Georges Agabekov

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Georges S. Agabekov
Grigoriĭ Sergeevich Agabekov

1896 (1896)
Died1937 (aged 40–41)
Pyrenees Mountains
Cause of deathassassination
NationalityRussian (empire)
CitizenshipRussian (empire)
EducationTashkent Praporshchik
Occupationsoldier, spy
Years active1914–1937
OrganizationCheka, OGPU
Known forespionage
Notable work
OGPU (1930)

Georges Agabekov (original family name Arutyunov;[1] Russian: Георгий Серге́евич Агабеков, transliteration Grigoriĭ Sergeevich Agabekov) (1896–1937) was a Soviet Red Army soldier, Chekist, OGPU agent, and Chief of OGPU Eastern Section (1928–1929). He was the first senior OGPU officer to defect to the West (1930), motivated presumably by his amorous infatuation with an English language teacher in Constantinople; his revelatory books led to massive arrests of Soviet intelligence assets across the Near East and Central Asia.


Agabekov was born in Ashkhabad, the Russian Empire, in 1895 to an Armenian family.

Red Army[edit]

Georges Agabekov fought in the Russian army from 1914 to 1916 during World War I. At the end of 1916, he was sent to the Tashkent Praporshchiks school. Following the 1917 October revolution, he joined the Red Guard in March 1918.


He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1920; soon after, he joined the Cheka. He partook in the Red Terror at Ekaterinburg and in the suppressing of a peasant revolt in Tyumen.


As Agabekov could speak Persian and Turkish, he was brought to Moscow in October 1921 to join the Oriental Section of the Cheka. In 1922, he was dispatched to Tashkent to work for Yakov Peters. While in Turkestan, according to his own account,[2] he played a key role in locating the camp of Enver Pasha, then Basmachi leader, near Denau (now in Surxondaryo Province of Uzbekistan), thus laying the groundwork for the routing of Enver's troops and his assassination in early August 1922.

In April 1924, he was posted to the Soviet mission in Kabul, where he spied under diplomatic cover.

At the end of 1926, Agabekov was posted in Tehran as rezident of the OGPU Foreign Branch in Persia, where he was successful in obtaining foreign powers' secret codes, recruiting agents and fomenting animosity against Britain amongst the local tribal leaders; however, he failed in the task of dispatching back to the USSR the defector Boris Bazhanov, Joseph Stalin's former assistant.[1]

In April 1928, back in Moscow, Agabekov was promoted to the position of chief of the OGPU Near Eastern Section.

In Constantinople. Defection[edit]

At the end of October 1929, Agabekov arrived from Odessa in Constantinople as "illegal" rezident in Turkey, where he replaced the Trotskyite Yakov Blumkin (alias Zhivoi) executed in Moscow shortly afterward. Like Blumkin before him, Agabekov travelled to Turkey on a Persian passport; he posed as a wealthy ethnic Armenian merchant under the name of Nerses Ovsepyan. Apart from Turkey, Blumkin had started to set up "illegal" spy networks in such countries as Syria, Palestine, Hejaz and Egypt. According to Agabekov, prior to 1930, Turkey was viewed by OGPU as a friendly power pursuant to the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Moscow, yet cooperation offers on the part of Turkey's police and intelligence were declined.[3] Mikhail Trilisser, chief of the OGPU Foreign Branch (1922–1930), whose patronage Agabekov enjoyed,[4] envisioned Constantinople as a base of Soviet espionage activity for the entire Near East.[5]

British intelligence officer and journalist Gordon Brook-Shepherd in his book The Storm Petrels: The First Soviet Defectors, 1928–1938 (1977) maintained that Agabekov's defection to France in June 1930 was caused solely by the fact that he had fallen in love with an under-age English girl Isabel Streater who taught him English;[6] but Agabekov's own account implies political and ideological motives as well as the fact that at the end of April 1930 he discovered he and his contacts (mostly ethnic Armenian merchants in Constantinople) were under close scrutiny by the Turkish police.[7]

Shortly after his arrival in Paris, in August 1930, the French authorities expelled Agabekov to Brussels, Belgium, where he lived under his original name of Arutyunov. There, he finally succeeded in establishing cooperation with the British and in marrying Isabel.

Publication of OGPU[edit]

The publication of Agabekov's English-language book OGPU: The Russian Secret Terror in 1931, led to sweeping arrests of hundreds of Soviet agents and sympathisers in Persia as well as other Near Eastern countries; a sharp deterioration of Moscow's relations with Rezā Shāh ensued. He also published 2 Russian-language books in Berlin, which have an autobiographical element. Amongst other things, Agabekov said that starting from 1929, the OGPU Foreign Branch actively used Armenian clergy both from the USSR and abroad for the purposes of espionage.[8]


He was believed to have been killed by Soviet agents in the Pyrenees in 1937, after a series of unsuccessful attempts on his life. However, according to the 1997 memoir attributed to Pavel Sudoplatov,[9] his assassination was perpetrated by a retired Turkish officer in Paris and organised by Aleksandr Korotkov, who subsequently became deputy chief of the Foreign Intelligence.[10]


  • Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, 1930 (pdf)
    • G.P.U. (1930) (French)
    • OGPU: The Russian Secret Terror, translated from French by Henry W. Bunn, (New York: Brentanos, 1931)
    • OGPU: The Russian Secret Terror, translated from French by Henry W. Bunn (1975)
  • ЧК за работой. Berlin, Стрела, 1931 (pdf)
  • ChK za rabotoĭ (1992)
  • Sekretnyĭ terror (1998)
  • Enver paşa nasıl öldürüldü?, Hasan Babacan, Servet Avşar (2011)


  1. ^ a b Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1978). Soviet Defectors: The KGB Wanted List. Hoover Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-8179-8231-0. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  2. ^ See Chapter VI of his 1931 book ЧК за работой.
  3. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 218-219.
  4. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 164.
  5. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 219.
  6. ^ Ближневосточный интерес
  7. ^ See Chapter XXXI of his 1931 book ЧК за работой.
  8. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 217-218.
  9. ^ Судоплатов Павел Анатольевич. Спецоперации. Лубянка и Кремль 1930–1950 годы Chapter 2, See Ликвидация троцкистов за рубежом part.
  10. ^ Коротков Александр Михайлович


  • Krasnov, Vladislav (1985). Soviet Defectors: The KGB Wanted List. Stanford: Hoover Press. pp. 11–12.
  • Rezun, Miron (1981). The Soviet Union and Iran.
  • Robinson, Curtis (2011). Caught Red Starred. XLibris[self-published source]. p. 50.
  • West, Nigel (2009). The A to Z of Sexspionage. Scarecrow Press. p. 283.