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Active Measures (Russian: Активные мероприятия) was a form of political warfare conducted by the Soviet security services (Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, KGB) to influence the course of world events, "in addition to collecting intelligence and producing politically correct assessment of it".[1] Active measures ranged "from media manipulations to special actions involving various degrees of violence". They were used both abroad and domestically. They included disinformation, propaganda, counterfeiting official documents, assassinations, and political repression, such as penetration in churches, and persecution of political dissidents.[1]

Active measures included the establishment and support of international front organizations (e.g. the World Peace Council); foreign communist, socialist and opposition parties; wars of national liberation in the Third World; and underground, revolutionary, insurgency, criminal, and terrorist groups.[1] The intelligence agencies of Eastern Bloc states also contributed to the program, providing operatives and intelligence for assassinations and other types of covert operations.[1]

Retired KGB Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin described active measures as "the heart and soul of Soviet intelligence": "Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs."[2]

Active measures was a system of special courses taught in the Andropov Institute of KGB situated at SVR headquarters in Yasenevo, near Moscow. The head of "active measures department" was Yuri Modin, former controller of the Cambridge Five spy ring.[1]

Active measures against the "Main Adversary"

A few claims of active measures against the United States were described in the Mitrokhin Archive:[1]

  • Discrediting of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), using historian Philip Agee (codenamed PONT).
  • Attempts to discredit Martin Luther King, Jr. by placing publications portraying him as an "Uncle Tom" who was secretly receiving government subsidies
  • Stirring up racial tensions in the United States by mailing bogus letters from the Ku Klux Klan, placing an explosive package in "the Negro section of New York" (operation PANDORA), and spreading conspiracy theories that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination had been planned by the US government
  • Starting rumors that fluoridated drinking water was in fact a plot by the US government to effect population control
  • Starting rumors that the moon landing was a hoax and the money ostensibly used by NASA was in actuality used by the CIA
  • Use of sympathetic elements in the press to libel the strategic defense initiative as an unfeasable "star wars" scheme
  • Fabrication of the story that was manufactured by US scientists at Fort Detrick; the story was spread by Russian-born biologist Jakob Segal.

Supporting political movements

According to Stanislav Lunev, GRU alone spent more than $1 billion for peace movements against Vietnam War, which was a "hugely successful campaign and well worth the cost".[3] Lunev claimed that "the GRU and the KGB helped to fund just about every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad".[3]

According to Oleg Kalugin, "the Soviet intelligence was really unparalleled. ... The KGB programs -- which would run all sorts of congresses, peace congresses, youth congresses, festivals, women's movements, trade union movements, campaigns against U.S. missiles in Europe, campaigns against neutron weapons, allegations that AIDS... was invented by the CIA... all sorts of forgeries and faked material -- [were] targeted at politicians, the academic community, at the public at large."[2]

According to Sergei Tretyakov, "The KGB was responsible for creating the entire nuclear winter story to stop the Pershing missiles."[4] Tretyakov says that from 1979 the KGB wanted to prevent the United States from deploying the missiles in Western Europe and that, directed by Yuri Andropov, they used the Soviet Peace Committee, a government organization, to organize and finance demonstrations in Europe against US bases.[4][5][6] He claims that misinformation based on a faked "doomsday report" by the Soviet Academy of Sciences about the effect of nuclear war on climate was distributed to peace groups, the environmental movement and the journal Ambio,[4] which carried a key article on the topic in 1982.[7]

Installing and undermining governments

After World War II Soviet security organizations played key role in installing puppet Communist governments in Eastern Europe, the People's Republic of China, North Korea, and later Afghanistan. Their strategy included mass political repressions and establishment of subordinate secret services in all occupied countries[8][9]

