Cold War KGB Officer’s Records Released


VasiliMitrokhinwas a KGB defector during the Cold War who was incredibly adamant that the information he brought to the British must be made publicly available. He had a great deal of documentation on the Soviet Union’s inner workings, and he wanted to know that he had not defected from Moscow for no reason. Even though it did not happen immediately, the KGB files provided by Mitrokhin have finally been made available as requested.

Mitrokhin’s smuggled information is now at display at Cambridge University, in the Churchill Archives. Among the papers included are some which detail operations that the Soviet Union was conducting right under Great Britain’s nose. There were many British communists who helped the KGB to further the cause of the Soviet Union by providing them with information on various subjects, such as nuclear arms. One such Briton was Melita Norwood, who was awarded a pension for her work. She would photograph the information desired by the Soviets and then replace it without anyone suspecting that it had been disturbed, The Guardian reports

Norwood was of course not the only communist sympathizer in Great Britain. Members of a spy ring known as the Cambridge Five also gave up information, and there were newspaper editors who helped propagandist writings in favor of the KGB see the light of publication.Mitrokhin’s documents reveal details about these informants, and hint that there were possibly hundreds more. The Soviet Union attempted to spy on every facet of British life, including religion. They even kept up-to-date information on a cardinal from Poland who would eventually become Pope John Paul II.

There is some question as to the validity of some of the documents that Mitrokhin provided. Many knowledgeable sources, including other defectors, have suggested that not everything the KGB wrote in its intelligence files during the Cold War was necessarily true. Apparently, many of these documents were stretched or even completely fabricated for the purpose of gaining budgetary approvals as well as gaining support from Soviets higher up the chain of command.

Whether or not the entirety of the KGB information provided by Mitrokhin holds true is beside the point. Many important findings from his files have been concerned, and spies within Britain have been convicted as a result. Because of this, some have said that Mitrokhin is among the most important KGB officers to have ever defected, as the information he provided was valuable to understanding Soviet operations during the Cold War.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE