Military Review

Moses Axelrod as a scout in the Middle East

Moses Axelrod as a scout in the Middle EastIntelligence services are an attribute of any sovereign state. They were created in the Soviet state in the early years of its existence.

To work in the countries of the East, not just people devoted to the revolution, parties, etc. were needed, but highly qualified specialists with knowledge of oriental languages ​​and cultures, the specifics of the oriental mentality, etc. headquarters of the tsarist army, but measures were taken to train new personnel. In the 1920s and 30s, in our country, oriental studies and specializations were developed at the Oriental Faculty of the Military Academy. M.V. Frunze [1], at the Leningrad Institute of Living Oriental Languages ​​[2], the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies (MIV) [3], a number of historical and philological departments of Leningrad and Moscow universities, as well as in the Turkestan Oriental Institute [4].

Here is how E. Dumbadze [5] describes the educational situation with the training of orientalists in the USSR in his memoirs: “The Leningrad Oriental Institute is part of the Central Executive Committee on the basis of a resolution of the USSR Central Election Commission. “It is a special higher educational institution, which has as its task the training of workers for practical activities in the East and scientists for oriental higher educational institutions.”

In addition to this higher special institution, in the USSR there are still the following of the same kind. In Moscow - the Eastern Institute [6] named after Nariman Narimanov, the Communist Institute [7] of the working people of the East named after Stalin. In Baku, Tashkent, Samarkand, Vladivostok and other cities, in addition to special eastern universities, there are also eastern faculties at universities. All the mentioned educational institutions are breeding grounds from which specialists come to work in the East, both through the Comintern and the GPU [8]. Reception of listeners in them is arranged with known difficulties. So, according to the rules, people are accepted there either with a party experience of at least 5 years, or on the recommendation of a party committee. Regardless of this, you must have either an army experience or work experience in a Check (GPU). Thus, persons who graduated from these educational institutions are then directly seconded to the Comintern (eastern section) and to the GPU (foreign department), who then second them as employees abroad ”[9].

Moses Markovich Axelrod graduated from the Faculty of Social Sciences of Moscow University in 1923, and in 1924 - the Arabic branch of the MIV, and he knew not only Arabic, but also Western languages. The Arab East aroused scientific interest in Axelrode. He was able to realize himself as a scientist by publishing approx. 1926-1930's. 30 oriental works in magazines "International Affairs" and "New East" and being in 1929-1930. employee of the Scientific Association of Orientalists, as well as in 1929-1931. in teaching at Moscow State University, MIV, and the Communist University of Eastern Workers. [10] Axelrod’s transition from the NKID to foreign intelligence in 1928 may have caused him to publish his oriental articles under the pseudonyms “MA” and “ Rafik Musa.

* * *

Among the first countries in whose territory intelligence activities began to be held were the countries of the Muslim East. In 1922, the Foreign Department (INO) of the GPU [11] opened the first legal residencies in Afghanistan and Turkey under the guise of diplomatic and trade missions. In 1923, a legal residency was created in Persia [12].

The plenipotentiary representations of the GPU in the regions were also engaged in the organization of offensive intelligence. Thus, the embassy of the GPU in the Caucasus (Tiflis [13]) conducted work in Western and Northern Persia and Asian Turkey, in Turkestan (Tashkent) in Northern Afghanistan, Eastern Persia and Western China [14].

Order of the GPU number 98 from 2 June 1922, as part of the Secret Operations Management (SOU) was established Eastern Division (VO). Thus, the work on the "eastern counter-revolution" was allocated from the NGO in an independent direction. VO united all the work of the GPU bodies in the Caucasus, in Turkestan, Kirghizia, the Tatar, Bashkir and Crimean autonomous Soviet republics, in the Bukhara and Khiva folk Soviet republics in the part "... concerning specific counterrevolution and Eastern espionage." IN was also engaged in the development of all material received by the inhospitable part of the INO from Afghanistan, Dzungaria, Iliysky Krai, India, Kashgaria, China, Korea, Mongolia, Persia, Tibet, Constantinople [15], Angora [16] Turkey [17] and Japan, and also put in front of the INO operational tasks [18]. By December 1922, three VO branches were organized: 1 — Caucasus and the Middle East; 2 - Central Asia and the Middle East; 3-e Far East [19].

In June, 1922 was approved the Regulation on the Zakordon branch (AOR) of the Institute. According to this document, the AOR was “an organizational center concentrating all the leadership and management of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence work”.

