Okhrana: The Paris Operations of the Russian Imperial Police
Ben B. Fischer
History Staff Center for the Study
Central Intelligence Agency
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Table of Contents
- From Paris to Palo Alto
CIA Interest in the Okhrana Files
Origins of the Okhrana and Its Paris Office
Change and Continuity
Articles by "Rita T. Kronenbitter"
- Paris Okhrana 1885-1905 [PDF Only 414KB*]
The Illustrious Career of Arkadiy Harting [PDF Only 587KB*]
The Sherlock Holmes of the Revolution [PDF Only 672KB*]
Okhrana Agent Dolin [PDF Only 657KB*]
The Okhrana's Female Agents--Part I: Russian Women [PDF Only 574KB*]
The Okhrana's Female Agents--Part II: Indigenous Recruits [PDF Only 679KB*]
Review of Edward Ellis Smith, The Young Stalin, by Harry Gelman [PDF Only 95.3KB*]
Commentary by Rita T. Kronenbitter [PDF Only 105KB*]
Author/Compiler's Note: This is a first in a planned series of thematic collections of articles that appeared previously in classified editions of the Intelligence Community journal Studies in Intelligence, which is published at CIA. As part of its "openness" policy, CIA has declassified more than 1,200 articles from the first 40 years of Studies. We expect to compile and publish more collections of this type that address single intelligence-related themes or topics. We believe readers will find these articles interesting, informative, and colorful.
The author/compiler, Ben B. Fischer, would like to thank the following people for reading an earlier draft to the Preface, offering comments and criticisms, and identifying additional sources: Kay Oliver, Robert Pringle, James Bruce, David Thomas, and John Dziak. Thanks are also due to Elena Danielson and Carole Leadenham of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University for taking an interest in this project and supporting it. Rick Hernandez of Stanford University did a fine job with research assistance.
The first six articles reprinted below were published in Studies in Intelligence between 1965 and 1967. They describe foreign operations of the Russian Imperial Police, commonly referred to as the Okhrana, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (1) Also included are a letter from the author of these articles to Studies in Intelligence and the book review that prompted the letter, both of which discuss the still-debated issue of whether Josef Stalin was an Okhrana agent.
The 1883 opening of a Paris office known as the Zagranichnaia okhranka or agentura (2) was a sign of both success and failure on the part of the tsarist authorities. It reflected their success in having driven many revolutionaries, terrorists, and nationalists out of Russia; it also underscored their failure to stem an upsurge in Russian subversive activity based abroad. By the 1880s, the Russian emigre community in France had grown to some 5,000 people, most of them in the Paris area. (3) The City of Light had become the hub for Russian revolutionary groups operating in much of Europe.
The Okhrana's initial assumption--that exile in Europe rather than Siberia or some other remote place would act as a safety valve for such groups--proved erroneous. Russian emigrants did not assimilate quickly or easily, and some discovered that relatively greater freedom in the West gave them broad opportunities to engage in antiregime activities.
These essays portray not only the officials who ran the Okhrana's foreign bureau, but also the colorful agents, double agents, and agents provocateurs who worked for and against it--sometimes simultaneously. Many of these characters could have stepped out of the pages of a Conrad story or a le Carré novel, but their deeds were real and were recorded in the Paris office's files, which were hidden away for almost 30 years at the Hoover Institution on the campus of Stanford University.
The story of how these files made their way from Paris to Palo Alto is an intriguing tale. When Russian revolutionaries overthrew the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty in March 1917, they quickly turned their attention to their foes in the Okhrana. A multiparty committee was formed to investigate tsarist secret police offices and practices inside the Empire in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Warsaw--as well as in Paris--with a view to prosecuting police officials of the ousted regime. The last imperial ambassador to France, Basil Maklakov, closed his mission in Paris and sealed its secret files, but he reopened them when the official inquiry began. After the short-lived Provisional Government fell to Lenin and the Bolsheviks in November 1917, Maklakov resealed the files and waited for further instructions.
France refused to resume relations with the radical new government in Moscow. It withheld recognition until 1924, when the USSR was formed. Maklakov, meanwhile, was not idle. Taking advantage of the confusion in Moscow, he placed the Okhrana files in sixteen 500-pound packing crates, which were then bound with wire and sealed.
When the Bolsheviks finally got around to asking for "their" files in 1925, Maklakov--who had codenamed his concealment and removal operation "Tagil" after a Siberian village--swore he had burned them. The files, however, remained intact and were awaiting shipment to the Unites States. The ambassador convinced Christian Herter, then associated with Herbert Hoover's American Relief Administration and later Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, to help. Herter had a house in Paris, where the crates were stashed, and he later helped get them through French and US customs--with seals intact. (4)
It took two more years to arrange for the files to be moved from the eastern United States to California. Maklakov signed an agreement with the Hoover Institution stipulating that the crates would remain sealed until his death and would not be made public for another three months thereafter. The ex-ambassador no doubt feared retaliation from the Bolsheviks' dreaded intelligence service, the Cheka, which presumably would have sought to kill him if it had discovered what he had done with the Paris files.
