“Gorsky’s List” (II)
By Dr. Svetlana A. Chervonnaya
I. Some considerations on the document’s origin:
The text discussed here was discovered by Dr. David Lowenthal, among the papers of his late brother, John Lowenthal. It consisted of several pages of handwritten notes in Russian that, in 2002, Alexander Vassiliev, the Russian co-author with Allen Weinstein of The Haunted Wood (1999), produced in London in the course of his libel case, Vassiliev v. Frank Cass & Co., Ltd. (Jury Bundle, pp. 303, 304 and 305). Vassiliev’s notes, which are titled “A. Gorsky’s report – to Savchenko S.R. 23 December, 49,” have two parts: the shorter part presents excerpted extracts from Anatoly Gorsky’s overall report to Lieutenant General Sergei Savchenko (sourced to SVR file 43173, vol. 2v, pp. 46-48); the longer part is Gorsky’s “Failures in the USA (1938-48)” list (as sourced to SVR file 43173, vol. 2v, pp. 49-55).
For a better understanding of the full document’s origin, and by “full document” I mean both Gorsky’s list and the excerpted report that precedes it, it is necessary to note that, at the center of the libel case, was Vassiliev’s assertion that he had seen the name of Alger Hiss written in clear in files of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) that had been made available to him in 1994, for a book undertaken as part of a joint Russian-American publishing project. (Later, after the original American publishers had withdrawn from the project, Vassiliev’s research would become the basis for The Haunted Wood, which he co-authored with Allen Weinstein.) These notes were produced in court as part of Vassiliev’s effort to substantiate his claim about Hiss.
According to the story Alexander Vassiliev told in London in early 2002, when leaving Russia for good in 1996, he could not take with him his notes of the SVR archival documents, which he had originally made in his handwriting in notebooks. Therefore, he typed his notes into his computer and then on floppy disks, which he smuggled out of the country in May 1996. On April 16, 2002, he said during his pretrial hearings, that as of that date, he did not have his notebooks with him in London: they were still in Moscow. This suggested that the Russian handwritten notes that Vassiliev produced in London in early February 2002, might be his secondhand handwritten copies made in London from his electronic files. Writing to Dr. John Earl Haynes in 2005, Vassiliev would explain that the handwritten notebooks were prepared when examining the material at the SVR press bureau. What he later smuggled on the disks “were extracts and summaries for use by Allen Weinstein that he made on a computer at his residence based on the material in the notebooks.” Since Weinstein could not read Russian, Vassiliev prepared “the material on the disks first in Russian and also translating into English for Weinstein’s use.” [John Earl Haynes to Svetlana Chervonnaya, November 1, 2005.]
Vassiliev also told Haynes that his notebooks were smuggled for him from Moscow “by the time of the London trial.” [John Earl Haynes to Svetlana Chervonnaya, October 29, 2005]. This account seems to support a tentative conclusion that, in the case of Vassiliev’s notes of the Gorsky List that he produced in London in early 2002, we may be dealing not with a second-hand but, in fact, with a third-hand source.
The images of Jury Bundle pages 303, 304, and 305 display Alexander Vassiliev’s notes of pp. 46-54 of the SVR Archive’s file 43173, vol. 2v. According to the late SVR Major General Julius Kobyakov’s web postings, this looks like a “general correspondence file,” that is, a file with rather wide circulation within the service, and thus not containing the most sensitive information, such as the simultaneous identification of the service’s assets by both their code names and their real names. According to independent oral accounts by several veterans of the service in conversation with the author, such highly sensitive information is likely to be found only in the service’s most secret personal files.
Although even the less revealing archive made available to Vassiliev is completely sealed off from public access, the footnoted references to it in The Haunted Wood give some indication of its internal structure. On the surface, its organization would seem to resemble files housed in the archive of the Russian Foreign Ministry (AVP RF), another “departmental” Russian archive where public access is limited to scholars working in particular fields.
At the AVP RF, each archival collection is subdivided into thematic file folders (in Russian, “papka“), with each folder having a certain number of files (in Russian, “djelo“) under various titles. For example, within a particular “American” folder, there would be separate files for correspondence between the Soviet Embassy in Washington and the Soviet Foreign Ministry in Moscow; between the New York Consulate General and the Soviet Foreign Ministry; between the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the Soviet Foreign Ministry, etc. In each file folder, documents and correspondence are arranged in a strictly ascending chronological order, so that an April 1, 1945 letter always precedes an April 2, 1945 letter. Following this logic, SVR file 43173 (if similar to an AVP RF file folder) should have several volumes (each with its own specific title), and documents within each volume would be arranged in a strictly ascending chronological order.
For a better understanding of the background to Alexander Vassiliev’s notes, let us now briefly turn to Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev’s The Haunted Wood (hereinafter THW).
On pages 296-7, THW presents some extracts from Gorsky’s December 23, 1949 Report to Savchenko. According to a footnote, these particular excerpts from this document can be found in SVR file 43173, vol. 2v, pp. 46-47.
The quotes on page 296 are immediately preceded by an account of a December 25, 1948 cable to Moscow from the then-Committee of Information’s chief rezident in the United States and Ambassador, Alexander Semenovich Paniushkin. Writing in the aftermath of Laurence Duggan’s suicide, it warns against both any further attempts at contacting former sources and any new “talent-spotting.” The footnote to this quote refers the reader to a different passage within the same file: 43173, vol. 4, pp. 47-48. THW then says that Moscow rejected “Panyushkin’s views,” and sent the Washington station an instruction “to continue working with them [old agents]….” The footnote for this quote cites file 43173, vol. 2v, pp. 33 and 43. These two footnotes let us assume that vol. 2v contains Moscow-originating documents on the U.S. line (outgoing), while vol. 4 contains incoming documents received from United States outposts (or, probably more precisely, from the Washington, D.C. station).
For some obscure reason, Allen Weinstein then jumps over three file pages to p. 46 of file 43173, vol. 2v, and quotes from the three opening paragraphs of Gorsky’s December 23, 1949 report to Savchenko as a proof of “the bleak prospects described by Panyushkin …. confirmed the following year [i.e. 1949] by yet another analysis of Soviet intelligence’s prospects in the United States filed in Moscow by the knowledgeable Anatoly Gorsky.”
Ignoring the wealth of information in Gorsky’s list of “Failures,” which immediately follows his report to Savchenko (and is found on pages 49-55 of the same file with its title on the bottom of page 48, immediately following the report itself), Allen Weinstein next fast-forwards 250-plus file pages to discuss a certain “Fyodor”‘s rejection of Gorsky’s complaints about his “laziness and inability.” (THW, p. 297, footnote 52, which cites file 43173, v. 2v, pp. 309-310.) As it has turned out, the cited document described a plan of measures for the first [USA] Department of the First Directorate of the KI (MGB foreign intelligence) to improve its intelligence work in the USA.)
THW then quickly rewinds its account of file 43173, vol. 2v back to pp. 71-87 of the file, in order to give an account of a mid-March 1950 memo from Lieutenant General Sergei Romanovich Savchenko, who had been head of the MGB intelligence branch of KI (Committee of Intelligence) since September 19, 1949 (THW, p. 298, footnote 53, citing file 43173, vol. 2v, pp. 71-87). As cited in THW, General Savchenko’s memo discusses blows to Soviet intelligence operations that had been inflicted by the betrayals of five “group-leading” agents. Specifically, General Savchenko details the failures of five “agent groups,” including Bentley’s (“who gave away more than 40 most valuable agents”) and an additional “four agent groups” that failed because of the defections of MGB and GRU “traitors”: “‘Berg’ [Alexander Koral], ‘Buben’ [Louis Budenz], ‘Karl’ [Whittaker Chambers], and ‘Redhead’ [Hedda Gumperz].” (Since internal memos of the Soviet intelligence officials would never have used real names but only code names, often handwritten into the typed text, all the real names in square brackets are an addition by Allen Weinstein.)
