... Gorsky seemed to view Elizabeth as a child, and, like all bad parents, he attempted to solve this discipline problem with threats and bribes. The bribe came first. At their second meeting, in New York in November, he told her it was a memorable day. The top Communists in the motherland had awarded her the Order of the Red Star." (9)

Elizabeth Bentley immediately took a dislike to Gorsky. In her autobiography, Out of Bondage (1988) "as a short, fattish man in his mid-thirties, with blond hair pushed straight back and glasses that failed to mask a pair of shrewd, cold eyes." She added that there was something about him that made "shivers run up and down your spine." (10) She did not trust Gorsky and suspected that if she ever did go to Moscow to receive the Order of the Red Star she would be eliminated.

Bentley claimed that Gorsky sexually harassed her. According to Bentley he stared at her like "a trader about to decide whether to buy a horse" and said, suggestively, "I like you personally; I think we could work very well together." Bentley was overwhelmed with "nausea." (11) However, Gorsky complained to Moscow that Bentley was making sexual advances towards him: "In a meeting with Gorsky where they exchanged Christmas presents, Bentley informed her Russian colleague that he reminded her of Jacob Golos. It was difficult for a young and lonely woman to live without a man, she told him, noting that she thought more and more often about having a family. A flustered Gorsky, plainly hoping to avoid entanglement, immediately cabled Moscow stating that it was urgent to find a husband for Bentley." (12)

Kathryn S. Olmsted has argued that it was probably Bentley who was lying about the incident: "It is impossible to know for certain who was telling the truth. But Gorsky did not have a reputation for sexual adventures, while Elizabeth did. Moreover, he told his version of the event at the time, whereas she told her side much later. In any event, whether he insulted her by propositioning her or by rejecting her proposition, the net result was that she felt insulted. That insult only strengthened Elizabeth's conviction to leave the Soviet service." (13)

Anatoly Gorsky discovered that Elizabeth Bentley was involved with a man, Peter Heller, who they suspected was a FBI agent. Gorsky forced Elizabeth to turn over all of her contacts to him. He informed Moscow "Bentley is a serious and dangerous burden for us here. She should be taken home (to the Soviet Union), but how to do it, frankly speaking, I don't know since she won't go illegally." (14) On 27th November, 1944, Gorsky sent a memo about the possibility of another agent, Joseph Katz, killing Bentley. However, he pointed out that this would be difficult as Bentley was "a very strong, tall and healthy woman" and Katz "was not feeling well lately." (15)

Gorsky's superiors suspected that he was being watched by the FBI and was worried that this would expose Donald Maclean, an important agent based in Washington. Gorsky and Iskhak Akhmerov, another Soviet agent who had been in contact with Bentley, were ordered to return to Moscow. (16)

Anatoly Gorsky died in 1980.

Gorsky was not only the chief of NKGB operations in America but also the first secretary at the Soviet embassy. He had made a name for himself in London, where he had controlled the "Cambridge Five," the British spies who counted Kim Philby and Donald Maclean among their number. Gorsky had followed Maclean to Washington when the British diplomat had been posted to the embassy there. Once in Washington, Gorsky supervised agents, cultivated presidential advisers, and recommended assassinations. There was something about him, Elizabeth said later, that made "shivers run up and down your spine." She had demanded to see someone at the top, and she had gotten her wish.

Thus began Elizabeth's relationship with her last - and most powerful-NKGB controller. In an elaborate pas de deux, the two champion manipulators tried to placate, deceive, and outwit each other. Like his predecessors, though, he had no idea of the strength and shrewdness of his adversary.

Gorsky seemed to view Elizabeth as a child, and, like all bad parents, he attempted to solve this discipline problem with threats and bribes. The top Communists in the motherland had awarded her the Order of the Red Star. If she ever went to Moscow, she would only have to show her star to be "wined and dined and treated like a princess."

The honor was not a good choice. Although she appeared to respond with "cordial gratitude," Elizabeth was actually seething beneath the surface. She knew better than to go to Moscow, and some silly Russian decoration meant nothing to her.

Gorsky had better luck with threats. At their third meeting, a week before Christmas 1944, he summarily informed Elizabeth that he was taking over all of her sources. "I'm afraid our friend Golos was not too cautious a man, and there is the risk that you, because of your connection with him, may endanger the apparatus," he explained.

Meanwhile, she could decide if she wanted to continue with the underground in another location with new contacts. That was that; no more debate, no more angst. The decision had been made without her."

The loss of her sources was upsetting enough, but then something else happened that night to anger Elizabeth even more. The two participants told dramatically different tales of what happened next. In her version, Gorsky sexually harassed her. He stared at her like "a trader about to decide whether to buy a horse" and said, suggestively, "I like you personally; I think we could work very well together." She was overwhelmed with "nausea."

In Gorsky's version, though, his lonely, oversexed agent made a pass at him. She purred suggestively that he reminded her of her dead lover and talked of how she would like to start a family. In a panic, Gorsky wired to Moscow that his bosses should reconsider the matchmaking possibilities for his amorous agent. He wanted someone else to absorb her considerable sexual energy."

It is impossible to know for certain who was telling the truth. That insult only strengthened Elizabeth's conviction to leave the Soviet service.

Over the course of the next month, Gorsky forced Elizabeth to turn over all of her contacts to him. She was exhausted, "mentally, and physically, from the strain of leaving them." They were, after all, her friends.

Earl Browder's complaint about Elizabeth Bentley backfired, leading to growing Soviet distrust of Browder, not Bentley. She encouraged this process by reporting to the NKGB in October 1944 - falsely perhaps - that Browder had changed his view of Soviet intelligence and now called Bentley's work "dirty blackmail," urging American Communists to keep their distance from Russian operatives. Moreover, according to Bentley, Browder had complained that although he had rendered great assistance to Soviet intelligence, the USSR's operatives had done nothing for him. Whether or not linked to this latest turn in Bentley's loyalties, Washington station chief Anatoly Gorsky informed her in November that she had been decorated with the Order of the Red Star. In response to the news, Gorsky informed Moscow, "she expressed cordial gratitude and assured me that she would work indefatigably to justify the reward."

By the following month, however, Bentley's emotional restlessness resurfaced dramatically. In a meeting with Gorsky where they exchanged Christmas presents, Bentley informed her Russian colleague that he reminded her of Jacob Golos. A flustered Gorsky, plainly hoping to avoid entanglement, immediately cabled Moscow stating that it was urgent to find a husband for Bentley. He repeated the concern expressed by Akhmerov six months earlier: "Think over the issue of (Bentley's) marriage," Gorsky told his superiors.

Complaints about Elizabeth Bentley's tradecraft had increased by then, especially her intermingling of public and secret activities. In December 1944, Moscow learned from other American agents that Bentley's associates in the U.S. Shipping Corporation knew of her intelligence work, that she failed to recognize other Soviet agents following her, and that she was dangerously careless in her work: "Sometimes (Bentley) used her apartment for meetings with agents, and some... have her home telephone number." Because the members of her network knew one another, "the entire organization is in such a state now that, if somebody began even a very superficial investigation, the entire group with its direct connections would be unmasked immediately," one of her adversaries wrote the station." Virtually all of the professional operatives who dealt with her had come by then to similar conclusions.

Such inattention to the crucial details of her responsibilities as a courier may have reflected the primacy of personal matters for Bentley during the spring of 1945. Elizabeth's NKGB associates discovered that she had found a new lover, an American named Peter Heller.... In conversations with NKGB supervisors, Bentley continued to complain about her "lack of a male friend to satisfy her natural needs."

Gorsky continued questioning her about Heller, and Bentley "told us a number of details about her lover which left no doubts that he was an agent of the FBI or one of "Arsenal's" (the U.S. War Department's) counterintelligence."

Gorsky urged Bentley to halt the romance and take a vacation, which she apparently did, "but it is difficult to say to what degree she left her lover."

Bentley's own description of Peter Heller confirmed Gorsky's worst fears. Heller described himself as a lawyer and National Guard reserve officer who worked as an investigator for the government, verifying the qualifications of people recommended for promotion in the U.S. Army - in other words, a military intelligence operative. "Overall now," Gorsky informed Moscow, "(Bentley) is a serious and dangerous burden for us here. She should be taken home (to the Soviet Union), but how to do it, frankly speaking, I don't know since she won't go illegally."

Even Bentley had concluded by then that Heller had worked for the FBI at some point, telling her that he had taken part in investigations of Communists and knew the Russian language. As the romance continued, so did planning by her NKGB colleagues for Bentley's imminent (if involuntary) departure from the United States. "Some time ago," Gorsky reported to Moscow on September lo, "we began preparing her for removal from New York to another city or country to continue work for us there." Gorsky suggested that Bentley relocate "in a country where entry visas for Americans are not needed-Canada, Mexico, Brazil, etc. She has refused to leave New York illegally."