Maklakov's contract with the Hoover Institution and his longevity--he died in Switzerland in 1957 at age 86--kept the archive under wraps for more than three decades. The Institution opened the packing crates at a gathering of reporters and photographers on 28 October 1957. (5) It took the privately supported Institution five more years to find funds and assemble a staff to organize and catalogue the files. A team headed by Dr. Andrew Kobal and under the supervision of Hoover assistant director Professor W.S. Sworakowski began working in June 1962 and finished in early 1964. (6) The archive attracted international scholarly interest, and Life magazine ran a feature story about it.
Professor W.S. Sworakowski and an unidentified assistant at the Hoover Institution check unopened crates containing the Okhrana files in 1957. The shipping tag indicates that the crates were stored in Washington, DC, before being shipped to California. Courtesy of the Hoover Institution.
According to Hoover records, the archive contains 206 boxes, 26 scrapbooks, 164,000 cards, and eight linear feet of photographs. The complete archive is available on 509 reels of microfilm. It is a veritable who's who of the Russian revolution and includes files on and photographs of Stalin, Molotov, and Trotsky.
The author of the six articles, who used the pseudonym "Rita T. Kronenbitter," wrote them at the request of the CIA's Counterintelligence Staff. "Kronenbitter" was among the first researchers to display an interest in the Okhrana files. The articles originally were classified "confidential," presumably to avoid revelation of the CIA's interest in the Okhrana records.
Why was CIA counterintelligence interested in what the Hoover Institution's press release hailed as a "mother lode of knowledge on crucial years leading to the overthrow of the Romanovs in March 1917"? The Hoover archive was the only comprehensive collection of pre-1917 Russian police and intelligence files in the West. During the Soviet era, some specialists viewed these unique files as being of more than historical interest. British espionage historian Richard Deacon suggested why the Okhrana was of interest long after its demise when he wrote that the Russian police agency "was, in fact, a comprehensive, coordinated espionage and counterespionage organization, the most total form of espionage devised in the latter part of the 19th century and still forming the basis of Soviet espionage and counterespionage today." (7) [emphasis added]
CIA's Counterintelligence Staff apparently believed these files would yield data on Russia's intelligence "culture" and methods that could provide new insights into Moscow's Soviet-era operations. Some at CIA challenged this notion, claiming that the KGB was a qualitatively new organization employing a different tradecraft. (8) Years later, former KGB officers Oleg Gordievsky and Oleg Kalugin asserted that the KGB had used Okhrana manuals in training and lecture courses when they were KGB trainees in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Kalugin claims that use of Okhrana materials continued into the 1980s. (9)
The Okhrana was created in 1881 in response to the assassination of Alexander II. Its primary mission was to protect the tsar, the royal family, and the Russian autocracy itself. (10) Over time this evolved into an Empire-wide campaign against revolutionaries, terrorists, and assorted national minority groups seeking independence. Some revolutionaries wanted the tsar's head; others simply wanted to be free of his iron hand.
The opening in 1883 of the Okhrana's Foreign Bureau, centered in Paris, was prompted by the shift of Russian revolutionary activity from the Russian Empire to Western and Central Europe. The new Bureau occupied two modest offices in the Russian Imperial Consulate at 97 Rue de Grenelle. Never very large (see the first reprinted article below, entitled, "Paris Okhrana 1885-1905"), the Paris bureau nonetheless proved effective. It adopted and refined modern police and detective methods-as well as human intelligence agent operations-to achieve its objectives. (11)
The Okhrana saw Paris as the most advantageous place to base its foreign operations. Russian police officials admired the French internal security service, the Sûreté Generale--generally regarded as among the best in the world--and sought access to its files through both official liaison and unofficial channels. The Okhrana even hired French, British, and other detectives to help run its operations. From Paris, moreover, the Okhrana could monitor its agenturas in Berlin and other European cities. Most of the key Russian revolutionaries in the French capital had contacts in other countries and cities. Consequently, penetrations of revolutionary groups in Paris often yielded leads to Russian dissident organizations and individuals outside France.
The Okhrana's relations with the Sûreté were symbiotic. The Okhrana reduced the Sûreté 's workload and provided employment for retired French detectives. The French police did not see the Paris bureau as a threat to French national interests or to the Sûreté's organizational equities. On the eve of World War I the French security service declared: "It is impossible, on any objective assessment, to deny the usefulness of having a Russian police [force] operating in Paris, whether officially or not, whose presence is to keep under surveillance the activities of Russian revolutionaries." (12) At the same time, socialist and radical deputies in the French Assembly, who were more sympathetic to the Russian revolutionaries than to the police, pressed the French and Russian Governments to shut down the Okhrana office. In 1913 the Russian regime formally complied by announcing the office's closure. But this was a subterfuge; the Russian police continued operating under the cover of the Agence Bint et Sambain, a private detective agency. One of the two proprietors, Henri Bint, was a former employee of both the Sûreté and the Okhrana. (13)
The Foreign Bureau's operational methods evolved through three distinct phases. Initially, the Okhrana men believed they could keep tabs on Russian revolutionaries by hiring local surveillance teams and examining Sûreté files. This "external" surveillance (in Russian: naruzhnoe nabludenie) proved inadequate. French officials were reluctant to share their files, and French detectives hired by the Russians sometimes proved to be more loyal to their former employer (the Sûreté) than to their new paymaster. Even more important, French operatives could not penetrate the inner cores of Russian revolutionary and terrorist groups. Only Russian revolutionaries could.
In the second phase, the use of "internal" surveillance--penetration of subversive groups by recruiting agents from among their ranks or by sending in double agents--marked the Okhrana's transition from police methods to classic intelligence operations. (The Russians used the term vnutrenniaia agentura, or "internal agency," to refer collectively to the agents and double agents controlled by Okhrana units.)
The Okhrana succeeded in penetrating many anti-tsarist organizations. It acquired agents throughout Russia and Europe. Some of these people spied because they were monarchists; others did so because they were romantic adventurers or simply mercenaries. The most interesting were the agents who began as real revolutionaries, were arrested, and then were "doubled" or "turned" by the Okhrana. Some responded to Okhrana blandishments because they feared jail or exile in Siberia--or worse--but for others it was simply a new career opportunity. Many who completed their undercover assignments "retired" and then were given good civilian jobs.
The third method of operation--the use of agents provocateurs--was the most controversial. The subject was so sensitive that the Okhrana officially denied it had run agents who organized and participated in sanctioned revolutionary acts. (This type of activity was the focus of the Provisional Government's 1917 inquiry into the Okhrana.)
In its 34-year existence, the Okhrana's Paris office had only four chiefs, giving it greater stability and continuity than its headquarters organization in St. Petersburg. As a result, the Paris bureau also enjoyed considerable autonomy in running its affairs, which included planning and executing operations, liaison with local and foreign police departments, agent recruitment and handling, and evaluation and reporting of information to the Okhrana's elite Special Section (see below). (14)
The Paris operatives developed rudimentary tradecraft for meeting and debriefing their agents--called sekretnye sotrudniki (secret collaborators) or seksoti for short--in safehouses. At its peak the Paris bureau had about 40 detectives on its payroll and some 30 agents in Paris and elsewhere in Europe. The Okhrana ran a major mail intercept program at home and abroad that yielded substantial information. Not for nothing was Russia known as the "gendarme of Europe." Between 1906 and 1914 the police succeeded in crushing popular opposition and penetrating--and in some cases even controlling--opposition political parties at home and abroad. (15) According to one historian, "virtually nothing that related to these parties remained a secret from the government." (16) Key targets of surveillance and agent operations included:
- Émigré and revolutionary groups abroad.
- Revolutionaries arriving from Russia.
- Known centers of conspiratorial activity.
- Underground publishers and forgers (of passports, false identities, and so forth).
- Bomb-manufacturing "factories."
- Weapons and explosives smugglers.
- Russians with ties to European socialists and socialist organizations.
The Okhrana also provided VIP security for the royal family, other influential persons, and senior officials traveling abroad. (17)
The Okhrana's Special Section was an elite unit. It recruited exclusively from the Russian army. Successful candidates were assigned to the army's "Separate Corps of Gendarmes." (18) Prospective candidates were carefully screened and well trained. Tradecraft instruction included agent recruitment and agent handling; secret writing; "flaps and seals" (surreptitious reading of correspondence); reports writing; civil and criminal law; surveillance and investigative techniques; and the history of the Russian revolutionary movement. Assisting the officers were the filiery--detectives or surveillance men, most of whom were former army NCOs. (19)
The Okhrana also was capable of devastating blunders. The most notorious example was "Bloody Sunday" of 22 January 1905. When Father George Gapon, an Okhrana agent who had organized a police-sponsored workers' group, led a demonstration of peasants and workers to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the Gendarmerie, without the tsar's authorization or advance knowledge, charged the crowd, killing or wounding at least 100 persons. This was a seminal event in the eventual demise of the Romanov dynasty and Russian autocracy; it set in motion the first revolution of 1905 and ultimately led to the events of 1917. (20)
Examination of the Okhrana invites comparison with its Soviet successors from Lenin's Cheka to Stalin's NKVD to the KGB. There are common threads as well as important differences. The Okhrana, like the Cheka, was an internal security and counterintelligence agency par excellence. Its foreign operations were essentially an extension of its domestic security mission. The Soviet services before World War II focused heavily on actual and putative threats emanating from émigré groups, and well into the Cold War the KGB and its East European satellite services continued devoting considerable resources to the same target, even though they had other priorities.
The Okhrana pioneered many methods that the Soviet successor organs adapted and perfected. Systematic registration of politically suspect persons was accomplished in Moscow by the turn of the century and in St. Petersburg between 1906 and 1908. (21) Use of internal passports and mandatory registration of residences started with the Okhrana, not the Soviet intelligence and security agencies. The Okhrana--like its Soviet and Nazi counterparts--relied heavily on agents, co-optees, and busybodies in the general population to keep an eye on things. The organization of rural communities and urban apartment dwellers by city blocks was the same in Russia as in the Soviet Union--just more efficient in the latter.
In addition, the Okhrana--like the KGB, the Gestapo, and the East German Stasi--used its sources to monitor privately expressed views and popular moods and to prepare classified studies of latent popular attitudes that could not be freely voiced. The utilization of "black chambers" (an internationally used term that refers to facilities, often located in post offices, for mail and message interception, decoding, and decryption) began in Russia and reached its apogee in East Germany, where the Stasi read virtually all international correspondence and much of the domestic variety.
But the differences between the Okhrana and the later organizations are striking. As one authority notes, "what seems clear it that an unbroken patrimony between tsarist repression and Soviet terror cannot be claimed." (22) While secret police organizations served under tsars and commissars alike as the state security apparatus of the executive branch--and of the personal will of the Russian leader of the time--in the tsarist era there were substantial legal, political, and even ethical constraints. The Okhrana could order summary executions by hanging or firing squad, but only in extraordinary situations such as peasant uprisings and then only after Moscow had declared martial law. Although the Okhrana could deport political prisoners to Siberia, these and other administrative decisions were subject to judicial review. During the reign of Aleksandr II (1855-81) some 4,000 people were detained and interrogated in connection with political crimes, but few were executed. (23) From the mid-1860s to the mid-1890s, in fact, only 44 executions took place in Russia, and all were prompted by assassinations or assassination attempts against members of the royal family or government officials.
By contrast, on the day after Lenin launched the Red Terror in September 1918, the Cheka executed 500 people. (24) During Stalin's rule, the murderous NKVD acted as judge, jury, and executioner. The Red Terror under Stalin became the Great Terror; between 1935 and 1941 some 10 million people disappeared into the Gulag and three million were executed. (25)
Richard Pipes noted three restraints on the Okhrana: private property, inefficiency, and the imperial political elite's desire to be seen as culturally "Western." (26) Under the Bolsheviks these restraints vanished.
The Okhrana never aspired to the territorial and economic empire and extensive military and paramilitary forces commanded by the NKVD. Even the KGB--supposedly a kinder, gentler version of the NKVD operating under "socialist legality"--was more ruthless than its Russian antecedent. A comparison of Aleksandr III's treatment of Leo Tolstoy and Brezhnev's handling of dissidents such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn illustrates the point. Novelist Tolstoy was the best-known dissident of his day, and the police kept him under surveillance and censored his work. But they did not imprison him or prevent him from traveling and publishing abroad. During Stalin's reign, by contrast, Solzhenitsyn, like other dissidents, simply disappeared into the harsh internal exile system that he later dubbed the Gulag Archipelago. Even under Stalin's successors, intellectuals and political activists who dissented--including Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov--were subjected to inhumane treatment considered unacceptable by Western standards. (27)
Although the Okhrana was not as ruthless as the Cheka or the NKVD, in an ironic way it inspired them. Lenin and Stalin seemed to have concluded from their underground years that the tsarist police were too lenient. (28) After all, for all its success until 1914, the Okhrana had not been able to prevent a small group of radicals from seizing power three years later.
The Bolsheviks also learned how easy it had been for the Okhrana to plant agents within their inner circle. Dr. Jacob Zhitomirsky was a leading Bolshevik and Lenin confidant before he was discovered. (29) An even more dramatic example was the tsarist agent Roman Malinovsky--leader of the Bolshevik deputies in the fourth state Duma, a central committee member, and Lenin's chief lieutenant while the latter was still in exile. (30) When Vladimir Burtsev finally convinced Lenin that Zhitomirsky might be a double agent, the Bolshevik leader ordered Malinovsky to conduct an investigation. (31) Such experiences were, perhaps, at the root of Bolshevik paranoia--the urge to see enemies everywhere and eliminate them--that reached its bloody apogee under Stalin.
