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Valentin Markin (aka "Arthur Walter") (1903 – 1934) was the chief illegal rezident and director of the espionage operations of the Soviet Union in the United States from 1933 to 1934. Markin headed the activities of both Soviet military intelligence and that of the Soviet secret police during this period.
Markin joined Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) and was stationed in Berlin in the 1920s, where he married a nice Armenian girl who worked for the Soviet trade mission. His superior in Berlin was Ignace Reiss. At some point, Markin left the GRU and secured a position with the Foreign Department (INO) of the NKVD.
The novice GRU agent Whittaker Chambers met with Markin, posing as Hermann, in New York City in 1933. He was, Chambers wrote, "a short, sturdy figure confined in a tight-fitting, rumpled suit and elevated on high-heeled German shoes." His brush like mop of hair looked like it had been cut with a sickle. "I felt," Chambers continued, " that I had met what is much more unusual in life than a thoroughly good man-a thoroughly bad one."
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) provided the authors Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev an unprecedented peek into their archives for the preparation of The Haunted Wood (1999). One of the startling revelations in the text was that Valentin Markin had a source inside the U.S. State Department, codenamed "Willi," who had access to "numerous ambassadorial, consular, and military attache reports from Europe and the Far East," and could "filch transcripts of recorded conversations Secretary of State Cordell Hull and his assistants had with foreign ambassadors."
The Soviets paid "Willi" the extraordinary sum of $15,000 per year for the documents, which he passed to Markin through an intermediary codenamed "Leo," subsequently identified as New York Post journalist Ludwig Lore.
Death and legacy
In August 1934, "Arthur Walter" (Markin) was found at the Luxor Baths of the Luxor Hotel (New York City) on 46th Street in New York City suffering from a serious head wound. He subsequently died in the hospital after having contracted pneumonia following surgery.
Markin was replaced as chief illegal rezident by Boris Iakovlevich Bazarov.
- Whittaker Chambers, Witness. New York: Random House, 1952.
- Walter Krivitsky, In Stalin's Secret Service. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1939
- Hede Massing, This Deception. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1951
- Elisabeth K. Poretsky, Our Own People: A Memoir of 'Ignace Reiss' and his Friends. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969.
- Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era. New York: Random House, 1999.