Gorsky’s December 1949 Report lists the same five groups as Savchenko’s March 1950 memo:
- [Bentley’s]: 43 persons, including 7 Soviet operatives – hence 36 assets;
- “Carl”: 21 persons, including 1 Soviet operative – 20 alleged assets;
- “Redhead”: 6 persons, including 1 Soviet operative – 5 assets;
- “Buben”: 6 persons, including 1 Soviet operative – 5 assets;
- “Berg”: 16 persons, including 5 Soviet operatives – 11 assets.
By Gorsky’s reckoning, a total of 36 agents had been betrayed by Bentley, and an additional 41 agents had been compromised by four other “traitors.” Compare this with General Savchenko’s assertion that “more than 40” agents had been rendered ineffective by Elizabeth Bentley’s defection, and “more than 30 valuable agents in four other groups” had been compromised by other defections. This discrepancy suggests that General Savchenko might have had another “Failures” list to draw on (or several other lists, if we take into consideration the possibility he might also have queried the “neighbor” service) – lists that proved to be more accurate than the one he had received several months earlier from Anatoly Gorsky.
Keeping this context in mind, Anatoly Gorsky’s December 23, 1949 Report to Savchenko and its accompanying “Failures in the USA” list are most probably some of the background materials assembled that a couple of months later resulted in Director Savchenko’s mid-March 1950 memo. Since General Savchenko became the Director of the MGB branch of KI only on September 19, 1949, any request by him for the type of background materials Gorksy put together could only have originated after that date. Queried by higher authorities about the public disclosures in the United States of Soviet intelligence failures, the new Director would, according to standard procedures, request from his subordinates all necessary background materials.
It is my understanding that such a request would not be limited just to assigning Anatoly Gorsky to the task, since Gorsky’s operational background in the U.S. was limited to the relatively short window of September 1944 to early December 1945. There should also at least have been an archival query – with archival references following the report of the former station chief in Washington, D.C. Considering the scale of the failures involved – and their public disclosure in the United States – other operatives on the American line might also have been requested to write their own reports. Since SVR file 43173 was a “general correspondence file,” materials contributed by other operatives, or contained in an archival report, might well have landed in more sensitive files than those opened to Vassiliev.
II. The problem of dating
This background suggests that Anatoly Gorsky’s “Failures in the U.S. (1938-48)” list (file 43173, vol. 2v, pp. 48-55) was an integral part of, or an immediate follow-up to, his December 23, 1949 “Report to S.R. Savchenko” (file 43173, vol. 2v, pp. 46-48) – and was, therefore, placed after the December 23, 1949 report in the file, according to the standard practice of chronologically ascending pagination.
In view of all the above considerations, the “Dec. 48” date written after the “Failures” list in Alexander Vassiliev’s notes looks like a mistake – made either by Vassiliev or, more probably, by Gorsky himself. Moreover, even setting aside the background considerations just discussed, there are wordings and information within the “Failures” list text that make a “Dec. 48” dating improbable. For instance, any reader of the document should be particularly alert to the fact that Laurence Duggan, mentioned in the “Failures” list as a “Suicide,” jumped or fell to his death on December 20, 1948 – leaving only a very slim chance for this fact to have been included in a list actually prepared during “Dec. 48.”
III. Notes on code names used in Gorsky’s list, “Failures in the United States (1939-48)”
1. “Karl’s Group” as it appears in Vassiliev’s notes is the most controversial among the five groups on the list:
Even at first glance, it is striking for its heterogeneity. Out of the 21 cover names included in the group, 10 cryptonyms are represented by three-digit numbers, and 11 by names. Among the latter, the first four are not written with enclosing quotation marks (or inverted commas), while the rest (Nos. 9-10 and 17-21) are.
Among this non-numbered group, six (Nos. 1-3 and 17-19) are non-Russian, Christian names, four (Nos. 9, 10, 20, and 21) are Russian nouns, and one (No. 4) is an English adjective used as a nickname and designating a youthful age. The latter cryptonym strikes the alert reader as an alien presence in the context of the other non-Christian name cryptonyms within this group, all of which consist of nouns spelled in Russian: “Shtorm” [“Storm”], “Vig” [“Whig”], “Eleron” [“Aileron”], “Rubl'” [“Ruble”]. To be consistent with this pattern, the cryptonym “Junior” should be spelled in Russian – either as “Mladshii,” or its abbreviation, “Mlad.”
According to available information, the three-digit numbered cryptonyms look like original code names used by the Soviet military intelligence in 1930s. If this is really the case, we are dealing with some fragment of an early GRU group; however, with an authentic code name of its group leader [“grupovod“] missing, since “Karl” definitely falls out of this group of cryptonyms.
Alexander Vassiliev’s selections from his notes on Gorsky’s December 23, 1949 report to General Savchenko, and the follow-up “Failures in the U.S.” list, do not suggest any reasons for including “Karl”s allegedly Razvedupr (that is, the Fourth Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army, an earlier name for the GRU) group, into a list of failures by what was then the MGB (and had previously been OGPU – NKVD – NKGB). In the opinion of Dr. John Earl Haynes, the reason for including a military group within an MGB report was that Gorsky wrote his report during the implementation of a short-lived Soviet foreign intelligence “umbrella” structure – the Committee of Information of the Counsel of Ministers of the USSR (hereinafter, KI). KI was organized following a high-level May 30, 1947 decision to bring both branches of intelligence under the direct control of Stalin’s top leadership.
Initially, KI was headed by Vyacheslav Molotov, then the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Molotov had three deputies – one for MGB intelligence, one for military intelligence, and a third for the Foreign Ministry’s information gathering. Another novelty was assigning so-called “chief residents” to each of the major “target countries,” with the manifest goal of ensuring tighter control of the country’s leadership over field operations – and direct reporting to the country’s top leadership. In the United States, the “chief resident” would be Ambassador Alexander Paniushkin – who had his own direct links to the Central Party Committee.
The KI integration of information, however, was meant only to affect the very top echelon, and it was not intended to encroach on the two services’ rigid compartmentalization at the level of their information-gathering, information-storing, and information-sharing activities.
Moreover, even this integration at the top turned out to be short-lived. By the end of 1948, the withdrawal of KI’s military intelligence branch from the system (a withdrawal which had begun in the summer of 1948) was already almost fully complete.
There are several more items on the “Karl’s Group” list to alert a discerning reader:
The first is the use of “Karl” as a cryptonym, when, according to Whittaker Chambers’ own story, this was the name he used in 1934 – 1937 as his Communist Party underground cover name. Such cover names should be differentiated from code names used in operational correspondence, because the bearers of code names, for the most part, would have no way of knowing what code names had been assigned to them.
Next is the improbable first name – “Barna” – given to Boris Yakovlevich Bukov, who was reportedly the Soviet Razvedupr operative in the United States in 1936 – 1939. Assuming Gorsky in Moscow had access to military-intelligence files, he would have been able to write a correct first name and might have had a chance to learn Bukov’s true name, Altman, as recently indicated in Russia [Bukov (Al’tman), Boris Yakovlevich biography in: V.M. Lurie and V.Ya. Kochick. GRU: Deeds and People, Moscow: Olma Press, 2003, p. 356]. Gorsky’s characterization of Bukov as “our former operative” [“nash byvsh[ii] kadr[ovyi] sotr[udni]k“] suggests that Gorsky might, in fact, have been unaware that Bukov belonged to the “neighbors.”
