New “ALES” Cable

An annotated translation by Svetlana Chervonnaya of Anatoly Gorsky’s March 5, 1945 cable to Moscow, with further information about “ALES” that does not appear in the Venona cables.

Translated into English and annotated by Svetlana A. Chervonnaya [2]

p. 88 [3] C/c [4] from Vadim from 3/5/45 [5]

[He [6]] Wants to be included into the Soviet delegation at the San Francisco
conference. However, [he] cannot leave the outpost in the care of any other
operative. He wants [to leave it] on [in the care of] the “Son” [Garanin F.A., “Syn”  [7] transferred from Cuba to Washington as the Soviet Embassy attaché].
After the conference, Vadim wants to come to Moscow to report in person.

Special attention – to “Ales.” [8] Was at the Yalta conference, [9] “Ales” then left for Mexico City [10] and has not yet come back. [11] Our Yalta
only key to him – “Ruble.” [12] “Ruble” himself travels on
business (Italy). [13] [It is] difficult to supervise “Ales” through him.

p.88 “We have talked about ‘Ales’ with ‘Ruble’ several times. As we have
already written, ‘Ruble’ gives to ‘Ales’ an exceptionally good political
reference as to the Com[munist] Party member. [14] ‘Ruble’ reports that
‘Ales’ – [is] a strong, determined man with a firm and resolute personality,
[he] is fully aware that he is a Communist, [and] is underground – with all the
resulting consequences. Unfortunately, he probably understands the rules of
security [15] in his own way as [do] all local Communists. As we have already
reported to you, ‘Ales’ [16]

№ 309 С
[end of jury bundle page 309C]
[start of jury bundle page 309B]

“which was connected with the neighbors. [17] After the loss of contact with
‘Carl,’ [18] ‘Ruble’ declined [19] [to come in contact], when ‘Ales’ [Hiss] [20]
came in contact with ‘Pol’.’ [21] He [“Ales”] himself told this to
‘Ruble’ a year and a half ago, [22] when he was inviting the latter to Chem
meet with ‘Pol’ to continue the work.” “Ruble” may talk to “Ales” about
reestablishing the work. If he [“Ales”] does not like [working] with “Ruble,”
it is possible [to work] with us.

p. 89 There is one unclear circumstance.

“About six months ago, [23] ‘Ales’ told ‘Ruble’
that he had met a Russian person (he did not give his name) [24]
who immediately asked him to write a small
memo about one issue. ‘Ales’ asked for ‘Ruble”s opinion
as to what he should do. ‘Ruble’ declined from giving a
direct answer, saying that ‘Ales’ could act at his own discretion.”

p. 89 “Ales” should be approached by a Soviet representative. Either one Als [25]
of the Center’s operatives, or “Sergey,” [26] or me, “Vadim.” Most
convenient – at the conference in San Francisco. [27] “After 2-3
meetings, depending on how ‘Ales’ behaves, we may be able to come
down to business, referring either to the password, or to ‘Ruble,’ or
just to the progressiveness of ‘Ales.'” [end of March 5, 1945 cable]

On jury bundle page 309B, the March 5 cable is followed by Alexander Vassiliev’s
selection from page 94 of the same file: [28]

p. 94 “Ruble” – [is an] underground countryman. [29] Contact with him
is maintained through his wife “Roma,” who meets with “Ruble” [30] [and]
“Makar” (operative).


[1] These notes were produced by Alexander Vassiliev in 2002 at his libel suit in London, and were discovered by Dr. David Lowenthal, among the papers in the so-called “Jury Bundle 3,” j.b. pages 309C and 309B.

[2] This translation was made in early 2005; on May 2, 2005, it was posted by David Lowenthal on History News Network (HNN). It differs in certain details from an earlier translation made at the U.S. Library of Congress. For the purpose of authenticity, I am offering a verbatim translation, which retains the structure of Vassiliev’s notes. Due to the language of the cable (incomplete sentences), I have supplied the words missing from the Russian text in brackets.

[3] Hereinafter, the numbers on the left margin are Alexander Vassiliev’s indications of page numbers in the source KGB intelligence File 43173, vol. 1.

[4] Cipher cable [in Russian “Sh/t” – shifrotelegramma].

[5] The first paragraph of the text seems to be in the form of notes, by Vassiliev, about the cable’s first paragraph, rather than presenting a verbatim transcript of this paragraph, since it refers to the cable’s author – “Vadim” – in the third person. Beginning with the second paragraph, the text looks more like a direct transcript of the remainder of the cable, since it is written in the first person plural – “we.” In addition, much of the rest of the text is enclosed in quotation marks, another indication of a verbatim transcript rather than a paraphrase.

[6] That is, “Vadim.”

[7] This and the following notes in the right margin look like comments by Vassiliev, probably originally written for Allen Weinstein, or maybe for the purpose of his London trial deposition.

