Note - language is not corrected. Keep in mind that this article was written during the Cold War era.
Espionage is needed by those who prepare for attack, for aggression. The Soviet Union is deeply dedicated to the cause of peace and does not intend to attack anyone. Therefore it has no intention of engaging in espionage.--Nikita Khrushchev to Saneo Nozaka, Chairman of the Japanese Communist Party, 1962.
The average Soviet citizen, had he been asked, would have denied that his Government engaged in espionage against other states. Such a dirty practice, he could have added if he faithfully followed the official propaganda line, was employed only by the imperialists, with the USSR as their target. Had not the Soviet Union been compelled to create and maintain a state security service to protect itself from just such imperialist machinations?
The average Soviet, if he was ever so naive, is now disabused of his illusions. His government has reversed a policy in force since Lenin's day to admit that it has been practicing espionage abroad all the time. For reasons not yet clear, it has created a new hero: the intrepid intelligence agent spying abroad in peacetime for the Soviet fatherland at great personal sacrifice and danger.
By this action the Soviet regime has in effect surfaced the military intelligence service (GRU) to its own citizens. The hero intelligence operative has joined the hero Chekist in the Soviet pantheon. Moreover, the hero Chekist, hitherto portrayed as the valiant defender of the regime against foreign and domestic enemies, has now become an aggressive collector of intelligence abroad. For the first time since the Revolution the espionage exploits of the Soviet military intelligence service and state security have been officially acknowledged. True, the official accounts of these exploits must seem inadequate to any Soviet mind bold enough to reflect on the matter, but their quality is not the point at issue. The crucially significant fact is that Soviet espionage activities were surfaced at all. An official policy dating back to the Revolution has been dramatically and unaccountably revised.
When surfacing the GRU, the Soviet authorities chose to highlight Richard Sorge, the German citizen whose exploits for Soviet military intelligence in China and Japan before the second world war, although never revealed in the Soviet Union, have been known in the West for almost two decades. Sorge's career in espionage, and especially his penetration of the Japanese government and the German embassy in Tokyo, had been earlier examined in detail by General Charles Willoughby, Hans Otto Meissner, and Chalmers Johnson. Their works, although differing in detail and interpretation of events, are largely based on reports of the Japanese investigation of the Sorge network and certain memoirs and secondary publications. All are inaccurate in varying degrees. The Japanese investigation, the principal non-Communist source on the case, was inadequately handled and left many unanswered questions but did supply the broad outlines of the affair. David Dallin, it should be noted, has barely mentioned the case. As of 1965, little had been added to our knowledge of the operation.
Richard Sorge has been surfaced in the Soviet Union by means of a series of newspaper articles and popular books. His glorification was begun in late 1964 with an article by Viktor Mayevskiy in Pravda. Written after a visit to Sorge's grave in Tokyo, this article is an unrelieved panegyric on its subject. Other articles on Sorge in the Soviet central and provincial press quickly followed. Ya. Gorev, who is said to have served in the GRU with Sorge in Berlin, presented what seems to be an official account of Sorge's career. Gorev claims to have helped prepare Sorge for his Far East assignment and to have operated near him there. His use of Sorge's letters and messages indicates that he had access to official files, but he has furnished little new data on the case. Sorge is presented as a paragon of virtue; his weakness for alcohol and women is ignored. Gorev's version of the Sorge operation generally corresponds to that presented by Meissner and Willoughby. In all probability he drew heavily on these sources.
Although Moscow has for some reason suppressed Gorev's account, the glorification campaign has continued unabated since late 1964. Persons who knew Sorge even slightly have given interviews for publication. On occasion, these individuals have admitted they did not know Sorge was engaged in intelligence work. Gerhardt Eisler has contributed a short memoir. V. Kudryavtsev, a Tass correspondent in Tokyo during 1931-1937, told of meeting Sorge and Branko Vukelic in Japan. He had no knowledge of their intelligence work at the time. Gerhard Stuchlik and Horst Pehnert, East German journalists, wrote a series of articles drawing on those by Mayevskiy and Gorev, interviews with Max Klausen, Sorge's radio operator, and with Gerhardt Eisler, and such Western sources as Meissner and Willoughby. Except for certain details on Sorge's early life, these add relatively little.
Several people living outside the Soviet Union have recently contributed reminiscences of Sorge. Kai Moltke and Richard Jensen, former Communists, have written of Sorge's stay in Denmark during 1928. Sorge's wife Christine has published a short and uninformative memoir in a Swiss periodical. None of these accounts makes any significant contribution to an understanding of the Sorge operation.
A popular, semi-fictional version of Sorge's career was carried by the Soviet periodical Ogonek, beginning on 28 February 1965. Its authors, Sergey Golyakov and Vladimir Ponosovskiy, fail to throw new light on the case. They present Sorge as declaring himself a Soviet citizen to his Japanese jailers. A sizable paperback edition of this series (300,000 copies) was published early in 1965.
It is clear that the Soviet authorities wish to present Sorge as a popular hero but have no desire at this time to publish an accurate history of his intelligence operation. By decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, on 5 November 1964 he was posthumously awarded the title, Hero of the Soviet Union. In January 1965, Max Klausen was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and his wife Anna received the Order of the Red Star. Branko Vukelic was posthumously awarded the Order of the Patriotic War (First Degree). The East German Government has conferred on Max and Anna Klausen the Gold Medal of Merit of the National People's Army. But perhaps the most significant honor bestowed on Sorge was the issuance, early in 1965, of a Soviet stamp bearing his portrait. He thus joins Nathan Hale as an intelligence agent who has been paid philatelic honors by his government. No further proof is required of the intention of the Soviet authorities to add Sorge to the Soviet pantheon.
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