The use of the cover name “Leonard” gives no indication whether it was an original name used in operational correspondence by the military intelligence line back in the 1930s (highly improbable, to my mind), or a cover name used in the MGB late 1940s own operational correspondence around the investigations of Soviet espionage, which began in the USA in the summer of 1948. One thing, however, is certain: if Alger Hiss had indeed been the agent “Ales” described in Venona decrypted cable No. 1822, the author of that cable, “Vadim,” also known as Anatoly Gorsky (the author of “Gorsky’s Report”), would have definitely put his new boss, General Savchenko, on high alert.
Another strange irregularity is Gorsky’s use of the Communist Party cover name, “David Carpenter,” for No. 13 on his “Karl’s group” list, in place of the real name of the man behind it – David Zimmerman, a mid-level Communist Party functionary in Maryland in the 1930s. According to Whittaker Chambers, a certain “David Carpenter” had supervised an underground party group in Washington, D.C. and had introduced Chambers to Wadleigh, Reno, and Pigman (Nos. 5, 6, and 8 on the list). As in several other instances, Gorsky lists “Carpenter’s” occupation – “newspaper employee” – as of the late 1940s, when Zimmerman joined the editorial staff of the Communist Daily Worker. (From 1946 to 1948 or 1949, he had been a member of the Control Commision of the Communist Party USA.)
Next is the presence of Noel Field’s name among allegedly “military” intelligence assets under his reported OGPU [predecessor to NKVD – NKGB – KGB] intelligence code name in 1935 – 1936.
Even more troubling is the presence, on the alleged 1930s “military” list, of three code names – “Richard,” “Eleron,” and “Rubl'” – that appear in Venona 1944-1945 decrypted NKGB cable traffic (coinciding with the time of Gorsky’s own U.S. posting), which simply could not have served as code names used by another branch of Soviet intelligence in the period preceding World War II.
Last, but not least troubling, is the titling of this group as “Karl’s Group.” According to Chambers’ own account, his role had been that of a courier. In the known history of both branches of Soviet intelligence, I am unaware of any group named after its courier. Although very little information is publicly available on the workings and structure of pre-World War II Soviet military intelligence networks in the United States, the scarce hints that are available indicate a different set-up from the one suggested by Chambers. For instance, Petr Ivanovich Ivashutin, the longtime post-war GRU director, who served from 1963-1987, in an article written after his retirement discussing the situation in his service in the aftermath of the late-1930s purges, named three U.S.-based groups – specifically, “the groups of Adams, Bukov, ‘Mulat'” – that survived the purges and “were able to provide the Center with important information.” The knowledgeable General Ivashutin identified the first two groups by the names of their Soviet illegal operatives – Arthur Alexandrovich Adams and Boris Yakovlevich Bukov – and identified the third group by the code name “Mulat” [“Mulatto”]. This code name belonged to an “illegal” operative, Zalman Vulfovich Litvin, whose real name had not yet been publicly disclosed at the time Ivashutin wrote his article (1990). Moreover, Director Ivashutin indicates that, Chambers’ story notwithstanding, Bukov continued his operations well into 1939 – until his recall to the Soviet Union. More puzzling is that, according to other sources, a Soviet military resident recalled in the aftermath of Chambers’s defection in early 1938, was Arthur Adams, and not Boris Bukov.
2. “Redhead’s Group” [“Grupa Ryzhei”]:
The controversial aspects of Gorsky’s presentation of this pre-World War II group of agents may stem from the fact that Gorsky himself was shifted from the British line to the American line only in mid-1944, arriving in Washington, D.C. sometime around September 12, 1944.
Gorsky thus might not have been aware of details of the group’s composition through personal contact and experience. Sitting in Moscow in 1949, however, with his service’s archives at hand, he should have done a better job.
