Military Review

Features of the work of Soviet foreign intelligence in Persia in the 1920-1930s


Among the first countries on the territory of which the Soviet Republic began to conduct intelligence activities were the countries of the Muslim East. In 1923, a legal residency was established in Persia [1].

The activities of the residencies in Persia were led by the 5th (Eastern) sector of the Foreign Department of the OGPU. At the same time, the INO was working to send its agents to Persia.

Of great importance as a historical source are the Notes of a Chekist by G. S. Agabekov, a Soviet resident in the Middle East [2], published in Russian [3] in Berlin in 1930. The Notes in detail reflect the political situation in the Near and Middle In the East, in 1923-1930, they disclose the methods of work of the non-profit organization, characterize the direct organizers and participants of Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence events in these regions and describe the operations they carried out. Agabekov personally took part in the preparation for the destruction of the Turkish adventurer Enver Pasha [4], who became one of the leaders of Basmachism. Later, Agabekov led the creation of intelligence networks of the OGPU in Afghanistan, Persia and Turkey.

G. S. Agabekov

Features of the work of Soviet foreign intelligence in Persia in the 1920-1930s

Enver pasha

Most Soviet residencies in Persia had their own "specialization." Residency in Tehran, in addition to the overall coordination of intelligence, through its point in Kermanshah (not to be confused with the city of Kerman) operated in Iraq [5].

“The threat of a global conflict with England was the reason for Moscow’s insistent demands that the GPU penetrate and gain a foothold in Iraq. According to available information, the British built two air bases in Northern Iraq, from where they aviation without much difficulty could reach Baku, bomb the oil fields and return. Therefore, intelligence began to work actively among Iraqi Kurds, hoping, if necessary, to raise an anti-British uprising in Iraqi Kurdistan and disable both the oil fields in Mosul and the airfields from which British planes could fly to bomb Baku ”[6].

Kermanshah’s residency worked against white emigration and British authorities in Iraq. In Kermanshah, from 1925 to 1928, under the cover of the post of secretary of the Soviet consulate, M.A. Allakhverdov showed himself as a talented intelligence officer [7], who in 1928 became a resident of INO in Persia. Here he managed to organize penetration into white-emigre circles, obtain information about German, Polish, Turkish and Japanese intelligence who worked against the USSR from the territory of Persia, and also acquire valuable agents in the ruling circles of Persia. [8]

M.A. Allahverdov

The residency in Urmia [9] monitored the activities of the British in the surrounding territories (in Urmia, the future diplomatic agent and consul general in Yemen A. B. Dubson [10] began intelligence activities). The tasks of the Tauris [11] residency included the development of Dashnaks [12], Musavatists [13] and White emigre circles. The Ardabil and Resht residences also worked not only against the Musavatists, but also against white emigration. Bender-Bushehr’s [14] residency monitored the situation in the area of ​​the southern Persian tribes, which were a kind of lever in the hands of the British for pressure on the Persian government, and also monitored the situation in the ports of the Persian Gulf.

A. B. Dubson

The main task of the residency in Mashhad was to work against British “colleagues” [15] and their local agents (in Mashhad in 1921, the future diplomatic agent and consul general in Yemen K. A. Khakimov began his intelligence activities [16]). In addition, she was engaged in identifying British ties with Basmachi gangs and white emigration. In the late 20s, Mashhad became the base of various white-emigrant organizations. It housed the branches of the Russian All-Military Union, Turkestan Insurgent Committee, and the Uzbek Nationalist Movement, which conducted subversive work against the USSR in close contact with British intelligence services. [17] The OGPU officers in Mashhad were also involved in identifying British agents operating in the strip of the Soviet-Persian border and in Turkestan.

