Oleg Gordievsky

Oleg Gordievsky

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Oleg Antonovich Gordievsky , CMG
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

 (born 10 October 1938 in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

), is a former Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 of the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 and KGB Resident-designate (rezident) and bureau chief in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, who was a secret agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 1974 to 1985.

Early career


Oleg Gordievsky attended the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and on completion of his studies, joined the foreign service where he was posted to East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

 in August 1961, just prior to completion of the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

. He joined the KGB in 1963, and was posted to the Soviet embassy in Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

.

Double agent


During his Danish posting, Gordievsky became disenchanted with his work in the KGB, particularly after the Soviet invasion
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and her main satellite states in the Warsaw Pact – Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic , Hungary and Poland – invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring political liberalization...

 of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

 in 1968 – and made his sentiments known to MI6, who subsequently made contact with him. The value of MI6's recruitment of such a highly-placed and valuable intelligence asset increased dramatically when, in 1982, Gordievsky was assigned to the Soviet embassy in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 as the KGB Resident-designate ("rezident"), responsible for Soviet intelligence gathering and espionage in the UK.

Two of Gordievsky's most important contributions were averting a potential nuclear confrontation with Soviet Union when NATO exercise Able Archer 83
Able Archer 83
Able Archer 83 was a ten-day NATO command post exercise starting on November 2, 1983 that spanned Western Europe, centred on the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Headquarters situated at Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons. Able Archer exercises simulated a period of conflict...

 was mis-interpreted by the Soviets as a potential first strike
First strike
In nuclear strategy, a first strike is a preemptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. First strike capability is a country's ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing...

, and identifying Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 as the Soviet heir apparent long before he came to prominence. Indeed, the information passed by Gordievsky became the first proof of how worried the Soviet leadership had become about the possibility of a NATO nuclear first strike.

Defection


Gordievsky was suddenly ordered back to Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 on 22 May 1985, taken to a KGB safehouse outside Moscow, drugged and interrogated by Soviet counterintelligence. Apparently the leak came from two sources, one of which might have been Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Hazen Ames is a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who, in 1994, was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia...

, an American Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 officer, who had been selling secrets to the KGB.

Gordievsky was questioned for about five hours. After that, he was released and told he would never work overseas again. Although he was suspected of espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 for a foreign power, for some reason his superiors decided to stall. In June 1985 he was joined by his wife and two children in Moscow.

Although he almost certainly remained under KGB surveillance, Gordievsky managed to send a covert signal to MI6 about his situation, and they reactivated an elaborate escape plan which had been in place for many years, ready for just such an emergency.

On 19 July 1985, Gordievsky went for his usual jog, but he instead managed to evade his KGB tails and boarded a train to the Finnish
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 border, where he was met by British embassy cars and smuggled across the border into Finland, then flown to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 via Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. Soviet authorities subsequently sentenced Gordievsky to death in absentia
In absentia
In absentia is Latin for "in the absence". In legal use, it usually means a trial at which the defendant is not physically present. The phrase is not ordinarily a mere observation, but suggests recognition of violation to a defendant's right to be present in court proceedings in a criminal trial.In...

 for treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

, a sentence never rescinded by post-Soviet Russian authorities. His wife and children – on holiday in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan SSR
The Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Azerbaijan SSR for short, was one of the republics that made up the former Soviet Union....

 at the time of his escape – finally joined him in the UK six years later, after extensive lobbying by the British Government, and personally by Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 during her meetings with Gorbachev.

Life in the UK



Gordievsky has written a number of books on the subject of the KGB and is a frequently-quoted media pundit on the subject.

Gordievsky noted that the KGB were puzzled by and denied the claim that Hollis was a Soviet agent.

In 1990, he was consultant editor of the journal Intelligence and National Security, and he worked on television in the UK in the 1990s, including the game show Wanted. In 1995 the former British Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 leader Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

 received an out of court settlement (said to be "substantial") from The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

after the newspaper alleged, in articles derived from claims in the original manuscript of Gordievsky's book Next Stop Execution (1995), that Foot was a KGB "agent of influence" with the codename 'Boot'. In The Daily Telegraph in 2010 Charles Moore
Charles Moore (journalist)
Charles Hilary Moore is a British journalist and former editor of The Daily Telegraph.-Early life:He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge where he was awarded a BA in History and was a friend of Oliver Letwin.-Career:A former editor of The Spectator , the Sunday Telegraph and The...

 gave a "full account", which he claimed had been provided to him by Gordievsky shortly after Foot's death, of the extent of Foot's alleged KGB involvement. Moore also wrote that, although the claims are difficult to corroborate without MI6 and KGB files, Gordievsky's past record in revealing KGB contacts in Britain had been shown to be reliable.

On 26 February 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Buckingham
University of Buckingham
The University of Buckingham is an independent, non-sectarian, research and teaching university located in Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, England, on the banks of the River Great Ouse. It was originally founded as Buckingham University College in the 1970s and received its Royal Charter from the...

 in recognition of his outstanding service to the security and safety of the United Kingdom.

Gordievsky had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph on 3 August 2005, accusing the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 of being "The Red Service". He said:
"Just listen with attention to the ideological nuances on Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

, BBC television
BBC Television
BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The corporation, which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927, has produced television programmes from its own studios since 1932, although the start of its regular service of television...

, and the BBC World Service
BBC World Service
The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays...

, and you will realise that communism is not a dying creed."


Gordievsky was featured in the PBS documentary Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy
Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy
The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy is a book by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, first published as The Commanding Heights: The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace That Is Remaking the Modern World in 1998...

.

Gordievsky was appointed Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

 (CMG) for "services to the security of the United Kingdom" in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours
Queen's Birthday Honours
The Queen's Birthday Honours is a part of the British honours system, being a civic occasion on the celebration of the Queen's Official Birthday in which new members of most Commonwealth Realms honours are named. The awards are presented by the reigning monarch or head of state, currently Queen...

 (in the Diplomatic List). The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

newspaper noted that it was "the same gong
Medal
A medal, or medallion, is generally a circular object that has been sculpted, molded, cast, struck, stamped, or some way rendered with an insignia, portrait, or other artistic rendering. A medal may be awarded to a person or organization as a form of recognition for athletic, military, scientific,...

 given his fictional cold war
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 colleague James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

."

Suspected poisoning


In April 2008, the media reported that on 2 November 2007, Gordievsky had been taken by ambulance from his home in Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

 to a local hospital, where he spent 34 hours unconscious. Gordievsky claimed that he was poisoned with thallium
Thallium
Thallium is a chemical element with the symbol Tl and atomic number 81. This soft gray poor metal resembles tin but discolors when exposed to air. The two chemists William Crookes and Claude-Auguste Lamy discovered thallium independently in 1861 by the newly developed method of flame spectroscopy...

 by "rogue elements in Moscow". He accused MI6 of forcing Special Branch
Special Branch
Special Branch is a label customarily used to identify units responsible for matters of national security in British and Commonwealth police forces, as well as in the Royal Thai Police...

 to drop its early investigations into his allegations; according to him, the investigation was only reopened thanks to the intervention of former MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller
Eliza Manningham-Buller
Elizabeth Lydia "Eliza" Manningham-Buller, Baroness Manningham-Buller, DCB was Director General of MI5, the British internal Security Service, from October 2002 until her retirement on 20 April 2007, aged 58....

.

In Gordievsky's opinion, the villain was a UK-based Russian business associate who had supplied him with pills, which he said were the sedative Xanax
Alprazolam
Alprazolam is a short-acting anxiolytic of the benzodiazepine class of psychoactive drugs. Alprazolam, like other benzodiazepines, binds to specific sites on the GABAA gamma-amino-butyric acid receptor...

, purportedly for insomnia
Insomnia
Insomnia is most often defined by an individual's report of sleeping difficulties. While the term is sometimes used in sleep literature to describe a disorder demonstrated by polysomnographic evidence of disturbed sleep, insomnia is often defined as a positive response to either of two questions:...

; he refused to identify the associate, saying British authorities had advised against it.

Publications

  • Jakob Andersen med Oleg Gordievsky: "De Røde Spioner - KGB's operationer i Danmark fra Stalin til Jeltsin, fra Stauning til Nyrup", Høst & Søn, Copenhagen (2002).

External links