Most notable is the absence from this list of most of the “Redhead’s Group” Soviet operatives: specifically, Boris Bazarov, the “illegal” resident in the U.S. in 1935-1937, who perished during the purges of 1938; Itshak Akhmerov, Bazarov’s deputy and later his successor as “illegal” resident in 1938-1939; and the younger operatives, Mikhail Borodin and Samsonov. On the other hand, Elizaveta Zarubina, whose name appears on the list, might have had a rather brief experience with Hede Massing in the 1930s and probably in 1942-1944. Then an “illegal” operative on the German line, Zarubina in 1937 spent several months with her husband, Vassily Zaroubine, on an “illegal” mission in the U.S. The Zaroubines arrived for their second – and “legal” – U.S. mission in December 1941, when Hede and Paul Massing, according to their own account, had withdrawn from active work for Soviet intelligence. With his service’s “American line” archives at hand, Gorsky should have known better – and specifically should have been aware that following Ignatii Reiss’s assassination in September 1937, the Massings in fact refused to continue working further for Soviet intelligence, and maintained a very low profile after their 1938 return from a visit to the Soviet Union.
It is also strange not to see Noel Field’s name on this list, and to note the omission of a couple of other names that had recently been publicly identified as assets of “Redhead’s Group.”
3. Although “Buben’s Group,” the third group in the “Failures” list, seems less controversial, it is not completely problem-free, either. Most notable is Gorsky’s ignorance of the fate of the long-time OGPU U.S. “illegal,” Harry Rabinovich, who perished during the purges of 1938, and so could not possibly “reside in the USSR” at the time that Gorsky was writing his report. Another problem is the odd use of the word “svyazist” (communication worker, operator), instead of the terms commonly used in intelligence cable traffic: “radist” (radio operator) or “svyaznik” (courier, contact man or cut-out).
4. Anatoly Gorsky seems most knowledgeable when describing the last two groups on his list – and both of these groups were in operation during his own time as rezident in Washington, D.C. Even here, however, quite a number of details, which I discuss in my footnotes to the text of the “Failures in the U.S.” list, indicate that he most probably relied upon his memory or on more recent reports from the United States when compiling his report to General Savchenko, rather than on the more detailed archival information that would have been readily available to him.
IV: The origins of “Karl’s group”: a theory
Considering all its inconsistencies, the origins of the information recorded in “Karl’s group” deserve more careful scrutiny. From the way it was presented in Gorsky’s List, it’s clear that not all of Anatoly Gorsky’s information was based on primary sources, as has been suggested by some American reviewers. But neither was the list simply pasted together from contemporary American newspaper accounts and reports available to Moscow operatives at the end of the 1940s. Although all but three names on the list (Harry Azizov, Peter MacLean, and Harry Rosenthal), as well as some of the cover names used, had figured in Whittaker Chambers’ public testimony, this would fail to take into account not only these three names but also the three-digit numbered code names or the considerable confusion in Gorsky’s presentation.
So is this list a final corroboration of Whittaker Chambers’ story, as has been recently alleged, or is it some mysterious and previously unknown variant of Chambers’ story itself? Or is it a glimpse, however garbled, into some real-life operational circumstances from the 1930s? The answer is a complicated one.
To find a key to this puzzle, I went back to a 2003 interview I did in Moscow, with a long-time veteran of the GRU. He mentioned a briefing he was given early in the 1950s, prior to his own U.S. mission, where he was instructed: “to avoid any contacts with any individuals anyhow connected with the failures of 1940s.” This warning was given to him by Lev Tolokonnikov, then one of the GRU heads, who “in his own time in the United States was following the 1940s failures cases.” Tolokonnikov was gathering this information and reporting his findings to his superiors.