Bentley told Gorsky that she wanted only to return to work at the U.S. Shipping Corporation, which she had left earlier that year. But Gorsky still believed that she should be taken to the Soviet Union. (Wartime restrictions precluded any obvious "legal" means of removing Bentley to the USSR.) Moscow responded on September 14, again urging Gorsky to convince Bentley to end her affair with Heller, but cautioned against further discussion with her about leaving America: "She understands what this is all about."

By that time, the NKGB believed (correctly, as it turned out) that Bentley "is evidently being actively cultivated"' by U.S. counterintelligence agents and therefore Gorsky should not meet with her as frequently. Despite the warning signs, Moscow's response to the situation remained surprisingly paternal, suggesting that Bentley be offered another position and, if necessary, financial help: "After she is back from vacation, use her only on new talent-spottings and recruitments.... It is important for us to load (Bentley) up so much that she has no time to think too much and no time to practice romance, etc. Try to avoid using her for contact with old agents known to her and valuable to us. It would be good to give her in marriage, even with the help of known Communists."

The situation did not improve. Gorsky reported on September 27 that Bentley had returned from vacation and met with him "semi-drunk." She declined Gorsky's suggestion that they meet at a later time and stated that "if I broke up the meeting, we would never see her any more... and that she drank in order to tell in a drunken state that which she did not dare discuss soberly.

Recently ALES (Hiss) and his whole group were awarded Soviet decorations. After the Yalta conference, when he had gone on to Moscow, a Soviet personage in a cry responsible position (ALES gave to understand that it was Comrade Vyshinsky, deputy foreign minister), allegedly got in touch with ALES and at the behest of the military NEIGHBOURS (GRU) passed oil to him their gratitude and so on.

(1) Christopher Andrew & Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive (1999) page 118

(2) Gordon Brook-Shepherd, The Storm Petrels: The Flight of the First Soviet Defectors (1977) page 163

(3) Robert Cecil, A Divided Life (1988) page 66

(4) Quoted by Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of a Master Spy (1994) page 135

(5) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 72

(6) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) page 276

(7) Kathryn S. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen (2002) page 74

(8) Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (2010) page 29

(9) Kathryn S. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen (2002) page 74

(10) Elizabeth Bentley, Out of Bondage (1988) page 173

(11) Elizabeth Bentley, Out of Bondage (1988) page 267

(12) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) page 99-101

(13) Kathryn S. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen (2002) page 74

(14) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) page 101

(15) Anatoly Gorsky, memo to Moscow (27th November, 1944)

(16) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) page 107


The Bartender who Accidentally Saved the World

The evening of October 24, 1962 must have been quite a shift for the bar staff at the National Press Club. Only two nights before, President John Kennedy addressed the nation about Soviet missiles being discovered in Cuba and the imposition of a naval “quarantine” around the island. The uncertainty combined with the high stakes of a nuclear stand-off between two superpowers would’ve been enough to send DC’s elite searching for a place to grab a drink and seek out more news. As one of the few spots in Washington for power players of the day to blow off steam and exchange information, the tap room at the Press Club would’ve been packed.

Johnny Prokov, a Soviet émigré of Lithuanian decent, was working at the bar that night in a smoky atmosphere of heightened chatter. He had worked at the Press Club for three years and, like most bartenders, he would’ve been busy, juggling drink orders and cash while being friendly with regulars. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that night shifts at bars move quickly. They’re exciting and exhausting at the same time.

So it’s understandable that in the midst of a hectic night, Prokov caught only a snippet of a conversation between two regulars. Warren Rogers, a reporter with the New York Herald Tribune was sharing a drink with the paper’s Washington bureau chief, Robert Donovan. Prokov overheard Donovan saying that he would fly south later in the night to “cover the operation to capture Cuba.” Prokov, however, misheard the conversation and didn’t catch the most important part of the entire exchange. It was to be Rogers, not Donovan, who would fly south “to cover the operation to capture Cuba” as part of the Pentagon’s approved list of media members…if the decision was made to invade Cuba. It was a pretty big “if” to miss. As we know, the president and his advisors had not decided to invade Cuba.

At the end of his shift, the snippet of conversation he thought he heard was stuck in his head. At closing, bartenders are usually pre-occupied with settling the tabs of the remaining customers, cleaning up and prepping the bar for the next day’s opening. It’s mundane. But as the bar was closing, Anatoly Gorsky, a KBG spy working under cover as a Soviet journalist from Tass, dropped by for a late night drink. Despite all the urban mythology surrounding the adeptness of Soviet espionage, Soviet intelligence gathering in the United States was rudimentary at the time. No one in the Kremlin knew Kennedy’s intentions. It must have come as quite a surprise to Gorsky when Prokov passed along what he thought he heard. In fact, it was such a surprise that Gorsky left without his nightcap and went straight to the Soviet embassy to send a message to Moscow about the exchange.

Seeking to confirm what appeared to be Kennedy’s intention to invade Cuba, a Soviet embassy official arranged to coincidentally run into Rogers the following morning. When asked by the embassy official if Kennedy means what he says, Rogers recalls saying, “You’re damn right he does. He will do what he says he will do.”

News of the encounter went directly to Khrushchev’s office. A personal assistant and translator to the Soviet Premier recalled the great alarm that Khrushchev felt upon reading the intelligence of the conversation. It was in this context that Khrushchev penned an emotional letter to Kennedy that outlined the possibility of a deal—a pledge by the United States to lift the quarantine and not invade Cuba in exchange for missiles being removed from the island. It was this letter that Kennedy and his advisors responded to and used as a framework to gradually deescalate the crisis.

One wonders what might have happened had the events at the National Press Club bar played out a little differently. What if Prokov accurately heard the exchange between Donovan and Rogers? Would he have passed the information along to Gorsky at all? If he had, would Gorsky have thought it important enough to report to Moscow right away? If Gorsky hadn’t, would Khrushchev have taken a tougher line one that Kennedy couldn’t accept? Would events have then begun to spiral towards a war, possibly involving a nuclear exchange?

Nothing about the Cuban missile crisis was a foregone conclusion. Key events in history are often near-run things. No outcome is inevitable. Fate often turns on an individual’s decision, like deciding to share a misheard conversation with a bar patron who just happened to be a Soviet spy.

There other things we don’t know about that night. We don’t know what Rogers, Donovan or Gorsky ordered to drink that night, but we do know what the popular drinks were of the time: martinis, manhattans, Rob Roys, brandy Alexanders. So fix one of these and raise your glass to Johnny Prokov. He may be the reason we’re still around to toast anyone at all.

Paul Kan is Professor of National Security Studies at the US Army War College and a former bartender. This particular episode in the Cuban Missile Crisis is recounted in two excellent books: Michael Dobbs’ One Minute To Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War and William Taubman’s Khrushchev: A Man and his Era.


More Comments:

John Paul Martin - 4/9/2009

I am very interested in the Alger Hiss Case and would like to question the integrity of Whitaker Chambers. This article starts by claiming that the Hiss Defense was not able to show Whitaker Chambers as a liar, homosexual and disturbed man when in fact, his own FBI testimony, his book Witness, every analysis of his background and testimony of fellow victims prove exactly that. I would like to hear an argument in his defense. Thank you

George Robert Gaston - 4/19/2007

I think there are two reasons some people cling to the proposition that Alger Hiss was innocent of betraying his country.

First, Hiss was one of them. He was one of those who made up the core of the new American welfare state liberalism, expressed by the New Deal. His treason called to question a number of the ideas that were fundamental to American “progressive” thinking. The main of which was internationalism, one of the mainstays of political thinking in the post war United States. Therefore, the political, journalistic, social and academic elite rushed to his defense because their defense of Hess was in effect, self-defense.

We need to remember that at this time Ezra Pound’s unrepentant defense of fascism was rightly condemned by this elite group, while they excused, if not applauded, Jean-Paul Sartre’s sustained defense of Stalin.
Second, the messenger was wrong. The Hiss case was intermixed with these same peoples’ loathing For Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. I have often thought if Richard Nixon had caught the GRU or KGB Washington station chief in the act of going through State Department files, the people who defended Hess would have rushed to their defense.

Louis Nelson Proyect - 4/18/2007

"They should admit the thrust of what Joe McCarthy was doing".

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 4/17/2007

Defenders of Hiss are now few and far between, thanks to the Venona transcripts, Weinstein and Tanenhaus, et al. That's obvious from the fact they aren't jumping into this comment board. They have probably admitted they were wrong about Hiss to themselves, but otherwise are trying not to think about it. Unfortunately, they need to think about it. They need to adjust their collateral thoughts about the whole period. They should admit HUAC was doing good work, and the Hollywood blacklistings were deserved. They should admit the thrust of what Joe McCarthy was doing was right and good for the country, even if he was an oaf personally. And the same about Richard Nixon. They should condemn Asst. Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White. They should admit Roosevelt was taken advantage of by determined enemies of our country who were agents of Joe Stalin. (These people gave the Russians all our atomic secrets). They should change their attitude toward the memory of J. Edgar Hoover. Etc., etc. Liberals who have seen the light about Hiss cannot turn away after that and remain dishonest with themselves about all the rest. It's not easy for them, but they have smeared a lot of people who deserve apologies. They have preached many falsehoods in the classroom and need to make up for it.

Jason Blake Keuter - 4/16/2007

The main reason for denying Hiss was a Soviet Spy is ideological, or perhaps religious would be a better word. In fact, Hiss is emblematic of a larger, more important denial: the threat of communism.


Any left winger who begins admitting to Hiss being a spy, begins admitting that spying was actually done by the Soviets. This admission starts them down the perilous path towards confronting that socialism was not progressive but parasitic that there was no scientific or technological race between dynamic and free capitalism and moribund socialism that, instead, the US created and the Soviets stole. In fact, all of the so-called successes of communism have always been due to the west and capitalism. It's failures were all its own.


More Comments:

Grif Fariello - 5/22/2007

Like Mr. Hamby, I too have read Weinstein's "Perjury," and came to it believing that it had to be the final word on Hiss as, after all, so many had claimed it so. Within the first 50 pages I was extremely puzzled - How did Weinstein uncover such detailed information on Hiss's activities? A look to the footnotes - ah yes, Chambers. Overwhelmingly, Chambers is used to prove Chambers. I then went to the library and in looking over the reviews came across the running debate between Navasky in Nation Magazine and Weinstein in, I believe it was, the National Review. I suggest Mr. Hamby should as well for Navasky holds the upper hand throughout and effectively demolishes Weinstein, his book, and his methods. I went on to read everything I could find on the case. Far from "overwhelming," I found the evidence against Hiss remarkably thin. I've also found the pro-Hiss crowd to deal head-on and far more honestly with the charges and evidence leveled against Hiss than the anti-Hiss bunch does with evidence that exonerates Hiss, which they meet with airy dismissals and sneers when not ignoring it altogether.

Arnold Shcherban - 4/23/2007

So WE have to believe Americans because they are . American anti-communist, but not contemporary Russians, since they are . presumably pro-communist and, therefore, liers.
I'm sure that's an <overwhelming> legal and factual argument.

Alonzo Hamby - 4/20/2007

I met Alger Hiss in the mid- to late-1970s when he did a university speaking tour after Richard Nixon's resignation.

He spoke to my class, and I had lunch and dinner with him. I have no doubt that he had come to believe that he was entirely innocent of any and all charges against him. I also think he was probably the most charming man I have ever met. I had by then read Allen Weinstein's book, "Perjury" and had been convinced that Hiss was indeed guilty as charged. At the end of the day, however, I found myself, whatever my intellectual conviction, not much caring whether Hiss was guilty or not. Of course, after a day or two reality set in.

Perhaps we should not blame Mr. Navasky, who probably had considerably more personal contact with Hiss than I, for his protracted act of denial. The evidence, however, is overwhelming.


Amerasia scandal

Currie was listed as one of the individuals who attended the Institute of Pacific Relations Conference held at Mont Tremblant, Canada, from December 5 to 19, 1942. In the early part of September 1943, Currie was appointed as Acting Deputy Administrator and he remained until the early part of 1945. He then resumed his former White House duties.

It was Currie who recommended Owen Lattimore to President Roosevelt to serve as a special advisor to Jiang Jieshi(Chiang Kai-shek). [18]

In connection with inquiries conducted with respect to Michael Greenberg, it was learned Greenberg at one time was assigned to work with Currie at the White House on matters pertaining to Chinese affairs.

In the late summer of 1950, Currie emigrated to Colombia and a few years later renounced his American citizenship. [19]

On September 9, 1950 and June 14, 1951, Senator Joseph McCarthy publicly discussed the case of Currie and the fact that he was a security and loyalty risk. [20]

In December 1952, Currie gave evidence in New York to a grand jury investigating Owen Lattimore's role in the publication by Amerasia magazine of secret State Department documents.


Anatoly Gorsky - History

Code name “VADIM.” A Soviet intelligence operative in Great Britain and the United States in the 1930s and 1940s.

Very little is known about Gorsky’s early years. According to his official biography, he received only a secondary school education and then “joined the state security agency” in 1928. In 1936, he was posted to London as an assistant to two successive residents who were both recalled to face execution on false charges. In the wake of the mass purges which decimated foreign intelligence, the London station was closed and Gorsky was recalled to Moscow in early 1940. At that time, he had been running 18 agents, including the famous “Cambridge Five.”

In November 1940, Gorsky returned to London, this time as the station chief (resident), working under the cover of attaché and then Second Secretary of the Soviet Embassy. Initially a three-man operation, Gorsky’s London station numbered 12 operatives by early 1944. Besides the famous “Cambridge Five” and other sources of political information, the station was running sources who provided the Soviets with an early warning on the British atomic bomb project. In January 1944, Gorsky returned to Moscow and became a department head.

In September 1944, Gorsky arrived in Washington D.C. as NKGB station chief (resident), operating under diplomatic cover with the rank of First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy and using the alias of Anatoly Borisovich Gromov. In his diplomatic role, Gorsky worked as the Embassy’s press officer, monitoring American press and radio broadcasts and sending detailed monthly reports to the Soviet Foreign Office (NKID). His second cover was that of an authorized representative of VOKS – a society for promoting contacts in the cultural sphere. On the VOKS front, “Gromov” served as a sort of liaison between the Soviets and a wide range of American “contacts.” From the VOKS files we can see that “Gromov” corresponded, met and talked with famous writers, artists and musicians, discussed postwar plans for exchanging concert artists and other attractions, and took part in various public and cultural events. His contact list included American government agencies and institutions such as the U.S. Armed Forces Institute and the U.S. War Department, the U.S. Office of War Information, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Security Agency, the National Research Council and the United Nations Information Office, to name a few.
At the same time, Gorsky was running a huge network of agents, sources and contacts, which provided political, military and scientific/technical information, including information on the production of the atomic bomb.

Gorsky left the United States hastily on December 7, 1945, after the NKGB learned about the defection of their long-time agent, Elizabeth Bentley. For his work in the United States, Gorsky was promoted to the rank of Colonel and awarded the Patriotic War Order. From 1946 to 1950, he was head of the First Department of the MGB Foreign Intelligence Directorate.


Trial And Sentencing

In all, authorities discovered 29 life-size dolls in Moskvin’s apartment. They ranged in age from three to 25. One corpse he kept for nearly nine years.

Moskvin was charged with a dozen crimes, all of which dealt with the desecration of graves. The Russian media called him “The Lord of the Mummies” and “The Perfumer” (after Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume).

Pravda Report This is, perhaps, Moskvin’s creepiest mummified corpse.

Neighbors were shocked. They said that the renowned historian was quiet and that Moskvin’s parents were nice people. Sure, a rancid smell emanated from his apartment whenever he opened the door, but a neighbor chalked that up to the “stink of something that rots in the basements,” of all the local buildings.

Moskvin’s editor at Necrologies, Alexei Yesin, didn’t think anything of his writer’s eccentricities. “Many of his articles enlighten his sensual interest in deceased young women, which I took for romantic and somewhat childish fantasies the talented writer emphasized.” He described the historian to have “quirks” but would not have imagined that one such quirk included the mummification of 29 young women and girls.

In court, Moskvin confessed to 44 counts of abusing graves and dead bodies. He said to the victims’ parents, “You abandoned your girls, I brought them home and warmed them up.”


Glenn Greenwald’s Bad History

In a January 14 featured article at the Intercept, co-founder and radical journalist Glenn Greenwald rehearsed a stale leftwing talking point, most recently revived by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick in their Showtime documentary series, The Untold Story of the United States. For over 3500 laborious words, Greenwald recounts a shopworn tale of an allegedly illegitimate FBI investigation of a sitting U.S. government official. The FBI’s secret investigation of Vice-President Henry A. Wallace began during FDR’s third term, continued when Truman became president and made Wallace Secretary of Commerce, and throughout Wallace’s campaign for president on the pro-Communist ticket of the Progressive Party.

And why did the Bureau decide to carry out this secret counter-intelligence operation? According to Greenwald:

The FBI long suspected that Wallace harbored allegiances to the Kremlin and used his government positions to undermine what the FBI determined were “U.S. interests” for the benefit of Moscow and, as a result, subjected Wallace to extensive investigation and surveillance.

Greenwald has brought all this up again in response to reports that the Bureau was investigating President Donald J. Trump out of suspicion that he could be an agent of the current Russian government of Vladimir Putin. Greenwald argues that there is a “lack of evidence of guilt” in the Trump investigation today, just as there was during the investigation of Wallace in the 1940s.

Intelligence journalist Eli Lake has made a strong case that an investigation of Trump today is a matter for Congress rather than the Bureau, and that FBI investigations have serious and dangerous implications for how our democracy functions. There is, however, clear evidence that Trump has made decisions and statements that benefit only Putin and his expansionist agenda for the Russian state. Greenwald does not discuss these, assuming that his audience will simply accept his claim that “no actual evidence of guilt has yet emerged,” and conclude that the FBI probe is what the Right and the President call a “witch-hunt.”

Trump’s record of deference to Putin has been adequately laid out by David Frum, Max Boot, David A. Graham, and by the editors of the New York Times, so there is no need to repeat it here. What is important is that Greenwald does not even acknowledge this view in his column. As Frum asks: Can Americans “wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the President has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself?” It is the kind of question that Greenwald shows no interest in asking.

This peculiar absence of curiosity also informs Greenwald’s treatment of Henry A. Wallace’s story. Greenwald claims that Wallace was only investigated on account of his political views and what he calls Wallace’s “pro-peace beliefs.” He writes:

Wallace was regarded by the FBI as having suspect loyalties because, as Vice President, he repeatedly insisted that the threat posed by Moscow was being exaggerated. He often accused the U.S. Government of disseminating propaganda about Russian leaders. He urged less belligerent and more cooperative relations with the Russian government. He opposed efforts to confront Russian influence it its own region.

What Greenwald neglects to mention (possibly because he doesn’t know) is that the FBI had good reasons to look at Wallace, and to suspect that he was operating either as a witting or un-witting Soviet agent. That he was a classic dupe, however, is no longer arguable, and almost everyone (outside of the conspiratorial fringe of which Greenwald is a part) now knows this.

Greenwald’s claim that Wallace was investigated merely for his dissident political views, however, is very silly indeed. Greenwald does not tell his readers, for example, that Wallace was so enamored of the Soviet Union that in May 1944 he traveled to 22 cities in Soviet Siberia. There, the NKVD played Wallace for a fool. He credulously described the slave labor colony of Magadan, which the Soviet secret police had transformed into a Potemkin village staffed by actors and NKVD personnel, as a “combination TVA and Hudson’s Bay Company.”

Nor does Greenwald disclose that, according to Wallace’s own testimony, had he become president, he would have made Harry Dexter White his secretary of the Treasury and given a position in government to Laurence Duggan. Both men were Soviet agents. As a KGB cable found in the Venona archives shows, the Soviets hoped that Duggan would aid them “by using his friendship” with Wallace for “extracting … interesting information.”

Greenwald makes a big deal of Truman’s firing of Wallace after the latter gave a speech in September 1946 at Madison Square Garden completely at variance with Truman’s tough new Soviet policy. But such a policy had become necessary. As the historian Wilson D. Miscamble demonstrated in From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima and the Cold War, Truman changed US policy only after Stalin made it clear that his grip on Eastern Europe was non-negotiable. Historian Fraser J. Harbutt of Emory University concurred, writing: “Truman genuinely tried to follow Roosevelt’s seemingly conciliatory line toward a Soviet Union whose policies, in the end, left him little alternative but a turn to resistance and thus to the Cold War.”

Wallace had to be fired he gave his speech while negotiations with the Soviets were taking place in Paris, where Secretary of State James F. Byrnes correctly argued that he could not negotiate peace treaties with the Russians because they suddenly believed Wallace had enunciated a new policy on Truman’s behalf. Wallace had told the press that he discussed his entire speech with the President, and that Truman had told him that “it represented the policy of my administration.” Truman replied that he had told Wallace he had a right to make a speech, but that it was not “a statement of the foreign policy of this country.” Wallace, Secretary Byrnes said, threatened the entire bi-partisan foreign policy of the United States, which had taken 15 months to build. “Wallace destroyed it in a day.”

In his private diary, Truman wrote that, “knowingly or not,” Wallace would “lend himself to the more sinister ends of the Reds and those who served him.” He wanted to “disband our armed forces, give Russia our atomic secrets and trust a bunch of adventurers in the Kremlin Politburo.” He and his buddies, Truman added, were nothing but “a sabotage front for Uncle Joe Stalin.” Left-wing critics have ridiculed Truman’s language, but the President was essentially correct.

Truman, in fact, did not know the extent of the danger Wallace posed to his emerging foreign policy. The truth stands against the claims made by Greenwald, who seems to believe that Wallace frequently ended up on the same side as the Kremlin only because he wanted peace, and “less belligerent and more cooperative relations with Russia.” It was Wallace’s views on peace with Russia, Greenwald writes, “that made his patriotism suspect in the eyes of Hoover and his agents.”

It appears that Greenwald does not know what intercepted Soviet messages and records—most famously the Venona coded intercepts, and the KGB archive papers brought to the West by KGB official Alexander Vassiliev as the Soviet Union crumbled—make clear. After Truman fired him, Wallace openly tried to stop the White House from blocking Stalin’s expansionist policies in Eastern Europe. Wallace opposed the creation of NATO, advocated abandoning Berlin at the time of the Soviet blockade in 1948, denounced the Marshall Plan as “the martial plan,” and justified the 1948 Communist coup in Czechoslovakia as a measure needed to thwart a fascist takeover. Stalin made the arguments Wallace simply repeated them.

And in October 1945, while he was still in the President’s cabinet, Wallace met covertly in Washington with Anatoly Gorsky, the station chief of the NKGB (a forerunner of the KGB). KGB files record that Wallace told Gorsky that he wanted the atomic-bomb secret shared with the Soviets, that Truman was being influenced by an “anti-Soviet group” that wanted the Anglo-Saxon bloc to be dominant, and that the Soviets could help Wallace’s “smaller group significantly.” Wallace actually sought the Soviet Union’s help, via a request to the rezidentura of the KGB in its D.C. office, in the fight he was conducting within the U.S. Government against his own President’s foreign policy! This is more than being indiscreet. It is proof that Wallace was, as the FBI feared, a willing tool of Moscow. Naturally, Greenwald doesn’t mention any of this.

It should come as no surprise to find that the Madison Square Garden speech Greenwald treats as the high point of noble peacenik opposition to the new Cold War, was actually written by an American Communist. Previously appointed an Assistant Secretary in the Commerce Department by Wallace when he was Secretary, Harry Magdoff became his main speechwriter. He was also, KGB documents revealed decades later, a secret agent of the KGB.

Wallace did not even realize that his run for president as a candidate for the new Progressive Party, was on the ticket of a movement and party put together entirely by the American Communist Party. Its members controlled the new party, which was created after Stalin informed the Party leaders that he was taking a new turn, and that the old wartime Popular Front alliance of liberals and Communists had to come to an end. All of the PP’s leaders were secret members of the new party, including Wallace’s friend, chief adviser, and campaign manager C. B. “Beanie” Baldwin. Even the left-wing journalist I. F. Stone understood this. He wrote, “The Communists have been the dominant influence in the Progressive party. … If it had not been for the Communists, there would have been no Progressive party.” Indeed, the PP’s chief counsel was another secret Communist, John Abt. When Wallace asked Baldwin about Abt, not suspecting that Baldwin himself was a Communist, Baldwin simply lied and told Wallace that Abt “was not a Communist.” What the Communists wanted first and foremost was for the U.S. to adopt a pro-Soviet foreign policy—ideally, one that would allow Stalin free rein to take over not just Eastern Europe, but France and Italy as well.

Had Wallace become President of the United States, it would have been the equivalent of Stalin directly taking over the highest levels of the American government. Greenwald argues that “many of the same people who accuse Trump of being a Kremlin pawn still accuse Wallace of being the same thing, often for the same reasons.” They do so for good reasons.

To compare Wallace to Trump, however, is an insult to Wallace. Wallace did believe that the Soviet Union could be a good partner of the U.S., and in that naïve ambition, supported Stalin’s foreign policy. But, by 1952, Wallace finally wrote a major article in which he announced that he had been totally wrong and that he had since learned Stalin’s true intentions. Trump has given no indication of why he is so pro-Putin, which is probably why so many people believe that Putin must be holding something over him. This belief may turn out to be wrong, but given the available facts, it is hardly unreasonable. In any event, given the behavior of Henry A. Wallace in the 1940s and of President Trump today, it is not surprising that the Bureau felt an investigation in both instances to be prudent and necessary.

