Part IX. SMERSH After the War: 1945–46


In Europe and at Home

Although SMERSH existed for only a year after World War II, this was a time of fundamental changes. In Eastern Europe, the Soviet military formations known as fronts were reorganized into four groups of occupational troops, each with its own SMERSH counterintelligence directorate. These directorates, which in mid-1946 became MGB counterintelligence directorates, played a considerable role in the Sovietization of the occupied countries, as well as in the intelligence and counterintelligence fight against the former Western Allies. Romanov, a SMERSH officer, recalled the words of Colonel Georgii Yevdokimenko, a SMERSH/MGB official in Hungary: ‘For some people, perhaps, the war was over, but for us, [the] Chekists… the real war, to bring about the final destruction of the capitalist world, was only just beginning.’1


With the end of the war in Europe, the Soviet Union began the partial demobilization of its enormous 11.5-million-man army. The older soldiers were demobilized first. A veteran recalled: ‘When the first soldiers were demobilized and sent back from Germany, they were put in small train cars, two persons per car… Each aged serviceman took a cow, a huge bag of sugar, a bag of flour, some clothes, and so on. The second group of demobilized servicemen…didn’t have cows, but brought bags of foodstuffs. The third group brought even less.2

While secretly sending some of the troops to the Russian Far East in preparation for the war with Japan, the Soviets transformed the remaining troops in Europe into four groups of occupation forces (Table 27-1). SMERSH controlled the demobilization and changes. Before demobilization began, on GUKR’s instructions the third OKR departments within UKRs made an evaluation of every field officer and decided which officers should be sent to the reserve, which officers should be demoted to lower posts, and so on.3 Then special commissions, attached to the HQs of the four groups of forces in charge of demobilization, were created. Officers of the 1st OKR departments represented SMERSH in these commissions. The commissions made one of three decisions: ‘demobilize from the army’; ‘transfer to less important work’; or ‘be left on active service.’ All officers whose relatives were arrested in the 1930s or had participated in the ROA were demobilized into the reserve at once.


Along with checking all enlisted men, the GUKR also decided the fates of colonels, generals, and even marshals. Romanov recalled two coded messages from Moscow. One was from Abakumov: ‘Refrain from demobilizing into the reserve, personnel holding the rank of general or colonels serving as acting generals, unless you receive special instructions from us. Abakumov.’4 The second was from Nikolai Selivanovsky, Abakumov’s first deputy: ‘The following persons are to be demobilized either into the reserve or on to the retired list, according to the appended instructions.’ For some unknown reason, Romanov called Selivanovsky ‘Chernyshov’ in his book. Possibly, ‘Chernyshov’ was Selivanovsky’s alias during the war.

The changes covered also the field SMERSH units. The most capable operatives and investigators were transferred to the GUKR in Moscow, the rest were sent into reserve. Nikolai Mesyatsev, a SMERSH field operative now assigned to the 2nd GUKR Department, recalled: ‘In Lubyanka… my former co-workers at the Investigation Department had already been promoted to lieutenant colonels and colonels. Some of them looked at me in a haughty matter: I had left for the front as a captain and came back as a captain.’5

Under these circumstances, the war of Abakumov and Beria for the total control of UKRs in Europe intensified and Beria made his final, unsuccessful, attempt to subordinate SMERSH to the NKVD.

Abakumov Regains Control

On June 22, 1945, two weeks before Stalin and Beria arrived in Berlin to attend the Potsdam Conference, Abakumov wrote a long letter to Beria, complaining about Ivan Serov, Beria’s deputy and a deputy head on the matters of civilian administration of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany or SVAG headed by Marshal Georgii Zhukov.6 Serov constantly ordered the taking under NKVD control of important detainees arrested by SMERSH operatives, which Abakumov described as ‘acts of hooliganism’ against SMERSH. Abakumov also informed Beria of his instruction to Aleksandr Vadis, head of the UKR SMERSH of the 1st Belorussian Front, and his deputy Grigorii Mel’nikov, not to follow Serov’s orders without his (Abakumov’s) approval, as a countermeasure against Serov, and asked Beria to reprimand Serov.

Instead of answering Abakumov, on that same day Beria sent Stalin a plan for the reorganization of the work of NKVD plenipotentiaries.7 Beria proposed to keep Serov (and his staff) at Marshal Zhukov’s headquarters in Berlin and to appoint Abakumov’s deputy Pavel Meshik Plenipotentiary to Marshal Konev’s group of troops in Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, and Selivanovsky, Plenipotentiary to Marshal Rokossovsky’s troops in Poland. Major General Aleksandr Pavlov, head of the NKVD Rear Guard Troops at the 3rd Ukrainian Front, would be Plenipotentiary to Marshal Fyodor Tolbukhin’s troops in Romania and Bulgaria. The new plenipotentiaries would be responsible for all NKVD–NKGB–SMERSH routine work, would command the NKVD troops in their military areas, and would be in charge of all POWs and their transportation to the Soviet Union.

Stalin wrote on Beria’s report: ‘To Com.[rade] Beria. I agree. J. Stalin.’ But something went wrong, and only Serov was reappointed Plenipotentiary. The staffs of the other plenipotentiaries were disbanded on July 4, 1945, and their members were assigned to their previous jobs.8

As a consequence of Serov’s new appointment, the UKR SMERSH in Germany became subordinate to Serov. The embarrassed Abakumov, who deeply hated Serov (and the feeling was entirely mutual), ordered the head of this directorate, Vadis, to establish a network of SMERSH operational groups in Germany.9 Despite Serov’s protest to Beria, SMERSH departments were created under SVAG in all German counties, provinces, regions, and cities.10 These departments conducted surveillance of Soviet personnel, while the NKVD units were in charge of actions against the German population.

On July 9, 1945, the heads of all security structures received military ranks. Beria was promoted to marshal, while Abakumov was given the rank of colonel general, as were Beria’s three deputies (Serov, Sergei Kruglov, and Vasilii Chernyshev) and Bogdan Kobulov, NKGB first deputy Commissar.11 Vsevolod Merkulov became an army general.

In August, Abakumov continued his attack on Serov and Beria, and made a direct appeal to Stalin.12 Knowing Stalin’s sensitivity on the question of Party leadership, Abakumov cited a report to him from Vadis that was strongly critical of both Zhukov and Serov. Vadis had left Germany; he was beyond their reach and, therefore, could write openly. He claimed that Zhukov and Serov had tried to control the political structures of SVAG, while they should have been controlled from Moscow by the Main Political Directorate. Vadis also reported that Zhukov had awarded Serov the Gold Star for Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest military award, for making him a favorite. Abakumov’s statement that ‘many consider Zhukov to be the top candidate for Defense Commissar’ was, of course, aimed at showing Zhukov’s desire to replace Stalin as Defense Commissar, which obviously would not be well received by Stalin.

After this letter, Stalin likely spoke to Beria about Serov because the next day Beria sent a letter to Stalin defending Serov, saying that SMERSH operatives should be subordinate to Serov.13 But it was too late. Apparently, Stalin had already chosen Abakumov, and not Beria, to head state security in the near future. On August 20, 1945, Stalin signed one of the last GKO orders (No. 9887) appointing Beria chairman of the secret State Committee No. 1, thus making him head of the Soviet atomic bomb project.14 Later Beria was also responsible for State Committees No. 2 (jet engines) and No. 3 (radio location equipment).15 Stalin needed Abakumov and his men as watchdogs. Soon Abakumov started collecting compromising materials on Marshal Zhukov, the conqueror of Berlin and ruler of Germany.

Marshal Zhukov and General Serov

In Germany, Marshal Georgii Zhukov became head of SVAG and commander in chief of Soviet troops.16 The 1st and 2nd Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian fronts were reorganized as the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany or GSOVG. The UKR of GSOVG, headed by Vadis, reported not to Zhukov as commander in chief, but to Abakumov, as SMERSH’s head. Vadis soon was transferred first to Bulgaria and then to the Transbaikal Front, and Pavel Zelenin, former head of the UKR of the 3rd Belorussian Front, succeeded him (Table 27-1). UKR GSOVG’s headquarters were in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin.17

With these reorganizations Abakumov began reporting to Stalin about Zhukov. This was not something new. Since 1939, the NKVD’s OO, then UOO and SMERSH, had been collecting compromising materials involving Zhukov. The operational file was coded ‘Uzel’ (Knot).18 In 1942, Abakumov’s UOO set up listening devices on the telephones at Zhukov’s apartment and dacha; this action required a direct order from Stalin. But in July 1945, after arriving in Berlin, Abakumov began personally arresting Zhukov’s subordinates.19 Most likely, he was acting on Stalin’s order again. However, Zhukov ordered the release of his generals and threatened to arrest Abakumov.

Abakumov first reported to Stalin on Zhukov’s attempts to stop his troops’ atrocities against German civilians. In June 1945, a joint order from Zhukov and his deputy, Lieutenant General Konstantin Telegin, stated: ‘Local authorities, peasant communities, and individuals continue to complain about numerous acts of violence, rape, and robbery committed by men in Red Army uniforms… Women do not mow hay or work in the fields, for fear of being raped or robbed.’20 Zhukov concluded: ‘If order is not established…within three to five days… I will make serious decisions regarding all military and political personnel.’

On September 9, Zhukov issued another strong order: ‘Marauding, hooliganism, and violence against the German population have not stopped; on the contrary, crimes committed by servicemen have increased. This behavior… must stop immediately at all costs.’21 Zhukov ordered all commanders to live together with their subordinates and to completely prevent all contact with the local population.

Stalin did not support Zhukov’s measures, and wrote to him eleven days later: ‘Yesterday I learned from SMERSH [i.e., from Abakumov]…about the order of September 9… This order is harmful because it fails to improve discipline, and, on the contrary, breaks it and discredits commanders in the eyes of privates. Furthermore, if this order is seen by foreign army heads, they will judge the Red Army as an army of marauders. I ask that you immediately withdraw your order… I advise you to improve political work within the GSOVG troops and to use the courts of honor more frequently instead of scaring men with your orders to haul officers into the courts as common criminals.’22 Stalin preferred covering up the atrocities to fighting against them.

Zhukov followed Stalin’s order at once. Of course, measures such as courts of honor could not help, and a month later a plenum of the Supreme Court in Moscow issued a directive with the long, cumbersome title ‘On the responsibility of servicemen of the Occupational Troops for Committing Crimes, According to Wartime Laws.’23 It ordered the court martial of any serviceman who left the barracks for more than three hours without official permission. But the civilian complaints continued, and to stem the flow, a year later Serov simply ordered the organization of several show trials against complainants in each German province with the sentences published in the local press.24 After this, Germans were afraid to report the atrocities.

Besides the atrocities, in 1945 looting in Germany by Soviet servicemen, including SMERSH operatives, became almost epidemic. Strictly speaking, Stalin’s policy created this problem. In December 1944, Stalin issued the first order regulating the sending of parcels by servicemen from occupied territories.25 A private was allowed to send parcels up to 5 kg in weight each month, while an officer could send 10 kg, and a general, 16 kg. From June 9, 1945 onwards, privates were permitted to take whatever they could carry in their arms, officers could utilize a bicycle or motorcycle, and generals could use a car to transport whatever they wanted.26 Moreover, officers and generals could buy pianos, radios, hunting guns, watches, furs, rugs, cameras, and so on, for almost nothing. Even so, the looting continued. On September 25, 1945, Abakumov ordered:

The Main Directorate ‘SMERSH’ has information that some counterintelligence units have considerable quantities of unofficially acquired vehicles and various trophy properties.

These properties were not registered with and evaluated by ‘SMERSH’ organs. This leads to their inappropriate usage and storage and creates the conditions for violations of the law.

To establish order in the keeping, accounting, and use of properties in ‘SMERSH’s’ possession, I order:

The immediate organization of all SMERSH properties. Detailed descriptions should be reported to the Main Directorate ‘SMERSH.’ All properties should be sealed and their use forbidden…

Heads of ‘SMERSH’ organs who continue to hold unaccounted properties, or to embezzle valuables, will be court-martialed regardless of their positions.27

Abakumov did not apply this order to himself: a search of his two huge apartments after his arrest in 1951 yielded a long list of items stolen in Germany.

Despite a clear preference for Abakumov, Stalin did not dismiss Serov, and Serov continued to report on SMERSH in Germany. In September 1946, he described the situation during 1945 in a letter to Stalin claiming that Abakumov ‘used to call Vadis or his deputy Sidnev on the phone and demand that they not report to [Serov] or follow his orders. [Abakumov] threatened them with reprimands and even arrest.’28 Serov also complained about SMERSH’s activity:

During the last period, when ‘Smersh’ was no longer subordinate to me in operational work, I received numerous reports about its outrageous activities, and I always informed Zelenin [head of the UKR of GSOVG] about these cases and even reported common occurrences to the Ministry [MGB]…

For instance, in the evening, drunken ‘Smersh’ officers went to a field near the city of Halle to carry out death sentences decreed by the Military Tribunal. Because the officers were drunk, they buried the bodies carelessly. Germans passing along on a nearby road in the morning saw two hands and a head sticking out of the ground. They dug out the corpses, saw bullet holes in the backs of their heads [a Soviet method of execution], gathered witnesses, and reported to the local police. We were forced to take urgent measures.

The same year two German women, arrested [i.e., kidnapped] in the British zone of Berlin, escaped from ‘Smersh’s’ custody in the division commanded by General V.[asilii] Stalin [Stalin’s son]. After their escape, they told the British that they had been arrested by the Russians. ‘Smersh’ officers tried to conceal this fact, but General V. Stalin found out and informed me about the situation. We took the necessary measures.29

Although Serov did not identify the particular ‘urgent measures’ that were taken in the first case, the Germans who found the bodies were most likely arrested and sent to a concentration camp. In the second case, since Vasilii Stalin was involved and had probably told the story to his father, the guilty SMERSH officers were most likely arrested and tried.

Zhukov Leaves Germany

Vasilii Stalin’s complaints to his father about the poor quality of Soviet planes compared with American aircraft led to SMERSH’s last arrests of high-ranking generals, to Zhukov’s downfall and to the discrediting of Georgii Malenkov.30 The story began in 1943 when air force commander in chief Aleksandr Novikov complained to Stalin about the undisciplined behavior of Vasilii, Stalin’s 21-year-old son, who was a military pilot. Vasilii was unhappy with Novikov’s order that he fly only one plane as the other pilots did, and not three planes, as he wanted.

That year Stalin promoted Vasilii from captain to colonel—two ranks higher. Soon Vasilii was appointed commander of an air force corps, but three months later the Air Force Military Council dismissed him when an officer was killed during one of his drinking parties, and eight others, including Vasilii, were wounded. Stalin approved the dismissal: ‘Colonel Stalin is dismissed from the position of corps commander for drunkenness and debauchery and for corrupting the corps.’31 Vasilii continued his service in 1944, but Stalin did not talk to him until the Potsdam Conference. Vasilii accompanied his father to Potsdam and used that opportunity to complain about Novikov.

In early December 1945, Novikov (now Chief Marshal of Aviation and Commander of the Air Force, having been twice awarded the Gold Star for Hero of the Soviet Union) did not sign a document approving the promotion of the 24-year-old Vasilii to the rank of major general. On New Year’s Eve, Stalin suddenly called Novikov at home to ask why.33 Novikov explained that Vasilii was too young and had a poor professional education, having graduated from an aviation school rather than the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy. Stalin ordered Novikov to put Vasilii’s name on the general list of promotions.

After this conversation, the frustrated Novikov called Zhukov and told him of Stalin’s demand. Zhukov said: ‘You can’t do anything, this is an order!’ Since Zhukov’s telephone was tapped, SMERSH now knew there was a connection between Novikov and Zhukov.

As a first step, SMERSH operatives arrested Marshal Sergei Khudyakov while he was on his way to Moscow from the Far East.34 Khudyakov was an Armenian, and his real name was Armenak Khanferyants. During the war with Germany, he had been Novikov’s deputy; then he had commanded the 12th Air Force Army that successfully fought against the Japanese. During the investigation, SMERSH operatives put Khudyakov in Sukhanovo Prison. Accused of having been a British spy, Khudyakov (under torture) signed testimony that Aviation Industry Commissar Aleksei Shakhurin and his subordinates had conducted activities to sabotage aircraft production. His statement also mentioned Novikov, Zhukov, and some others.

Stalin read the transcript of Khudyakov’s interrogation, and on December 29, he instructed the Politburo to dismiss Shakhurin from his post. Shakhurin was accused of looting for bringing in seven cars from Germany, and Stalin soon ordered Abakumov to arrest Shakhurin on charges of building defective planes. On April 4, 1946, Abakumov’s operatives arrested Shakhurin. The arrests of the other members of the so-called ‘Aviators Case,’ whose names Khudyakov was forced to mention under torture, continued through April (Appendix I, see As a result, Aleksandr Repin (Chief Engineer of the Air Force and Novikov’s deputy); Nikolai Seleznyov (who during the war headed the Main Directorate of the Air Force in charge of ordering military equipment); Nikolai Shimanov (a member of the Air Force Military Council); and two administrators at the Personnel Directorate of the Central Committee, A. V. Budnikov (head of the department that managed the building of airplanes) and G. M. Grigoryan (head of the department that managed the manufacture of airplane motors), ended up in Lubyanka Prison.35

On April 11, Stalin sent a letter to the Politburo members and the newly appointed heads of the military aviation industry, accusing Shakhurin and the other arrestees of accepting, during the war, newly built military planes that had defects in exchange for being rewarded for having a high number of new planes in the air force. The letter ended with the statement: ‘Front pilots helped us to discover this affair. The guilty have already been arrested—Shakhurin, Repin, and Seleznyov, as well as a member of the Air Force Military Council, Shimanov. Testimonies of the arrested are attached. Secretary of the Central Committee J. Stalin.’36 In fact, there were no ‘front pilots’ except Vasilii Stalin, who complained to his father about Novikov, while the attached ‘testimonies’ had been falsified by Abakumov’s investigators and signed by the arrestees under torture. In support of Stalin’s accusations, a special commission headed by Nikolai Bulganin concluded that the air force had accepted and used newly built military planes that had defects.

