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Oleg Kalugin

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Oleg Kalugin
Oleg Danilovich Kalugin

(1934-09-06) 6 September 1934 (age 89)
OccupationKGB operative
Years active1952–1990

Oleg Danilovich Kalugin (Russian: Олег Данилович Калугин; born 6 September 1934) is a former KGB general (stripped of his rank and awards by a Russian Court decision in 2002). He was during a time, head of KGB political operations in the United States and later a critic of the agency. After being convicted of spying for the West in absentia during a trial in Moscow, he remained in the US and was sworn in as a citizen on 4 August 2003.[1][2]

Early life and career[edit]

Born 6 September 1934, in Leningrad and son of an officer in the NKVD, Kalugin attended Leningrad State University and was recruited by the KGB, under the aegis of the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence). After training, he was sent to the United States, where he enrolled as a journalism student at Columbia University on a Fulbright scholarship in 1958, along with Aleksandr Yakovlev. In 1959, his photo appeared in a Newsweek article in which, identified as a 24-year-old student, he said: "I like Americans very much. But after seven months here I am convinced more than ever that the Communist system is better than yours."[3] He continued to pose as a journalist for a number of years, eventually serving as the Radio Moscow correspondent at the United Nations. In 1965, after five years in New York City, he returned to Moscow to serve under the cover of press officer in the Soviet Foreign Ministry.

Kalugin was then assigned to Washington, DC, with the cover of deputy press officer for the Soviet embassy. In reality, he was deputy resident and acting chief of the Residency at the Soviet Embassy. Rising in the ranks, he became one of the KGB's top officers operating out of the Soviet embassy in Washington. That led to his being promoted to general in 1974, the youngest in its history.

He then returned to KGB headquarters to become head of the foreign counterintelligence or K branch of the First Chief Directorate. Meanwhile, he received high honors for the assassination of Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov. It had been accomplished on a request from Todor Zhivkov and then an order by the KGB chief, Yuri Andropov.[4]

Criticism of KGB[edit]

In 1980, Kalugin was demoted to deputy head of the Leningrad KGB as a result of an intrigue initiated by Vladimir Kryuchkov, then a close confidant of Yuri Andropov who had been privately criticized by Kalugin. Kalugin was accused of recruiting an agent 20 years prior who was actually an American spy (though the KGB probably believed incorrectly).[a] That made Kalugin himself seem to be a security risk. He was suspected of working for the CIA, but there was no supporting evidence. Vladimir Kryuchkov, Chairman of the KGB and orchestrator of the 1991 coup plot, alleged that in his time in counterintelligence, Kalugin failed to discover a single US agent, but his successor would allegedly find over a dozen.[5] Former CIA mole Karl Koecher made unsupported claims that for his eventual arrest, Kalugin was responsible.

The unsubstantiated accusations did not stop him from criticizing the agency's policies and methods. He complained that the KGB overlooked corruption in the highest circles of Soviet society while it terrorized common people. His unbridled public criticism led to reassignment to Security Officers posts first in the Academy of Sciences in 1987 and then at the Ministry of Electronics in 1988. His career at the KGB ended with his forced retirement on 26 February 1990.[6]

As the Soviet Union underwent changes under Mikhail Gorbachev, Kalugin became more vocal and public in his criticism of the KGB by denouncing Soviet security forces as Stalinist domestic political police, but he never disputed the importance of espionage abroad. Finally, in 1990, Gorbachev signed a decree stripping Kalugin of his rank, decorations, and pension. In August 1991, Gorbachev returned his rank, decorations, and pension. Despite opposition from the KGB, he was elected in September 1990[7] to the Supreme Soviet as a People's Deputy for the Krasnodar region.

Countering the Soviet coup attempt[edit]

Kalugin became a firm supporter of Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. During the abortive Soviet coup attempt of 1991, led by KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov,[7] he led crowds to the Russian White House, the center of anticoup efforts, and induced Yeltsin to address the crowds.

After the coup, he became an unpaid adviser to the new KGB chairman, Vadim Bakatin. Ever vocal, Kalugin told the press that in the future, the KGB should have no political functions and no secret laboratories to manufacture poisons and secret weapons. While Bakatin succeeded in dismantling the old security apparatus, he did not have the time to reform it before he was fired in November 1991.

Exile to the United States[edit]

According to Kalugin, he has never betrayed any Soviet agents except those who were already known to Western intelligence. He called intelligence defectors like Oleg Gordievsky "traitors."

One of the allegations in his 1994 book, The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West,[8] stated that the death of Sean Bourke, who had helped traitor George Blake to escape prison, was caused by poisoning ordered by the KGB.[9] Another allegation was that the KGB "virtually controlled the Russian Orthodox Church through the blackmail of its many gay priests", according to a review of the book. [10] (In a 2015 interview, he named the late head of the church, Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow, as a KGB collaborator.)[11] A second edition of the book, published in 2009, provided some additional specifics about some of the cases that Kalugin had discussed only briefly in the first edition.[12]

In 1995, Kalugin accepted a teaching position at The Catholic University of America and has remained in the United States ever since.[7] Settling in Washington, D.C., he first wrote the First Directorate book about Cold War espionage and a subsequent book Spymaster in 2008. He also collaborated with former CIA Director William Colby and Activision to produce Spycraft: The Great Game, a CD-ROM game released in 1996. He has appeared frequently in the media and given lectures at a number of universities.

In June 2001, Kalugin testified at the espionage trial of George Trofimoff, a retired Colonel of the United States Army Reserve who was charged with spying for the KGB in the 1970s and the 1980s. Upon being asked whether he knew the name of the U.S. military intelligence mole codenamed "Markiz," Kalugin responded "Yes. I did. His name was George Trofimoff."[13] Kalugin testified that Metropolitan Bishop Iriney (Susemihl), the Russian Orthodox hierarch of Austria, had recruited Trofimoff into the service of the KGB. Kalugin further described having invited the Metropolitan to visit his dacha in 1978. According to Kalugin, "He did good work, particularly in recruiting Markiz. I wanted to thank him for what he had done."[14] Kalugin further described his own meeting with Trofimoff at a location in Austria. When asked his reasons for testifying, Kalugin explained that as a resident alien, he was trying to obey American law. Trofimoff was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

On 4 August 2003, Kalugin became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Criticism of Vladimir Putin[edit]

With the return to power of elements of the KGB, most notably Vladimir Putin, Kalugin was again accused of treason. In 2002, he was put on trial in absentia in Moscow and found guilty of spying for the West.[7] He was sentenced to fifteen years in jail,[15] in a verdict he described as "Soviet justice, which is really triumphant today".[16] The US and Russia have no extradition treaty,[16] though it is unlikely the U.S. would extradite Kalugin for such charges anyway.

As of 2019, Kalugin was a professor for the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI CENTRE).[17] He is a member of the advisory board for the International Spy Museum.[18] He remains a critic of Putin, a former subordinate, whom he called a "war criminal" over his conduct of the Second Chechen War, and claimed that he would absolutely face an international tribunal some day and would be severely penalized for his crimes against the people of the North Caucasus, just like former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.[7][19][20]


  • The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West by Oleg Kalugin and Fen Montaigne. 1994. 374 pages. St Martins Pr. ISBN 0-312-11426-5
  • Spymaster: The Highest-ranking KGB Officer Ever to Break His Silence by Oleg Kalugin and Fen Montaigne. 1995. Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85685-101-X
  • (Russian) Proshchai, Lubianka! (XX vek glazami ochevidtsev) by Oleg Kalugin. 1995. 347 pages. "Olimp" ISBN 5-7390-0375-X
  • Window of opportunity: Russia's role in the coalition against terror. An article from: Harvard International Review. 22 September 2002. Vol. 24 Issue 3 Page 56(5).


  1. ^ A scientist, codenamed Cook, was recruited by Kalugin in the US, where he worked for the KGB and was later evacuated to the Soviet Union to avoid his arrest by the FBI. There, Cook started criticizing the inefficient socialist system, particularly in the scientific institutes in which he worked, and was framed by the KGB and convicted to eight years of prison. Andropov ordered Kalugin to interrogate Cook in Lefortovo Prison and extort Cook's admission that he was indeed a US spy. During the recorded interrogation, Cook was terrified that a man who recruited him to work for the Soviet Union now wanted him to admit spying for the US. Cook refused to admit anything and so instead condemned Kalugin.


  1. ^ "Ex-KGB Agent Kalugin: Putin Was 'Only A Major'". New York Times. 24 August 2003. Retrieved 29 December 2020. On Aug. 4, Mr. Kalugin, the son of a member of Stalin's secret police, was sworn in as a United States citizen.
  2. ^ "Espionage against the West". Belfer, Harvard Kennedy School. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Russians on Broadway -- 'We Like It, But ...', Newsweek, July 20, 1959
  4. ^ Jones, Nate (16 July 2010). "Document Friday: The Poisonous Umbrella and the Assassination of Georgi Markov". unredacted.com. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  5. ^ Shane, Scott (26 June 2002). "From Soviet hero to traitor". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 7 May 2023. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  6. ^ The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West by Oleg Kalugin and Fen Montaigne, p. 327-328. St Martins Pr, New York (1994), ISBN 0-312-11426-5 (retrieved 25 February 2006).
  7. ^ a b c d e Scott Shane (26 June 2002). "From Soviet hero to traitor". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 9 August 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Top spy George Blake's escape aided by Limerick man Sean Bourke". Irish News. 28 December 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  9. ^ Kalugin, Oleg (2009). Spymaster: My Thirty-two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West (PDF). Basic Books. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-465-01445-3. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  10. ^ "The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West". Publishers' Weekly. 1 March 2000. Retrieved 29 December 2020. (374p) ISBN 978-0-312-11426-8
  11. ^ "Ex-KGB Agent Kalugin: Putin Was 'Only A Major'". Radio Free Europe. 31 March 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2020. in an interview with RFE/RL.
  12. ^ "Studies in Intelligence". CIA. 15 March 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  13. ^ Andy Byers (2005), The Imperfect Spy: The Inside Story of a Convicted Spy, Vandamere Press, page 169.
  14. ^ Byers (2005), page 172.
  15. ^ "Former KGB General Kalugin Calls U.S.-Russia Spy Saga 'A Farce'". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 17 July 2010.
  16. ^ a b Steven Lee Myers (27 June 2002). "Russia Convicts a Former K.G.B. General Now Living in U.S." New York Times.
  17. ^ "Oleg D. Kalugin". International Spy Museum. 1 November 2019. Archived from the original on 29 January 2022. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  18. ^ "Advisory & Honorary Boards". International Spy Museum. 15 April 2021. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Seven Questions: A Little KGB Training Goes a Long Way". Foreign Policy Magazine. 25 July 2007. Archived from the original on 12 November 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Oleg Kalugin: "Putin Is a Temporary Twist In History"". The Ukrainian Week. 8 September 2011.

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