Some of the active measures were undertaken by the Soviet secret services against their own governments or Communist rulers. Russian historians Anton Antonov-Ovseenko and Edvard Radzinsky suggested that Joseph Stalin was killed by associates of NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria, based on the interviews of a former Stalin's body guard and circumstantial evidence.[10] According to Yevgeniya Alabts allegations, Chief of the KGB Vladimir Semichastny was among the plotters against Nikita Khrushchev in 1964.[11] KGB chairman Yuri Andropov reportedly struggled for power with Leonid Brezhnev.[12] Soviet coup attempt of 1991 against Mikhail Gorbachev was organized by KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov.[11] Gen. Viktor Barannikov, then the former State Security head, became one of the leaders of uprising against Boris Yeltsin during Russian constitutional crisis of 1993.[11]

Current Russian intelligence service SVR allegedly works to undermine governments of former Soviet satellite states like Poland, Baltic states[13] and Georgia[14] etc. During 2006 Georgian-Russian espionage controversy several Russian GRU case officers were accused by Georgian authorities of preparations to commit sabotage and terrorist acts[citation needed].

Puppet rebel forces

Trust operation

In "Trust Operation" (1921–1926), the State Political Directorate (OGPU) set up a fake anti-Bolshevik underground organization, "Monarchist Union of Central Russia". The main success of this operation was luring Boris Savinkov and Sidney Reilly into the Soviet Union, where they were arrested and executed.

Basmachi revolt

During the Basmachi Revolt in Central Asia, special military detachments were masqueraded as Basmachi forces and received support from British and Turkish intelligence services. Operations of these detachments facilitated collapse of Basmachi movement and led to assassination of Enver Pasha.[15]

Post World War II counter-insurgency operations

Following World War II, various partisan organisations in the Baltic States, Poland and Western Ukraine (including some previous collaborators of Germany) fought for independence of their countries against the Soviet forces. Many NKVD agents were sent to join and penetrate the independence movements. Many puppet rebel forces were created by the NKVD and permitted to attack local Soviet authorities to gain credibility and exfiltrate senior NKVD agents to the West.[15]

Political assassinations

The highest-ranking Soviet Bloc intelligence defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa claimed to have had a conversation with Nicolae Ceauşescu, who told him about "ten international leaders the Kremlin killed or tried to kill": Laszlo Rajk and Imre Nagy from Hungary; Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu and Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej from Romania; Rudolf Slánský and Jan Masaryk from Czechoslovakia; the Shah of Iran; Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan; Palmiro Togliatti from Italy; John F. Kennedy; and Mao Zedong. Pacepa provided some other claims, such as a plot to kill Mao Zedong with the help of Lin Biao organized by the KGB and alleged that "among the leaders of Moscow’s satellite intelligence services there was unanimous agreement that the KGB had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy."[16]

The second President of Afghanistan Hafizullah Amin was killed by KGB Alpha Group in Operation Storm-333. Presidents of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria organized by Chechen separatists including Dzhokhar Dudaev, Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Aslan Maskhadov, and Abdul-Khalim Saidullaev were killed by FSB and affiliated forces.

Other widely publicized cases are murders of Russian communist Leon Trotsky and Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov.

There were also allegations that the KGB was behind the assassination attempt against the Pope John Paul II in 1981. The Italian Mitrokhin Commission, headed by senator Paolo Guzzanti (Forza Italia), worked on the Mitrokhin Archives from 2003 to March 2006. In a draft report, senator Guzzanti revived the "Bulgarian connection" theory concerning Mehmet Ali Agca's 1981 assassination attempt against the Pope John Paul II. Guzzanti declared that "beyond any reasonable doubt "the KGB was behind the assassination attempt against the Pope John Paul II in 1981[17][18] The commission draft report has no bearing on any judicial investigations, which have long been closed. The Italian draft report said Soviet military intelligence - and not the KGB - was responsible. In Russia, Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov called the accusation "absurd."[17] The Italian Mitrokhin commission received criticism during and after its existence.[19] It was closed in March 2006 without any proof brought to its various controversial allegations, including the claim that Romano Prodi, former and current Prime minister of Italy and former President of the European Commission was the "KGB's man in Europe." One of the informer of Guzzanti, Mario Scaramella, has been arrested for defamation and arms trade end of 2006.[20]