At the head of the offensive intelligence apparatus were the residents of the INO. In accordance with the regulations on the resident, he was given the right to recruit agents without the request of the Center. The resident used his own cipher to communicate with the Center. Once every three months, the resident reported to the Center on the expenditure of foreign currency. Despite the volume of tasks assigned to foreign intelligence, the entire 1922 [70] staff served in INO in 20.

With the formation of the Soviet Union 30 in December 1922, the decision of the CEC Presidium of 2 in November 1923 of the GPU was transformed into the United State Political Administration (OGPU). In accordance with the statute of the OGPU, a SOW was created in it, which also included INO [21], which was engaged in conducting intelligence abroad. The INO was significantly expanded, new, more complex tasks were assigned to it, taking into account the changed situation.

The “Notes of the Chekist” by G. Agabekov [22], published in Russian in Berlin in 1930, are of great importance as a historical source. “The Notes” [23] in detail reflect the political situation in the Near and Middle East in 1923-30's , reveal the methods of work of the INO, describe the direct organizers and participants of Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence activities in these regions and describe the operations they carried out. Agabekov personally participated in the preparation of the destruction of the Turkish adventurer Enver Pasha, who became one of the leaders of Basmachist. Later Agabekov led the creation of OGPU agent networks in Afghanistan, Persia and Turkey.

The residency activities in Afghanistan, Persia, and Turkey, except for Constantinople (see below), were supervised by the 5 (Eastern) sector of the Institute. At the same time, the Department conducted work on sending agents to Persia and Turkey from the territory of the Transcaucasus, as well as to Afghanistan from the territory of Central Asia. “The Eastern Sector is a combination of two departments - Eastern, managing work throughout the Middle and Near East, and Anglo-American, managing work in England and America. The connection was made because in the work in the East always had to deal with the British, and therefore it was necessary to be aware of the affairs of the English metropolis. America, on the other hand, was given to the English sector as a country related to England, in which the real work had not yet been developed. ”[24].

In 1922-1925 One of the main tasks of the INO continued to be the creation of a system of legal residencies that operated under the cover of Soviet diplomatic or trade missions. At that time, residences were few and consisted, as a rule, of 2 – 4 employees. Scouts of legal residencies worked under the cover of Soviet overseas agencies - embassies, trade missions, etc.

In the mid-1920s, approx. Approx. 20 residencies. However, they were very few: 3-4 employees worked in the main residencies, 1-2 scouts in the peripheral ones. In addition to the tasks common to all residencies, each of them had its own specific ones, more related to its location and capabilities. So, the Constantinople residency, which was supervised by the 4th sector (South European and Balkan countries) of the INO sector (residency in Vienna), from 1923-1926. began to conduct intelligence in Bulgaria, Greece, Egypt, Palestine and Syria (including in Lebanon). Kabul residency had a wide agent network both on the border with India and in India itself. Residency in Tehran through the Kermanshah point operated in Iraq [25]. “... The threat of a global conflict with England was the reason for Moscow’s insistent demands that the [О] 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 ”[26].

Prior to 1929, only the legal OGPU residency at the Consulate General in Constantinople, organized by the OGPU resident E. Goldenstein [27] in 1926, operated in Turkey. “Until 1930, the residents of the GPU in Turkey had an order not to conduct work against the Turkish government. This order was caused by two reasons. Firstly, the Soviet government considered Turkey a friendly country. The second reason why the OGPU refrained from working against the Turks was the desire to create a base in Constantinople for work throughout the Middle East. Trilisser [28] believed that if you do not touch the Turks, but to work in the territory of other countries, then the Turks will look at this work through their fingers. Such a sacrifice should have been made in order to be able to work without hindrance in Syria, Palestine, Egypt, etc. ”[29].

* * *

April 24 1924. Chairman of the USSR Central Executive Committee M.I. Kalinin signed the credentials of a diplomatic agent and general consul of the USSR in the Kingdom of Hejaz K.A. Khakimov [30].

On August 6, Khakimov and the staff of the consulate general arrived in Jeddah and sent a telegram to Mecca addressed to the king [31]. The Soviet representative as a Muslim was allowed to present his credentials to King Hijaz Hussein in Mecca, which he did 9 August 1924. The USSR Agency in Jeddah became the first official representative of the Soviet Union in Arab countries.

Axelrod also arrived in Jeddah as secretary of Khakimov. Here he worked until 1927, completing the INO [1925] assignment with 32.

In 1929, Khakimov was appointed a representative of the Export-Import Office of the State Trade Trading Group with Turkey and the Middle East “Middle East Trading” in Yemen. At a meeting of the 9 Politburo in May 1929 (Protocol No. 79), the proposal was approved by the NKID to approve the General Representative of the USSR (General authorized Middlevoostorga) in Yemen, K.A. Khakimov. "[33], where he worked for about two and a half years , from June 1929 to December 1931 [34].

