Pavel Sudoplatov

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Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov
19400000-sudoplatov.jpg
Pavel Sudoplatov
Nickname(s) Viktor
Born July 7, 1907
Melitopol, Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine)
Died September 26, 1996 (1996-09-27) (aged 89)
Moscow, Russia
Allegiance Soviet Union Soviet Union
 Russia
Service/branch Red Army flag.svg Red Army
Years of service 1921-1953
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands held State Political Directorate
People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs
Ministry for State Security (Soviet Union)
KGB
Main Directorate of Intelligence
Ministry of Internal Affairs (Russia)
Battles/wars Russian Civil War
World War II
Cold War
Spanish Civil War

Lieutenant General Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov (Пáвел Aнатóльевич Cудоплáтов) (July 7, 1907 – September 26, 1996) was a member of the intelligence services of the Soviet Union who rose to the rank of lieutenant general.[1] He was involved in several famous episodes, including the assassination of Leon Trotsky, the Soviet espionage program which obtained information about the atomic bomb from the Manhattan Project, and Operation Scherhorn, a Soviet deception operation against the Germans in 1944. His autobiography, Special Tasks, made him well-known outside the USSR, and provided a detailed look at Soviet intelligence and Soviet internal politics during his years at the top.[2][3][4]

Early life and career[edit]

He was born in Melitopol, Taurida Governorate, Russian Empire (in present-day Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine), to a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father, and was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1919 at the age of 12 he left home and joined a Red Army regiment near Melitopol. After being assigned to company flags and served in combat against both the White Army and the Ukrainian nationalist movement during the Russian Civil War. He was recruited into the Cheka in 1921, at the age of fourteen, and was promoted to the Secret Political Department of the Ukrainian State Political Directorate (OGPU) in 1927.[3]

In 1928 he married Emma Kaganova, a Jewish girl from Gomel, Belarus who had been recruited by and worked for the OGPU.

He transferred to the Soviet OGPU in 1933, moving to Moscow, and soon after became an "illegal", operating under cover in a number of European countries. On May 23, 1938, he personally assassinated the Ukrainian nationalist leader Yevhen Konovalets by giving him a box of chocolates containing a bomb.[5]

According to Sudoplatov, the order to murder Konovalets came directly from Joseph Stalin, who had personally told him: "This is not just an act of revenge, although Konovalets is an agent of German fascism. Our goal is to behead the movement of Ukrainian fascism on the eve of the war and force these gangsters to annihilate each other in a struggle for power."[3]:23–24

After delivering the bomb to Konovalets, Pavel Sudoplatov calmly walked away and waited nearby to verify that it had successfully detonated.[3] He then traveled on foot to Rotterdam's railway station and boarded a train for Paris. Then, with the assistance of the NKVD, Sudoplatov was smuggled to the Second Spanish Republic, where he briefly served in combat against Francisco Franco's Nationalists.

Due to his sudden disappearance, both the Dutch police and the OUN immediately suspected Sudoplatov of Konovalets' murder. Therefore, a photograph of Sudoplatov and Konovalets together was distributed to every OUN unit. According to Sudoplatov,

In the 1940s, SMERSH... captured two guerilla fighters in Western Ukraine, one of whom had this photo of me on him. When asked why he was carrying it, he replied, "I have no idea why, but the order is if we find this man to liquidate him."[3]:16

In the fall of 1938, he was made acting director of the Foreign Department of the NKVD (as the OGPU had by then become) after the purging of the previous head, in a set of purges which later culminated in the fall of Nikolai Yezhov (who was eventually replaced by Lavrentiy Beria). Shortly afterward, Sudoplatov narrowly escaped being purged himself.[4]

In March, 1939, Stalin rehabilitated Sudoplatov, promoting him to deputy director of the Foreign Department, and placed him in charge of the assassination of Trotsky, which was carried out in August, 1940.[2]

In June, 1941, Sudoplatov was placed in charge of the NKVD's Administration for Special Tasks, the principal task of which was to carry out sabotage operations behind enemy lines in wartime (both it and the Foreign Department had also been used to carry out assassinations abroad). During World War II, his unit helped organize guerrilla bands, and other secret behind-the-lines units for sabotage and assassinations, to fight the Nazis.

In late July 1941, under the orders of Lavrentiy Beria, he met (in a Georgian restaurant in the centre of Moscow) with the Bulgarian ambassador, who was the representative of Germany in USSR, at the time. Sudoplatov asked the ambassador if Hitler would stop penetration of the USSR, in exchange for giving Germany, a large part of USSR. (No one knows if this proposition was true or if it was an attempt of USSR to gain time).[3]

In February, 1944, Beria allegedly named Sudoplatov to head the newly formed Department S, which, according to Sudoplatov, united both the army intelligence (GRU) and NKVD intelligence in an effort to aid and secure the Soviet atomic bomb project. Sudoplatov's exact role and contribution, as well as his claim that he "engineered the theft of atomic secrets from the United States with the aid of four eminent scientists"[2] is under discussion, since, according to the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia, Department S was established in September 1945, and Sudoplatov had limited access to the Soviet atomic effort from that time until October 1946 and did not have any access to foreign agents tasked with collecting the atomic intelligence.[6][7][8] In 1995, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) conducted an investigation and declared that it,

"...is not in possession of any credible evidence that would suggest that Neils Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, or Leo Szilard engaged in any espionage activity on behalf of any foreign power..., the F.B.I. has classified information available that argues against the conclusions reached by the author of 'Special Tasks.' The F.B.I., therefore, considers such allegations to be unfounded." [9]

In the summer of 1946, Sudoplatov was removed from both posts, and in September he was placed in charge of another group at the newly renamed MGB, one which was supposed to plan sabotage actions in Western countries. In November, 1949, he was given a temporary job helping suppress a guerrilla movement in Ukraine that was a relic of World War II.

In the spring of 1953, around the time of Stalin's death, Sudoplatov was appointed to head the yet-again renamed MVD's Bureau of Special Tasks, which was responsible for sabotage operations abroad, and ran networks of "illegals" who were given the task of preparing attacks on military establishments in NATO countries, in the event that NATO attacked the Soviet Union.[3]

Arrest, trial and imprisonment[edit]

After the fall of Lavrentiy Beria, Sudoplatov was arrested on August 21, 1953 as his alleged collaborator in crimes. He simulated madness to avoid being executed with Beria, and therefore he was tried only in 1958.[10] He was accused, among other things, of involvement with the Mairanovsky's laboratory of death:

"As established [during the court trial], Beria and his accomplices committed terrible crimes against humanity: they tested deadly poisons, which caused agonizing death, on live humans. A special laboratory, which was established for experiments on the action of poisons on living humans, worked under the supervision of Sudoplatov and his deputy Eitingon from 1942 to 1946. They demanded he provide them only with poisons that had been tested on humans...".[10]

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After serving the full term (during which time he was housed with a number of Stalin's top assistants, also imprisoned), he was duly released in August, 1968.

Later life[edit]

Sudoplatov thereafter worked for some time as a German and Ukrainian translator, and also published three books under a pen name Anatoliy Andreev based on his activities during the World War II.

After an extensive letter-writing campaign, including a publicity effort during the glasnost era, he was finally rehabilitated and cleared of wrongdoing on 10 January 1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In his memoirs, he wrote with bitterness about his rehabilitation:

"The Soviet Union—to which I devoted every fiber of my being and for which I was willing to die; for which I averted my eyes from every brutality, finding justification in its transformation from a backward nation into a superpower; for which I spent long months on duty away from Emma and the children; whose mistakes cost me fifteen years of my life as a husband and father - was unwilling to admit its failure and take me back as a citizen. Only when there was no more Soviet Union, no more proud empire, was I reinstated and my name returned to its rightful place."

In 1994, his autobiography, Special Tasks,[3] based in large part on Sudoplatov's memory, and written with the help of his son Anatoliy and two American writers, was published; it caused a considerable uproar.[2] In addition to extensive details of many Soviet intelligence operations during Sudoplatov's career, and a similarly extensive discussion of the political machinations inside the intelligence services and the Soviet government, it claimed that a number of Western scientists who had worked on the atomic bomb project, while not agents for the Soviets, had provided important information.[3]:190–192 At first, this revelation was treated as a scoop by the American media,[11][12] but later it has been disputed by the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia and the F.B.I., and dismissed by American and Russian scientists and historians.[6][13][14]

Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov died on September 26, 1996 and was buried next to his wife at the New Donskoy Cemetery in Moscow.

Honours and awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Судоплатов П.А. Спецоперации. Лубянка и Кремль 1930–1950 годы. — М.: ОЛМА-ПРЕСС, 1997.(Russian)
  2. ^ a b c d David Stout. Pavel Sudoplatov, 89, Dies; Top Soviet Spy Who Accused Oppenheimer. The New York Times, September 28, 1996.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sudoplatov, Pavel, Anatoliĭ Pavlovich Sudoplatov, Jerrold L. Schecter, and Leona Schecter. Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness, a Soviet Spymaster. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.
  4. ^ a b Trahair, R. C. S. Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004, p. 392-393.
  5. ^ Christopher Andrew, Vasili Mitrokhin. The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. Basic Books (1999) ISBN 0-465-00312-5 p. 86
  6. ^ a b Atomic Spies?: The Implosion of the Sudoplatov Charges. Journal of the Federation of American Scientists, Volume 47, No 3, May/June 1994. Archived April 27, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ McMillan, P. J. Flimsy memoirs. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1994, July–August, p.30-33.
  8. ^ Leskov, Sergei. An unreliable witness. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1994, July–August, p.33-36
  9. ^ William J. Broad. F.B.I. Rejects An Account Of Treason. The New York Times, 3 May 1995.
  10. ^ a b Vadim J. Birstein. The Perversion Of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science. Westview Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8133-4280-5
  11. ^ Time Magazine, April 25, 1994. Time magazine's managing editor James R. Gaines expressed regrets over his decision to publish nine-page excerpt from Sudoplatov's book on 25 April 1994 without consulting experts (Washington Post, 2 May 1995).
  12. ^ Mac-Neil/Lehrer News Hour, April 18, 1994.
  13. ^ Vladislav Zubok. Atomic espionage and its soviet "witnesses". Cold War International History Project Bulletin, 4 (Fall 1994), p. 50-53.
  14. ^ Thomas Powers. Were the Atomic Scientists Spies? The New York Review of Books, June 9, 1994.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Pavel Sudoplatov's profile at the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service website
  • Pavel Sudoplatov's grave