Features of the work of Soviet foreign intelligence in Persia in the 1920s-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 directed by the 5th (Eastern) sector of the Foreign Department of the OGPU. At the same time, the INO was working on sending its agents to Persia.

As a historical source, the “Notes of the Chekist” by the Soviet resident in the Middle East G.S. Agabekov are of great importance. [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 methods of work of the INO, characterize the direct organizers and participants of Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence activities in these regions and describe the operations they carried out. Agabekov personally took part in the preparation of the destruction of the Turkish adventurer Enver Pasha [4], who became one of the leaders of the Basmachism. Later Agabekov led the creation of OGPU agent networks in Afghanistan, Persia and Turkey.

G. S. Agabekov

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

Enver Pasha


Most of the Soviet residencies in Persia had their own “specialization”. The residency in Tehran, in addition to the general coordination of intelligence work, operated through its point in Kermanshah (not to be confused with the city of Kerman) in Iraq [5].

“The threat of a global conflict with Britain was the reason for Moscow’s insistent demands for the GPU to penetrate and gain a foothold in Iraq. According to the available information, the British were building two air bases in northern Iraq, from where their aviation could easily reach Baku, bomb the oil fields and return. Therefore, intelligence began to work actively among the 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 aircraft could fly to bomb Baku. ” [6].

The Kermanshah residency worked against the white emigration and British authorities in Iraq. In Kermanshah, in the period 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 the INO in Persia. Here he managed to organize penetration into White emigre circles, obtain information about German, Polish, Turkish and Japanese intelligence services working against the USSR from the territory of Persia, and also acquire valuable agents in the ruling circles of Persia. [8]

M. A. Allakhverdov


Residency in Urmia [9] followed the activities of the British in the surrounding territories (in Urmia, intelligence activities were started by the future diplomatic agent and consul general in Yemen, A.B.Dubson [10]). In the tasks of the Tavriz [11] residency included the development of the Dashnaks [12], Musavatists [13] and white emigre circles. The Ardabil and Resht stations also worked not only against the Musavatists, but also against the white emigration. Bender Bushehr [14] the residency monitored the situation in the region inhabited by the tribes of southern Persia, which were a kind of lever in the hands of the British for pressure on the government of Persia, and also monitored the situation in the ports of the Persian Gulf.

A. B. Dubson


The main task of the station in Mashhad was to work against British “colleagues” [15] and their agents from among local residents (in Mashhad in 1921, the future diplomatic agent and consul general in Yemen, K.A. [16]). In addition, she was engaged in identifying the connections of the British with the Basmachi gangs and the white emigration. In the late 1920s, Mashhad became the base of various White émigré organizations. It housed the branches of the “Russian All-Military Union”, “Turkestan Insurgent Committee”, “Uzbek Nationalist Movement”, which carried out subversive work against the USSR in close contact with the British special services. [17] Employees of the OGPU in Mashhad were also engaged in identifying British agents operating in the strip of the Soviet-Persian border and in Turkestan.

K. A. Khakimov


The Mashhad residency was particularly successful. Here in 1931-1936. A.M. Otroshchenko worked under the guise of an employee of the Soviet Consulate General [18] agent of the plenipotentiary representative of the OGPU in Central Asia, from 1934 he led the Mashhad station. He managed to obtain important information about the anti-Soviet activities of the White emigration, as well as the subversive activities of the British and Japanese intelligence services against the USSR. [19]

AM Otroshchenko


Based on the current situation in this region, the state security organs decided to infiltrate the British intelligence station in Mashhad, intercept the channels for the transfer of agents to Soviet territory and, ultimately, 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 residency in Mashhad, where the Soviet consulate general functioned, accomplices of the British resident from among the Russian emigrants were detained, and the channels for supplying weapons to the Turkmen-Yomut tribe were blocked, who raised an uprising against the Soviet regime. [20]

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 goods presented for inspection fully complied with the customs declarations. This went on for quite a long time, until V. Gridnev [21] did not pay attention to the fact that the goods are transported by the Iranians in new woolen bags, on which patches are sewn here and there. The inspection showed that it was under these patches that jewelry and considerable amounts of foreign currency were hidden. The channel of foreign exchange smuggling was cut off ” [22].