On April 22, 1946, a group of SMERSH operatives arrived in Novikov’s apartment. This was the last arrest Abakumov made as head of SMERSH. Novikov’s daughter Svetlana recalled:

Abakumov himself showed up during the search [of the apartment]. Behaving like the owner of the apartment, he went through all rooms, inspecting the whole interior. Apparently, he wanted to take something. He came up to the radio-record player machine, the most advanced technological achievement of the time. He put a record on the player and listened to the music, then stepped back. Obviously, he did not like the machine: the sound was not good, and the machine did not look great. He did not look at us [Novikov’s family members]; we were useless to him. He strolled through the rooms one more time and left, clearly dissatisfied.37

It was common that while arresting a person and searching his room or apartment, security officers grabbed some valuables for themselves. After Novikov had been arrested, Vasilii Stalin took Novikov’s dacha (country house). Novikov and all the arrested generals were deprived of their military ranks and awards.

Abakumov put Aleksandr Leonov, head of the GUKR’s Investigation Department, and two of his ruthless deputies, Mikhail Likhachev and Vladimir Komarov, in charge of the investigation. Additionally, Aleksandr Chernov, head of SMERSH’s Secretariat, and his deputy Yakov Broverman, wrote falsified interrogation transcripts. Likhachev quickly reduced Novikov to ‘a state of physical and moral depression.’38 Another arrestee, Aleksandr Repin, later described Likhachev’s methods: ‘From the first day of my arrest I was deprived of sleep. I was interrogated day and night… After two or three days of this regime… I was reduced to a state where I would give any testimony to stop this torture.’39

Later Novikov told his daughter that he was interrogated during the nights until 5 a.m.40 Then he was forced to have a drink laced with a sleeping drug. A mere hour later, at 6 a.m., all prisoners, including Novikov, were forced to get up. This treatment continued from April 22–30 and from May 4–8.

But even during that hour between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Novikov was not able to sleep normally, because a 500-watt light bulb was left constantly on in the cell. Prisoners were forbidden to turn over onto their bellies and hide from the light. After spending six years in prisons, for the rest of his life Novikov always covered his face with a handkerchief before going to sleep.

Soon the real target of the case was revealed: Marshal Zhukov. Abakumov personally forced Novikov to sign a false statement implicating Zhukov.41 A letter from Novikov to Beria, dated April 2, 1953, describes this document:

In a state of deep depression, and exhausted by interrogations that continued without interruption for sleep or rest, I signed a protocol [transcript] of my interrogation, concocted by investigator Likhachev, in which I admitted being guilty of everything I was accused of…

During the investigation Abakumov interrogated me several times. Investigator Likhachev was always present. Abakumov cursed me using unprintable swear words, abused my human dignity, threatened to shoot me, to arrest my family, and so forth…

In the presence of investigator Likhachev he said I had to sign a statement addressed to I. V. Stalin that was already written and typed…

Likhachev gave me pages to sign, one by one… The statement, as I remember it, said that I had conducted criminal actions while working in the Air Force…Then it presented various lies that implicated Malenkov, a Central Committee Politburo member, Marshal Zhukov, and Serov, deputy Interior Minister, as facts that I supposedly knew.42

The mention of Malenkov in the statement was no accident, as the case was part of Stalin’s complicated game to reduce Malenkov’s power because of his GKO coalition with Beria since 1944.43

The statement that Likhachev forced Novikov to sign also included a paragraph about Vasilii Stalin:

Zhukov…supposedly takes care of Vasilii Stalin like a father. However, the reality is different. Recently, before my arrest, I was in Zhukov’s office. I told him that, apparently, Vasilii Stalin would soon be appointed Inspector of the Air Force. I said I didn’t like this appointment and also said other bad things about Vasilii. As we were alone, Zhukov immediately responded with unprintable swearing and other disgusting remarks about Vasilii Stalin, much worse than anything I said.44

Later in Likhachev’s office, Novikov ‘was given some typed material… and forced to rewrite it by hand, which took between five and seven hours.’45 This way the concocted transcript would look like Novikov’s ‘personal testimony,’ and could be presented to Stalin.

Like Novikov, Shakhurin and Shimanov were also reduced to ‘a state of physical and moral depression.’ Shimanov’s real ‘guilt’ may have been his participation in the Air Force Military Council meeting that dismissed Vasilii Stalin in May 1943. Abakumov forced Shakhurin and Shimanov to sign false statements addressed to Stalin. Stalin ordered copies of all statements and interrogation transcripts to be sent to every Politburo member. Thus a trap for Zhukov was set up.

On March 1, 1946, the Council of Commissars approved Vasilii Stalin’s promotion to Major General. Vyacheslav Molotov personally called Vasilii during the night to congratulate him. However, Vasilii was so drunk that at first he could not understand the news.

The same month Stalin summoned Zhukov to Moscow, where he was appointed commander in chief of the Ground Troops, as well as deputy Defense Minister. Army General Vasilii Sokolovsky, his deputy in Germany, succeeded Zhukov as Commander of GSOVG. Pavel Zelenin continued as head of the Counterintelligence Directorate of GSOVG.

On March 15, Malenkov, previously deputy chairman of the Council of Commissars, was not reinstalled in the new government’s Council of Ministers. However, three days later he and Beria became full members of the Politburo. On April 30, Novikov signed the final copy of ‘his’ statement in Abakumov’s office. Apparently this document affected Malenkov’s fate, because a week later the Politburo dismissed Malenkov from his position as a Central Committee secretary. The disgrace was not complete—two weeks later he was appointed Chairman of the Special Committee for Rocket Technology, the second most important military project after the Atomic Project headed by Beria. But Malenkov was sent out of Moscow to Kazakhstan until August 1946, when he was finally appointed Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers (i.e., Stalin’s deputy). In 1948, he was reappointed secretary of the Central Committee. However, Malenkov never forgot Stalin’s brief disfavor, and he blamed Abakumov for organizing the Aviators Case.

On Stalin’s order, during April–May 1946 the Politburo members and heads of the aviation industry periodically received Abakumov’s reports on the investigation entitled ‘Summaries of the Results of Interrogations.’46 Aleksandr Poskrebyshev, head of Stalin’s secretariat, personally sent these ‘summaries’ to the addressees. For every aviation-industry addressee, the receiving of a new ‘summary’ was a personal threat. It was clear that if he did not please the dictator, his name would eventually appear in the records of interrogations and then he would share the fate of the previous arrestees.

On May 10–11, 1946, six days after SMERSH was merged with the MGB and Abakumov became MGB Minister, the Military Collegium chaired by Vasilii Ulrikh sentenced Novikov, Shakhurin, and the three other defendants to four to seven years, and two Party functionaries to two years in prison—an unusually lenient punishment for these crimes. All of them were charged with the ‘abuse of power and negligence of duties’ (Article 193-17a). Additionally, the properties of the condemned were confiscated. Immediately after the session Ulrikh sent Stalin a copy of the verdict marked ‘Top Secret.’47

As Molotov recalled later, Novikov and Shakhurin were guilty of making technical modifications to planes ‘in violation of the Politburo’s decision to prohibit any unauthorized alterations in the design of aircraft already operational in the air force.’48 In other words, specialists were forbidden to make professional adjustments in aircraft design after the Politburo had made its decision and the perpetrators were punished as criminals. Novikov was released in 1952, while those who remained imprisoned were released soon after Stalin’s death.

Khudyakov was held in MGB investigation prisons until April 1950, when he was sentenced to death and shot, with Stalin’s approval.49 In January 1951, his wife and two children were arrested as family members of a traitor to the Motherland. The OSO of the MGB sentenced them to exile in the Krasnoyarsk Province in Siberia. After Stalin’s death they were allowed to go back to Moscow, but their former apartment was occupied by the family of an MGB officer.

Zhukov’s new appointment, shortly before his downfall, was a typical Stalin trick. Already on June 1, 1946, at a High Military Council meeting, Stalin criticized Zhukov for his behavior in Germany and accused him of attempted plotting. Zhukov was dismissed and appointed Commander of the Odessa Military District, an unimportant position. Marshal Ivan Konev replaced him as commander in chief of the Ground Troops and deputy Defense Minister. Eight days later Stalin signed an additional top-secret order denouncing Zhukov.50 Stalin, Bulganin, and Vasilevsky prepared the text accusing Zhukov even of failure to conquer Berlin in time.

