Soviet Intelligence Training

18 SEPT 95


Your professional adversary is not only a dedicated and disciplined Communist, but a learned one, with a specialty in the area where he faces you.


Sherman W. Flemer

The younger generation of Soviet intelligence officers now operating around the world have received a professional education probably unequaled anywhere. They were energetic Party activists when the intelligence services spotted them. They were already college graduates, in our terminology, thoroughly grounded in the social sciences, history, foreign affairs and languages. Beyond the college level they had done graduate work in Party schools on the theory of human social evolution - i.e., Marxist-Leninist ideology - and had received some training in intelligence techniques and revolutionary tactics. Then they had been selected for their good characters, intelligence aptitude, and clean records from among many with similar educational qualifications to attend one of the intelligence institutes, where they spent at least two years in full-time study of tradecraft, the organization and methods of Soviet and foreign intelligence services, and the area and languages of their planned operational assignments. Those that have been in the business for some years have probably also taken a full-year refresher course by now.

The older generation is dependent on refresher courses to pick up what they have not learned by experience, for the intelligence institutes were not established until late in World War II days. There are now two main ones for foreign intelligence, run respectively by the military and civilian members of the Soviet intelligence community - the Armed Forces' Chief Intelligence Directorate and State Security's Foreign Directorate. The missions of these two intelligence services, and therefore the curricula of their institutes, considerably overlap: the military service collects not only military but also scientific, technical, and economic intelligence. State Security runs also a third main Soviet intelligence institute, one training officers for the internal security services.

The Military Diplomatic Academy

The military school is called a Diplomatic Academy, in allusion to the practice of using diplomatic cover for intelligence officers abroad. It accepts candidates from all the armed forces, but they must have graduated from secondary school and a military academy, have had two years' command experience and some intelligence service, and be Party members. Their health, security, and service records must be outstanding, and they must not be older than 32.

Recognizing that its matriculants from the armed forces, for all their schooling, may not have the polish or professional scholarship expected of a military attaché the Academy spends two years giving them as it were a B.A. in liberal arts, with courses in music and literature, philosophy and logic, psychology, and law, and some military science and military history thrown in. Only then does it get down to serious intelligence training, so its whole course lasts four years.

Beginning in the third year, the Academy's Diplomatic Preparation Department schools the student primarily for his cover duties, offering courses in diplomatic etiquette and attaché observation, collection, and reporting; but it also touches on covert tasks, operational as well as informational reporting, and the organization of deep-cover operations. Another Department teaches him about the organization of foreign armed forces and their intelligence divisions, with emphasis on the American. Meanwhile he is learning tradecraft in classes of the Special Preparation Department. Here the third year is devoted to subjects like intelligence history and methodology, comparative organization, comparative techniques, Soviet intelligence objectives, procedures under official cover and under deep cover, and the organization of third-country operations. Tradecraft proper comes in the fourth year, with courses such as agent recruitment and direction, operational techniques, communications--radio, photography, secret writing, microdots--camouflage and concealment, and counterintelligence evasion.

Practical operational exercises are carried out in Moscow and its suburbs after the techniques have been mastered in laboratories and classrooms. Theoretical exercises are also organized with the help of a spetsfond, a collection of classified materials including sanitized operational case histories; these are studied, analyzed, criticized, and debated with a view to developing skill and ingenuity in the establishment and operation of intelligence networks.

In preparation for his particular future assignment the harried student--for he has been attending regular political lectures and physical culture sessions on the side--is at the same time pursuing courses in the Area Studies and Foreign Language departments. He learns about the geography, politics, economics, industry, agriculture, and the communication and transportation networks of the country where he is scheduled to go and of its immediate neighbors. He learns at least one foreign language, perhaps two, with the aid of a system which divides language students into groups of no more than five for study and instruction. Finally he graduates--brain-weary, one imagines--and is assigned abroad in an attaché office of one of the military services, or perhaps in a foreign trade mission or a TASS bureau overseas.