K. A. Khakimov

Mashhad residency was particularly successful. Here in 1931-1936. A. M. Otroshchenko [18] an agent of the plenipotentiary representative of the OGPU for Central Asia, who was in charge of the Mashhad residency since 1934, worked under the cover of a post of an employee of the Soviet Consulate General. He managed to get important information about the anti-Soviet activities of the white emigration, as well as about the subversive activities of the British and Japanese intelligence against the USSR. [nineteen]

A. M. Otroshchenko

Based on the prevailing situation in this region, the state security organs decided to penetrate the British intelligence office in Mashhad, to intercept the channels for sending agents to Soviet territory and, ultimately, to paralyze its hostile activities. As a result of a number of successful operations carried out in the 30s, including with the participation of the Soviet legal residence in Mashhad, where the Soviet consulate general functioned, the accomplices of the British resident from among the Russian emigrants were detained and the supply channels were blocked weapons Turkmen Yomut tribe, who rebelled against Soviet power. [twenty]

The information obtained by Soviet intelligence was also used to carry out measures to combat smuggling. Thus, “our station in Tehran established that Iranian merchants, using the agreement with Soviet Russia on border trade, were exporting from the USSR a large amount of gold, precious stones and foreign currency. <…>

The cargo presented for inspection was fully consistent with customs declarations. This went on for quite some time, until V. Gridnev [21] noticed that the goods were being transported by the Iranians in new woolen bags, on which patches were sewn here and there. The audit showed that it was under these patches that jewelry and considerable amounts in foreign currency were hidden. The currency smuggling channel was suppressed ”[22].

V.V. Gridnev

* * *

Thanks to the experience gained by Soviet intelligence in the 1920s and 1930s in Persia, German agents were able to outplay here during World War II, including ensuring that the Tehran Conference was held in 1943.