Ronald Radosh is Prof. Emeritus of History at CUNY, an opinion columnist at the Daily Beast, and co-author of, among many other books, A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. You can follow him on Twitter @RonRadosh


Anatoly Gorsky - History

A one-time Communist, writer and editor and self-admitted Soviet espionage agent, who accused Alger Hiss of being a fellow Communist and a Soviet spy. Born Jay Vivian Chambers in Philadelphia, PA, Chambers studied at Columbia University from 1920 to 1923. In the summer of 1923, he traveled to Europe and spent a few weeks in Germany. In 1924 he went back to Columbia, but, however, did not graduate. In 1925 he joined the Communist Party. From July 1927 until late 1929, 1 Chambers was an editor at the Communist newspaper, The Daily Worker. His major job function was listed in the paper’s files as “Worker Correspondence,” with the additional function of “Foreign News”. In early 1930, he was suspended from the Communist Party, following a decision by its Central Control Commission. Later he was expelled from the Party for “disciplinary” reasons. In late 1929 or early 1930, Chambers was released from his job at The Daily Worker.

In 1931, Chambers began writing for the Communist magazine, the New Masses, where his first article – entitled “Can You Hear Their Voices?” – appeared in its March 1931 issue. Three more articles followed in the April, October and December issues of the magazine. In June 1931, Chambers first appeared on the New Masses masthead as Contributing Editor. In March 1932, he was readmitted to the Communist Party – following a decision by its Central Control Commission – “with the provision that, besides his literary work, he should also do some direct mass organization work.” 2 Chambers quickly got involved in Party “literary” work, covering the 28th Party Nominating Convention, which opened in Chicago on May 28, 1932. In early June, he got his next Party assignment – a longer-term one – writing pamphlets for the coming election campaign. Chambers disappears from Communist Party files after mid-August of 1932.

By his own account, Chambers was recruited into “the Communist underground” in June, 1932. However, no documentary records confirming his description of these events have yet been discovered. His name was still listed on the New Masses masthead in 1933. According to Chambers, from 1932 to 1937 or early 1938 he was working for Soviet military intelligence, the GRU, reporting to several of its operatives. As he repeatedly said in interviews with the FBI beginning in 1942, and testified before both the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and a federal grand jury, he defected from the Communist cause “sometime in 1937.” In November, 1948, however, after producing the Baltimore documents, he changed the date of his defection to April, 1938, to fit with the dates of those documents. However, he placed the date at 1937 in testimony before HUAC that summer. In 1939, Chambers joined the staff of Time magazine, where he worked until his resignation in December, 1948.

In his August 1948 testimony before HUAC, Chambers accused a number of individuals of being members of the Communist underground in the 1930s. One of them was Alger Hiss, who denied Chambers’s allegations and subsequently brought a libel suit against his accuser. Chambers was the main government witness in the two Hiss perjury trials and a source of corroborating material evidence – the Baltimore documents and the Pumpkin Papers. After Hiss’s conviction in 1950, Chambers continued to testify in a number of Congressional hearings during the early 1950s.

In 1952, Chambers published his best-selling autobiography, Witness, which one writer noted, almost 50 years later, “may have enlisted more American anti-Communists than almost any other book of the Cold War.” 3 . In 1984, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Chambers for his contribution to “the century’s epic struggle between freedom and totalitarianism.” 4 In 1988, in an unusual gesture of tribute, Chambers’s farm in Maryland was declared a National Historic Landmark – despite the fact that the requisite 50 years had not elapsed since the historic moment in 1948 when Chambers led HUAC investigators to a hollowed-out pumpkin in the farm’s kitchen garden. A library featuring Chambers’s personal papers is to be opened on the site of his farm.

A 2009 Chambers Primer

Much about the life of Whittaker Chambers remains confusing, puzzling and unclear. And there is a further complication: important new information that is only now coming to light – almost 50 years after his death – solves some of the old puzzles, but also makes things that had been assumed to be well established seem less reliable. The story now unfolding is complex – Chambers was a complex man – but it is leading to conclusions more surprising and dramatic than any Chambers ever disclosed.

For many years there didn’t seem to be much to go on. For instance, although Chambers’s stories quickly became so well known they could be called a part of the American national narrative, his accounts of his activities, which were immediately questioned, until quite recently could only be tested for accuracy by comparing them to other oral or written reminiscences. None of these literary records had the authority or credibility of the kind of first-hand “documentary sources” that historians look for. So attempts to verify or refute his stories about his Communist past, his descent into the Communist underground and his Soviet espionage service seemed elusive.

Many people hoped that the fall of the Soviet Union and, in particular, the opening of former Soviet archives, in 1992, would change this situation. According to the “consensus historians” of the Cold War period, as they have come to be known, these hopes have now been fulfilled. In a series of books published over the last 15 years, they have asserted that:

1) Research during the early 1990s in the files of the Communist Party of the USA (CP USA), the Comintern and the Russian Communist Party (at that time known as VCP (b) has produced overwhelming evidence that confirms Whittaker Chambers’s accounts of Soviet pre-war activities and espionage – both his overall picture and his assertions about Alger Hiss.

2) Venona – a U.S. code-breaking operation that partially decrypted Soviet World War II-period intelligence cables – brings further corroboration of Chambers’s story, since one FBI footnote on one released decrypted cable identifies a code name, “Ales,” used in operational correspondence by NKGB Foreign Intelligence during the war, as “probably Alger Hiss.”

3) Research by Alexander Vassiliev – a former KGB agent turned journalist – into KGB foreign intelligence records from the 1930s and1940s, which became the basis for an important 1999 book, The Haunted Wood, supports and bolsters Chambers’s assertions yet again.

It should be noted at once, however, none of these three sources produced even a single document mentioning Chambers by name. Or at least so it seemed from the books that were written. When, however, I retraced the scholarship of the “consensus historians” who’d first examined the various Communist Party and Comintern files, I was finally able – after close scrutiny of these same files some ten years later – to discover a few files and singleton documents from the 1928 – 1932 period that do have direct references to Chambers. I should point out immediately, however, that these previously overlooked records, though they throw light on Chambers’s life, say nothing whatever about his alleged espionage activities.

Following the “consensus” pattern of documentary silence, the two most highly acclaimed books about Chambers from the 1990s, Whittaker Chambers, a biography by Sam Tanenhaus (1997), and The Haunted Wood by Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev (1999) did not cite a single Russian documentary record containing Chambers’s name. Several years later, however, in 2005, it turned out that the research conducted by Weinstein’s Russian co-author, Vassiliev, in KGB foreign intelligence records from the 1930s and 1940s – the documentary basis for The Haunted Wood – had produced (although it never made it into the book) at least one record in which Chambers was mentioned both by name and by the cover name – “Karl” – which he said he had used while in the Communist underground.

“Karl” in this document also appeared at the head of a long list of failures that Soviet intelligence suffered from 1938 to 1948 as a result of several defections. Chambers was designated in this list as the leader of a group of 21 alleged espionage assets, including Alger Hiss, his brother Donald Hiss and two Treasury Department officials, Harry Dexter White and Harold Glasser. (Several of the individuals on this list have three-digit numerical codes names, such as �st,” �rd,” �th,” etc.) Coming from such an authoritative source as the American department of MGB foreign intelligence, and signed by its former resident in Washington, D.C. in 1944-1945, Anatoly Gorsky, the document, which became known as the “Gorsky list,” was hailed by espionage historian John Earl Haynes as an unequivocal corroboration of Chambers’s story.

This unambiguous interpretation of the “Gorsky list” four years later, in 2009, became part of a second re-write of Vassiliev’s research, 5 Spies, a book co-authored by Haynes and published by Yale University Press. 6 According to Haynes, the “Gorsky list” is “coherent” and straightforward, and has a 1948 date which indicates that it relied on primary sources, namely GRU records (Chambers had said he had worked for Russian military intelligence), and not just on Anatoly Gorsky’s memory, since until February 1, 1949 the MGB (Gorsky’s agency) and the GRU were both officially part of the KI (Committee of Information). Haynes and his American co-author are also sure that “Karl” was Chambers’s “cryptonym,” meaning the authentic and official operational pseudonym that the GRU had conferred on Chambers, thus guaranteeing the legitimacy of the “Gorsky list” and of the 21 names listed under “Karl’s group.” The two American co-authors are so confident of the veracity and internal consistency of the “Gorsky list” that Chapter 1 of Spies is called “Alger Hiss: Case Closed.”

Case closed? At the very time when Spies was going through its final proofreading at Yale University Press in the early spring of 2009, a much more modest book was reaching the shelves of Moscow bookstores without any fanfare. This second book, The Intelligence Officers Who Changed the World, a collection of miscellaneous essays by a Russian military journalist, Mikhail Boltunov, a Colonel and the editor-in-chief of the official magazine published by the Russian Department of Defense, is – unquestionably – based on primary sources held in the GRU archives and, as such, offers a rare glimpse into Soviet prewar and wartime military intelligence files. One essay, about the GRU resident in Washington, D.C. during the World War II years, Lev Sergeev, immediately struck a familiar chord, when I found the following on its second page:

“… In the early 1930s, the resident of the Red Army in the capital of the USA, Vladimir Gorev, recruited a certain Robert Zelnis. Most probably, that was a pseudonym, and we will hardly learn his real name. That new agent was either Lettish [Latvian] or an Irish American. He used to study at Columbia University, but did not graduate. He spent some time in Germany, during the revolutionary events of 1923, and took an active part in them. He went back to the USA and worked at a print shop.

Zelnis got involved into the operations of the residency, and brought a few people into cooperation with it. He was assigned an operational pseudonym, ‘Sotyi‘ [in English, �th”].” 7

This immediately caught my attention because I had long ago identified Vladimir Gorev, the Soviet Red Army intelligence resident in the United States from 1930 to 1933, as the elusive “Herbert,” the man Chambers said had been his first Soviet handler (although he never knew his real name). Although garbled, Boltunov’s description of Gorev’s “new agent” also sounded like Chambers – except that the name of the new recruit that Boltunov records, “Robert Zelnis,” is, amazingly and confusingly enough, one of the spellings of the name of a CP USA founding member and functionary (his name was more often spelled “Robert Zelms“), a man known to have been previously recruited into Soviet Red Army intelligence – in early 1930.

This seemed strange in itself, since other records indicate that Gorev was also the recruiter of the other Robert Zelnis (under the name of Zelms), who had begun to work with Soviet Red Army intelligence in early 1930 – and suggest, moreover, that it was Gorev who then arranged for this prior Zelnis to leave the United States for Russia by May 1930. How could Gorev have recruited two different Robert Zelnises?

A clue can be found in one of the draft chapters that Vassiliev wrote in the 1990s based upon his KGB research for his American co-author, Allen Weinstein. In December 1944, according to Vassiliev, an American who then was a recruitment target of Anatoly Gorsky (later the author of the “Gorsky list”) wrote an autobiography for Gorsky, whom he knew as Anatoly Gromov, an official at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. In his narrative for Gorsky, “Ruble” (a cover name for the U.S. Department of Treasury official Harold Glasser) described meetings with someone named “Karl” from May 1937 to the “summer or fall 1939,” when “Karl” disappeared. Gorsky queried Moscow, and soon received a response: “Karl” was one Robert Zelnis, who “used to cooperate with the neighbors, however, later refused to work and threatened to betray all the sources he knew to American authorities.” 8

This again suggested that “Ruble”‘s “Karl” and Gorsky’s Zelnis might have been Chambers. But according to Chambers’s account of his time as an intelligence agent, he had defected from the Russians by April 1938 at the latest. Hence the dating in “Ruble”‘s autobiography seemed to suggest a mismatch. My follow-up search, however, which involved checking records from three countries – Russia, America and Great Britain – seemed to rule out the “real” Robert Zelnis (that is, Zelms), since it failed to produce any documentary proof that that Zelms was back in the United States as of May 1937. Moreover, according to Moscow investigative files on members of Zelms’s family, Zelms was in Vienna as of late November 1937, and in Moscow as of January 1938. 9

I needed further evidence. In early March 2009, I visited Colonel Boltunov in his Moscow office. The Colonel turned to be a totally “uncontaminated” source – he had never heard the name of either Chambers or Alger Hiss, and had no idea that his 1990s archival find about Gorev might be connected to such a highly controversial story. Colonel Boltunov’s research interest at that time was to reconstruct and celebrate the story of a 1940s Red Army spymaster little known to the public, Lev Sergeev (“Moris“), and in his pursuit of that story, as he told me, the defection of an agent code named “Sotyi” (�th”) had jumped out at him as “the circumstance that had made an impact upon the fate” of his hero. 10

Here are some more details about “Sotyi”, in verbatim translation:

“… The information about this man is contradictory. Born around 1900. According to one information, [he was] of Baltic descent (an Estonian or a Lett [Latvian]), according to another [information] he was an Irishman born in the United States. Worked at a print shop. Did not graduate from the Literary [sic – ‘literaturnyj’] department of Columbia University. Stayed in Germany during the revolutionary events of 1923. Was actively involved in the party work. Was married to an American-born Jew. Had two children. Was involved into intelligence work by resident Gorjev [sic, in Russian, for Gorev] in 1928-29. In his turn, [he] helped to involve and knew the appearance [Russian “znal v litso” – verbatim, “knew the face”] and the residence of six out of nine sources of the Washington residency. Among the �th” names [names used by �th”], the most often mentioned [name] – Robert Zel’nis however, he [100th] is also listed as Robert Caldvin [Caldwin], David Breen and BENDT.”

Although garbled in a few details, this Russian sketch of “Sotyi”‘s circumstances bore resemblance to the known facts of Chambers’s life. It also looked like a probable original source for the information forwarded by Moscow Centre to the NKGB station chief Gorsky in Washington, D.C. in December 1944. Another confirmation was that, although “Robert Zelnis” and “Robert Caldvin” have never previously been listed on the long list of assumed names used by Chambers, “David Breen,” by Chambers’s own account, was the name he said he had used for the purpose of establishing “an apparatus” first in England and later in Japan. 11

Moreover, the cover name “Sotyi” [�th”] filled an obvious gap in the three-digit numerical cover names in the “Karl’s group” section of “Gorsky’s list”: the first time I saw the list in early 2005, it had struck me as odd that these code names began with an odd number, �st.” Now that gap no longer existed. On top of this, the omission of the code name �th” from “Gorsky’s list” suggested that Gorsky’s source for his report was not direct, “first-hand” access to GRU files, as has been claimed by some American interpreters of the list.

Ever since the so-called “Gorsky list” became a subject of heated discussions in early 2005, historian John Earl Haynes has maintained that “Karl” and “Carl” were cryptonyms used by Chambers in the mid-1930s when he was the liaison between a covert CPUSA espionage network and various professional GRU officers. 12

Now turn this around the other way: why was there no reference to “Whittaker Chambers” or to “Karl” in the information about “Sotyi” that was comprehensive enough to include four of “Sotyi”‘s assumed names? There is only one probable answer: the Soviets did not know Chambers as Chambers, but mostly as Robert Zelnis and as “Sotyi,” or, in numerals, �th.”

On the one hand, this provides the final, long-sought corroboration that Whittaker Chambers was involved with Soviet intelligence, just as he said he was. But not in the way he claimed to have been. They enrolled him as Zelnis and gave him the cryptonym “Sotyi” they did not enroll him as Chambers and give him the cryptonym “Karl.” Which de-thrones “Karl” from its status as an “official” operational pseudonym bestowed by Russian intelligence. “Karl” was merely a self-bestowed “street name,” or alias, that Chambers used. Case closed – or at least this piece of it.

This new understanding also questions the “Karl’s group” part of the Gorsky list as a coherent document based on primary sources – because if Gorsky had had access to GRU records when writing his report, why did he not include Chambers’s real pseudonym? Instead, Gorsky merely transcribed the street name that had been widely known since Chambers first testified publicly before the House Committee on Un-American Activities on August 3, 1948.

The puzzles about Chambers – and their solutions – do not stop there, however.

“By 1938, in Washington, there had already existed a group, consisting of 9 sources, which during 4 years of work had obtained 800 different materials. The residency was headed by ADAMS /pseudonym Bekmurzaev/.”

Here, at last, was a window into another part of Chambers’s story. “ADAMS” was the name of a celebrated Red Army spymaster, Arthur Adams, who was an “illegal” resident in the U.S. from late 1935 to early 1938 and, on a second posting, from 1939 to 1946. During Adams’s second American tour of duty, his cover name was “Achill” [meaning “Achilles”], and when I read this passage I was once again startled. The cover name “Bekmurzaev” jumped at me as a hitherto totally unknown name. Now, nobody has ever linked Chambers to the famous Adams, who became well known to the FBI since no later than 1944, and who was investigated in depth by American authorities for many years. Chambers, in his testimony and writings, said that the Russian, with whom he met from the later part of 1936 to the early part of 1938 had never told him his name, and Chambers had known him only as “Peter.” After Chambers’s break with the Russians, he said, he had been told by another defector from the Soviet cause, Walter Krivitsky that the man he had worked with from late 1936 to early 1938 was a Russian named “Colonel Bykov.”

There are no records of a “Colonel Bykov” in any Russian files, but Russian publications suggest that “Bykov” must have been a garbled version of a real name, Boris Yakovlevich Bukov, a GRU military intelligence officer with a rank equivalent to colonel who was, reportedly, an “illegal” resident in the United States from the latter part of 1936 until mid-1939. Bukov also appears on the Gorsky list, however, with an improbable first name, Barna. But was Bukov the man Chambers had unknowingly worked with and for? Amazingly, as I discovered only this year, the FBI had early on almost uncovered the identity of Chamber’s “Bykov” – but then had been deflected because Krivitsky’s explanation had already taken on the solidity of a fact in their minds. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the FBI investigated two people who have now turned up with three-digit code names (�th” and �th”) in the “Karl’s group” section of the “Gorsky list.” Their real names appear in somewhat garbled form in Vassiliev’s notes on the “list”: Lester Huetm (or Huetsh) and Garry Azizov. How do these incomplete names connect to “Bykov”‘s true identity?

In March 2009, Jeff Kisseloff, after many delays, was sent the FBI’s “Colonel Bykov” reference file, which he had requested under the Freedom of Information Act he subsequently shared this “Bykov” file with me. Among archival references from numerous miscellaneous FBI files, we discovered memos on the Bureau’s interviews with one of these two “Karls’ group” individuals, a man whose name turns out to have been Lester Marx Huettig (rather than either “Huetm” or “Huetsh”), on January 30 and February 14, 1950. Asked about the person who had been his Russian contact beginning in the latter part of 1936, Huettig (whom we now know to have been �th”) said at first that he “could not recall” the man’s name, but later remembered that it had been “Peter.” Both the physical description and the “character” description of “Peter” that Huettig then gave fit one known GRU agent in every detail – except that this man was not Boris Bukov, and was, instead, Arthur Adams. Despite this correlation, the FBI agents pressed Huettig to tell them “whether PETER had red hair” (“Bykov” had been said to have red hair Adams was mostly bald). At which point, Huettig “said he has some recollection that PETER did actually have red hair.” Solely on this thin – and solicited – piece of evidence, the FBI then surmised that “it seems probable that the PETER whom HUETTIG knew” was the same “Russian espionage agent” Chambers had known as “Peter” and who had later been identified by Krivitsky as “Colonel Boris Bykov.” As the FBI ascertained from Huettig, “Peter” was last seen in the United States in the spring of 1938, at which time he said that he was “going away.” As we now know, Arthur Adams was recalled to Moscow on June 13, 1938, while Boris Bukov remained in the U.S. throughout much of 1939. 13

Watch for alerts on this website for new revelations about agent “Sotyi” and Chambers’s espionage career.


Roundtable

The story of H.P. Smolka, Soviet spy and inspiration for The Third Man.

Hans-Peter Smolka, left, with Sir Stafford Cripps and Lady Cripps at a 1944 event in London honoring the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Red Army. Courtesy of Getty Images.

Audio brought to you by Curio, a Lapham’s Quarterly partner

He gave me my first watch, my first bicycle, and my first pair of skis. He was my godfather, rich and generous, and in my naive, uncritical childhood I adored him. When I was growing up in London, he lived around the corner from us in Hampstead and came almost daily for lunch and tea, a bulky, buccaneering mercurial figure with a voice that boomed.

He was my father’s closest friend. In 1947 he decamped with his wife and two sons back to Vienna, the city he had fled—like my dad—a dozen years before.

His name was Hans-Peter Smolka, and he was a Soviet spy.

A mysterious, shadowy figure, he is less glamorous in British eyes than the other Cold War spies: Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, both of whom defected to Moscow in 1951 Harold “Kim” Philby, the so-called Third Man, known as “the spy of the century” who was exfiltrated from Beirut in a Soviet freighter in 1963 Sir Anthony Blunt, eminent art historian and keeper of the royal pictures, exposed as the Fourth Man in the late 1970s and John Cairncross, who betrayed atomic secrets to the Soviets in the 1940s and was finally confirmed as the Fifth Man in 1990.

These were the canonical five. Smolka was the sixth.

As a dubious émigré—albeit one awarded a British passport and a postwar OBE—he was not “one of us,” not clubbable, and his acts of treason and personal betrayal thus less shocking. He was nevertheless on a par with the Cambridge spies in significance. When he died in 1980, a distinguished Viennese millionaire with his reputation still intact, the obituaries—one written by his childhood chum Bruno Kreisky, the Austrian chancellor—were fulsome. It took a decade—and the mining of the KGB files after the Soviet collapse in the early 1990s—for the lurid story of his treachery to emerge.

He and Philby hung out in wartime London, an improbable but inseparable pair. At parties they would signal each other with an unlit cigarette indicating one or the other had a morsel of intelligence to impart. By then the Englishman had penetrated MI6 on behalf of Moscow, while the Austrian had gained extraordinary access to the circles surrounding Churchill. As a foot soldier fighting fascism for the Soviet cause, Smolka was under the control of Anatoly Gorsky, the same official rezident at the Russian spy mission in London who controlled Philby, a prized asset. Back at HQ—the NKVD building known as the Lubyanka in Dzerzhinsky Square—Smolka rapidly earned a reputation as a highly valued, trustworthy, and resourceful “deep penetration agent,” one of Stalin’s best. Moscow Central code-named him ABO.

My father died in 1986 before the news broke. I am not sure if he knew.

He and Smolka had met in Vienna as children, assimilated deracinated Jews descended from pious Bohemian rabbis. Smolka, two years younger than my father and the son of a successful businessman, grew up in relative comfort, despite widespread starvation and ruinous hyperinflation in Vienna following a lost war. Their world was the rickety Austrian Republic, the German-speaking remnant of the defeated Hapsburg empire that consisted geopolitically of a giant progressive Viennese head placed by the victorious, vengeful allies on the shoulders of a tiny reactionary Catholic body, a doomed and resentful rump racked by revanchism.

As teenagers Smolka and my father were naive lefties. In the 1930s the political situation in Vienna careered toward confrontation between the clerical Austro-fascists and the metropolitan Marxists. They moved further to the left and in the early 1930s started a magazine, The New Youth, edited and published out of my widowed grandmother’s kitchen and fueled by Smolka family cash. It lasted four issues.

Enter Kim Philby in the fall of 1933.

Fresh down from Cambridge, Harold “Kim” Philby, an upper-class Englishman with a famously rebellious anti-establishment father, showed up in Vienna hoping to witness the coming showdown. Already a student Marxist, he had gone there at the suggestion of his pro-Communist tutor at Cambridge. He arrived in the Austrian capital armed with contacts at a moment when the proto-fascist chancellor Engelbert Dolfuss had suspended the constitution and outlawed strikes. The Viennese cafés were rife with rumors of impending blood. On day one Philby met the young Jewish firebrand Alice “Litzi” Kohlman and was smitten. Just twenty-three but already a hardened revolutionary working for the Moscow-led European underground who was in regular touch with Soviet intelligence, she happened to be a good friend of Smolka’s—which is how the two men met.

Two weeks later the storm broke. Dolfuss called in the army. He shelled worker’s apartments with artillery, killing hundreds, attacked and trashed trade union centers, and rounded up and hanged left leaders. During this two-week civil war, the locals Smolka and Litzi, together with their new comrade from England, Kim Philby, worked tirelessly—at significant risk to their lives—smuggling activists out of Vienna, many through the sewers. Sharing risk forges bonds.

Some sources say it was then and there that Smolka turned from a wishy-washy social democrat like my father into a dedicated Communist. Parliamentary democracy had failed both in Germany and Austria, he thought, and the Soviet Union was the last, best hope to prevent a Nazi victory—with all that would imply for a Jew.

Others believe Smolka was already an NKVD “illegal” by then, recruited by the Hungarian-born international super agent and former Catholic priest Teodor Maly, who later fingered Philby as a promising NKVD prospect. Maly sought young, ideological “deep penetration agents” who would go on to rise through the ranks of the British establishment—in particular the intelligence world—and remain willing to betray their friends and country for Moscow’s cause.

As the police dragnet closed in on Litzi, Philby married her in Vienna Town Hall to save her life: his British passport offered her protection. Then Mr. and Mrs. Philby hightailed it to London—some have speculated that it was at Maly’s suggestion—to live with Kim’s disapproving mother. They were closely followed by Hans-Peter Smolka, on the run and also perhaps ordered to London by Maly. The precise truth may never be known.

Unwanted by the police and careful to hide his socialist leanings, my father stayed on in Vienna for a while, eking out a meager journalistic living. Three years elapsed before he and Smolka were reunited once more after my father followed his friend and emigrated to England after getting a much coveted visa in the winter of 1937, a heartbeat ahead of Hitler. He settled in London near Smolka and hung out his shingle as a small-time book publisher with help and sponsorship from friends.

A few weeks after Kim Philby returned to England, an Austrian “illegal” by the name of Arnold Deutsch, code-named “Otto,” approached him on a park bench. He had been sent by Maly to recruit Philby.

