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The Shield and the Sword of Oleksandr Svyatogorov

On December, 15 the legendary Soviet intelligence officer would have turned 100 years

Oleksandr Panteleymonovych died on June 22, 2008. Way back when the Victory Day he was going to visit the Foreign Intelligence Service’s office in the forest area, but he did not because he was taken ill. He wished to see his colleagues – war veterans, to see the museum exhibit once again. In a photographic array of Svyatogorov there is one picture of himself showing him in the uniform of a Soviet diplomat with a gilded army officer dagger. After the war members of our diplomatic corps were dressed up like that in order the winners would appeared in all their glory… The next is a picture of students and teaching staff of the Abwehr espionage training school in Lublin. It was scooped out by the reconnaissance and sabotage group commanded by Svyatogorov in 1944 in Poland.

It is detailed in the book “He Was Called Zorich”. Zorich – is one of Svyatogorov’s codenames of war period. However, Oleksandr Panteleimonovych told little on his post-war work as the intelligence officer. An exception was made for the Press Service of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine shortly before his death.

I extracted from my journalistic archives the outline of our conversation, which remained unpublished during lifetime of the legendary intelligence agent, had another read of it and decided not to change a thing…

- What life events cause the most vivid memories of yours? – I asked Oleksandr Panteleymonovych.

- Working as an intelligence officer abroad in the postwar period, – he replied without hesitation.

- And what about the war? – I did not believe it.

- Well, during the war there were many memorable events, dramatic battles, victories, operations. Nevertheless, everything was more or less clear there: that’s a visible enemy, and you need to defeat him. However, intelligence in peacetime, especially during the “Cold War”, – is quite another.

Therein bravery, valor and courage are not enough. It is necessary to use brain, constantly maintain and update professional skills – otherwise you will be quickly found out or out-smarted. It is necessary to exercise restraint and patience, be able to play different roles, share a common language with anyone, even unsympathetic to you.

You know, we had the best time while holding operational intelligence games with the foreign intelligence services!

- What type of training did you receive to do such job?

- Special training I’ve had since the war. Additionally, in Kiev I studied the peculiarities of running intelligence agents, including sleepers, dead drop exchange, counter surveillance and many other things. I worked on probation at the Foreign Ministry a few months. That is because then I had to perform the duties of attaché, Vice-Consul, Consul General in Bratislava, to hold other positions of responsibility. There was a series of interviews, including those at the highest level.

For instance, before my second departure to Czechoslovakia in 1953, Beria talked to me.

- What do you remember him for?

- I vividly remember a witty, cunning person standing before me. He asked again my name: “Are you Svyatogorov?” – “Yes, I am. I’m Svyatogorov”, – I answered.

He was interested in my knowing foreign languages. Assistants apparently, have something mixed up with papers and gave a wrong one. “So you know Italian?” – He asked. “No, – I answered, – I know Czech, Slovak, a little Polish, German.” He looked sternly at his assistant, threw him a prepared profile: “What do you fobbed me off a useless scrap of paper!” But he quickly calmed down, began to ask me on my previous work. I said that for a long time I performed tasks behind enemy lines in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Beria briefly outlined the tasks facing me and wished me success.

- Was it difficult to get used to the new role abroad?

- Working in intelligence is almost never easy. It helped that I personally knew many leaders of the Slovak National Uprising. During the war we managed to pull some of them out of the fascist dungeons, including William Shiroky, the chairman of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Furthermore, I was close to Gustav Husak, the future leader of the country.

Immediately after the war, those guerilla sworn brothers gained senior positions in the state. We continued to work together for the benefit of the brotherly people against the aggressive plans of the NATO military bloc.

- Was it a success?

- Let’s say, in the wake of a joint operation we managed to get secret codes of one of the foreign intelligence services, and to use them for two years.

- So what did you do in Germany?

- I was a staff member of the Authorized Representative ‘s Office of the KGB of the USSR at the GDR’s Ministry for State Security in Karlshorst. The Office was supervised by prominent Soviet intelligence officer Oleksandr Korotkov, with whom I was on good terms.

I was undercover as a colonel of the Soviet army. In fact, I had a lot of work linked to the intelligence: a few residents reported to me, and I was responsible for a total of several dozen agents. In order to hold meetings with some of them I had to go to West Berlin under a false identity and a certain legend. The Berlin Wall did not exist yet, and it was a bit easier. Though – not likely easier … Nothing was happening without a reason.

There were sensitive operations as well. I had to participate in some of them myself, later I learned about the other. In hindsight, some of those activities were controversial. But there was no escaping – time was far from simple: the so-called Berlin crisis, the threat of a new world war. The intelligence service was in there at the sharp end.

- Do you regret, that something was done wrong or failed to do, or that your priorities were totally screwed up?

- I did not do anything in the past to be ashamed of today. On the contrary, under conditions of acute ideological confrontation and work in emigre circles, my colleagues and I directed our main effort on providing the Soviet leadership with the comprehensive strategic information necessary to conduct complex negotiations with the West.

Our leadership had to know exactly about the plans and intentions of the opposing side so as to avoid open confrontation and not to cross the dangerous line. Such information was obtained and it allowed a reasonable compromise.

- But for all, not everything was going smoothly – you, among other staff members, were early terminated with forfeiture of seniority and pension …

- At that time our agent has remained in the West and admitted that he was working for the KGB. Do you remember the story of Bogdan Stashinsky? It occurred just during my stay in the GDR. Those events had broad international impact, there were internal squabbles within the KGB and our Berlin staff.

Khrushchev was very angry – there was a talk, that he was champing with rage. Each and all, who had something to do with that case, were suspended from work, laid off or put on trial. I even was detained not long at the pre-trial detention center Lefortovo. Then the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court has acquitted me, like some others.

- Acquitted of what?

- Of the fact that I had nothing to do with the situation connected with the Stashinsky’s defect to West Berlin. Incidentally, I had vehemently opposed to his residing abroad. But the spokesperson of the center said: “How can you? Not to trust such a heroic person who had done so much for the country!” He meant that Stashinsky had murdered Stepan Bandera. He ordered to stop conducting surveillance on Stashinsky and to cancel close custody. Stashinsky took advantage of this and went away.

Later, my colleague and I got into West Berlin and with pistols up our sleeves tried to hunt him down and shoot, even at the cost of our own lives. I would elude the grasp of the German police. I have decided for myself: if anything cropped up I would put a pistol to my head … But we failed to hunt down that bastard.

- How did all this turn out for you?

- My fault was not found, but I, as well as other participants in the case, had to leave office…

Although in the history of the Soviet intelligence even worse things happened, especially before the war, when the highly professional staff was withdrawn from abroad, innocently imprisoned, killed.

I had to go through great trials. But I do not blame anyone and I have no regrets. Intelligence is a very sensitive and subtle sphere. Sometimes it takes years and decades to comprehend, understand, get to the truth, to know everything about the event, draw correct conclusions. And often a riddle remains wrapped up in an enigma.

- What was life back then?

- Chairman of the KGB of Ukraine Nikitchenko was sympathetic and helped me to settle in. I worked for the secret department of the Institute of Cybernetics of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. I was involved into the interesting joint work with former colleagues – the creation of ciphers and codes and counterintelligence support of it. In general, I’ve been keeping busy. Later I rose to fame and honor, and received high awards from the hands of the President of Ukraine. My pension was restored in full.

- You are considered to be a prototype of hero-spy Alexander Belov – Johann Weiss from the movie “The Shield and the Sword”…

- I was one of prototypes – it is a generalized character. I know that the filmmakers consulted with several intelligence officers, who acted directly in the enemy’s camp, and studied their cases. Wearing German uniform and with German Army documents I have had to be on mission in Lublin, send our agents to Warsaw and Berlin under the guise of officers of the Wehrmacht as well. They told about their actions and feelings. That was primarily interesting to the creators of the film. They have used something or other.

- Have you ever met with actor Stanislav Lyubshin – Johann Weiss?

We have met after the film’s premiere in Kiev. I told him that I really liked the way he played. Some Kyiv newspaper even put a photo of our meeting. It’ s been a long time…

Biography on «2000»

Alexander Panteleimonovich Svyatogorov was born on December 15, 1913, in Kharkiv. He gained trade qualification at Zaporizhzhya Refractory Plant. During the Great Patriotic War he was preparing reconnaissance and sabotage groups and their infiltration into the enemy’s rear areas near Kharkiv, Voroshilovgrad, Stalingrad. In 1944-1945 he performed tasks in the occupied territories of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

He provided penetration into the Abwehr espionage training school in Lublin with the result that many Hitlerite agents were neutralized. Reconnaissance and sabotage group under his command was actively helping the participants in the Slovak National Uprising.

After the war he was an intelligence officer for European countries at the foreign intelligence service.

He lived in Kiev until the end of his lifetime. He retired at the rank of colonel. Awards include the orders of Red Star, Patriotic War – 2nd class, Bogdan Khmelnitsky – III degree, “For merits” – III degree, as well as the foreign awards: Polish Partizan Cross, Military Cross (Czechoslovakia), Order of Slovak National Uprising, Red Star of the CSSR, medals; received the highest departmental award – “The Honorable Officer of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine” badge.


Oleksandr Skrypnyk,
Head of the SZRU Press Office
 «2000», №50 (681)

The Shield and the Sword of Oleksandr Svyatogorov

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