Push and hold

The famous Ukrainian artist and intelligence agent Mykola Glushchenko reported to Stalin of Hitler’s preparations for war against the Soviet Union as far back as June, 1940

Today the early paintings of the master’s brush cost tens of thousands of dollars

Before the Great Patriotic War the outstanding Ukrainian painter, the People’s Artist of the USSR, the winner of Taras Shevchenko State Award Mykola Hlushchenko lived in Berlin and Paris, double-jobbed as an artist and intelligence agent for as long as a dozen years. In the lifetime of Mykola Glushchenko none of his friends and colleagues knew that he worked in intelligence. He was one of those who had informed the Soviet government of the impending attack of Nazi Germany. As you know, ignoring this information resulted in the tragedy for the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

It was Oleksandr Dovzhenko who helped Gluschenko to obtain a passport of a citizen of the USSR

In the early 1940s, the Soviet intelligence has set Glushchenko, the artists of world renown and experienced intelligence agent, the task to organize an exhibiting of the German Fine Arts in Moscow and the USSR Exhibition of Folk Art in Berlin. At this time the German counterintelligence carefully kept watch over all Soviet citizens who came to the country, suspecting almost everyone of being a Kremlin spy. Sending Glushchenko to Germany, chiefs of the Soviet intelligence hoped that the famous artist will not be “taken care of tightly”, and this plan has worked out. Both exhibitions were a great success. In Berlin for days on end Gluschenko was talking with the representatives of German intellectuals, officials of the Ministry of Culture, compatriots. Once a man named Zacharias drew came near him and said the conventional phrase: “I bring greetings from Victor.” It was a password. Glushchenko answered: “He also asked me to say hello to you before leaving.” The artist has obtained valuable political and military intelligence and sent it to the Center.

A fact sheet signed by the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs was urgently prepared for Stalin and Molotov. As the fact sheet noted, the intelligence agent Yarema, who was sent to Berlin, has got information from the management of the Ukrainian Research Institute working under the Ministry of Propaganda of Germany on the Hitler’s preparation for war against the Soviet Union. In particular, this institution in an atmosphere of secrecy by order of the Goebbels’ department published German to Ukrainian dictionaries for the infantry, pilots; large dictionary of military topographic, economic and political Ukrainian terms, pocket dictionaries and detailed topographic maps covering the entire Ukraine were preparing to be published. The fact sheet also quoted head of the institute research department professor Kusel, who, referring to conversations in person with senior representatives of the German government, declared that the war would surely be. This document was dated June 10, 1940. At the same time, as noted by researchers of the Soviet intelligence activities, the legendary Richard Sorge radioed from Japan of a possible German attack against the Soviet Union five months later – on November, 18, 1940. Then, a week before the onset of war, Sorge uncovered the exact date – June, 22.

… Mykola Glushchenko was born in Novomoskovsk, Ekaterinoslav province (now Dnipropetrovsk region), on 17 September, 1901. In 1918 he graduated from the Commercial College in Yuzovka (Donetsk). Even then, he showed his talent for drawing, acquisitive mind, judiciousness, which pointed him out among his peers. Soon Gluschenko was deployed into the Volunteer Army under Denikin’s command. After some time, he blew in Poland with the remnants of the White Guard units. There he has got to internment camps, and then fled to Germany.

In Berlin, Mykola graduated from a private art school and then from the College of Fine Arts. His extraordinary abilities were noticed by influential representatives of the Ukrainian emigration. During his studies, the young artist was financially supported by Hetman Skoropadsky, former representative of the UNR in Berlin professor Smal-Stocki, writer Volodymyr Vynnychenko. At the same time, Oleksandr Dovzhenko, who worked at that time at the Soviet consulate in Berlin, helped Gluschenko to get a passport of the USSR.

After studying at the College of Fine Arts, Mykola moved to Paris. He gained his living by painting and after a while he was able to open his own art studio visiting by the Parisians, tourists, former compatriots. Soon, when the artist’s exhibitions of paintings successfully started, the studio has become a meeting place of intellectuals, government officials, leaders of the White émigré, and representatives of Ukrainian organizations abroad. The Austro-Hungarian Archduke Wilhelm von Habsburg – nephew of former Emperor Franz Josef of Austria – was a frequent visitor to the studio. During those coffee-meetings, where the latest developments in the arts, politics were discussed, forecasts for the future were expressed, discussions on various topics were held, Glushchenko was always in the high light. That was the very time during that period when the intelligence agent under the pseudonym Yarema started to send very valuable intelligence from Paris to Moscow. Only a few at the Center and at Paris residency of the Soviet foreign intelligence knew that it was Mykola Glushchenko, who worked under codename.

The artist helped the Soviet intelligence to get the secret drawings of two hundred five types of military equipment

One day a respectable and prosperous businessman Andre Mirabeau from Belgium, who previously was often in Paris, appeared in the studio, but this time upon the recommendation of mutual friends he decided to get acquainted with the talented artist. Almost immediately they have experienced close friendship, as the businessman had a fine taste in pictures and even tried to draw. For Gluschenko he was of interest as a valuable source of information: Mirabeau run around industrialists, military men, managers of financial institutions, diplomats from France, Germany, Belgium, England and other countries, was engaged in engineering and manufacturing development, including military one.

Close and targeted contacts with Mirabeau allowed Gluschenko to obtain the very important piece of intelligence. The archival materials run thus: “… he carried out a number of complex tasks for acquiring defense-relared scientific and technical information. As a result, the Soviet intelligence has got two hundred five drawings of military equipment types, such as aircraft engines for the fighters. ”

Once Gluschenko’s artistic talent has been of service to him in his intelligence related activities: it was necessary to make portrait sketches during the trial of Petliura’s murderer Samuel Shvartsbad. For some reason the Center needed images of Shvartsbad and his lawyer Torres. Gluschenko dealt with a task relatively easy. These pencil drawings have survived to this day. In addition, by order of Stalin Gluschenko executed works at the Soviet Embassy in France commissions – he painted portraits of Romain Rolland, Michel Cachin, Henri Barbusse, president of the society “France-USSR” Paul Signac and other prominent representatives of the French intellectuals. Gluschenko’s popularity as an artist grew day by day. At the exhibitions his paintings were exhibited next to the works of Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso. Glushchenko himself was personally acquainted with Louis Aragon, the Gluschenko’s studio has been visited by Mayakovsky and Bunin.

The reports of the Paris residency to Moscow disclose, that Gluschenko requested permission to return to the homeland. In one of them it is reported that: “Yarema explicitly asked to allow him to return to Ukraine. We are trying to prove that he has to stay in Paris for another year for completion of important intelligence tasks. He is extremely dissatisfied, says that he would not stand more than two months.” Ultimately, Glushchenko worked in France for another year.

On July, 1936 the artist and his family returned to the Soviet Union. In Moscow he with his wife and a child were allocated a room in a communal area of nine square meters. However, he took no notice of it, enjoyed life and was organizing the exhibition of his paintings in Kyiv.

Soon, a secret report came from Kyiv to NKVD: “According to Agathon, artist Glushchenko, who secretly contacted with members of the Ukrainian national-fascist organization of artists, came to Kiev. These contacts were covered by the exhibition of paintings, which was organized by him. Agathon has learned that Ukrainian fascist underground liaises with foreign Ukrainian counterrevolutionary groups through Gluschenko. In Moscow Gluschenko should establish contacts with the Russian anti-Soviet groups, as well as with the Trotskyites. He has their addresses and places of secret meeting. We continue the study of Gluschenko’s counter-revolutionary contacts. Captain of State Security Rahlis.”

However, as it turned out, in Kyiv they did not know that Glushchenko worked in the intelligence, just wanted to earn points for exposing the “enemies of the people”. Fortunately, the artist did not get into the mills of repressions. There is an inscription on the fabricated report opposite the Agathon’s codename: “Shot for a provocateur.”

Some fine art experts close to Glushchenko argue that allegedly in the 1920s, during his studies at the Berlin College of Fine Arts, Hitler himself took drawing lessons from him a couple of times. However, no documentary proof of evidence was found in the archives. But another episode from the life of Mykola Petrovich is absolutely authentic.

During the final day of the Soviet exhibition in Berlin, which was overseen by Glushchenko, it was attended by the top rung of the Third Reich, headed by the Foreign Minister Ribbentrop. On behalf of the Fuhrer he thanked everyone for good exhibition organization, some artists were awarded with diplomas and valuable gifts, and then, adressing Glushchenko, he said that Hitler appreciated his talent and considered him to be one of the best landscape painters of Europe and in memory of Glushchenko’s staying in Berlin gave him an album with his own watercolor paintings. After returning to Moscow Gluschenko handed this album over to the leadership of the intelligence. Soon Stalin himself wished to have a look at it. Only over one and a half years Hitler’s paintings were returned to Gluschenko. He kept them with him throughout his life, and in 1977, after his death, his wife, according to the testimony of art collector and close Gluschenkos’ friend Reznikov, allegedly gave the album for review to the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. Then it would seem to be of interest of someone from the leadership of the Council of Ministers. In any case, only one copy of the entire album of Hitler’s watercolors has survived to this very day.

The war put an end to Gluschenko’s intelligence activities. Later he had dealt only with creativity. However, under the pressure of leading and guiding role of the Communist Party he had to create works in the style of socialist realism. His paintings “The Execution of the Spanish revolutionaries”, “Lenin near the Communards’ Wall,” “Death of Civil War Hero Vasil Bozhenko”, “Defense of Moscow”, “Bukrinsky Bridgehead” and others appeared, but some of them were lost during the war. Shortly before his death, he selected 250 works, executed in 1950, intending to burn them. He said his wife, that he does not want them to be gambled on. The pictures were later found in the attic of his workshop, and the Ministry of Culture transferred them for storage to the museum, but without the right to be displayed in exhibitions.

According to colleagues and friends close to Glushchenko he strictly adhered to the daily routine. During the week and on weekends he was already in the studio at 9:00, at exactly 19.00 he sat at the dining table, at 22.00 he went to bed. Every Monday on his way to the studio he came to say hello to the Ministry of Culture staff. At the same time the latest issue of “L’Humanite” always looked out of his tweed jacket pocket.

In the last years of his life Mykola Glushchenko complained of poor hearing, but often had the use of it during fine art auctions. When asked, for example, whether he would sell canvas for 300 rubles, Gluschenko asked again: “At what price? 500? – You can have it”. Today every work of the Gluschenko’s brush is estimated at more than $ 5,000, and his early works in the style of impressionism are ten times more expensive.


Olexandr Skrypnyk,
the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine Press Office

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