The Okhrana's penetration of the Bolshevik party was so extensive and so thorough that the police files constitute the most complete (and only reliable) record of the conspiratorial party's early history, internal organization, membership, and deliberations--an unintentional contribution to future historians. (32) This was not the only unintended consequence. By penetrating the radical groups, the tsarist police were using a classic divide-and-conquer tactic to prevent formation of a unified opposition. Ironically, this tactic was most successful in preventing the emergence of an open opposition party with a mass base, and thus it helped to create an environment in which Lenin's small monolithic party of professional revolutionaries could flourish.
The Okhrana targeted liberals and revolutionaries alike, seeing both groups as threats to the Russian autocracy. But the two groups drew different lessons from their persecution at the hands of the tsarist police. When the Provisional Government came to power, it convened a special commission to investigate the organization, operations, and methods of the tsarist police--not to emulate them, but to correct past abuses and prevent their repetition. (33) Lenin and the Bolsheviks also studied the Okhrana, and so did KGB recruits decades later, to learn from and improve on the tsarist police's repressive methods.
Agent provocateur is a French term, but the Russians perfected the art. In fact, the primary purpose of the Foreign Bureau's provocations was to scare the French into taking action against Russian radicals and cooperating with the Okhrana. The most notorious provocation occurred in Paris in 1890, when Arkadiy Harting (a.k.a. Abraham Gekel'man or Landezen) organized a well-armed team of bombthrowers and then betrayed them to the Paris police. These heavily publicized arrests helped persuade the French public of the dangers posed by Russian revolutionaries in France. The episode also convinced officials in St. Petersburg that republican France could get tough on Russian radicals and make a good ally. To some extent, at least, this helped diminish mutual suspicions and created an atmosphere on both sides conducive to negotiation of the Franco-Russian alliance of 1891.
Vladimir Burtsev, leading counterespionage specialist in the Russian revolutionary opposition to the tsarist government. Courtesy of the Hoover Institution.
Harting may be the most interesting character in the essays (see the second reprinted article below, entitled "The Illustrious Career of Arkadiy Harting"). He rose from informer to master spy to spymaster, eventually becoming chief of the Paris office. As noted above, his top agent, Zhitomirsky, penetrated Lenin's inner circle during the Bolshevik party's underground days. Before he quit the espionage business in 1909 following his exposure by the French press as a Russian spy, Harting had served tsarist Russia, imperial Germany, and republican France, receiving decorations from all three.
Harting met his match in Vladimir Burtsev (see the third reprinted article, entitled "The Sherlock Holmes of the Revolution"). Burtsev was a revolutionary by profession but a counterespionage expert by talent. He organized what in effect was a highly professional counterespionage bureau for Russian radicals. In 1909 Burtsev personally unmasked a major Okhrana agent, Evno Azef. Also in 1909, after years of relentless effort, Burtsev succeeded in proving that a terrorist known as "Landesen", who had escaped from the French police in 1890, actually was Harting. This was leaked to the press, prompting Harting to flee to Brussels, where he went into hiding and was never heard from again. (34)
Harting's case officer was Pyotr Rachkovsky, probably the ablest head of the Okhrana's Foreign Bureau. Rachkovsky was a pioneer. He refined the art of what we today call active measures or perceptions management techniques. He paid subsidies to journalists willing to write articles favorable to Russian interests, and he purchased or subsidized such periodicals as Revue Russe and Le Courier Franco-Russe. During his tenure (1884-1902), journalists on the Okhrana payroll began planting articles in the French press that were favorable to Russian interests. Rachkovsky also created the Ligue pour le Salut de la Patrie Russe, which promoted positive views toward Russia among French citizens; this group was a forerunner of Soviet front organizations and "friendship societies."
According to one authority, Rachkovsky was a "born intriguer" who "delighted" in forging documents. He allegedly was among those responsible for the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, perhaps the most infamous political forgery of the 20th century. (35) Rachkovsky's tactic of exploiting anti-Semitism for political purposes was used repeatedly during the Soviet era--for example, in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and in Poland in the 1980s. Such scapegoating also was evident in the so-called "Doctors Plot" in the early 1950s, when a group of Jewish doctors was accused of plotting to kill Stalin and other Soviet leaders.
Rachkovsky was a model for subsequent Soviet practice in another regard. He was an advocate of Franco-Russian rapprochement and served as the tsar's personal emissary in secret negotiations leading to the Dual Alliance of 1891-94 and its modification in 1899.
The practice of using foreign intelligence officers on sensitive international assignments, bypassing the foreign ministry and regular diplomatic channels, was a standard Soviet modus operandi. Stalin used his head of foreign intelligence, Vladimir Dekanozov, to set the stage for his pre-World War II alliance with Hitler. Later, Khrushchev relied on a KGB officer under journalistic cover to establish a direct link to the Kennedy White House. After this emissary discredited himself by lying to the Kennedy brothers about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, Khrushchev turned to the KGB resident to open another channel to the White House through ABC newsman John Scali; proposals that were floated through this channel eventually resolved the October 1962 missile crisis. In 1969 Brezhnev and Andropov assigned two senior KGB German experts to open a back channel to the new Social Democratic-led coalition government in Bonn. (36) The result was secret negotiation of a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements that transformed Soviet relations with West Germany and the rest of Europe.
Ventsion Moiseev-Moshkov Dolin was a classic double agent. (Running double agents has long been a quintessentially Russian skill, practiced before, during, and after the Soviet period.) Dolin began his career as an Okhrana penetration of anarcho-communist groups (see the fourth reprinted article, "Okhrana Agent Dolin"). On the eve of World War I he began working for German military intelligence--or so the Germans thought. He was in fact a double agent who had remained loyal to Russia. With help from the Okhrana, Dolin organized "successful" sabotage operations inside Russian weapons and munitions factories--operations that were "documented" in press articles.
The Germans were so pleased with Dolin that they asked him to conduct psychological warfare operations aimed at stirring up Russian workers to overthrow the monarchy and take Russia out of the war. "Kronenbitter" neglects to mention that when Dolin's efforts fell short of expectations, the Germans turned to another Russian agent on their payroll by the name of Vladimir Lenin. He was more successful, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Okhrana was, in a limited sense, ahead of its time as an equal opportunity employer. It recruited people of all nationalities-and especially women-as agents. (37) Women, in fact, were crucial to its operations and were paid as well or better than their male counterparts (see the fifth and sixth reprinted articles--"The Okhrana's Female Agents," Parts I and II). Women, however, were not permitted to become staff officers or managers-only agents.
The women were at least as colorful as the men--maybe more so. One example was "Francesco," the wife of a respected Moscow physician. While a student at Moscow University, she made three vows: to love her husband, to help kill the tsar, and to work for the Okhrana. Only the last promise was kept.
Another interesting female operative was known only as La Petite. As a 13-year-old milkmaid, she spied for Polish nationalists while delivering milk to the Okhrana office in Warsaw. Her target: office trash cans that sometimes contained copies of secret messages and names of informants in Poland. During World War I she worked for the Russians against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, posing as an Austrian citizen. After the war she retired to Monte Carlo, where she was known as L'Autrichienne.
The Kronenbitter collection reveals the Okhrana's foreign operations through anecdote, not analysis. The articles are entertaining and yet still inform in a loosely structured way. For historians they suggest possibilities for more in-depth studies of Russian intelligence and counterintelligence operations in their formative period. (38) For observers of the contemporary scene they give insight into the apparent paradox of the "new" Russia, which, recent events have demonstrated, still gives high priority to foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations.
The Soviet Union and the Communist Party and even the KGB are gone, but Russia "retains a strong intelligence profile and a traditional intelligence culture that are distinct from and even alien to our own." (39) Major-power espionage and counterespionage today have a less ideological rationale than during the Cold War, but the Russians do set forth a justification, couched in terms of vital national interests and security. The Okhrana story illustrates what history, even narrative history that is not primarily analytical, can offer--namely, events and insights from the past that have implications for the present and the future.
The views expressed in this Preface are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity.
(1) Russian contemporaries as well as present-day historians have used the term Okhranato refer generically to the Ministry of Interior's Department of State Police, which was created in 1880 and renamed Department of Police in 1883. Strictly speaking, however, the term referred specifically to the security detail assigned to the tsar and the royal family.
The Department of Police included a unit known as the Special Section (Osoby Otdel or OO), which dealt with political crimes and sensitive investigations. The OO was a clandestine service, organizationally and physically separate from the regular police apparatus, but located on the fifth floor of the police headquarters at 16 Fontanka Quai, St. Petersburg. The OO formally commanded so-called okhranoe otdelenie or security sections from which the colloquial term Okhranawas derived, although in practice the subordinate units were more or less independent. (Full title: otdelenie po okhraneniiu obshchestvennoi bezopastnosti i poriadka, or section for maintaining public security and order.) The first three security sections were created in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Warsaw. By 1911 there were 75 sections at the provincial, city, and oblast levels. See Ellis Tennant [pseudonym of Edward Ellis Smith], comp. and ed., "The Department of Police 1911-1913 from the Recollections of Nikolai Vladimirovich Veselago," in Edward Ellis Smith Collection, box 1, Hoover Institution Archives passim; Frederic S. Zuckerman, "Vladimir Burtsev and the Tsarist Political Police," Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 12 (January 1977), p. 215n11 and The Tsarist Secret Police in Russian Society, 1880-1917 (New York University Press, New York, 1996), p. xiv; George Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. xxiii; Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (New York: Harper-CollinsPublishers, 1990), pp. 20 ff; and Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime (New York: Collier Books/Macmillan Publishing Company, 1994), p. 301.
(2) The term Okhranka, which was sometimes used interchangeably with Okhrana, was frequently used to refer to the Paris office. The term agentura means agency or bureau, but it also referred to an agent network. Zagranichnaia means "foreign." See Edward Ellis Smith with Rudolf Lednicky, "The Okhrana": The Russian Department of Police: A Bibliography (Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, 1967), p. 261. There were two foreign bureaus--the other one was in Bucharest--and both had satellite offices. The Paris office, for example, oversaw a subordinate unit in Berlin. Together the Paris and Bucharest offices ran all tsarist police and intelligence operations worldwide.
(3) Ronald Hingley, The Russian Secret Police: Muscovite, Imperial, and Soviet Political Security Operations (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970), p. 72.
(4) Herter's role is being divulged here for the first time. In 1957 Herter was Acting Secretary of State, and the Hoover Institution thought it best not to reveal his role.
(5) Stanford University News Service, October 30, 1957 in Hoover Institution Records, box 179A; Archives Subject File A01, folder: Okhrana Project 1962. See also "Czarist Dossiers on Reds Opened," New York Times, October 30, 1957, p. 10.
(6) Draft press release in Hoover Institution Records, box 179A, Archives Subject File A01, folder: Okhrana Project 1962.
(7) Richard Deacon, A History of the Russian Secret Service (London: Frederick Muller Ltd., 1972), p. 86.
(8) During James Jesus Angleton's tenure from 1954 to 1975, the CIA's Counterintelligence Staff regularly studied historical cases of Soviet intelligence operations, looking for insights into contemporary operations and methods. Critics complained that Angleton's staff wasted time and resources reexamining cases such as the Trest (Trust) deception operation of the 1920s and the Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra) espionage network of the World War II era. They argued that the KGB--created in 1954--was an entirely new organization with new missions and tradecraft. See Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), pp. 60-61, 324-325, 330 passim. The same critics presumably would have been even more critical of studies of the pre-Soviet Okhrana. In fact, however, the historical literature on Russian and Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence is not particularly rich and in some cases is not reliable, so even "historical" studies were welcome to the counterintelligence specialists.
(9) See Andrew and Gordievsky, KGB, p. 22 and Oleg Kalugin, Vid s Lubianki: "Delo" Byvshego Generala KGB (Moscow: Nezavisimoe Izdatel'stvo, 1990), p. 35, as cited in Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Viking, 1996), p. 645n. In an English-language memoir, Oleg Kalugin notes that his training class read a detailed account of agent recruitment methods prepared by Nicholas II's chief of counterintelligence. See Oleg Kalugin with Fen Montaigne, The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Counterintelligence Against the West (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994), p. 17.
(10) Creation of the Okhrana marked the emergence of the modern secret or political police apparatus. Its predecessor, the Third Section, was more in the tradition of a praetorian or palace guard aimed at thwarting plots and intrigues against the tsars by Russian aristocrats and nobles, especially at court and in the military. The Okhrana's main mission was dealing with the rise of the revolutionary intelligentsia in the latter part of the 19th century. See Richard J. Johnson, "Zagranichnaia Agentura: The Tsarist Political Police in Europe," in Contemporary History, Vol. 7 (January-April 1972), p. 222.
(11) There is no comprehensive history of the Okhrana's foreign operations. For a list of books and articles that describe its organization and methods, see Smith, "The Okhrana", pp. 65-67 and 230-242.
(12) Cited in Andrew and Gordievsky, KGB, pp. 23-24.
(13) Ibid., p. 24.
(14) Johnson, "Zagranichaia Agentura," p. 226.
(15) D.C. B. Lieven, "The Security Police, Civil Rights, and the Fate of the Russian Empire, 1855-1917," in Olga Crisp and Linda Edmondson, eds., Civil Rights in Imperial Russia (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1989), p. 246. Hingley claims that by 1909 the Okhranahad 150 agents inside the Socialist Revolutionary, Bolshevik, and Menshevik socialist parties and even in the less-threatening liberal Kadet party. Hingley, The Russian Secret Police, p. 100.
(16) Lieven, "The Security Police, Civil Rights, and the Fate of the Russian Empire, 1855-1917," p. 247.
(17) Johnson, "Zagranichaia Agentura," p. 232.
(18) Soldiers were considered reliable because they had sworn allegiance to the tsar.
(19) Tennant, "The Department of Police 1911-1913 from the Recollections of Nikolai Validimirovich Veselago," p. 18.