V. V. Gridnev

* * *

Thanks to the work experience gained by Soviet intelligence officers in the 1920s and 1930s in Persia, during the Second World War it was possible to outplay German agents here, including ensuring the holding of the Tehran Conference in 1943.

Notes (edit)

[1] In 1935, Persia was officially renamed Iran.
[2] Agabekov (Arutyunov), Georgy (Grigory) Sergeevich (1895-1938) – scout-defector. In 1924-1926. – Resident in Afghanistan, in 1928 – in Persia, in 1929-1930. – illegal resident in Istanbul. He fled to Paris. Liquidated, presumably by NKVD agents. For 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 leader. Graduated from the Academy of the General Staff in Istanbul (1903). In 1913 he carried out a coup d’état. During the First World War, he served as deputy. commander-in-chief (the sultan was formally the commander-in-chief). After the defeat of Turkey, he fled to Germany, later for some time he 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 a battle with Soviet troops.
[5] Essays on the history of Russian foreign intelligence. T. 2.M., 2006, p. 242.
[6] Arabadjian ZA Iran: opposition to empires (1918-1941). M., 1996, p. 129.
[7] Allakhverdov, Mikhail Andriasovich (Andreevich) (1900-1968) – intelligence officer. 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. From January 1923 – in the Eastern Department of the OGPU. Resident in Persia (1928-1930), Afghanistan (1934-1936; 1941-1943), Turkey (1936-1938). Completed assignments in Austria, Switzerland, France, Yugoslavia. In 1947-1955. – in teaching work at the Higher Intelligence School.
[8] Degtyarev K., Kolpakidi A. External 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) – intelligence officer, diplomat, orientalist. He graduated from the 1st year of the Petrograd Psychoneurological Institute (1915), the 2nd Moscow School of Warrant Officers (1917), the 1st year of the Eastern Branch of the Military Academy of the Red Army (1921). Member of the First World War and the Civil War. Since 1919 – in the Cheka. Since 1920 – in diplomatic work (secretary of the Persian department of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, in 1921-1928 – in consular posts in Urmia, Tabriz and Mashhad). In 1930-1931. – in scientific and pedagogical work. In 1931-1933. – Representative of the USSR in the Yemen Mutawakkili Kingdom. Since 1935 – head. press department of JSC “Intourist”, professor of the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies.
[11] Modern transcription of Tabriz – Tabriz.
[12] Armenian nationalists, united in 1890 in the Dashnaktsutyun (Armenian Revolutionary Union) party.
[13] Azerbaijani pan-Turkists and pan-Islamists united in 1911 to form the Musavat (Equality) party.
[14] In the 1st ed. TSB (vol. I, Moscow, 1926) gives the names “Abusher”, “Bushir”, “Abu-Shikhir”. The modern name is “Bushehr”.
[15] On the activities of the British intelligence services during 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 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, Andrey Makarovich (1902-1993) – scout. In the OGPU since 1924 In 1931-1936 and 1937-1939. – on intelligence work in Persia / Iran (deputy resident and resident in Mashhad, resident in Tehran). In 1939-1941. – early. counterintelligence department of the NKVD in the Odessa region. Since 1941 – in leading positions in the state security bodies 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. Graduated from the Higher Frontier 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 the ZakVO. In 1932-1936 and 1943-1949. – tasks in Mongolia. Member of the Great Patriotic War and the Soviet-Japanese War. In 1949 – early. Department of the Committee of Information under the Council of Ministers of the USSR. In 1950-1960. – early. Higher Intelligence School. (Note by P.G.).
[22] Antonov V., Karpov V. Secret informants of the Kremlin – 2. With them intelligence began. M., 2003, p. 290.

Recommended For You

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *