How to recruit emigrants from the USSR/Russia. A KGB manual

At the end of 2018, the American media published rare secret documents of the KGB (Committee for State Security). Among them was a 1968 manual for Chekists on how to use the capabilities of the Soviet Committee for Cultural Relations of Compatriots Abroad (one of the predecessors of Rossotrudnichestvo) in their agent work. The manual was published in only 66 copies. From the cases described there, we can draw conclusions about the methodology of cooperation between the two agencies, which probably has not changed to this day, only instead of the KGB, the Foreign Intelligence Service is in charge of “cultural diplomacy.”

The main task performed by KGB personnel through their “cultural” colleagues was to identify potentially loyal emigrants who could be entrusted with secret missions involving the search for strategic targets, technology theft, and so on. They extensively utilized the opportunities of the committee in inviting foreigners to the USSR and vice versa, arranging the emigration of Soviet citizens abroad, organizing participation in scientific conferences, and publishing numerous newspapers and magazines for free distribution in “capitalist Western” countries.

At the same time, Chekists were cautious about working directly with organizations composed of patriotically inclined compatriots, as they were under the scrutiny of the “hostile” counterintelligence. The manual describes a series of cases where potential agents turned out to be either already recruited or in the process of being recruited by the enemy. They were either rejected or attempts were made to turn them into double agents. Additionally, through the “cultural committee,” the Chekists sought out enemies of the people who needed to be deported back to the USSR. They carried out measures to “disintegrate” anti-Soviet emigrant organizations, organized political actions, and conducted disinformation campaigns.

Texty media outlet compiled the most vivid cases, which shed light on the methods and goals of the Soviet intelligence agency.

Recruitment at the basic level

For a long time, correspondence with the Soviet Committee was maintained by a compatriot named B., who resided in France. The Chekists, while reviewing this correspondence, noticed mentions of a certain F., the son of Russian immigrants and a student at the School of Eastern Languages. Verification through the residency revealed that F. had interesting contacts with other compatriots working in the French public service. However, the residency was unable to develop him on its own. Then B. was invited to Berlin, and under the guise of a request to create a patriotic organization, they began questioning him about potential allies in this matter. Among others, he mentioned F. In B.’s circle, several other acquaintances of F. were identified, and later they discovered distant relatives of F. in the USSR whom he wouldn’t mind visiting. As a result of this information, it was precisely F. who was recruited by the KGB, while B. was simply used as a source of information, and the idea of a patriotic organization was put on hold.

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In general, the Chekists could ask their colleagues to “lure” the potential agent to the USSR through their own line of work (creating patriotic organizations, newspapers, conducting cultural exchanges) to avoid exposing the connection between the intelligence agency and the official “cultural” committee, as well as giving any hints about the KGB’s target. Once there, they would carry out “parallel” work with the agent, seemingly making contact by chance. At the same time, as soon as the newly recruited agent was taken under the wing of the KGB, the “cultural” aspect was quickly supposed to “dissolve”.

Recruitment during business trips or educational exchanges can be classified as basic-level operations. For example, the Chekists describe how they lured an architect of interest from one of the countries in the Middle East to come for training in the USSR. The son of Soviet emigrants had a strong desire to complete his postgraduate studies in the Soviet Union. Hence, the “cultural committee” “selected” him for such training, and once in Moscow, he was recruited by the KGB. His Soviet “credentials” not only didn’t raise suspicion but also became a factor in expanding the client base, as it served as local proof of his “high qualifications.”

Another story concerns a member of the Armenian community in Syria who was interested in forming a pro-Soviet center in this mini-community. He was “invited” to attend advanced training courses in Soviet Armenia on the “cultural” line, and was shown all the “achievements” of Armenians and the USSR in general. So, when the KGB “unexpectedly” approached him, he was ready to cooperate.

Recruitment “without direct leads”

Once, intelligence officers needed to look for compatriots who resided near an important classified facility in a closed town. They found a branch of an emigrant organization in a neighboring town in the lists of active correspondents (newspaper contributors and members of patriotic associations). The Soviet Committee for Cooperation invited a delegation from the association to establish contact with this group, with whom there was no direct communication, including the leaders of several branches, along with the desired individual — to Moscow. During the operational development, it was discovered that one of the children of a member of the “desired” organization had an American contact, P., who also had relatives residing in the restricted area. The American turned out to be of Ukrainian descent, had relatives in Ukraine, and wished to meet with them. However, the exact location of the necessary relatives was unknown to the local organization leader. However, he pointed to a third person who had this information. It was also revealed that this person was scheduled to travel to the USSR for a vacation. Subsequently, he provided the necessary information. Thus, the KGB gained access to the closed town through a chain of four levels of “handshakes.” Meanwhile, the Chekists themselves did not appear in the chain, with everything being done by their “cultural” colleagues.

Another multi-move combination from “scientific” life. The Estonian “cultural committee,” upon request from the KGB, sent one of its employees on a study trip to Sweden. During the trip, the employee established contacts with a number of professors and school teachers. Among them, a “friendship” was successfully formed with Professor V., an expert in political economy who was interested in studying historical documents in Estonia. He requested the undercover agent’s assistance in obtaining archival documents in Tallinn. Certainly, they organized such an opportunity for him. What’s more, they invited him to Tallinn to work in the archives independently. As a guide, they “assigned” historian Y., who had a deep understanding of the subject matter and was able to provide even more assistance to V. V. invited Y. to visit him in Sweden as a gesture of gratitude for the help received. This was the desired outcome for the KGB: Y. obtained legal cover to carry out the operational task, while V. remained unaware of his role in the whole story.

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Industrial espionage

Like modern-day intelligence agents, Soviet Chekists in the 1960s devoted a lot of attention to industrial espionage. After all, the USSR couldn’t simply buy all technologies openly, and it was essential to prevent technological backwardness compared to the “decaying” West. The Chekists describe a case of successful espionage in collaboration with the “cultural committee.” As part of a cultural and educational mission, Armenians from the USSR visited an Armenian community organization in Western Europe. Naturally, they were given a grand reception, attended by various representatives of the local community. Among them was the owner of a plastics factory. The agent, who arrived as part of the group, introduced himself as a chemistry graduate student working on a dissertation related to that field. The enthusiastic factory owner not only took the “compatriot” on a tour of the production facility but also granted access to project documentation.

“Protection of rights” as a pretext for recruitment

Russia actively plays the card of human rights violations against compatriots abroad to justify its aggression towards neighboring countries and accuse Western nations of “blatant Russophobia.” In order to defend the “oppressed” rights of “suppressed” Russians, numerous centers for legal assistance are established, where compatriots can receive free legal advice and support. However, this process also has a reverse, intelligence side. The 1968 manual tells how the Chekists “darkly” extracted necessary information through such “legal assistance.” Just like today, back then, such assistance fell under the responsibility of the “cultural committee.”

As an example, they cite a story from Germany. The KGB became interested in an American military base, but they did not know its exact location. In the correspondence of compatriot K., who resided somewhere near the desired location, the intelligence agency noticed his willingness to share information about the status of employees of Soviet origin working in local enterprises. Under the guise of concern for the rights of Soviet emigrants “in serfdom” under capitalists, the KGB officer engaged K. in a conversation about the presence of American enterprises nearby (perhaps with compatriots working there? or how the attitudes of Germans and Americans differ?). K. stated that he hadn’t heard anything himself, but he had seen Americans since there was a missile base nearby and American soldiers frequently visited the local cafe. Furthermore, it turned out that some of K.’s acquaintances were employed by Americans.

Originally posted on Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website

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