Mikhail Trilisser

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Mikhail Trilisser
Mikhail Trilliser.jpg
Meier Abramovich Trilisser

April 1, 1883
DiedFebruary 2, 1940(1940-02-02) (aged 56)
Cause of deathexecution
Other namesMikhail Aleksandrovich Moskvin, Moskvin, Meer Moskvin
OccupationIntelligence officer
Years active1901–1938
Agent(s)Cheka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD
Known forrole in the "Trust"
Political partyRSDLP (1901–1903)
RSDLP (Bolsheviks) (1903–1918)
Bolshevik Party (1918–1938)

Mikhail Abramovich Trilisser (Russian: Ме́ер Абра́мович Трили́ссер; born Meier Abramovich Trilisser) (1 April 1883, in Astrakhan – 2 February 1940), also known by the pseudonym Moskvin (Russian: Москви́н), was a Soviet chief of the Foreign Department of the Cheka and the OGPU. Later, he worked for the NKVD as a covert bureau chief and Comintern leader.[1]


Trilisser was born Meier Abramovich Trilisser on April 1, 1883 in Astrakhan. His father was a shoemaker.[citation needed]



In 1901, Trilisser joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in Odessa and was arrested in the same year for revolutionary activities.[1]

During the revolution of 1905, he was a revolutionary propagandist in Kazan, Petrograd and Finland. In July 1907, the police arrested him, investigated him at length and sentenced him in 1909 to eight years of hard labour. In November 1914 during this sentence, the government sent him into permanent exile in Siberia.[1]


After the February Revolution of 1917, Trilisser served first as editor of the Irkutsk newspaper Voice of the Social-Democrat and then in the military Irkutsk Committee of the Bolsheviks.[1]


In October 1917, Trilisser worked in Siberia. As the Bolsheviks regained territory in the Far East from the Japanese, Trilisser worked underground in the Russian-Chinese border town of Blagoveshchensk, north of Harbin. After helping form a buffer state, the Far Eastern Republic (FER) or Chita Republic (1920–1922), Trilisser was appointed commissioner of the Amur region.[1]


By 1921, Trilisser was working under Felix Dzerzhinsky in the foreign intelligence department of the Soviet secret police or Cheka. In 1922, he became head of the foreign department of the new State Political Directorate (later OGPU).[1]

As such, Trilisser played a significant role in the "Trust operation, among whose achievements were penetration of counter-Soviet and White Russian organizations and the capture and executions of Boris Savinkov and British super spy Sidney Reilly.[1]


In 1926, Trilisser became Vice-Chairman of the OGPU.[1]

In October 1929, he was ousted from the foreign department of the OGPU, and was replaced by Artur Artuzov.[2] Trilisser was dismissed for attacking his boss, Genrikh Yagoda, behind his back at a Party meeting — a breach of protocol.[3]

Trilisser was possibly associated with Georgy Chicherin. In Paris, Chicherin and Trilisser may have organized a Soviet subsidy to Nicholas Roerich's expeditions in Central Asia.[4]

In 1930, Stalin had him transferred to the Workers and Peasants Inspection of the RSFSR as deputy commissar.[1] In 1934–35, he was representative of the Soviet Control Commission in the Far East.

Comintern and NKVD[edit]

Replacing Osip Pyatnitsky, on 10 August 1935, Trilisser was appointed a member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern,[5] and became head of its Department of International Relations (OMS), which handled subsidies to foreign communist parties. Trilisser adopted the pseudonym, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Moskvin. When Stalin queried this, his deputy Lazar Kaganovich explained that it was "because his surname is known as that of an NKVD functionary".[1][6] Trilisser developed ciphers to disguise Communist activities.[5] His tasks as a Comintern member appear to have been those of a policeman rather than a communist agitator, including the recruitment of NKVD agents overseas and the kidnapping or assassination of various Soviet emigres, Comintern members and other 'enemies of the people'. Another of Trilisser's tasks was to recruit Soviet covert couriers to supply funds, training, and political support to various overseas communist movements deemed sympathetic to the Soviet Union.[2] In January 1936, he was tasked with verifying loyalty of all the Comintern staff and emigre communists in the USSR. By August, he had identified 3,000 possible 'saboteurs, spies, provocateur agents, etc." whose names were passed to the NKVD,[7] also described as a purge of the Comintern.[5]

United States[edit]

In the United States, Trilisser provided Soviet visas for couriers sent to supply funds to a number of American left-wing trade unions, African-American worker organizations, and communist movements, including the CPUSA.[2] In January 1938, at the specific request and recommendation of Earl Browder, head of the Communist Party of the United States, Trilisser gave Max Bedacht, an American Communist Party activist and former unsuccessful New York Senate candidate,[8][2] a Soviet visa and employment as a courier supplying funds to the CPUSA and other communist front organizations. Bedacht soon began traveling between the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union as a courier, using his official cover as an international delegate for the American Communist Party.[2]

Purge and death[edit]

Trilisser evidently came into conflict with the NKVD boss Genrikh Yagoda, which led to his dismissal in 1929, but that meant that he was trusted by Yagoda's successor Nikolai Yezhov and survived the mass arrests of NKVD officers that followed Yagoda's dismissal. He was arrested on 23 November 1938, as Lavrentiy Beria was wresting control of the NKVD from Yezhov. His sudden disappearance shocked the head of Comintern, Georgi Dimitrov, who tried to intervene, but was warned by Yezhov that 'Moskvin' was suspected of having been 'entrapped' into becoming a spy.[9] He was executed on 2 February 1940.[5]


In 1956, Trilisser was posthumously rehabilitated during the period of Destalinization.[1]

In 1967, a Soviet adventure TV series Operation Trust (Операция "Трест") was created.[10]

In 1983, his character appears in the final episodes of Reilly, Ace of Spies, portrayed by an English actor Anthony Higgins.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Mikhail Abramovich Trilisser". Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR). 2000. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e Klehr, Harvey; John Earl Haynes; Kirill Mikhaĭlovich Anderson (1998). The Soviet World of American Communism. Yale University Press. pp. 20 (years 1929–1935), 139–140 (1938), 146 (1938). ISBN 978-0-300-07150-4.
  3. ^ Jonathan Haslam (2015). Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-374-71040-8., p. 43.
  4. ^ Nikolaidou, Dimitra (2016-09-15). "Why the Soviets Sponsored a Doomed Expedition to a Hollow Earth Kingdom". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  5. ^ a b c d Firsov, F. I.; Klehr, Harvey; Haynes, John Earl (2014). Secret cables of the Comintern, 1933-1943. Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes. New Haven. pp. 21–23. ISBN 978-0-300-20960-0. OCLC 884863554.
  6. ^ Davies, R.W., Khlevniuk, Oleg V. and Rees E.A. (editors) (2003). The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 301. ISBN 0-300-09367-5. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ Jansen, Marc, and Petrov, Nikolai (2002). Stalin's Loyal Executioner: People's Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895–1940. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press. pp. 42. ISBN 978-0-8179-2902-2.
  8. ^ Max Bedacht, the Communist Party candidate for the 1934 New York Senate election, lost the election with 1.23% of votes cast.
  9. ^ Banac, Ivo, ed. (2003). The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov 1933–1949. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 90. ISBN 0-300-09794-8.
  10. ^ IMDb:Operatsiya Trest (TV 1967)

External sources[edit]