However, Stalin did not order Zhukov’s arrest, possibly due to Zhukov’s popularity among war veterans. The story continued two years later when Abakumov arrested Zhukov’s former subordinates, including General Telegin, for looting and corruption, and presented Stalin with more material on Zhukov.

In Austria and Hungary

There were no conflicts between SMERSH and the NKVD in the other Soviet occupation zones. By the end of the war, troops of the 3rd Ukrainian Front, with its UKR under Pyotr Ivashutin, occupied most of Austria and established its HQ in Vienna. At the end of May 1945, the troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front began being relocated from Germany to Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Five armies of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, including two Romanian armies, joined them, and on June 10, all of these troops were renamed the Central Group of Military Forces (Tsentral’naya gruppa voisk or TsGV).51

Czechoslovakia was more fortunate: by December 1, 1945, both the Soviet and American troops (the latter had occupied the western part of the country) were withdrawn from its territory. However, Czechoslovakia was not left without an oversight of Soviet security services: on April 15, 1945, Ivan Chichaev, a long-term and experienced NKVD/NKGB agent, was appointed Soviet Envoy to Prague.

The TsGV’s HQ was located in the picturesque town of Baden, 26 kilometers from Vienna, while the HQ’s branch was in Budapest. Marshal Ivan Konev became TsGV commander in chief and Supreme Commissar of Austria. In April 1946, Konev was called back to Moscow, and in May 1946, Army General Vasilii Urasov replaced Konev in Vienna. Nikolai Korolev, former head of the UKR of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, headed the Military Counterintelligence Directorate (UKR) of the TsGV (Table 27-1). For secrecy, until 1946 the whole TsGV was called ‘Konev’s outfit,’ and its UKR was known as ‘Korolev’s outfit.’52

The HQ in Baden (its mailing address was ‘Army Unit No. 32750’) occupied a former high school building in the center of the town, while the Counterintelligence Directorate was located in several neighboring villas. An operational NKVD battalion, attached to the UKR, was stationed in another part of the town.53

The basements of the UKR buildings were turned into investigation prisons. Nicholas Nagy-Talavera, a former 18-year-old prisoner who had survived previous imprisonment in Auschwitz, later recalled:

The prison in Baden was very primitive, but very carefully done, in a former sanatorium-hotel, with a basement. Upstairs were the investigation cells with the officers, and they put you down in the basement when the examination was over…

The cells were of various sizes, but always overflowing. Regardless of how big or small they were, there were always more people than there were supposed to be.54

During a 59-day investigation, Nagy-Talavera was mercilessly tortured. ‘I still have scars from this torture—burns,’ he said in 1971.55

In Budapest, the OKR SMERSH/MGB was located in a notorious building at 60 Andrássy Boulevard, previously occupied by the HQ of the dreadful Fascist Arrow Cross Party and then by the equally feared Communist security service, the AVO/AVH. Currently, this building houses a museum called ‘House of Terror,’ which reminds Hungarians of the totalitarian past of their country, and of the Soviet occupation.

In addition to the UKR of the TsGV, there were two separate operational SMERSH/MGB groups permanently based in Budapest and Vienna. These groups had names of inspectorates attached to the Allied Control Commissions (ACCs). These international commissions were established, in theory, to orchestrate the Allied control of postwar management in the defeated former Axis countries. In fact, Soviet military representatives dominated the ACCs, and the commissions became a tool of the Sovietization of the East European countries. SMERSH officers of the inspectorates were called ‘inspectors.’

In Hungary the ACC was organized in March 1945 and was formally chaired by Marshal Kliment Voroshilov. However, the marshal remained in Moscow for the most part, leaving his deputy, Lieutenant General Vladimir Sviridov, in charge of all ACC affairs.56Mikhail Belkin, former head of the UKR of the 3rd Baltic Front, headed the Inspectorate in Budapest. Later Nikolai Velikanov, former head of the OKR SMERSH of the 52nd Army (1st Ukrainian Front), replaced Belkin. Georgii Yevdokimenko, formerly Belkin’s deputy at the 3rd Baltic Front, was deputy head of the Inspectorate in Budapest. Later, from June 1947 to March 1950, Belkin headed the UKR MGB of the TsGV, and in this capacity he supervised the organization of the show trial of the prominent Hungarian Communist politician Laszlo Rajk, in Budapest in 1949.57

In Vienna, the ACC for Austria was established later, on July 24, 1945. Before June the Soviets simply did not allow Allied military forces to enter the city. In April, the new provisional government headed by the Austrian socialist leader Karl Renner was formed under Soviet supervision. During July 1945, the Allied governments accepted the division of Vienna and the whole of Austria into four zones: Soviet, American, British and French. The central part of Vienna became an International Zone with its Allied Commandants’ Office stationed in the historical Palace of Justice. Not until October 1 did the Western Allies recognize Renner’s government.

Colonel General Zheltov, deputy Supreme Commissar of Austria, headed the Soviet part of the ACC.58 He placed his headquarters in the Hotel Imperial, while his staff lived in the requisitioned Grand Hotel. These were the most luxurious hotels in the city. Grigorii Bolotin-Balyasnyi and then Nikolai Rozanov, both continuing to be Abakumov’s assistants, headed the Inspectorate of Zheltov’s ACC group. This inspectorate mostly collected information from agents about the garrisons in the American and British zones of the city. Interestingly, in October 1945, Yurii Pokrovsky, head of the Legal Department of Zheltov’s group, was appointed deputy Soviet Chief Prosecutor in Nuremberg.

To entertain Red Army officers in Vienna, the Soviet Officers Club (Dom Ofitserov) was opened in a wing of the Schönbrunn Palace. In 1830, Emperor Franz Josef I was born in this wing and he died there in 1916. The Soviet military authorities left intact the interior decoration in the wing, and used it for big parties given to impress Western diplomats and for meetings. Ernst Kolman, a Czech mathematician who became a Soviet Communist Party functionary, recalled that at the end of 1945 he gave a lecture on the political situation in Czechoslovakia to a military audience, including SMERSH officers, in Vienna.59 The lecture took place in Franz Josef’s throne hall.


At the end of the war Poland was occupied by Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky’s 2nd Belorussian Front, which on May 29, 1945 became the Northern Group of Military Forces (Severnaya gruppa voisk or SGV).60 On June 24, Rokossovsky commanded the Victory Parade at Red Square in Moscow. Later, from 1949 to 1956, he was Polish Minister of Defense, Deputy Chairman of the Polish Council of Ministers, and a member of the Politburo of the Polish Communist Party. In June 1945, Yakov Yedunov, former head of the UKR of the 2nd Belorussian Front, became head of the Military Counterintelligence Directorate of the SGV. The SGV headquarters were in the town of Legnica (formerly German Liegnitz), an area soon called ‘Little Moscow’ by the local Poles.

Until March 1946, there were additional SMERSH and NKVD structures in Poland. Up to July 4, 1945, Abakumov’s deputy Meshik was NKVD Plenipotentiary to the 1st Ukrainian Front and deputy commander in charge of civilian administration for this front in the part of Poland occupied by the 1st Ukrainian Front’s troops. From March to August 1945, Meshik was also Adviser to the Ministry of Public Administration of the Provisional Polish Government. At the same time, in March–April 1945, Serov, NKVD Plenipotentiary to the 1st Belorussian Front, was also NKVD Adviser to the newly formed Polish Ministry of Public Security.61

On August 20, 1945, Meshik’s SMERSH career ended with his appointment as deputy head of the 1st Main Directorate subordinate to the Sovnarkom.62 This Directorate, headed by former Commissar for Munitions Boris Vannikov, was charged with building the atomic bomb.

In Poland, Nikolai Selivanovsky continued as NKVD Plenipotentiary of the 4th Ukrainian Front until July 1945, with fifteen NKVD regiments at his disposal. In addition, on April 27, he replaced Serov as NKVD Adviser to the Polish Ministry of Public Security. Selivanovsky, who was responsible for the final destruction of the Armija Krajowa, had sent Beria eighteen detailed reports about his activities up to October 1945.63 He also helped to create a Soviet-type security service in Poland.