(20) As a result of Bloody Sunday, the tsar did not appear in public again until 1913, the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty. In the months following the incident in St. Petersburg, the entire country, already suffering the strains of a losing war with Japan, experienced uprisings and revolts by workers, peasants, soldiers, and sailors. One result was the creation of the State Duma, which convened in 1906, but by and large political and social reforms were too little and too late. Even though Nicholas II did not authorize the police crackdown, Bloody Sunday helped destroy the centuries-old peasant image of the tsar as the godfather and savior of Russia. Gapon's demonstrators had gathered for the time-honored tradition of petitioning the tsar for relief from their manifold problems. See Figes, A People's Tragedy, pp. 3-15.
(21) Lieven, "The Security Police, Civil Rights, and the Fate of the Russian Empire, 1855-1917," p. 247.
(22) John J. Dziak, Chekisty: A History of the KGB (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books/D.C. Heath and Company, 1988), p. 31.
(23) Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, p. 315.
(24) Ibid., p. 317.
(25) John Channon with Rob Hudson, The Penguin Atlas of Russia (London: Penguin, 1995), p. 113.
(26) Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, p. 312.
(27) During the late 1960s and 1970s the Soviet politburo and the KGB, led by Yuri Andropov, waged a campaign of terror, repression, and disinformation against Solzhenitsyn. One example: the KGB detained and so brutally interrogated one of the author's typists, Elizaveta Voronyanskaya, that she broke down and divulged where a copy of The Gulag Archipelago was hidden. In despair, she committed suicide. She was secretly buried to cover up the KGB's crime. Dozens of official documents on the anti-Solzhenitsyn campaign were translated and edited in Michael Scammell, ed., The Solzhenitsyn Files: Secret Soviet Documents Reveal One Man's Fight Against the Monolith (Chicago: edition q, inc., 1995).
(28) Figes argues that the Okhrana's mistreatment of imprisoned revolutionaries brutalized them and whetted their appetite for revenge once the political tables were turned. "One can draw a straight line from the penal rigors of the tsarist regime to the terrorism of the revolutionaries and indeed to the police state of the Bolsheviks." A People's Tragedy, p. 124. There may be some truth to this, but the Bolsheviks, in quickly creating a police apparatus of their own, seemed motivated more by a desire to maintain power than by any quest for revenge against their former tormentors.
(29) Historian Bertram D. Wolfe claims that Harting and Zhitomirsky were one and the same, but the latter was actually the former's agent. Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution: A Biographical History (Boston: Beacon Hill Press, 1955), p. 536.
(30) Ibid., pp 535-557
(31) Dziak, Chekisty, p. 5.
(32) Leggett writes: "The extent of the Okhrana's penetration of the Bolshevik Party was such that not only was it minutely informed about the membership, structure, and activities of the party (one of the best sources of the pre-1917 Bolshevik Party history is a collection of Moscow Okhrana documents), but it was also in a position to influence Bolshevik tactics." (The Cheka, p. xxiv.)
(33) Tennant, "The Department of Police 1911 - 1913 from "Recollections of Nikolai Vladimirovich Veselago," p. 8.
(34) For more on Burtsev's exploits against the Okhrana, which for a time almost leveled the playing field for the revolutionaries, see Zuckerman, "Vladimir Burtsev and the Tsarist Political Police," pp. 193-219.
(35) Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), pp. 80-81.
(36) See Vyacheslav Kevorkov, The Secret Channel: Moscow, the KGB and Bonn's Eastern Policy [in German] (Berlin: Rowohlt, 1995).
(37) Anna Geifman notes that as the turn of the century approached, women, especially those from upper- and middle-class backgrounds, became involved in underground politics and even in extremist acts: "As a result of rapidly changing family relations and the spread of literacy, self-assertive girls and young women could no longer be confined to the home. At the same time, however, they were denied higher education, along with any role in the political process, and in general were offered little opportunity to realize their intellectual ambitions. This drove a number of them into the ranks of the radical outcasts, where their male comrades were willing to give them greater recognition than could reasonably be expected within the traditional establishment. . . .To a large extent, this accounts for the fact that women comprised nearly one-third of the SR [Socialist Revolutionary] Combat Organization, and approximately one-fourth of all Russian terrorists at the beginning of the century." [emphasis added] Anna Geifman, Thou Shalt Kill: Revolutionary Terrorism in Russia, 1894-1917 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 12. This involvement also made women natural targets of police surveillance and recruitment.
(38) For an example of solid scholarship based in part on the Okhrana Collection at the Hoover Institution, see Geifman's book cited in the previous footnote.
(39) James Sherr, "Cultures of Spying," The National Interest, No. 38 (Winter 1994/95), p. 60.[Top of page]
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