[1] In 1935, Persia was officially renamed Iran.
[2] Agabekov (Arutyunov), George (Grigory) Sergeevich (1895–1938) - reconnaissance defector. In the years 1924-1926. - Resident in Afghanistan, in 1928 - in Persia, in 1929-1930. - illegal resident in Istanbul. I fled to Paris. Eliminated, allegedly, by the NKVD agents. For more details see: Prokhorov D.P. How much does it cost to sell the motherland? SPb. —M., 2005, p. 50 – 64.
[3] The book has been translated into many languages, including Persian (Farsi).
[4] Enver Pasha (Ismail Enver; 1881–1922) - Turkish military and political figure. He graduated from the General Staff Academy in Istanbul (1903). In 1913, carried out a coup. During the First World War he served as deputy. commander in chief (formally, the sultan was the commander in chief). After the defeat of Turkey, he fled to Germany, and later for some time was on the territory of Soviet Russia. In 1921 he took part in the anti-Soviet Basmach rebellion in Central Asia and was killed in battle with the Soviet troops.
[5] Essays stories Russian foreign intelligence. T. 2.M., 2006, p. 242.
[6] Arabajyan Z. A. Iran: Confronting Empires (1918–1941). M., 1996, p. 129.
[7] Allakhverdov, Mikhail Andriasovich (Andreevich) (1900–1968) - scout. He graduated from the eastern branch of the Military Academy of the Red Army (1925). In the Red Army since 1918. Member of the Civil War. In the Cheka since 1919 he worked in Central Asia. Since January 1923 - in the Eastern Department of the OGPU. Resident in Persia (1928–1930), Afghanistan (1934–1936; 1941–1943), Turkey (1936–1938). He performed tasks in Austria, Switzerland, France, Yugoslavia. In the years 1947-1955. - on pedagogical work at the Higher Intelligence School.
[8] Degtyarev K., Kolpakidi A. Foreign intelligence of the USSR. M., 2009, p. 350.
[9] From 1926 to 1980, the city of Urmia was called Rezaye.
[10] Dubson, Arkady Borisovich (1895–1938) - scout, diplomat, orientalist. He graduated from the 1st year of the Petrograd Psychoneurological Institute (1915), the 2nd Moscow School of Ensigns (1917), the 1st year of the eastern branch of the Military Academy of the Red Army (1921). Member of the First World War and Civil War. Since 1919 - in the Cheka. Since 1920 - at diplomatic work (Secretary of the Persian Department of the NKID, from 1921-1928 - at consular posts in Urmia, Tabriz and Mashhad). In 1930–1931 - at the scientific and pedagogical work. In the years 1931-1933. - Representative of the USSR in the Kingdom of Yemen, Mutavakkiliy Kingdom. Since 1935 - the head. print department of Intourist JSC, professor at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies.
[11] Modern transcription of Tabriz - Tabriz.
[12] Armenian nationalists, united in 1890 in the party “Dashnaktsutyun” (“Armenian Revolutionary Union”).
[13] Azerbaijani pan-Turkists and pan-Islamists, united in 1911 in the Musavat (Equality) party.
[14] In the 1st ed. TSB (vol. I, M., 1926) gives the names “Aboucher,” “Bushir,” and “Abu Shikhir.” The modern name is “Bushir”.
[15] For the activities of the British special services in the period under review, see: Deacon R. A History of the British Secret Service. L. 1969; West N. MI5: The True Story of the Most Secret Counterespionage Organization in the World. N.-Y. 1982; West N. MI6: British Secret Intelligence Service Operations 1909-1945. N.-Y., 1983.
[16] Khakimov, Karim Abdraufovich (1892-1938) - intelligence officer, consular, diplomatic and trade representative of the USSR in the countries of the Near and Middle East. For more details see: Gusterin P. In memory of Karim Khakimov - diplomat and scientist // Diplomatic service. 2008, No. 1.
[17] Essays on the history of Russian foreign intelligence. T. 2, p. 242.
[18] Otroshchenko, Andrei Makarovich (1902–1993) - scout. At the OGPU since 1924, in 1931–1936 and 1937–1939. - in intelligence in Persia / Iran (deputy resident and resident in Mashhad, resident in Tehran). In 1939–1941 - beginning counterintelligence department of the NKVD in Odessa region Since 1941 - in senior positions in the state security organs of the USSR.
[19] Degtyarev K., Kolpakidi A., with. 527; Essays on the history of Russian foreign intelligence. T. 3.M., 2007, p. 206.
[20] Essays on the history of Russian foreign intelligence. T. 2, p. 246 – 247.
[21] Gridnev, Vyacheslav Vasilievich (1898–1991) - scout. He graduated from the Higher Border School of the OGPU (1924). In 1917 he was drafted into the army. Member of the Civil War. In 1921 he was sent to work in the Moscow Cheka, later - in the border units of ZakVO. In 1932–1936 and 1943–1949 - missions in Mongolia. Member of the Great Patriotic and Soviet-Japanese Wars. In 1949 - the beginning. Information Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. In 1950-1960 - beginning Graduate School of Intelligence. (Note.P.G.).
[22] Antonov V., Karpov V. Secret informants of the Kremlin - 2. Intelligence began with them. M., 2003, p. 290.
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  1. Olgovich
    Olgovich 7 May 2020 05: 52 New
    As a historical source great importance have “Chekist Notes” by a Soviet resident in the Middle East G. S. Agabekova [2] published in Russian [3] in Berlin in 1930. "Notes" in detail reflect the political situation in the Near and Middle East in 1923-1930, disclose the working methods of the INO, characterize the direct organizers and participants of Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence activities in these regions and describe their operations. Agabekov personally participated in the preparation for the destruction of the Turkish adventurer Enver Pasha [4], who became one of the leaders of Basmachism. Later, Agabekov led the creation of intelligence networks of the OGPU in Afghanistan, Persia and Turkey.

    source. truly unique, because there are no more such ones. shows the details and mechanism of intelligence work.

    ... True, on the basis of this and his other book * "OGPU. Soviet Secret Terror", published in the West. hundreds of Soviet agents in Iran and Afghanistan were arrested and killed.

