Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Mitrokhin Archives

Anyone who does not know about Vasili Mitrokhin's 1992 defection as a KGB archivist is missing an excellent story. In the late '50s, aAfter failing to succeed in KGB field work, Mr. Mitrokhin was relegated to working in the the KGB archives. His growing disillusionment with the Soviet regime led him to privately stash away historical documents during the 70's and early '80's, when KGB archives were in the process of moving from Lubyanka prison to its new HQ.

Shortly after the Soviet Union fell in 1991, he traveled to Latvia and walked into the U.S. embassy to pass along such documents. To the United States lasting regret, embassy personnel failed to taked him seriously, believing such documents were fakes. Fortunately, British embassy staffers were more trusting, allowing them to retrieve more than 25,000 pages of files hidden under house floorboards (some documents going as far back as the 1930s).

Of course, he escaped to Great Britain and wrote The Mitrokhin Archive with Cambridge historian Chrisopher Andrews. Other books written by Mitrokhin and Andrew include The World Was Going Our Wayand the Sword and the Shield.

The archives revealed that
-half of Soviet weapons were based on designs stolen from the United States.
-that the KGB had tapped Henry Kissinger's telephone (and other American officials as well).
-KGB spies were employed in almost all the country's big defence contractors.

Other sites of interest:
--how a little old lady became a very successful Soviet spy in Britain (revealed by the archives)
--The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report by the UK
--How Canada fit into the picture, from the Mackenzie Institute's blog
--A Moscow Times report detailing from the archives how the KGB, rather than the Politburo, heavily influenced Soviet foreign policy
--How the Mitrokhin Archives are currently embarrasing some leftwing PMs from India
(esp here, here and here)
--More Mitrokhin stories from The Guardian


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