During Selivanovsky’s presence in Poland, SMERSH and the NKVD used the infamous Auschwitz as a concentration camp for German POWs and Soviet repatriates. Nicola Sinevirsky, who in June 1945 visited the camp with a group of operatives of the 2nd Department of the UKR of the 4th Ukrainian Front, recalled:

In the ‘brick camp,’ the first gas chamber was still intact… Today the ‘brick camp’ is the home of German war prisoners. The ‘wooden camp’ [with its four gas chambers] serves as the home of Russian repatriates—about twenty thousand of them. They are tightly guarded by sentries, marching day and night around the camp. SMERSH men, commanded by about fifty officers, were also working among them around the clock. The attitude of SMERSH men, which represented the real attitude of the Soviets toward these people, became worse and more degraded every day.64

Between October 1945 and March 1946, Selivanovsky’s deputy, Semyon Davydov, signed all reports to Beria, and on March 20, 1946, Selivanovsky sent his last report from Poland. In April 1946, Selivanovsky, now back in Moscow, was reinstalled as Abakumov’s deputy, while Davydov became the MVD/MGB Adviser in Poland.65

Bulgaria and Romania

After Marshal Fyodor Tolbukhin’s 3rd Ukrainian Front was relocated from Austria to Bulgaria and Romania, it became the Southern Group of Troops (Yuzhnaya gruppa voisk or YuGV), with headquarters in Sofia.66 Tolbukhin also chaired the ACC in Bulgaria and Romania.67 Major General Aleksei Voul, former deputy head of the UKR SMERSH of the 3rd Ukrainian Front and now deputy head of the UKR SMERSH of the YuGV, also headed the Inspectorate in Sofia (Table 27-1). The Soviet staff of the ACC included four generals, a vice admiral, and 100 officers; the rest were rank-and-file staffers—a total of 270 members.68 By comparison, the British section consisted of 110 members; of these, 24 were officers, and the head of the section, Major General Walter Hayes Oxley, was the only general. The American ACC section consisted of 60 members with the only general, Major General John A. Crane, as its head. It arrived in Sofia in November 1944, and in March 1946, Major General Walter M. Robertson replaced General Crane.

In fact, Colonel General Sergei Biryuzov, commander of the 37th Army stationed in Bulgaria and Tolbukhin’s deputy chair, was in charge of the ACC work in Bulgaria. Lieutenant General Aleksandr Cherepanov, Tolbukhin’s assistant in the ACC and the Soviet military adviser to the Bulgarian Army (who later served as ACC chair from May 1947 till May 1948), wrote in his memoirs:

Biryuzov…was a decisive, tough and demanding commander, sometimes rigorous, complementing well the restrained and gentle F. I. Tolbukhin…

S. S. Biryuzov was considerably younger than Oxley, Crane, and Robertson. However, his official position was much higher than that of these generals and he was much more mature. At first General Crane tried to stress his own ‘importance.’ Biryuzov, on the other hand, behaved with natural dignity. This forced the Anglo-American representatives to admit that Biryuzov was the de facto ACC head.

After work, the Soviet and western ACC members used to meet unofficially. S. S. Biryuzov liked to invite everybody to the concerts of our military ensemble of dancers and singers. Also, we used to watch together documentary films and movies sent from the Soviet Union, United States, and England.69

The American ACC members remembered Soviet receptions differently: ‘Efforts were made to get an American drunk in order to pump him. The most familiar tactic was to have a Russian group at a reception insist that the American drink separately with each, or at a table a Russian might be served water in a liquor glass while the American got vodka.’70 Undoubtedly, SMERSH officers, whom the Americans could not identify since they wore no special insignias, attended the receptions.

William Donovan, OSS Director, and other American officials conducted long negotiations with Pavel Fitin, head of the NKGB’s Foreign Intelligence, on the possibility of attaching OSS teams in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to the American ACC delegations.71 Biryuzov was against the presence of the American and especially British intelligence groups in Bulgaria, and in December 1944 a small new OSS team that arrived along with the ACC section a month earlier was forced to leave Sofia.

Stalin used Biryuzov and his ACC as a tool for reducing the involvement of the former Allies in Bulgarian politics, which were completely controlled by the Soviet Politburo through Bulgarian Communists.72 In November 1944, Biryuzov wrote to the Bulgarian prime minister: ‘From now on, any contact between the Allied countries and the Bulgarian government…will go only through the…[Soviet] heads of the Allied Control Commission… Any other appeal [to the Bulgarian government]…including the appeals from the other members of the Allied countries, is not allowed [to proceed].’73 A few years later, from 1953–54, Biryuzov was appointed commander and chief Commissar of Austria.

Lieutenant General Vladislav Vinogradov, ACC deputy chair, chaired the ACC in Bucharest. Pyotr Timofeev, one of Abakumov’s assistants, headed the Inspectorate of this ACC (Table 27-1). Vinogradov’s deputy, Colonel General Ivan Susaikin, used to tell his Red Army subordinates about the task of the ACC: ‘The world revolution is moving to the west. Our [Soviet] troops are here to help the Romanian people to follow the Socialist way of developing their country.’74

Unusually for a Red Army general, Vinogradov was well educated and knew several languages—German, English, French, Romanian, and even Latin and Greek—and, therefore, could easily converse with the Allied members of the ACC. Also, he was an accomplished chess master and had authored articles about the game of chess. However, like Biryuzov, Vinogradov had no problem giving orders to the local government. In December 1944, following the GKO order, he handed a draft of the decision written in the name of the Romanian government, to the Romanian prime minister.75 In fact, this was an order to intern the whole adult population of German civilians in Romania in preparation for sending them to the Soviet Union for forced labor.

The American ACC section in Bucharest was formed in early November 1944. After the arrival on November 23 of its head, Brigade General Courtland Van Rensselaer Schuyler, the OSS team that had arrived there in September became its sub-section.76 As in the Baltics in 1940, in 1944 American witnesses were horrified by the deportation ordered now by the intellectual Vinogradov. Many years later the widow of Frank Wisner, head of the OSS group in Bucharest, told an interviewer: ‘My husband was brutally, brutally shocked. It was what probably affected his life more than any other single thing. The herding-up of those people and putting them in open boxcars to die on their way as they were going into concentration camps. While they were being hauled off as laborers by the carload in the middle of winter.’77 Robert Bishop, a member of Wisner’s OSS group, recalled in his memoirs that trains ‘loaded full of human freight—thirty to a box car—[were] carrying them to slavery and death.’78

On the whole, 69,332 German civilians were deported from Romania, and 73 were deported from Bulgaria (the German population in Bulgaria was very small).79 Similar deportations were conducted throughout Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, with a total number of 112,480 German men and women deported to the Soviet Union. One hundred and six specially created SMERSH operational groups assisted the NKVD troops in conducting the deportation.

Before Wisner left Bucharest in January 1945, he and Robert Bishop had for months been reading cables from Moscow to the Romanian Communist Party, which they obtained with the assistance of the Romanian Security Service, the Sigurantza.80 Additionally, through Theodore Mannicatide (a veteran of the Romanian General Staff whom Wisner provided with the alias ‘Tonsillitis’), the OSS team received copies of Soviet military orders. Robert Bishop also reported on the NKGB’s and NKVD’s activities in Romania, as well as on SMERSH teams in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Italy, and Greece—all the countries where the ACCs or Soviet military missions were established.81 Strangely, he called SMERSH ‘GUGBZ’ (Glavnoe Upravlenie Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti or Main State Security Directorate) and mistakenly thought that it was a sub-section of the NKVD.

Apparently, Bishop’s activity was noticed by the Soviet Inspectorate and in retaliation, in September 1945 the OSS sub-section of the US/ACC was closed. Additionally, the whole previous cooperation between the OSS and NKGB came to an end.82 After this, General Van Schuyler supervised cover operations.

UKR Directorates in Action

The UKR of each of the military groups consisted of four departments. 83 The 1st was in charge of controlling the headquarters; the 2nd was in charge of finding foreign agents among the troops of the military group and checking former POWs; the 3rd was tasked with fighting against foreign agents and terrorists, as well as finding anti-Soviet elements and traitors; and the 4th was an investigation department. Romanov, who worked in the SMERSH/TsGV headquarters in Baden and Budapest, described the main goal of his directorate: spying on the secret services, military, and Western members of the ACC:

In its internal operations Smersh took advantage of the services of Austrian civilians working for our allies… A particularly popular ‘key’ [for recruitment] was to promise an individual that any of his relatives who were prisoners in the USSR would be found and released as quickly as possible… Another way was to obtain work with the western allies for persons who were known to have pro-communist views… We even recruited allied personnel themselves. Smersh took into account the strong pro-Soviet feelings which were then current among citizens of the western democracies.84

Romanov continued: ‘For external surveillance, or spying, Smersh used…members of the Austrian Communist Party… We would provide them with documents, which would guarantee that they were left alone by both the Soviet occupation authorities and the Austrian police.’ In 1945, a special political police was even formed in Austria, consisting mostly of local Communists, to help the Soviet occupational authorities.85 However, the former Nazis were as useful as the Communists:

Smersh exploited for the same purpose former Nazis, insignificant functionaries of Hitler’s NSDAP. Many of them were people, who, according to Soviet law, ought to have been in prisons and concentration camps… It’s true that in this kind of case we really needed to have hostages who could be used as leverage for blackmail. An individual’s wife, children or elderly parents, if they lived in the Soviet Occupation Zone, could be used for this purpose. The local Smersh bodies in the place where these relatives lived kept them under permanent secret surveillance to prevent them escaping to the west.86

Prostitutes were also a tool of SMERSH surveillance: ‘Among the Austrian agents whom Smersh recruited, the procurers of girls for allied military personnel worked with particular success… We had in Vienna a number of “meeting houses” or brothels, which Smersh financed for the same purpose.’87 SMERSH/MGB used these methods in all occupied countries.