According to Tolokonnikov’s only published brief bio [in Lurie and Kochick, Op. Cit., p. 474], from 1949 to 1950 he was the First Secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., and as such a direct subordinate to Ambassador Alexander Paniushkin. According to Alexander Paniushkin’s official SVR bio, his chief assignment as KI chief resident in the U.S., from 1947 to 1952, was “to minimize the damage to Soviet intelligence operations inflicted by defections of mid-1940s” and “to avoid any breakup of Soviet-American diplomatic relations” [www.svr.gov/history/personalities]. According to an early 2000s on-line interview with Lev Tolokonnikov’s son, from 1949 to 1950 his father was the resident of strategic military intelligence in the United States. Hence, by implication, Tolokonnikov’s direct responsibility would be “minimizing the damage” of Igor Gouzenko’s defection in Canada in September 1945. This suggests the reasonable probability that Gorsky had sourced his “Karl’s group” information directly from Tolokonnikov via Paniushkin.
In the KI period, this was the line of command: On general policy questions, Paniushkin reported to the KI head (until February 1949 to V.M. Molotov; then for a few months to A.Ya. Vyshinsky; and after mid-September 1949 to V.A. Zorin). On intelligence operational matters, he reported first to P.V. Fedotov, the MGB intelligence representative at KI, and after mid-September 1949 to S.R. Savchenko, KI’s first deputy chairman on foreign intelligence [“The Essays on the History of Russian Foreign Intelligence,” vol.5. Moscow, 2003, p. 8]. By implication, military intelligence operational matters would be reported by the military intelligence resident to, originally, F.F. Kuznetsov, Department of Defense representative at KI, and, beginning February 1949, directly to GRU director M.V. Zakharov [Lurie and Kochik, Op. Cit., p. 112].
Hence, after September 1949, Gorsky, in his capacity as Moscow foreign intelligence operative on the U.S. line, would have had access to Paniushkin via his (Gorsky’s) new director, General Savchenko. As both chief KI rezident and an Ambassador, Paniushkin could, in turn, query his subordinate, Tolokonnikov – and report back to Moscow on his operational line of communication.
To find documentary confirmation of my theory, I turned to the 1948-1949 files of VOKS [the Russian abbreviation for All-Union Society for Cultural Contacts] collection at the State Archive of the Russian Federation [GARF]. In the 1930s and 1940s, many intelligence residents on both lines doubled as VOKS-authorized representatives in the United States. In his own time in Washington, D.C., Gorsky had himself acted as a VOKS-authorized representative. VOKS 1941 – 1945 files also show considerable input from Tolokonnikov’s predecessor as GRU chief resident – Pavel “Mikhailov” [Venona’s “Molier”]. After “Mikhailov” had to leave the United States as persona non grata (in late December 1945, in the aftermath of Igor Gouzenko’s defection), VOKS affairs had become the domain of “Mikhailov”‘s former subordinate on both the intelligence and the consular line, one P.I. Fedosimov. Hence, I reasoned that, at some point, I would see Lev Tolokonnikov’s name in the VOKS files.
Indeed, my archival search soon produced an August 10, 1948 letter by Yakov Lomakin, the Soviet New York Consul General, to VOKS’s Boris Boldyrev [VOKS files at GARF, fund 5283, description 14, file 531, p. 46].
Lomakin reported that “due to comrade Fedosimov P.I. departure to the Soviet Union, at present Vice-Consul comrade Tolokonnikov L.S. is in charge of VOKS affairs.” Lomakin sent a copy of this letter to Ambassador Paniushkin in Washington, D.C.
Eureka! We now know that Tolokonnikov first arrived in New York to step into “Mikhailov”‘s shoes, not only as GRU rezident but also as New York Vice Consul and VOKS hand. Moreover, he had strategically arrived in time for HUAC’s New York hearings – to track the situation first-hand!
However, less than two weeks after Lomakin’s letter to VOKS, the New York Soviet Consulate General would be closed in the heat of a diplomatic scandal. Still, the Consular staff would not be sent packing immediately: a New York report to VOKS, dated September 27, 1948, shows them busy sorting their archives [GARF, 5283-14-529, p. 14]. Unlike most other New York Consulate officials, Tolokonnikov would pack his belongings only to relocate to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. at some later point in the fall of 1948 – promoted to the First Secretary [GARF, 5283-14-534, p. 79; AVP RF, 0129-32b-336-1, p. 283].
As seen in VOKS 1949 files, once in Washington, Tolokonnikov would be spared the time-consuming job of VOKS representative (the job Gorsky had himself had to toil at while First Secretary in Washington, D.C.) – leaving Tolokonnikov more time to track the failures of his service’s old networks through all accessible sources, including confidential ones. Incidentally, in his cover role as First Secretary, Tolokonnikov might also be in charge of the Embassy’s daily press-clipping service that, according to VOKS and NKID [People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs] files, used to be Gorsky’s domain during his own time in Washington, D.C. And it goes without saying that prior to his departure for the United States as his service’s resident, Tolokonnikov would definitely receive a proper “orientation” (meaning a thorough briefing) from his service’s top American hands.
Alas for Gorsky, however knowledgeable Lev Tolokonnikov may have been, with all we know about the relationship of the two Soviet sister services, he would not be expected to be enthusiastically sharing his secrets with the “neighbors” (as the services used to call each other). Hence, in response to Ambassador Paniushkin’s query, he might have reported some mixture of names and information that could have been tracked back to Whittaker Chambers’ story, together with some odd and not-so-odd additions.
This is still a theory that should take quite a bit of further research – or a dramatic archival find – to substantiate or refute. The Russian archival collections that might hold or hide an answer to the “Karl’s group” puzzle are closed to any researchers outside the service, and may remain so for many years. Meanwhile, short of a major breakthrough, many questions raised by “Gorsky’s List” will remain open.
Among them, are such striking inconsistences in the “Karl’s group” list, as the confusion of Communist Party cover names with real names (“David Carpenter,” “J. Peters”); the presence of OGPU source – Noel Field – on an ostensibly GRU list, and under his reported OGPU code name; the mix-up of code and cover names, as well as other inconsistencies that are discussed above and in the footnotes to “Anatoly Gorsky’s Report to Savchenko S.R.”
1. All extracts from SVR File 43173 cited in The Haunted Wood have not been publicly released by the SVR.
2. “The most tangible blow to our work was inflicted by the defection of our former group-leading agent [Elizabeth Bentley] in November 1945, who gave away more than 40 most valuable agents to American authorities…. The majority of agents betrayed by [Bentley] worked at key posts in leading state institutions: the State Department, organs of American intelligence, the Treasury Department, etc. ….
“Besides [Bentley’s] treachery, at the same period of time – i.e., since the end of 1945 – there were failures of four agent groups (working independently from the agent network headed by [Bentley]) that followed [according to] testimony given to Federal Bureau of Investigation by former agents of the MGB and the GRU – traitors “Berg” [Alexander Koral], “Buben” [Louis Budenz], “Karl” [Whittaker Chambers], and “Redhead” [Hedda Gumperz]. There were more than 30 valuable agents in these four groups, including former officials of the State Department, Treasury Department, Interior Department, etc.
“The last link in this chain of failures was the arrest of [Valentin] Gubitchev and [Judith] Coplon, which took place on March 4, 1949, and their trial, which ended in March 1950. Thus, as a result of all these failures, we lost an agent network that had been in operation for many years and was a source of valuable political and economic information for us.”
3. Judging by the available images of several declassified reports from the 1945 – 1957 period, including some signed by Lt. Gen. Sergei Savchenko (including reports from the file of “Arach”/”Mark”/William Fisher, also known as Rudolph Abel; and the “Enormoz”/atomic-espionage files, all of which contain both typed text and inserted hand-written code names).
4. According to Alexander Feklissov (in interviews conducted by the author in 1995 and early 1996), at the time of an investigation into the failure of Julius Rosenberg’s network, General Savchenko requested detailed reports from all the case officers and Moscow operatives involved.
5. Petr Ivashutin. “Reported Precisely,” in The Soldiers of an Unseen Front, Moscow, 1994, pp. 5-16.