Promotion of guerrilla organizations worldwide

Soviet secret services have been described as "the primary instructors of guerrillas worldwide"[3][21][22] According to Ion Mihai Pacepa, KGB General Aleksandr Sakharovsky once said: "In today’s world, when nuclear arms have made military force obsolete, terrorism should become our main weapon."[23] He also claimed that "Airplane hijacking is my own invention". In 1969 alone 82 planes were hijacked worldwide by the KGB-financed PLO.[23] George Habash, who worked under KGB guidance,[1] explained:

"Killing one Jew far away from the field of battle is more effective than killing a hundred Jews on the field of battle, because it attracts more attention."[23]

Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa described operation "SIG" (“Zionist Governments”) that was devised in 1972, to turn the whole Islamic world against Israel and the United States. KGB chairman Yury Andropov allegedly explained to Pacepa that

"a billion adversaries could inflict far greater damage on America than could a few millions. We needed to instill a Nazi-style hatred for the Jews throughout the Islamic world, and to turn this weapon of the emotions into a terrorist bloodbath against Israel and its main supporter, the United States"[24]

The following liberation organizations have been allegedly established by the KGB: PLO, National Liberation Army of Bolivia (created in 1964 with help from Ernesto Che Guevara); the National Liberation Army of Colombia (created in 1965 with help from Cuba), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1969, and the Secret Army for Liberation of Armenia in 1975.[25]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Mitrokhin, Vasili, Christopher Andrew (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Interview of Oleg Kalugin on CNN
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lunev" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Pete Earley, "Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War", Penguin Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-399-15439-3, pages 167-177
  5. Opposition to The Bomb: The fear, and occasional political intrigue, behind the ban-the-bomb movements
  6. 1982 Article "Moscow and the Peace, Offensive"
  7. Paul Crutzen and John Birks, "The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon", Ambio, 11, 1982, pp.114-125
  8. Antonov-Ovseenko, Anton, Beria, Moscow, 1999
  9. Gordievsky, Oleg; Andrew, Christopher (1990). KGB: The Inside Story. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-48561-2.
  10. Edvard Radzinsky Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives (1997) ISBN 0-385-47954-9
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia--Past, Present, and Future. 1994. ISBN 0-374-52738-5.
  12. Vladimir Solovyov and Elena Klepikova (translated by Guy Daniels) Yuri Andropov, a secret passage into the Kremlin London: R. Hale, 1984. ISBN 0-7090-1630-1
  13. Special services of Russian Federation work in the former Soviet Union (Russian) - by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Dorogan, Novaya Gazeta, 27 March 2006.
  14. Moscow Accused of Backing Georgian Revolt - by Olga Allenova and Vladimir Novikov, Kommersant, September 7, 2006.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Yossef Bodansky The Secret History of the Iraq War (Notes: The historical record). Regan Books, 2005, ISBN 0-06-073680-1
  16. The Kremlin’s Killing Ways - by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, November 28, 2006
  17. 17.0 17.1 Italian Panel: Soviets Behind Pope Attack
  18. "Moscow’s Assault on the Vatican" - by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, January 25, 2007
  19. L'Unità, 1 December 2006.
  20. The Guardian, 2 December 2006 Spy expert at centre of storm (English)
  21. Viktor Suvorov Inside Soviet Military Intelligence, 1984, ISBN 0-02-615510-9
  22. Viktor Suvorov Spetsnaz, 1987, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11961-8
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Russian Footprints - by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, August 24, 2006
  24. Russian Footprints. What does Moscow have to do with the recent war in Lebanon? by Ion Mihai Pacepa
  25. From Russia With Terror,, interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, March 1, 2004

Further reading

  • Vasili Mitrokhin and Christopher Andrew, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, Basic Books (2005) hardcover, 677 pages ISBN 0-465-00311-7
  • Ishmael Jones, The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, New York: Encounter Books (2010) (ISBN 978-1-59403-223-3).

External links

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