    And they were printed in the West because this security officer fled there. A traitor is a traitor, for which he was destroyed in 1937 ...
    1. cost
      cost 7 May 2020 07: 27 New
      In August 1937, he was killed by a special group of the INO NKVD in France. According to Pavel Sudoplatov, the assassination of Agabekov was organized with the help of a Turkish militant (possibly revenge for Enver), an employee of the NKVD, later a KGB general and foreign intelligence chief A. M. Korotkov. According to the version set forth by Boris Bazhanov, the NKVD provoked Agabekov to participate in the resale of the values ​​stolen in Spain, and he was "liquidated" by the NKVD special group in the area of ​​the Spanish-French border. Agabekov’s corpse was not found (according to Bazhanov, the corpse was found a few months later on Spanish territory).
      1. vladcub
        vladcub 7 May 2020 15: 39 New
        Dmitry (rich), in fact, Bazhenov as a source of information is doubtful: he has been in exile since 1928. I doubt that Yezhov would call him and report to him: we eliminated Agabekov today. Sudoplatov as a source of information is more reliable.
        Bazhenov could know until 1928, while he was in Moscow, and then. The grandmother in the market heard about him.
  2. Free wind
    Free wind 7 May 2020 08: 12 New
    Interesting old cards to consider. Look, there are state borders, but there are borders of influence. Russian influence seems to be quite large. There are Kurdistan, but it is not clear why there is not a single settlement on the territory, or is it such a place ... Bogdad, Kuwait in Turkey. Syria also probably in Turkey?
  3. knn54
    knn54 7 May 2020 08: 41 New
    Boris Parmuzin: "Until further notice" and "Anger of other people's winds." The prototype is a real person.
    The grandfather of one of the colleagues (an Uzbek from the "parallel" department of the SKB) was a messenger for the protagonist.
    He told a lot of interesting things, especially about the Germans, who took deep root in Iran even before the WWII.
  4. Alex013
    Alex013 7 May 2020 10: 39 New
    Thanks to the author for the articles. And for this and about the raids in Afghanistan. Very interesting. In the 20-40s, our intelligence in Iran sat tight, like the German one. The Germans pushed Iran all the time for themselves, but failed. Recently I read about Georg Vartanyan, also a topic for an article ...
    1. Pavel Gusterin
      7 May 2020 12: 09 New
    2. ccsr
      ccsr 7 May 2020 13: 15 New
      Quote: Alex013
      In the 20-40s, our intelligence in Iran sat tight, like the German one.

      In addition to the NKVD in Iran, the Red Army intelligence agency worked, it’s just not mentioned much, although there was a military attaché in the embassy.
      Here is a scan of the report for August 1926, which gives an idea of ​​what was reported then:
  5. Trilobite Master
    Trilobite Master 7 May 2020 13: 08 New
    Intelligence is a specific topic, but very interesting and grateful. Personally, I was interested in reading, but again, after reading it, I got the impression of some understatement, as if I had been deceived in something.
    The article is called "Features of work", but I actually did not find anything about the features in it. There is a listing of the structural divisions of intelligence in Iran, the tasks that these divisions faced, the persons who headed these divisions are listed, and some of the results of the intelligence work are briefly highlighted.
    And, in fact, what were the features? Maybe there were some significant differences in the specifics of the work, for example, from residency in Germany, Britain or Japan? What are the features of undercover or recruitment in Persia compared to Europe? What are the reasons for the successes (failures) of Soviet intelligence during this period in this region?
    Or do I want too much?
    In any case, it seems to me that the title for the article needs to be invented after all after writing it in accordance with its content.
  6. vladcub
    vladcub 7 May 2020 16: 14 New
    "took part in the preparation of the destruction of the Turkish adventurer Enver Pasha" one of the most prominent leaders of the Basmachi. Killed either in battle or as a result of a special operation by the OGPU
  7. Andrey Zhdanov-Nedilko
    Andrey Zhdanov-Nedilko 8 May 2020 07: 33 New
    While working in those countries (Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan) in the early 2000s, he did occasionally meet with locals, make friends with someone and have not lost relations to this day, by the way. I asked old people from local about the events of the war and the pre-war years. Basmachism (until 1939) from Iran was encouraged by the central government in Tehran. The Basmachians had many bases and the composition of the gangs was so mixed that they were stunned - Kurds, Turkmens, Iranians, Azerbaijanis, sometimes former white (from the local), sometimes the British. But Great Britain stuffed weapons in this region and supported everyone and everything, if only against the USSR. According to locals, the hidden old weapons in some villages remained even before the 1990s ... Personally, I did not see these weapons, but I heard from the Kurds, whom the central government in Tehran was unloved at all times. My driver was an old Kurd and he provoked me to these conversations, but I gently stopped, they say, we are here to help you, and your affairs are yours and Allah Akbar is always, and everything else is from the Iblis, Satan and the English.