[8] Pronounced in Russian as two syllables [A-les]. This cryptonym makes a single appearance in Venona deciphered cable traffic [NKGB Washington to Moscow No. 1822, 30 March 1945]. As of Venona 1822’s release in 1996, the cryptonym “Ales” was tentatively identified by Venona translators as “probably Alger Hiss.” However, available evidence indicates that, in early 1950, when the tentative identification of agent “Ales” as Alger Hiss was made, the NSA decryptors and their FBI collaborators were not fully convinced about their own conclusion. When it was made public in 1996, this cable bore the “release” date of “8 August 1969” – indicating the date when any efforts at its further decryption and identification were abandoned. The fact that, after 19 years, the initial “probable” identification of agent “Ales” as Alger Hiss had not been superceded by a definitive declaration (as it was the case with many other Venona identifications), suggests the never-resolved conclusions of the FBI’s investigation.

‘Ales’ is neither a Russian name nor a Russian nickname. The only discovered homonym is a Czech name, Aleš, which is written with an inverted circumflex over the “s,” and is pronounced [Ah-lesh]. Indeed, the codename ‘Ales’ might have been created in honor of a celebrated Czech-American anthropologist, Professor Aleš Hrdlicka, whose name appears in both 1930s – early 1940s correspondence of VOKS [the Soviet Society for Cultural Contacts] and in Russian diplomatic files as a “great friend of the Soviet Union.” It is noteworthy that the name of Aleš Hrdlicka was known not only to VOKS officials and its representatives in the U.S. (operatives of both NKGB foreign intelligence – including Gorsky – and of the GRU “doubled” as VOKS representatives during their American postings), but also to the GRU director back in Moscow (who from 1943 – 1947 was Fedor Kuznetsov). In June 1942, Professor Hrdlicka sent to VOKS a pair of field binoculars for the use of a Soviet Army commander. It was at this point that the VOKS chairman, Vladimir Kemenov, wrote to Fedor Kuznetsov, then the deputy head of the Political Directorate of the Red Army, commending Hrdlicka as “a great friend of the Soviet Union.” In a few days, Kuznetsov found a proper recipient for the binoculars – Major-General Mikhail Kuteinikov, a Hero of the Soviet Union. [Kemenov to Army Commissar Kuznetsov, GlavPUR of the Red Army, 9 June 1942; F. Kuznetsov to Kemenov, 18 June, 1942, No 230246s. – GARF, fund 5283, secret file keeping, description 2a, file 10, pp. 19, 20.]

Aleš Hrdlicka was christened “Alois,” a German and Czech form of the name “Aloysius,” which in turn derives from the French “Louis” and the German “Ludwig,” both of which mean “famous warrior.” He later changed his given name to “Aleš,” considering it “more patriotic” (“Aleš” is a Czech and Slovene nickname for “Alexej” or “Aleksander,” Czech and Slovene forms, respectively, of the Greek “Alexander,” which means “defender.” It is perhaps also noteworthy that Professor Aleš Hrdlicka died in early 1943, and the first known appearance of the codename “Ales” in a Soviet intelligence cable dates to early 1945.

[9] The Yalta Conference of the U.S., the U.K., and the U.S.S.R., took place from February 4 to 11, 1945. The State Department party arrived in the Crimea on February 3, and departed for a follow-up trip to Moscow on the morning of February 12, 1945, subsequently leaving Moscow on the morning of February 14, 1945. [“Stettinius Stay in Moscow”, 14 Febr. – 15 Febr., 1945. – AVP RF, Fund 06 (Molotov Secretariat files), description 7, Por. 44, file 688, pp. 1-15; “The Visits of officials and government delegations to the USSR.” – Fund 057 (Protocol Department), description 25, Por. 123, file 8, pp. 1-2.]

[10] The reference is to the Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace, which convened in Mexico City between February 21 and March 8, 1945, and is also known as the Chapultepec Conference. According to the Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.’s official itinerary, his party arrived in Mexico City on the early morning of February 20, 1945. Although Alger Hiss is on record as back at his State Department Special Political Affairs office in Washington, D.C. on February 22, 1945, Secretary of State Stettinius and members of the Secretary’s office stayed on at the Chapultepec Conference for its duration, and did not return to Washington, D.C. (via Cuba) until March 10. [The Diaries of Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., 1943-1946, Ed. by Thomas M. Campbell and George C. Herring. New Viewpoints: New York, 1975, pp. 266-292; NARA, RG 59, The General Files of the Department of State, “Alger Hiss files,” 1940-1946.]

