Yan Chernyak - from the cohort of great illegals. In the prewar period and during the Second World War, he led a successful international intelligence network. His people were actively extracting the military-technical information needed by the Soviet Union, and none of the agents was disclosed by either the Gestapo or the counterintelligence authorities of the countries of Europe.
He was born in 1909 in the territory of Bukovina, then part of Austria-Hungary, in the family of a small trader. In the First World in this area were heavy fighting, which led to numerous casualties among the civilian population. The parents of six-year-old Jan were also killed. The boy was sent to an orphanage.
Difficult childhood tempered character, Jan used everything to achieve himself hard work. In 1927, he entered the Higher Technical School in Prague, where he became one of the best. Then he decided to continue his education in the Weimar Republic. At the Berlin Polytechnic College, he also studied excellently and received deep engineering and economic knowledge. He began to be seriously interested in politics and joined the left movement - he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and then became a communist, he completely shared the program and ideological foundations of the KKE.
After completing his studies in Berlin in 1930, Chernyak returned to his homeland in search of work. Then Bukovina was already part of Romania. Wanting to continue the party activity there, Yang asked one of the KKE representatives to help establish contact with the local communists. Instead, he was offered to meet with a man from Soviet Russia. A military intelligence officer working in Germany had long known about a young party activist who had received an engineering education, and he expected to engage in cooperation. He saw that Chernyak possesses personal charm, sociability, knowledge of the peculiarities of the political situation in European countries and the ability to competently evaluate it, and also speaks many foreign languages: Romanian, Czech, Hungarian, German, English, French. It was a natural linguistic talent. The young man (he just turned 21 year) immediately agreed to help the world's first socialist state in the fight against reaction and fascism. With Chernyak they discussed the main directions of his intelligence activities and gave him conspiratorial contacts in Bucharest.
At this time, Romania was of great interest to our military intelligence, since it was part of anti-Soviet regional unions — the Small and Balkan Entente. Like Poland, it was considered one of the main likely opponents of the USSR, creating real military threats. Conducting reconnaissance on the Romanian territory was difficult for many reasons, so great hopes were pinned on Chernyak.
The new employee immediately began to work efficiently and met the expectations of the curators. In Bucharest, he learned that he was waiting for a call in the Romanian army. Chernyak was supposed to be sent to a private soldier in an infantry regiment, but for a bribe they managed to get a referral to the school of sergeants. After its completion - the appointment of an artillery regiment to the post of clerk. This made it possible to freely get acquainted with the contents of secret documents. During the service year, Chernyak regularly handed over to the messenger copies of the most important materials that fell into the hands: the organization, staffing and armament of the Romanian army units, mobilization plans, the content of the exercises and other military information. The information obtained was highly appreciated in Moscow.
After serving the allotted year, Jan returned to Germany, where he continued to work on the Soviet military intelligence. Now he was assigned to create a group of informing assistants and, with their assistance, to obtain information about the German armed forces. The young intelligence officer was able to quickly find the right people using his previous connections and acquaintances. In view of Chernyak’s engineering education, he began to be assigned tasks to obtain military-technical information. After Hitler came to power, the military industry was developing rapidly in the country, new types of weapons were created. For information, Chernyak conducted work not only in Germany, but also abroad.
Blessed himself Berzin
In 1935, one of the Belgian communists, who knew Chernyak, was detained by the police, and to avoid failure, the Center decided to withdraw our intelligence officer to Moscow. There he met with Jan Berzin. An 26-year-old illegal who, in a short time, achieved great success in a very specific job, impressed the Chief of the Intelligence Agency. By decision of the leadership Chernyak was again to go abroad. He was organized a special training course, which was supervised personally by the deputy Berzin. Jan was trained on issues that he didn’t have: agent radio communication, cryptographic business, particularities of recruitment work in the most complicated situation in most European countries, measures of conspiracy and counteraction to counterintelligence services. While studying Morse code, the instructor was surprised to note that his student has a phenomenal memory. Chernyak's ability to easily memorize up to 10 pages of text in any language has been noted in other classes. After successfully completing the training course of the young intelligence officer, Berzin again took over. He spoke about the peculiarities of the situation in Europe, the accelerated preparation of fascist Germany for aggressive wars, for which a new army was created in the Third Reich and the possibilities of industry were increased. Chernyak was supposed to illegally engage in military-technical intelligence, involving in cooperation the reliable sources of information he had chosen.
The Center’s specialists carefully prepared a special business trip. Chernyak had several sets of documents and spare passport forms. The scout was taught using improvised means to make any seal, stamp indistinguishable from genuine. Jan safely crossed several borders and reached the designated country. There, according to the conditions of appearance, I met with a representative of military intelligence, who brought the task to him. It was to organize the production of documentary technical information on aviation и tank German industries, the production of artillery systems and their ammunition, as well as about promising developments in the field of military radio electronics and radar. A separate item was obtaining information on the work on the creation of a chemical weapons. The leadership of the People's Commissariat of Defense did not rule out that Germany, like during the First World War, could go for the use of toxic substances.
Despite his youth, Jan acted professionally and very carefully. Being charming and sociable, he quickly established the necessary acquaintances, but then he carefully prepared the subsequent actions and made a decision to involve this or that person in cooperation only if he was sure of success completely.
A special feature of Chernyak's work abroad was the scrupulous observance of all security measures and conspiracy. The Soviet intelligence officer was extremely cautious and never visited such places where raids and mass checks of documents could take place, which in those years was practiced by the Gestapo and counterintelligence agencies in other European countries. Acting illegally, Chernyak used mostly inconspicuous "masks": student, lecturer, traveling salesman, refugee ... He often had to change places of residence, legend and cover, becoming a different person, but the intelligence officer always did it so as not to arouse suspicion of others .
Increased security measures did not affect the results of intelligence activities. After returning to Europe from Moscow, Chernyak was able to attract a large German banker to cooperation, finding a competent approach to it. He gave him a list of closed accounts in various European financial organizations, which were used by Nazi activists. Another great success was gaining access to the design documentation and drawings of the new German tanks being developed for the Wehrmacht. Scout was able to provide them with photographing.
Yang relied on a group of trusted attorneys who helped him find promising sources of information, study them and recruit them. Sometimes Chernyak’s acquaintances sheltered him from the police and helped him secretly to leave the country in case of danger. Complications of the situation in Central Europe forced to move to Paris. And the entry of German troops into France forced the scout to move to safer Switzerland. But even in these difficult conditions, the tasks of the Center continued. More and more valuable military-technical information was sent to Moscow through various channels.
The Intelligence Directorate transferred it to the appropriate structures of the People's Commissariat of Defense and to industrial enterprises, which helped create new types of weapons and military equipment. Documents obtained by the Chernyak group have consistently received high marks. In 1937, the head of the Intelligence Directorate received the following conclusion from one of the directorates of the People's Commissariat for military development of television systems: “The most important and extremely valuable materials are the 1 group, which gives a detailed description of the production of iconoscopes. They meet the acute needs of our institutions and help in the development of new highly sensitive television transmitters. Such information will help us save literally one million rubles in currency. ”
Locators, Tigers, uranium project
After the start of the Great Patriotic War, it became much more dangerous and difficult to engage in intelligence activities. Chernyak has lost the opportunity to meet with some of his agents, diplomatic channels of communication have ceased to operate. However, the Intelligence Agency did everything possible to ensure the efficient activity of the illegal immigrant who was in the lair of the enemy. A reliable courier service was established for him, and valuable military-technical information obtained by Chernyak and his sources continued to flow to Moscow. Information about stocks of tin, tungsten, and nickel in fascist Germany was sent to the Center, which made it possible to assess the capabilities of the German industry for the production of military equipment. In 1943-m data were obtained on additives to steel alloys, which were used in the manufacture of gun barrels to increase their survivability. During the fierce battles on the fronts, information about the new artillery systems and armored vehicles that came into service with the enemy went to Moscow. So, on the eve of the Battle of Kursk, Chernyak received detailed data on the German Tiger and Panther tanks. In addition, his group successfully obtained information on radio communication devices built in Germany, mine-torpedo weapons, and submarine detection tools. Were obtained top-secret information on stocks of chemical weapons.
Chernyak's group revealed the direction of the work of the defense industries not only in Germany, but also in other countries. It should be particularly noted that the data were presented not in the form of encrypted telegrams, but in thousands of sheets of classified materials, drawings, and even individual samples. Only in 1944, 12 500 technical documentation sheets and 60 equipment units were received from Chernyak.