“In Gedjas and Yemen, the GPU did not conduct any work until the arrival of the Soviet ambassador Khakimov there. In the 1925 year, being connected with the GPU for work in Mashhad, Khakimov began to conduct information work in Gejas. Simultaneously with him, Secretary of State Khakimov Moses Axelrod [35] and representative of the People's Commissariat Belkin [36] arrived in Gedzhas. Axelrod and Belkin voluntarily, at their peril and fear, began first in Gejas, and then in Yemen undercover work. Seeing their zeal, the GPU appointed Axelrod, who soon moved from Gejas to Yemen, as his special representative.

Axelrod ..., who knew Arabic well, was able to contact prominent members of Imam Yahya [37], but due to the lack of intelligence experience, he could not sufficiently use these connections. From Yemen, Axelrod did work in Eritrea [38] and sometimes even sent his agents to Egypt ”[39].

On how active Axelrod’s activity in Egypt was indirectly is an episode that took place along his route to Yemen in 1928 in: “In Port Said, increased vigilance of the police on us was apparent in relation to us, especially in relation to tons. Axelrod. Our passports were taken ashore (obviously, for a photo) ... One of the police officers, with an exaggerated confidentiality, informed T. Axelrod that we are in Egypt blacklisted [40].

However, Axelrod’s intelligence activities continued: “Moses Axelrod had to go to Egypt [at the end of 1929] to get directly acquainted with local party groups, in particular with the Wafd [41] party, whose left wing we hoped to split off for joint work with the Egyptian Communist Party. Axelrod was supposed to pay attention to the Egyptian merchants, in particular to the local Armenians, who were in Egypt to 15-ty thousands of people, and try to connect with them through India. Axelrod, traveling to Egypt, was supposed to be detained and temporarily used in Constantinople. Moscow reported that lately there has been a turn to the west in Turkish foreign policy, and therefore I need to start reconnaissance work against the Turkish government, for which, if necessary, I can send Axelrod to Angora. In early January, 1930, I sent a report to Moscow with a proposal to move our center to Beirut. There, we would be closer to the countries where we should have been working, and would have the advantage over Constantinople that went beyond the scope of international intelligence, directed against us and spreading a solid nest in Istanbul. Moscow, in response, offered to send Axelrod for a personal report. In mid-February, Axelrod ... left for Moscow ”[42].

The contacts of the Soviet Union with the Egyptian side were carried out through the representations of both countries in Ankara, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome and Tehran, moreover, as L.M. Karakhan [43] plenipotentiary in France V.S. Dovgalevsky 1 September 1928, “Paris seems to us the most convenient point for negotiations with the Egyptians” [44]. As for the capital of Italy, according to the same Karakhan, addressed to the plenipotentiary in Italy, D.I. Kursk 19 February 1929 g., "... Rome acquires for us the value of the primary observation point along the line of ... Eastern policy" [45]. This is confirmed by the fact that in 1934, Axelrod was appointed a resident of the Soviet political intelligence in Rome.


[1] Functioned before 1939
[2] From 1928, the Leningrad Oriental Institute; functioned until 1938
[3] Functioned before 1954
[4] From 1924 - the Eastern Department of the Central Asian University, renamed 1960 to Tashkent University.
[5] Dumbadze, Evgeny Vasilyevich (1899-1939) - an employee of the Comintern in Constantinople. In June, 1928 fled to Paris, where, presumably, in 1939, it was liquidated by Soviet intelligence agents.
[6] The above mentioned MIV.
[7] More precisely - the university.
[8] State political governance.
[9] Dumbadze E. In the Service of the Check and Comintern. Paris, MCMXXX, p. 125-126.
[10] People and destinies. SPb., 2003, p. 20.
[11] “The Regulation on the State Political Administration” was published in the book: F.E. Dzerzhinsky. State security. M., 2008, p. 77-81; Chekists: History in the faces. M., 2008, p. 9-11.
[12] From 1935 - Iran.
[13] In 1936, renamed to Tbilisi.
[14] Agabekov G.S. GPU: Notes chekista. Berlin, 1930, c. 27.
[15] Ie information about the sultan's government.
[16] Angora - Ankara's outdated transcription.
[17] Ie information about the Kemalist government.
[18] Chekists, p. 40.
[19] Kolpakidi A., Prokhorov D. Russia's Foreign Intelligence. M., 2001, p. 18.
[20] Ibid., P. 11.
[21] 6 February 1922 was based on the INO Cheka under the NKVD of the RSFSR was created by the INO GPU under the NKVD of the RSFSR, renamed 2 in November 1923 in the OGPU UNO by the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR. 10 July 1934. Foreign intelligence was transferred to the 7 department of the Main Directorate of State Security (GUGB) of the NKVD of the USSR.
[22] Agabekov (Arutyunov), Georgy Sergeevich (1895-1938) - Soviet intelligence agent defector. In 1924-1926 - Resident in Afghanistan, in 1928 - in Persia, in 1929-1930. - illegal resident in Constantinople. He fled to Paris, where in 1938 the city was liquidated by Soviet intelligence officers. See: Prokhorov D.P. How much does it cost to sell the motherland? SPb. - M., 2005, p. 50-64.
[23] The book has been translated into many languages, including in Persian.
[24] Agabekov GS, p. 166.
[25] Essays on the history of Russian foreign intelligence. T. 2. M., 2006, p. 241-242.
[26] Arabajyan Z.A. Iran: confronting empires (1918-1941). M., 1996, p. 129.
[27] Goldenstein, Efroim Solomonovich (1882-1938) - an INO employee. In 1923-1925 - Resident in Austria, in 1925-1927. - in Turkey, 1927-1930 - in Germany.
[28] Trilisser (Moskvin), Mikhail (Meer) Abramovich (1883-1940) - an outstanding intelligence organizer. From 1921, in the central office of the Cheka. From May 1922 to October 1929 - Head of the Institute. See: V. Antonov. Seven years at the head of Soviet foreign intelligence //
[29] Agabekov GS, p. 214-215, 218-219.
[30] USSR and Arab countries. 1917-1960. M., 1961, p. 60.
[31] AVPRF. F. 190, op. 2, p. 1, d. 2, l. 96.
[32] Degtyarev K., Kolpakidi A. External intelligence of the USSR. M., 2009, p. 346.
[33] RGASPI. F. 17, op. 163, d. 784, l. 62.
[34] See: Peresypkin OG Oriental patterns. M., 2006, p. 29-31.
[35] See: Kilberg H.I. Memories of MM Axelrode. - In: Unknown Pages of Russian Oriental Studies. M., 1997; Smilyanskaya I.M. Moses Markovich Axelrod (1898-1940) // Peoples of Asia and Africa. 1989, No. 5.
[36] Belkin, Naum Markovich (1893-1942) - scout. From 1924, to NKID, simultaneously to 1927-1931. - Resident INO in Yemen. From 1931, to INO. In 1933 – 1938 - assignments in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Uruguay, Germany, Spain. He died in Iran in the performance of official tasks.
[37] Yahya bin Mohammed Hamid ad-Din (1867-1948) - Imam of the Zeidites from 1904 and the King of Yemen in 1918-1948.
[38] At that time - a colony of Italy.
[39] Agabekov GS, p. 212.
Read more about К.А. Khakimov, see: P. Gusterin. In memory of Karim Khakimov - diplomat and scholar // Diplomatic Service. 2008, No. 1.
[40] On the second trip to Yemen. Report G. Astakhov from 21.01.1929 // AVPRF. F. 08, op. 12, p. 77, d. 99, l. 21.
[41] Wafd (Arabic "delegation") is the largest political party in Egypt in 1918-1953, leading the national liberation movement. It was founded in November 1918. Being mainly a party of the national bourgeoisie, Wafd also included representatives of the intelligentsia, landowners and the petty bourgeoisie. Its main goal was to achieve the full independence of Egypt. Being in power in 1924, 1928, 1930, 1936-1937, 1942-1944, 1950 - January 1952 did not make any serious social reforms.
[42] Agabekov GS, p. 237-244.
[43] The real name of Lev Mikhailovich Karakhan is Levon Mikhailovich Karakhanyan. See: People and destinies, p. 193.
[44] Documents of the USSR foreign policy. T. XI. M., 1966, p. 498.
[45] AVPRF. F. 08, op. 12, p. 77, d. 99, l. 38.
Photos used:
M.M. Axelrod. People and destinies. SPb., 2003, p. 20.

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  1. Gavrohs
    Gavrohs 8 September 2014 17: 10
    Thanks to the author! Informative. hi
  2. Ols76
    Ols76 9 September 2014 04: 31
    Good article!
  3. The comment was deleted.
  4. The comment was deleted.
  5. Pavel Gusterin
    10 September 2014 15: 27
    For more details, see: Soviet intelligence in the Middle East in the 1920 – 30-s. Saarbrücken, 2014.
  6. Pavel Gusterin
    10 September 2014 15: 41
    See on the topic: The Oriental Department of the Military Academy of the Red Army named. Mv Frunze. Saarbrücken, 2014.