KGB Defector's Trove of Cold War Secrets Made Public

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Common Dreams

KGB Defector's Trove of Cold War Secrets Made Public

Typed transcripts of notes taken by Soviet spy described by UK and US officials as "the most important single intelligence source ever"

From 1972 to 1984, Major Vasiliy Mitrokhin was a senior archivist in the KGB's foreign intelligence archive – with unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of files from a global network of spies and intelligence gathering operations. (Image: Churchill Archive)

The near complete collection of transcribed notes of Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior KGB official who defected to the UK with a trove of gathered Soviet intelligence information in the early nineties, have finally been made public.

After being held under lock and key by the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge University, the Mitrokhin files detail years of Soviet intelligence operations during the height of the Cold War, some of which led to high-profile espionage charges on both sides of the Atlantic.

Described by the FBI as ‘the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source,’ the archive is viewable to the public for the first time on Monday.

“Mitrokhin dreamed of making this material public from 1972 until his death; it’s now happening in 2014," said Professor Christopher Andrew, the only historian to date allowed access to the archive. "The inner workings of the KGB, its foreign intelligence operations and the foreign policy of Soviet-era Russia all lie within this extraordinary collection; the scale and nature of which gives unprecedented insight into the KGB’s activities throughout much of the Cold War.”

According to the Associated Press:

Mitrokhin was a senior archivist at the KGB's foreign intelligence headquarters — and a secret dissident. For more than a decade he secretly took files home, copied them in longhand and then typed and collated them into volumes. He hid the papers at his country cottage, or dacha, some stuffed into a milk churn and buried.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Mitrokhin traveled to a Baltic state — which one has never been confirmed — and took a sample of his files to the U.S. Embassy, only to be turned away. So he tried the British embassy, where a junior diplomat sat him down and asked, "Would you like a cup of tea?"

"That was the sentence that changed his life," said Andrew.

Smuggled out of Russia, Mitrokhin spent the rest of his life in Britain under a false name and police protection, dying in 2004 at 81.

And the Guardian adds:

Mitrokhin's files record in meticulous detail how the KGB in the 1970s spied on the sermons and meetings of the Polish cardinal Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II. They include maps identifying the location of KGB booby traps and hidden arms caches in western Europe.

They claim that Philip Agee, the former CIA officer who publicly named a list of US agents, had used material offered to him by the KGB, and that Yuri Andropov, head of the KGB in the 1960s and 1970s, infiltrated Ramparts, the radical US magazine which consistently opposed the Vietnam war and also published Che Guevara's diaries. Andropov played a key role in crushing the Prague spring in 1968. Mitrokhin's documents include a long list of targets, mainly editors and student leaders, which 15 "experienced intelligence agents" were ordered by Andropov to pursue in an operation the KGB named Progress.

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