In the Soviet occupational zones, the Russian Federation Criminal Code with its notorious Article 58 was introduced. Under various paragraphs of this article, not only Soviet citizens but also local citizens arrested by SMERSH were charged, mostly as spies (Article 58-6).88 Besides investigating the arrestees locally, the UKRs sent many of those suspected of espionage to Moscow.

The fate of Gotthold Starke, a German journalist and diplomat arrested by the operatives of the UKR SMERSH of GSOVG in the town of Mulhausen in July 1945, is a good example (Appendix II, see Apparently, his main ‘crime’ was being an attaché at the German Embassy in Moscow just before the outbreak of war. During the war, Starke served in the Press and Communication Department of the German Foreign Office, and he was chief editor of the newspaper Deutsche Rundschau in Polen published by the German occupation authorities in Poland. Starke was kept in Moscow investigation prisons until October 7, 1947, when the OSO sentenced him to a 10-year imprisonment for his ‘assistance to the world bourgeoisie’ (Article 58-4) and spy activity (Article 58-6/1).89 Even the length of the term shows that the case was falsified: at the time, most spies were sentenced either to no less than 15 years of imprisonment, or to death. Starke’s Finnish cell mate in Vladimir Prison, Unto Parvilahti, later recalled:

Gotthold Starke was a finely cultured man, a humanist and journalist by vocation… Starke had got terribly thin; he often had severe heart attacks; he breathed with only one lung, but it would have been hard to find a better cell-mate. If the rest of the world’s diplomats were equipped with the same tact as Gotthold Starke, the world would be a more peaceful place.90

Starke was released in July 1955, after serving the term.

The other arrestee, Christian Ludwig of Mecklenburg, was ‘guilty’ of being a duke. His father, Friedrich Francis IV, was the reigning grand duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, but he abdicated after World War I. Christian Ludwig was his father’s successor as Grand Duke due to the marriage of his elder brother Friedrich to a non-noble woman. UKR SMERSH of GSOVG arrested Duke Christian Ludwig in October 1945 at his Ludwigslust Castle. A year before that, in 1944, he was discharged from the German Army, ostensibly for being a member of a former ruling house; most probably, the real reason was that he was close to the military plotters against Hitler.

On his prisoner card in Vladimir Prison, the duke’s employment status is given as ‘manager of an estate.’ Obviously, he personally committed no crime because later he was charged with ‘the preparation and conducting of aggressive war against the Soviet Union’—a ‘crime’ of which any officer of the German Army could have been accused.91 Duke Christian Ludwig was kept in Moscow investigation prisons until October 1951, when the OSO sentenced him to a 25-year imprisonment. Like Starke, the duke was sent to Vladimir Prison. The card has a handwritten note: ‘He is socially dangerous due to his past.’ The duke was released in June 1953.

Those arrestees who were investigated locally were tried by military tribunals of the occupation troops. The above-mentioned Nagy-Talavera described a court session of the military tribunal of the TsGV in Baden that tried him:

The trial was a farce…

The table was covered with a red cloth and on the wall were pictures of Kalinin, Stalin, and Lenin and some slogans about Soviet justice. Two guards with machine pistols were standing in the room at all times…

[The] box where the prisoners had to be was in fact the most horrible [of all]. There were things written on it in four languages—in German ‘Gott hilft mir’ and ‘Gott ste, mir bei,’ because they were giving death sentences here also, and in Romanian and Hungarian, ‘Goodbye, my mother, forever,’ etc…

They sentenced me to 25 years of slave labor… Helping the Americans was the main charge. I was sentenced on Paragraph 58, Article 6 [espionage].92

Political convicts, including Nagy-Talavera, were transported to the Soviet Union to serve their terms. However, the OSO in Moscow made decisions on the most important cases in absentia, while prisoners were still kept in Baden or Germany. Many prisoners sentenced to death were also transported to Moscow for execution.93

Additionally, SMERSH operatives in all occupied countries were involved in vetting Soviet citizens brought by in the Nazis as slave laborers (ostarbeiters) during the war, as well as POWs. One hundred vetting camps for returning POWs and civilians, each holding 10,000 people, were created in the rear zones of the 1st and 2nd Belorussian fronts, and the 1st–4th Ukrainian fronts.94 Vetting was performed by Vetting and Screening Commissions (PFK) that included both SMERSH officers from the staff of UKRs and officers sent from Moscow HQ.95 SMERSH officers checked POWs, while civilians were checked by joint NKVD, NKGB and SMERSH commissions.

In Austria, the filtration camp near the town of Wiener-Neustadt, 50 kilometers from Vienna, was the biggest. Anatoly Gulin, a former Red Army sergeant who was captured by the Germans but subsequently escaped and spent the last months of the war in an Italian partisan group, recalled entering this camp with other Soviet repatriates transported from Italy:

The camp…occupied a gigantic area surrounded by a barbed-wire fence with watchtowers at the corners, manned by guards. Inside the barbed wire were the partially bombed-out buildings of a town with an aerodrome. After our companies walked into this territory, the Red Army camp administrators… insulted us with language so foul that we had almost forgotten the meaning of the words [while in captivity]. The commandant of the camp…was literally seething with hatred…It looked like if he could, he would have killed all of us…

We were put in a semi-destroyed building…

The camp was guarded by soldiers recruited in Central Asia, and they were no better than the Germans. They thought we were criminals… They used to shoot at our windows without any reason, and they wounded some of us.96

Gulin also briefly described the vetting procedure:

One day the osobisty [SMERSH officers] came to the camp, and the intense work started: one repatriate after another was called in, and some persons even twice. Finally, it was my turn. A young lieutenant interrogated me. He pretended to be important and tried to look older than he was.

After I answered his last question, he gave me permission to leave, but suddenly he stopped me at the door. He was interested in my watch and simply demanded that I give it to him. I was filled with indignation and abruptly refused. The lieutenant responded with foul language and said that if I had been clever enough to cooperate, I would have been at home in a couple of months, but now I would work for the Motherland for a few years…

The next day…I saw documents of [my] interrogation with the conclusion ‘To be interned.’ This is how the osobist took vengeance on me.

Gulin was sent to a ‘labor battalion,’ which was no different from being a prisoner in labor camps. He was released in December 1946.

Romanov described vetting from the point of view of a SMERSH officer:

The work of the PFKs took up a great deal of time. Camps for Soviet citizens from the west existed for several years, getting gradually smaller and closing one by one. The Chekist officers who worked in them were a sorry sight to see. They looked harassed, short on sleep, and pale, and their mood was permanently bad. There was too much work and…the entire responsibility for any persons set free after vetting lay on these officers. Their names figured in all the personal documents of the people who had passed through their hands. Those being vetted, however, were an even sorrier sight.97

Kidnappings were also common in the Allied occupation zones. For instance, in January 1946, General Mark Clark, commander of the American forces in Austria and head of the American delegation in the ACC, reported to Washington about one such operation. On January 23, 1946, several members of the Soviet Repatriation Mission (in fact, SMERSH officers) entered the house of a former German agent, now working for the Americans, who they wanted to kidnap. This was Richard Kauder, known also as Fritz Klatt and ‘Max’. However, Clark’s men had set a trap, and they arrested the entire Soviet team. One of the SMERSH officers was wearing the uniform of an American military policeman. Two others had civilian coats over their Red Army uniforms. All of them were armed. Enraged, General Clark informed TsGV Commander Marshal Konev that the next day the offenders ‘would be shoved over the line into the Russian Zone.’98

There was also a separate SMERSH operational group in Vienna subordinated to the 1st Department of the UKR headquarters in Baden.99 It was responsible for the political reliability of all Soviet civilians and servicemen in Vienna, including Zheltov’s group in the ACC. A small detachment of this group was also stationed in the town of Modling, not far from Vienna, where a branch (second echelon) of the TsGV’s HQ was located.