[11] Gorsky’s indication that, as of March 5, 1945, “Ales” had not yet come back from Mexico City is a significant clue in determining whether Alger Hiss is a plausible candidate for “Ales.” According to State Department files from February 22 to March 5, 1945, Hiss is not only on record as having returned to Washington but can be seen to have been highly visible, making a national radio broadcast and appearing in the newspapers as the State Department’s point man in issuing official invitations to the forthcoming San Francisco United Nations Conference (an issue, according to both U.S. and Russian files, then at the top of both American and Soviet diplomatic agendas). Anatoly Gorsky, in his “cover” capacity as the Soviet Embassy’s Press Officer (a job involving making daily surveys of US papers and continuous monitoring of US radio broadcasts) had no chance to miss Alger Hiss’s arrival home – providing, of course, that Hiss had indeed been “Ales.”

[12] The “Ruble” cryptonym appears in deciphered Venona cable traffic, and was tentatively identified by Venona decryptors as “probably Harold Glasser.” (See, specifically: NKGB New York to Moscow No. 79, January 18, 1945, discussing “Robert”‘s report on an opportunity of obtaining from “Richard” “Ruble”s appointment to “Richard”s post – as well as “Robert”s repeated suggestions “that ‘Ruble’ be turned over to him,” and a mention of “ZhENYa” as “Ruble”s secretary. (In identifying “ZhENYa” as Sonia Gold, who worked at the Treasury Department from August 24, 1943 to August 21, 1947, Venona decryptors warned that, if Sonia Gold was not Glasser’s secretary, “it strongly suggests that one or both identifications are incorrect.”) In fact, Sonya [sic in Treasury files] Gold was an economist, and frequently appears in Treasury Department files as such, someone taking part in meetings alongside Harry Dexter White and other experts from the Treasury’s Division of Monetary Research; we also see her name as an author of memoranda. [For example, on May 9, 1944, Sonya Gold participated in White’s meeting with two Russian financial experts, Professors Smirnov and Morozov – and signed a memorandum on the meeting; on August 28, 1944, Mrs. Gold signed a memo of her own meeting with Czech representatives; etc. – NARA, RG 56, General Records of the Department of Treasury, Records of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Re: Monetary and International Affairs, Box 21, “Memoranda of Conferences held in Harry Dexter White’s Office, Feb 1940 – Aug 1945.”]

[13] While Harold Glasser did quite a bit of travel during his time at the Treasury Department, his itineraries do not match up with the cable’s text, which specifically suggests repeated and recent trips to Italy. Travel records that Glasser produced during Grand Jury testimony on February 8 and 9, 1949 show, for instance, a single three-month trip to Italy, from March to early June 1944, which was undertaken on behalf of the Allied Control Council. Treasury Department files show Glasser’s continuous presence in his office in Washington, D.C. after the conclusion of a two-week (October 18-31, 1944) trip to Canada for the Second UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] Council meeting until August 1945, when he traveled to England for the Third UNRRA Council Meeting; the one exception to this nine-months’ stay in Washington was from March 28 to April 5, 1945, when he spent a few days away from the office. To sum up, Harold Glasser was out of the country for three and a half months in 1944, and in 1945 he did not leave the U.S. for the first seven months of the year. [NARA, RG 56, Records of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Re: Monetary and International Affairs, boxes 12, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 70.]

[14] Hereinafter, in its use of the wording “Comparty” [kompartii], meaning “Communist” and “Communists,” Vassiliev’s notes are different from the standard Venona usage of the cover names “zemlyacheskij” [masculine adjective], “zemlyacheskaja” [feminine adjective], “zemlyak” [masculine noun], “zemlyachka” [feminine noun], and “zemlyaki” [plural noun], all of which literally mean “Compatriots” and were used in operational correspondence as cover names for the Communist Party. Moreover, during the 1930s and even into the 1950s, these same “zemlyacheskij” terms were also used in regular Soviet diplomatic, party and “cultural” [VOKS, Soviet Society for Cultural Contacts] correspondence. Hence “Comparty” appears to be Vassiliev’s own language, and not that of the original document.

[15] In Russian, “konspiratsiji” – a term in continuous use since early Bolshevik times (in the phrase “partijnaya konspiratsija,” meaning “rules of party security,” which referred as well to “rules of working underground”).

[16] A part of this sentence was clearly lost during an imperfect scanning. The files of David Lowenthal have just a single scan of this document. The text on the next [309B] page in the jury bundle begins in mid-sentence, with the Russian word “kotoraja” – an equivalent of “which” or “that” in the feminine gender, indicating that the missing Russian noun on the previous page was also in the feminine gender (and was most probably “gruppa,” or “group”). To all appearances, the scan of jury bundle page 309B is complete.

[17] A long-time OGPU/NKGB/KGB cover name, which referred initially to the People’s Commissariat (changed in 1946 to Ministry) of Foreign Affairs, which, until the early 1950s, was housed in a building across the street from the landmark KGB Lubjanka building – and thus in fact the actual neighbor of the KGB; later also used as a cover name for Soviet military intelligence (RU and later GRU), and in those instances often written as “military neighbors.”

