THE MITROKHIN ARCHIVE – TAKE TWO
In what is certain to cause massive heartburn in left-wing history departments everywhere, Christopher Andrew is releasing his new The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. Based on the treasure trove of Soviet KGB documents known as ” The Mitrokhin Archive” smuggled to the West at great risk by Vasili Mitrokhin, it promises to rewrite our understanding of the Cold War conflict in a way that will be painful to revisionist historians for whom America is always to blame, or at best, morally equivalent to a totalitarian tyranny. It must be a particularly demoralizing for them as professionial historians that each and every new piece of evidence that emerges in dribs and drabs from the Soviet archives tends to discredit the interpretation of the Cold War on which so many of them have built academic careers.
(There may also be an individualized kind of pain for former Soviet collaborators and KGB agents if Vol II exposes them the way The Sword and Shield outed left-wing European politicians, journalists and spies who had been on the take from Moscow.)
“People don’t realize how good the KGB was at what they did and, simultaneously, how bad they were. Let’s take India as an example. Both the Russians and the Americans planted articles in newspapers there from time to time as part of their active measures. According to KGB files, by 1973 it had ten Indian newspapers on its payroll as well as a press agency under its control. During 1972 alone, the KGB claimed to have planted 3,789 articles in newspapers there. There’s no question the Soviets outmatched the Americans in this regard. And these types of active measures were an important and very effective component of the KGB’s efforts to persuade credulous third world leaders that the CIA was plotting against them.
On the other side of the coin they put a vast amount of effort into the most ridiculous active measures you could possibly imagine. For example, it was a really big deal to prevent Russian cosmonauts being photographed anywhere near a bottle of coca cola if they traveled to other countries. KGB headquarters ordered residencies in many African capitals to send people out to count the number of posters of Mao Zedong appearing on public display. They also produced specially defaced posters of Mao and ordered them put up in Kinshasa, Brazzaville, and other remote African locations. My favorite example has to do with the spectacularly tedious congresses of the Soviet communist party. People who find politics boring in the west have no concept of how mind numbingly monotonous and dreary these affairs were. But it was the KGB’s job to demonstrate to Soviet leaders that they were met with global applause. So one of the tasks of residencies all around the world—in Delhi, Kinshasa, Luanda, and so on—was to concoct messages saying how excited the population was by the latest speech of Leonid Brezhnev at the latest party congress.”
Go read the whole thing.