This operational group had plenty of work. Any contact between Soviet servicemen and the Austrians or other foreigners was strictly forbidden, and marrying a foreigner was the worst offense of all. Vitalii Nikolsky, an intelligence officer who served in the TsGV’s HQ, wrote in his memoirs:

All contacts with the Austrian offices and private persons were strictly official and scrutinized. Personal contacts, especially with women, were prohibited. It was also forbidden to visit local restaurants, cafes and entertaining places such as cinemas, theaters, clubs, etc. The violators…were immediately sent to the country’s border under a military convoy, regardless of their rank and position. Later, in the Motherland, harsh Party punishment was applied and measures at work were taken against them. Officers were commonly discharged from the army.100

Despite all draconian SMERSH measures, many officers risked going to restaurants and dancing halls. Colonel V. P. Babich, a signals officer who had served at the 3rd Ukrainian Front, recalled:

A huge army of [SMERSH] operatives took care of the ideological purity of Soviet citizens and spied on them… They also involved Austrians in spying on servicemen. In one of the guesthouses I saw a notice: ‘If a Soviet serviceman visits this guesthouse, please, call the Commandant’s Office at this number…’

One day I entered a restaurant with a girl. The waiter, who heard us speaking Russian, told us: ‘The commandant of the 2nd (Soviet) Sector [in Vienna] forbids us to serve the Russians’… After this we spoke German in public places.101

Military service in the ‘capitalistic’ Austria was considered so hard that officers of the Red Army (including SMERSH) were given two vacations per year of 45 days each. However, the way home was not safe. Partisans of the Ukrainian underground army, the UPA, were constantly blowing up trains between the city of Lvov and the Soviet border in the Carpathian Mountains. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the Soviet secret services finally liquidated the West Ukrainian partisans.


1. A. I. Romanov, Nights Are Longest There: A Memoir of the Soviet Security Services, translated by Gerald Brooke (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1972), 144. From July 1945 to October 1947, G. S. Yevdokimenko (1914–1996) was deputy head of the Inspection (SMERSH/MGB operational group) at the Allied Control Commission in Budapest.

2. Interview with Yevgenii Agapov, former intelligence officer, on Aprrill 6, 2009,, retrieved September 9, 2011.

3. Romanov, Nights Are Longest, 163–5.

4. Ibid., 165.

5. Nikolai Mesyatsev, Gorizonty i labirinty moei zhizni (Moscow: Vagrius, 2005), 212 (in Russian).

6. Abakumov’s letter to Beria, dated June 22, 1945, quoted in Nikita Petrov, Pervyi predsedatel’ KGB Ivan Serov (Moscow: Materik, 2005), 60–61 (in Russian).

7. Beria’s report to Stalin No. 718/b dated June 22, 1945. Document No. 7 in Spetsial’nye lagerya NKVD/MVD SSSR v Germanii. 1945–1950 gg. Sbornik dokumentov i stsatei, edited by S. V. Mironenko, 27–28 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2001) (in Russian).

8. NKVD Order No. 00780, dated July 4, 1945. Document No. 8 in ibid., 28–30; Beria’s report No. 1023/b, dated August 30, 1945. Document No. 319 in Lubyanka. Stalin i NKVD-NKGB-GUKR ‘SMERSH.’ 1939–mart 1946, edited by V. N. Khaustov, V. P. Naumov, and N. S. Plotnikova (Moscow: Materik, 2006), 533–4 (in Russian).

9. Page 353 in N. V. Petrov, ‘Apparat upolnomochenogo NKVD-MGB SSSR v Germanii (1945–1953 gg.),’ in Spetsial’nye lagerya NKVD/MVD SSSR v Germanii, 349–66.

10. Serov’s report to Beria, dated July 22, 1945. Document No. 12 in Petrov, Pervyi predsedael’ KGB, 227.

11. Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council, dated July 9, 1945, cited on page 99 in Aleksandr Kokurin and Nikita Petrov, ‘NKVD-NKGBSMERSH: Struktura, funktsii, kadry. Stat’ya chetvertaya,’ Svobodnaya mysl’, no. 9 (1997), 93–101 (in Russian).

12 Abakumov’s report No. 824/A, dated August 28, 1945, quoted in Petrov, Pervyi predsedatel’ KGB, 61.

13. Beria’s letter to Stalin No. 1023/b, dated August 29, 1945, quoted in ibid., 61–62.

14. David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939–1956 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 129.

15. I. V. Bystrova, ‘Voenno-promyshlennyi kompleks SSSR,’ in Sovetskoe obshchestvo: vozniknovenie, razvitie, istoricheskii final (Moscow, 1997). T. 1, 150–89 (in Russian).

16. Stavka’s Directive No. 11095, dated May 29, 1945. Document No. 267 in Russkii Arkhiv. Velikaya Otechestvennaya, 15 (4–5), 420–1.

17. David E. Murphy, Sergei A. Kondrashev, and George Bailey, Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 31.

18. Rudolf Pikhoya, Moskva. Kreml’. Vlast’. Sorok let posle voiny 1945–1985 (Moscow: AST, 2007), 47–50 (in Russian).

19. A. N. Buchin, 170,000 kilometrov s G. K. Zhukovym (Moscow: Molodaya gvardiya, 1994), 184–5 (in Russian).

20. Zhukov and Telegin’s telegram to the GSOVG troops, dated June 30, 1945, quoted in Petrov, Pervyi predsedatel’ KGB, 49–50.

21. Zhukov’s Order No. 00138/op, dated September 9, 1945, and quoted in ibid., 54.

22. Stalin’s directive to the Military Council of GSOVG, dated September 20, 1945, published in Voenno-istoricheskii arkhiv, no. 10 (2000), 146–8 (in Russian).

23. Directive of the Plenum of the USSR Supreme Court No. 13/14/V, dated November 27, 1945, cited in Petrov, Pervyi predsedatel’ KGB, 56.

24. Serov’s note to General S. F. Gorokhov and Colonel S. I. Tyulpanov, dated December 1946, quoted in ibid., 57.

25. Order No. 0409, dated December 26, 1944. Document No. 281 in Russkii Arkhiv. Velikaya Otechestvennaya. Prikazy Narodnogo komissara Oborony SSSR (1943–1945), Tom 13 (2-3) (Moscow: Terra, 1997), 343–7 (in Russian).

26. P. Knyshevsky, Dobycha. Tainy germanskikh reparatsii (Moscow: Soratnik, 1994), 120, 137 (in Russian).

27. Abakumov’s Order No. 00170, dated September 27, 1945. Quoted in Yevgenii Tolstykh, Agent Nikto. Iz istorii ‘Smersh’ (Moscow: Sovershenno sekretno, 2004), 149–50 (in Russian).

28. An excerpt from Serov’s report to Stalin about Abakumov, dated September 8, 1946. Page 245 in Document No. 19 in Petrov, Pervyi predsedatel’ KGB, 244–7.

29. Pages 245–6 in ibid.

30. On the ‘Aviators Case’ see I. N. Kosenko, ‘Taina “Aviatsionnogo dela,”’ VIZh, nos. 6 & 8 (1994); Pikhoya, Moskva. Kreml’. Vlast’, 50–55.

31. Text of Stalin’s order, dated May 26, 1943, in O. S. Smyslov, Vasilii Stalin. Zalozhnik imeni (Moscow: Veche, 2003), 153 (in Russian).

33. Recollection by Svetlana Novikova, a daughter of Aleksandr Novikov, in Larisa Goryacheva, ‘Interview no. 28,’ 2000 (in Russian),, retrieved September 9, 2011.

34. On the case of S. A. Khudyakov (1902–1950) see Nikolai Smirnov, Vplot’ do vysshei mery (Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1997), 132–6 (in Russian).

35. Vyacheslav Zvyagintsev, Tribunal dlya ‘stalinskikh sokolov’ (Moscow: Terra, 2008), 339–49 (in Russian).

36. Text of the letter in Pikhoya, Pikhoya, Moskva. Kreml’. Vlast’, 53.

37. Quoted in Aleksandr Vais, ‘Dolgozhitel’. ‘Aviatsionnoe’ delo, Argumenty i fakty, 8 (92), April 21, 2006 (in Russian),, retrieved September 9, 2011.

38. Decision of the Presidium of the Central Committee on rehabilitation of A. I. Shakhurin, A. A. Novikov, and others, dated June 12, 1953. Document No. I-28 in Reabilitatsiya: Kak eto bylo. Dokumenty Prezidiuma TsK KPSS i drugie materially. Mart 1953–fevral’ 1956, edited by A. Artizov et al., 50–51 (Moscow: Demokratiya, 2000) (in Russian).

39. Quoted in A. A. Lyovin, Perebitye kryl’ya: dokumental’naya povest’ (Moscow: [no publisher], 1996), 238 (in Russian).

40. Yelena Loria, ‘Svetlana Novikova: “Ottsa nazyvali ‘letayushchim krylom Zhukova”,’ Izvestia, February 3, 2003 (in Russian).

41. Abakumov’s short cover letter addressed to Stalin, dated April 30, 1946, with Novikov’s statement from the same date. Document No. 3 in Lubyanka. Stalin i MGB SSSR. Mart 1946–mart 1953, edited by V. N. Khaustov, V. P. Naumov, and N. S. Plotnikova, 11–16 (Moscow: Materik: 2007) (in Russian).

42. Quoted in Lyovin, Perebitye kryl’ya, 235–6.

43. Gennadii Kostyrchenko, ‘Malenkov protiv Zhdanova. Igry stalinskikh favoritov,’ Rodina, No. 9 (2000), 85–92 (in Russian).