The RaSh (Higher Intelligence School)

State Security, we noted, has separate institutes for foreign intelligence and internal security; the civilian counterpart of the Military Diplomatic Academy is the RaSh. Candidates for the RaSh, like those for the Diplomatic Academy, must belong to the Party or Komsomol, must pass a special security clearance, must be physically fit and show particular aptitudes for intelligence work. Educational prerequisites for RaSh are higher, or at least broader, than for the Academy, since the two-year RaSh curriculum offers nothing comparable with the Academy's first two liberal-arts years: candidates for enrollment must be graduates of schools of higher learning, i.e., the equivalent of M.A.'s, notably in foreign trade, international relations, or foreign languages.

Our most recent detailed information on the RaSh curriculum, dating from 1953, shows the first year, like the Academy's third, filled with the more general professional subjects and a good deal of world-wide area study. RaSh seemed to offer no equivalent of the Academy's courses on individual areas, apparently seeking to make its graduates area generalists rather than specialists; but area study nevertheless got down to details, including even foreign customs and social etiquette. Training in operational techniques was reserved for the second year, except for those of countersurveillance, a subject in which theoretical lectures were supplemented by actual tailing practice wherein the student tried to evade experienced teams shadowing him about the Moscow streets.

The second year was packed with tradecraft--Locks and Picks, Flaps and Seals, secret writing, photography, audio-surveillance, operational communications, and the spotting, development, recruitment, handling, training, and indoctrination of agents. Three categories of agent motivation were examined in order of preference--ideological, material, and blackmail. Officers with experience in foreign operations gave lectures on the organization and practices of the police and counterespionage agencies of individual countries. In the meantime, throughout the two years, the student was gaining an oral mastery of at least one foreign language, together with some reading ability. As in the Military Diplomatic Academy, the language classes were restricted in size to five students or fewer.

We have some glimpses of student life at the RaSh as of 1945-53. Students used cover names, but the married ones were allowed to live with their families in Moscow. In addition to a subsistence allowance fixed on the basis of rank, students were given free issues of civilian clothing. Radios were furnished and foreign movies shown as an aid to learning languages. Students attended lectures from 0900 to 1300 every day but Sunday and spent the afternoons and evenings doing homework, participating in exercises, and listening to Party political lectures or to special professional presentations, frequently scheduled on short notice, by outside officials from State Security or the Foreign Ministry.

The Higher School (Security)

State Security has a whole network of schools at various levels to support the discharge of its responsibilities for counterintelligence, domestic operations, investigation, and the development of foreign-language capabilities. They include a special school for security personnel in the Satellite countries and China, a school for sergeants attached to the State Security staff, a variety of technical schools for all ranks, a Higher School for Investigators, and the Leningrad Institute of Foreign Languages. Here we shall consider only its main staff institute, the Higher School, which operates under law institute cover and is actually so accredited.

Except for its law courses, however, this school is pitched at a lower educational level than the two foreign intelligence institutes, being designed to give advanced operational training in internal security methods to officers who have already had a good deal of practical experience. Nevertheless it requires graduation from secondary school and passing a university-level entrance examination of its matriculants. As in the foreign intelligence schools, these must be Party or Komsomol members and meet high physical and security standards. They must be under 35 years old and have one or two years' experience with the security organization. They continue to get their full pay during the three-year course.

Aside from the law courses, a few general subjects such as "Party History" and "International Politics," and professional lectures on topics like "Anti-Stalinist and Deviationist Movements" and "Ecclesiastical Milieux," the course names that have reached us suggest concentrated work on security tradecraft--self-defense without weapons, recruiting agents, the guidance of networks, handling informers, field observation, surveillance, investigation techniques, radio direction finding, documentation, recognition of false documents, search, communications, operational records. Lectures are supplemented by seminar discussion sessions and by part-time assignment of individual students to operating security sections by way of practical training exercises.

The Product

Our information, detailed if somewhat dusty and remote, thus enables us to reconstruct the bare bones of Soviet intelligence training, the skeleton of the deinosaurus. The fearsome reptile's frame is a strong and massive one, but what counts is the flesh that clothes and the spirit that moves it. Education can enlarge a man's or a nation's capacity to fulfill its creatively conceived ends, but training can also crystallize its pattern of action into a series of unimaginative automatic responses; and the individual and group capabilities which constitute the Soviet intelligence challenge cannot be measured by counting up curricula only. One must somehow gauge also the inspiration, flexibility, devotion to a cause, self-discipline, and drive of the professional graduate. This should be the subject of another article.



Historical Document
Posted: May 08, 2007 07:18 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 03:40 PM