[18] “Carl,” “Karl” – party cover names appearing in 1930s CP USA files; pseudonyms with frequent occurrences both in CP USA files and as Soviet intelligence cover names (for instance, during the 1930s, some American sources knew the famous Soviet “illegal” Itshak Akhmerov as “Carl”). Although commonly known as “an underground name” of Whittaker Chambers from 1934 to 1937, the fact that “Carl” was in frequent use and could refer to various individuals reminds us that identifications in this area are a complex matter, constraining scholars from jumping to premature conclusions and pointing to a clear need for further research. The fact that this name was known to Chambers himself, as well as allegedly to other people, indicates that it was not an intelligence code name (known only to a subject’s case officer and a limited number of Moscow operatives).

[19] Russian “uklonilsja” – that is, “avoided coming in contact.”

[20] Spelled in Russian as “His.”

[21] “Pol'” is the Russian for the French “Paul,” an unidentified cover name spelled in Russian with a Russian letter, indicating a soft “l” sound to sound like the French name “Paul.” “Pol,'” with this same soft-“l” spelling, appears in the Russian decrypt of Venona 1822, where Gorsky’s deliberate repetition of “‘Pol’ repeat ‘Pol”” looks like a warning or indication of trouble. The March 5 cable’s unelaborated statement that “Ruble” had declined to come in contact with “Pol'” suggests the possibility of an additional and still unavailable Gorsky cable (or cables) outlining a troubling description of “Pol'” that Gorsky had received from “Ruble.” According to Venona decrypts of GRU cable traffic, French-derived names were common among GRU operatives during World War II (“Molier,” “Orleans,” “Leon,” etc.). However, any 1930s usage of the name “Paul” would have been of the German-derived, two-syllable version of the name, pronounced [Pa-ul]. Confusingly for Americans and other English speakers, this Germanic version of the name is written as “Paul” – the spelling used by English-language speakers to denote a one-syllable name in the French style. “Pol'” was also referred to, in the NSA notes accompanying Venona No. 1822 cable, as “‘PAUL,’ unidentified cover-name.” Vassiliev’s handwriting here is clear, spelling “POL'” with an “o” – hence this name is not identical with the Venona cover name “PAL” – who was identified by Venona translators as Nathan Gregory Silvermaster.

[22] “A year and a half ago” would be August 1943. According to Harold Glasser’s itinerary, he was out of the United States, in North Africa from January 1943 “until September 1943” (Glasser was recalled from North Africa on September 9, 1943, and returned to Washington, D.C. several days later). [NARA, RG 56, Op. Cit., box 14, folder “Staff Memoranda of H D White, Jan. 1941 – June 1946.”]

[23] That is, the summer of 1944.

[24] One Russian who stayed in Washington, D.C. throughout July 1944 was Mikhail Milstein [Milshtein], then deputy head of the GRU’s military-strategic intelligence directorate; from April – July 1944 Milstein made an “inspection trip” around the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. [M. Milshtein, Through the Years of Wars and Poverty, Moscow, 2000.] However, this may be a reference to a Russian legally posted in Washington, D. C., for instance, in the Soviet Purchasing Commission.

[25] Sic in Russian.

[26] Vladimir Sergeevich Pravdin, an alias of Rolland Abbiate, a.k.a. Francois Rossi, who was born in St. Petersburg of French descent; NKGB intelligence operative, deputy resident in New York from October 19, 1941 to Autumn 1943; deputy rezident and then rezident in New York from January 1944 to March 11, 1946, where his cover job was TASS bureau chief. Pravdin attended the San Francisco Conference in his TASS cover-job capacity.

[27] The cable is clear that “Vadim” had no plans to approach “Ales” prior to the conference, to learn about American plans and preparations for it, but was instead interested in obtaining information during the conference itself. This is indicated both by the opening phrase of the cable, “Wants to be included into the Soviet delegation at San Francisco conference,” and by his plans for approaching “Ales” at the conference.

[28] Vassiliev clearly added this brief reference to “Ruble” as a supplement to his transcription of and notes on the March 5, 1945 cable.

[29] In Russian, “Nelegal – zemlyak“, that is, an underground member of the
Communist Party of the U.S. Use of the Russian “zemlyak,” or “Countryman,”
characterizes “Ruble” not as a Soviet agent, but as an “underground,” or “secret,” Communist.

[30] This detail adds to the confusion about “Ruble,” since it seemingly somewhat contradicts the assertion in the March 5 cable characterizing “Ruble” as “the only key” to “Ales.” However, by adding this detail from page 94 of the same KGB file, Vassiliev is in fact adding further nuance to the story by giving us to understand that contact with “Ruble” himself is indirect and maintained through his wife.