Hans-Peter Smolka meanwhile changed his name to H.P. Smollett Esq. to sound more English, working undercover as a London correspondent for several European papers. For a time he even ran a small news agency with Philby—all the while fruitlessly seeking entry to British intelligence on behalf of his Moscow masters. Someone should have told him British spooks mainly recruit their own.

H.P. Smollett finally made his British reputation with a series of well-written articles for the London Times describing his travels in the Russian Arctic, later turned into a best-selling book. Filled with falsehood and fabrication—it glossed over the brutality of Stalin’s gulags, for instance—Forty Thousand Against the Arctic: Russia’s Polar Empire, published in 1937, was a highly sophisticated piece of NKVD propaganda widely admired by credulous British reviewers and readers.

Smollett/Smolka’s story now took a dramatic turn as his journalistic acumen and persuasive brilliance came to the attention of a decidedly odd but powerful Englishman named Brendan Bracken, Winston Churchill’s closest adviser. Here was a key that could open a door, and Smolka walked through it.

An Irish-born arriviste adventurer raised in Australia, orange haired and ugly, Bracken was just the kind of self-made raffish figure Churchill favored. He always trusted rogues more than regulars. As proprietor of the Financial Times and The Economist and a member of Parliament, it was Bracken who buoyed Churchill’s spirits in the 1930s, repeatedly speaking and writing on his behalf. And it was Bracken who played a crucial role behind the scenes in bringing Churchill in from the cold in the nick of time as wartime leader. Bracken took a shine to Smolka and fell for his flattery.

Smolka’s many enemies said he was pushy and possessed no grace, an uncouth bull of a man with a decidedly shady air. He was both a user of others and eager to be used himself. As a child I of course saw him through my own innocent lens. He was merely my benefactor Peter and my father’s friend. Later, in my 20s, my college tutor Norman Mackenzie, himself a quondam communist who had worked in wartime intelligence and knew Smolka slightly, told me he considered my Austrian émigré godfather “a total shit” who had managed to bamboozle his way into the corridors of British power. Yet Smolka undoubtedly possessed great courage and a sort of gruesome integrity in pursuit of his murderous cause. Philby once wrote that Smolka never betrayed a fellow agent or a secret contact.

At the very moment in the summer of 1941 that Hitler broke his pact with Stalin and attacked Russia, Churchill appointed Bracken to his cabinet as minister of information in charge of making Britain’s case to the world. While Nazi Panzers punched hundreds of miles through Red Army lines, Bracken found himself looking for someone to head the Soviet Section of his ministry, newly created to boost the image of Britain’s new ally, “Uncle Joe.” He turned to Smolka. This was a plum post beyond NKVD dreams, and Smolka went at it with verve and flair.

In his words, his two priorities were to “combat anti-Soviet feelings in Britain” and also, cunningly, “to attempt to curb exuberant pro-Soviet propaganda that might seriously embarrass the government” by keeping Russian-accented and openly partisan apologists at bay and hiring sympathetic British commentators instead. He would win over the hearts and minds of England by stealing Stalin’s thunder with native British voices. Nevertheless the Soviet ambassador Ivan Maisky assured Bracken that “every effort will be made to assist Mr. Smollett to maintain close contact with the Embassy.”

His propaganda effort was on a vast scale. Ten thousand people gathered in the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Red Army’s formation, including readings by Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. Then there was a pro-Soviet film, USSR at War, seen by millions. The BBC obligingly agreed to broadcast hundreds of radio programs with Soviet content. With the help of senior BBC producer Guy Burgess, Smolka was able to shape and control the image of Russia broadcast by the most powerful medium of British mass communication.

Looking back, Oleg Gordievsy—the former KGB station chief in London and MI6 mole who made a dramatic escape to the British side in the boot of a car from Moscow to Finland in 1985—considered what he dubbed the NKVD’s “active measures coup” during the war of having Smolka direct Anglo-Soviet liaisons and information to have been its most remarkable achievement in the West. Able to satisfy both sides, my godless godfather was even awarded an OBE at war’s end by the king.

There is a vivid footnote to the Smolka story.

After returning to Vienna—where the Russians granted him preferential treatment above all others from the Russians in retrieving his family factories, which now lay in the Russian zone of control—Smolka (no longer using the name Smollett) was dragooned by his friend Brendan Bracken into helping write and produce The Third Man, the greatest of all British films and the first Cold War thriller.

The “Churchill gang” included Britain’s most prominent movie mogul, Hungarian-born Sir Alexander Korda—knighted not for his many motion pictures but for his important intelligence role in Eastern and Central Europe on Britain’s behalf in the 1930s. Korda now found he had royalties accrued before the war locked up in Austria, and the money could not be repatriated due to currency controls. It would have to be spent on the ground. At a meeting at Claridge’s Hotel in London, Bracken introduced Korda to Smolka, who had flown in for the occasion. By the time the champagne was finished, the three had hatched an outline for a movie set in Vienna to be directed on location in the city by Carol Reed. The mise en scène was to be the four-power occupation of the Austrian capital, ravaged by corruption and crime. It was a landscape Smolka knew well, and when Graham Greene was asked to write the picture, it was Smolka who was asked to show the writer around.

Peter Smolka offered Greene his best ideas and came up with most of the plot outline for The Third Man. The penicillin racket, around which the entire film hinges, was his. So too was the classic chase through the sewers at the end, based on his derring-do in spiriting comrades to safety in the civil war. As the two men sat up drinking and working out ideas at the Café Mozart or in the Sacher Hotel late into the night, they must have broached the subject of their mutual friend Kim. Greene had worked with Philby in MI6 and liked him enormously. How much the English author knew of his treason—or of Smolka’s—at that point is unclear. What is undeniable, though, is that Harry Lime—the movie’s charismatic, morally squalid central character, played memorably by Orson Welles—was partly based on the British double agent but also at least partly on the sinister Smolka.

Smolka asked for no credit on the film but got it anyway. When Major Calloway, the upright English army officer played by Trevor Howard, barks an order to his driver early in the picture to “Take us to Smolka’s!” it is perhaps a coded form of thanks—and maybe also a comic comment on Greene’s part. Smolka’s turns out to be a seedy backstreet bar.

Around the same time The Third Man was shooting in Vienna, George Orwell was busying himself with a secret “shit list” for the Foreign Office in London naming those he considered Communists or fellow travelers, both dead and alive, in Britain. It is wildly speculative, xenophobic, tinged with anti-Semitism, and unworthy of “the wintry conscience of his generation.” At the top of the typed list is Hans-Peter Smolka (a.k.a. H.P. Smollett Esq.), and in this one case Orwell got it right. Next to Smolka’s name he wrote in his spidery hand: “Surely an agent of some kind…Very slimy.” In 1944 Smolka had successfully lobbied London publishers not to publish Orwell’s Animal Farm “because it would be unhelpful to the Anglo-Soviet cause.” As a result, publication was delayed by a year, enraging Orwell and giving him additional reason to suspect Smolka. But if Orwell rumbled him, others probably did, too. For their own reasons, they turned a blind eye. In elite British wartime circles, Marxist tendencies were mostly discounted as cause for suspicion. British spymaster Sir Dick White—the only man ever to head both MI5 and MI6—has said of Britain at war that “as far as we were concerned anyone who was against the Germans was on the right side.” Working high up in counterintelligence, he knew Smolka and, while aware of the burly Austrian’s pro-Soviet sympathies, raised no objection to his continued employment. In a series of encounters with White, Smolka apparently managed to persuade him—and through him ultimately Churchill, at least for a while—that Stalin had no intention of dominating Europe when the war ended, a cleverly planted piece of disinformation that proved hugely helpful to the Kremlin at the time.

I last saw my godfather on a visit to Vienna with my dad in the summer of 1967. The scene that sticks in my mind is the sunlit garden of his magnificent suburban villa. Smolka had become fabulously rich from Tyrolia, the ski equipment manufacturer he owned. By then he was also completely paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair by his advanced sclerosis. Around him were two aged former revolutionaries paying court. On one side was Ernst Fischer, once the Austrian Communist Party’s leading public intellectual, who sat out the war in Moscow working for the Comintern. On the other was Teddy Prager, the party strategist who was in London during the Blitz drilling Marxist dogma into young minds at the LSE. Like Smolka, both had escaped Vienna and certain execution in 1934. There was much laughter, flagons of Grüner Veltliner, and many stories. The tone, however, was rueful. Here were three aging radical intellectuals who had once risked their young lives for a revolutionary god. Forty years on, around a simple wooden table under Smolka’s apple tree as the dappled light began to fail, the erstwhile comrades in arms who had staked their all on a sure vision of heaven on earth found themselves like former believers in the true cross who have lost their faith—accepting the truth that their god had died.


Watch the video: Anatol Ugorski plays Scarlatti, Weber, Scriabin, Stravinsk etc. 1995