In May 1944, Deputy Chairman of the Council on Radar Radiation at the State Defense Committee, Engineer Vice Admiral Axel Berg sent a letter to the Main Intelligence Directorate: “The materials you sent over the past 10 months are very valuable for creating the radar weapons of the Red Army and the Naval fleet... They are selected with competence and make it possible not only to get acquainted with the equipment, but also in some cases to make the same, without spending a lot of time and significant development funds. In addition, information about the method of combating interference created by the Germans made it possible to begin the development of appropriate counter-measures. All this information and materials allows us to confidently choose the paths for the technical development of a new and little-known radar technique, providing us with the necessary perspective and awareness. ” A second letter on the same subject was received by the GRU KA in June 1944. Engineer Vice Admiral noted: “The materials received from you on 102 sheets and 26 samples should be considered a major and valuable help to the cause. GKO authorized academician T. Vavilov asks for measures to be taken to receive the next part of the materials. ”
The content of such letters in an abbreviated form was communicated to the head of the agent group and was taken into account by him in his further work. In the response, Chernyak reported to the GRU: “The high assessment of the Center encouraged us all.” Knowledge of the specific needs of Moscow allowed the intelligence officer to choose the most important and valuable materials for delivery via couriers.
At the end of 1944, the GRU received another letter with estimates of information obtained by Chernyak's sources. It read: “I received from 475 foreign written materials and 102 sample equipment. The selection of materials is made so skillfully that it leaves nothing to be desired for the future. When caused by military circumstances, the lag of our electronic equipment from abroad and with the urgent need to develop this equipment in the shortest possible time to equip our army and fleet with radar weapons and anti-radar weapons from us is of great state importance. The work of the GRU over the past year in this area should be recognized as excellent. ”
Meanwhile, Chernyak was able to succeed in other areas. He regularly received data on the latest developments of the fascist German military industry. So, he informed the Center about the ongoing work on the development of rockets and V-1 and V-2 rockets, on the start of production of jet fighters. At the same time, the illegal immigration report stated that Hitler singled out the missile program as a priority, since, in his opinion, a new weapon could make a difference in the course of military operations. In this regard, the German leadership has paid less attention to the atomic program, about which Chernyak also informed Moscow.
Of particular note is the work of a scout in obtaining reliable information on the most deadly weapons. In one of the European countries, as he learned from his agent, there was an extremely closed laboratory where formulations of new toxic substances were developed and created. Chernyak was able to go to one of the specialists of this laboratory and so skillfully conduct a conversation with him that he agreed to pass on to the Red Army, which bears the brunt of the fight against the fascist aggressor, secret information about new developments of chemical weapons.
As it became known to Moscow, in the Cavendish Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, research was carried out related to the splitting of uranium, which could lead to the creation of a new type of ammunition of enormous destructive power. All the work in this area in Great Britain was classified; Prime Minister Churchill wanted to keep them secret not only from German intelligence, but also from Soviet allies. But Jan Chernyak coped with this extremely difficult task. He found out the place of residence of the laboratory employee Alan May, met with him. And he was able to convince the physicist to share with the Soviet scientists information about the British nuclear bomb project to help the Allied anti-Hitler coalition joint struggle against fascist Germany. Already at the next meeting, May handed over to Chernyak the documentary materials that revealed the main areas of research on uranium research conducted at Cambridge. Later, the English scientist gave the Soviet illegal information about the plants used in the UK, where uranium isotopes were separated, a description of the process for obtaining plutonium, drawings of the English project of a uranium boiler (the reactor was originally called) and a detailed description of the principles of its operation. When Alan May was transferred to Canada, where he was to work on a nuclear project in the Montreal laboratory, Chernyak persuaded him to continue cooperation with Soviet military intelligence and conveyed the conditions for restoring communications to a new location. Two years later they were involved, and the English physicist again began to transfer valuable materials to the GRU staff that helped Soviet scientists in creating their own nuclear weapons.
Qualification plus intuition
Yan Chernyak remained abroad after the end of the Great Patriotic War. He was still engaged in obtaining military-technical information, but in the changed situation he restructured the work. His special assignment was terminated by the Center at the end of 1945 after the employee’s treachery, which could lead to the discovery and arrest. Chernyaku organized a secret departure from one of the European countries, and he returned safely to his homeland.
The results of the work of Jan Chernyak became known only in our days. In military intelligence, he is considered one of the best operational workers: they personally recruited and brought to cooperation 20 valuable agents, as well as 15 reliable assistants, who ensured his work in Germany and other European countries. Despite the wartime, Chernyak crossed the border, held meetings with sources, personally handed over the obtained information to the Center’s couriers. Critical situations have arisen repeatedly, but thanks to high qualifications and special operational intuition, the intelligence officer always avoided danger. Fulfilling the tasks of the Center, the illegal resident obtained a mass of valuable military-technical information, which allowed the USSR to save considerable funds in creating new types of weapons and military equipment. According to experts, the economic effect of the work of the intelligence officer was several tens of millions of dollars in the prices of the mid 40-s.
In December, 1994, for courage and heroism shown in the performance of special tasks, was awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation to Jan Petrovich Chernyak. It happened 10 days before his death.