44. Quoted in Smyslov, Vasilii Stalin, 196.

45. Quoted in Lyovin, Perebitye kryl’ya, 237.

46. Pikhoya, Moskva. Kreml’. Vlast’, 54.

47. Zvyagintsev, Tribunal dlya ‘stalinskikh sokolov,’ 346–7.

48. Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), 309.

49. Smirnov, Vplot’ do vysshei mery, 134, 136.

50. The text in Georgii Zhukov. Stenogramma oktyabr’skogo (1957 g.) plenuma TsK KPSS i drugie dokumenty, edited by V. Naumov, 16–17 (Moscow: Demokratiya, 2001) (in Russian).

51. Stavka’s Directive No. 11096, dated May 29, 1945. Document No. 268 in Russkii Arkhiv. Velikaya Otechestvennaya, 15 (4-5), 421–2.

52. Romanov, Nights Are Longest There, 153.

53. Ibid., 149.

54. Nicholas M. Nagy-Talavera, Recollections of Soviet Labor Camps, 1949-1955. An Interview Conducted by Richard A. Pierce, 1971. University of California at Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Regional Oral History Office (a typed manuscript), 7.

55. Ibid., 5.

56. S. Kertesz, ‘Soviet and Western Politics in Hungary, 1944–1947,’ The Review of Politics 1, no. 1 (January 1952), 47–74.

57. Contrary to the opinion of many western historians [for instance, R. J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in theTwentieth Century and After (London: Routledge, 1997), 263], Abakumov and his MGB, especially Belkin—and not the NKVD/MVD –supervised the preparation of the Rajk Trial. Biography of M. I. Belkin (1901-1980) in N. V. Petrov, Kto rukovodil organami gosbezopasnosti 1941–1954 (Moscow: Zven’ya, 2010), 188–9 (in Russian).

58. G. M. Savenok, Venskie vstrechi (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1961), 156–66 (in Russian).

59. E. Ya. Kolman, My ne dolzhmy byli tak zhit’ (New York: Chalidze Publications, 1982), 230 (in Russian).

60. Stavka’s Directive No. 11097, dated May 29, 1945. Document No. 269 in Russkii Arkhiv. Velikaya Otechestvennaya, 15 (4–5), 422–4.

61. Beria’s letter to Stalin and Molotov dated March 1, 1945. Document No. 30 in Iz Varshavy. Moskva, tovarishchu Beria…Dokumenty NKVD SSSR o pol’skom podpol’e 1944-1945 gg., edited by A. F. Noskova, 115 (Moscow: Sibirskii khronograf, 2001) (in Russian).

62. Meshik’s biography in N. V. Petrov and K. V. Skorkin, Kto rukovodil NKVD. 1939–1941. Spravochnik (Moscow: Zven’ya, 1999), 297 (in Russian).

63. Document Nos. 66–72 and 76 in Iz Varshavy. Moskva, 230–44, 254–5.

64. Nicola Sinevirsky, SMERSH (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1950), 205.

65. Biography of S. P. Davydov (1909–1959) in Petrov, Kto rukovodil organami gosbezopasnosti, 325–6.

66. Stavka’s Directive No. 11098, dated May 29, 1945, in Russkii arkhiv: Velikaya Otechestvennaya. Stavka VKG: Dokumenty i materially 1944–1945, T. 16 (5–4) (Moscow: Terra, 1999), 243 (in Russian).

67. The structure and staff of the ACC in Bulgaria approved by the Politburo on November 13, 1944 (Decision 44/169). Document Nos. 53 and 54 in Russkii Arkhiv. Velikaya Otechestvennaya, 14 (3–2), 144–7 (in Russian).

68. A. I. Cherepanov, Pole ratnoe moe (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1984), 272–3 (in Russian).

69. Cherepanov, ibid., 271–2.

70. Roy M. Melbourne, Conflict and Crisis: A Foreign Service Story (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1997), 96.

71. Donovan’s final report on activities of the OSS units in Romania and Bulgaria, dated November18, 1944. Documents 93–94 in The OSS–NKVD Relationship, 1943–1945 (Covert Warfare series, Volume 8) (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1989). Biryuzov is mentioned as ‘Berezov’ in Document 72 in ibid.

72. Yelena Valeva, ‘Politicheskie protsessy v Bolgarii, 1944–1948 gg.,’ ‘Karta,’ no. 36-37 (2003), 48-59 (in Russian),, retrieved September 8, 2011.

73. Biryuzov’s letter to Kimon Georgiev, dated November 28, 1944, in Cherepanov, Pole ratnoe moe, 272.

74. Memoirs by Vladimir Skorodumov, ‘Rusaika,’ Neva, no. 10 (2006) (in Russian),, retrieved September 9, 2011.

75. GKO Decision No. 7161-ss, dated December 16, 1944. Details in V. B. Konasov and A. V. Tereshchuk, ‘“Budut nemedlenno predany sudu Voennogo Tribunala…” Iz istorii internirovaniya grazhdanskogo naseleniya Avstrii, Bolgarii, Vengrii, Germanii, Rumynii, Chekhslovakii i Yugoslavii v 1944–1945 gg,’ Russkoe proshloe, no. 5 (1994), 318–37 (in Russian).

76. Elizabeth W. Hazard, Cold War Crubicle: United States Foreign Policy and the Conflict in Romania. 1943–1953 (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1996), 64–72.

77. Interview with Mrs. Polly Wisner Fritchey in Burton Hersh, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1992), 208.

78. Robert Bishop and E. S. Crayfield, Russia Astride the Balkans (New York: Robert McBride, 1948), 123.

79. Polyan, Ne po svoei vole, 210.

80. Hersh, The Old Boys, 208.

81. Hazard, Cold War Crubicle, 96–98. In October 1946, Mannicatide, who had joined the OSS staff, and his family were smuggled out of Romania under General Schuyler’s supervision, and they ended up in the United States.

82. B. D. Yurinov, ‘Vzaimodeistvie razvedok SSSR i SshA v gody voiny,’ Ocherki istorii rossiiskoi vneshnei razvedki. T. 4. 1941–1945 gody (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 1999), 399–415 (in Russian).

83. Nikita Petrov, ‘Die militärische Spionageabwehr in Österreich und die Todesstrafe. Struktur, Funktionen, Praxis,’ in Stalins letzte Opfer: Verschleppte und erschossenen Österreicher in Moscau 1950–1953, edited by Stefan Karner and Barbara Stelzl-Marx, 79–96 (Wien: Böhlau Verlag, 2009).

84. Romanov, Nights Are Longest There, 158.

85. Report No. 3067 by Lieutenant Colonel Bogdanov, head of the Inspectorate in Austria, to deputy MGB Minister Selivanovsky, dated September 9, 1947. Document No. 104 in Die Rote Armee in Osterreich: Sovjetische Besatzung 1945-1955. Dokumente, edited by Stefan Karner, Barbara Stelzl-Marx, and Alexander O. Tschubarian, 478–84 (Münich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2005).

86. Romanov, Nights Are Longest There, 158–9.

87. Ibid., 160.

88. Pages 31–34 in N. Petrov and Ya. Foitsik, ‘Vvedenie. Apparat upolnomochennogo NKVD-MGB SSSR v Germanii, politichesrie repressii i formirovanie nemetskikh organov bezopasnosti v GDR 1945–1953 gg.,’ in Apparat NKVD-NKGB v Germanii1945–1953, edited by N. Petrov and Ya. Foitsik, 5–53 (Moscow: Demokratiya, 2009) (in Russian).

89. Gotthold Starke’s prisoner card in the Vladimir Prison Archive.

90. Unto Parvilahti, Beria’s Garden: Ten Years’ Captivity in Russia and Siberia, translated from the Finnish by Alan Blair (London: Hutchinson and Company, 1959), 141. Starke briefly described his imprisonment in Gotthold Starke, ‘Archbishop Reins in the Prison of Vladimir,’ Modern Age, no. 2 (Spring 1958), 182-5.

91. According to Duke Christian Ludwig’s prisoner card in Vladimir Prison, he was tried under the Control Council Law No. 10 (Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace and Against Humanity adopted at the Nuremberg Trials), Article 2-1a (crimes against peace).

92. Nagy-Talavera, Recollections, 8.

93. List of the Austrians executed in 1945–47, in Stalins letzte Opfer, 631–2.

94. Stavka’s Directive No. 11086, dated May 11, 1945. Document No. 266 in Russkii Arkhiv. Velikaya Otechestvennaya, 15 (4–5), 418–9.

95. Romanov, Nights Are Longest There, 172.

96. Anatoly Gulin, ‘I ne komissar, i ne evrei…Moya nevolya,’ Novyi Mir, no. 7 (2003) (in Russian),, retrieved September 9, 2011.

97. Romanov, Nights Are Longest There, 173–4.

98. Mark W. Clark, Calculated Risk (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), 476–7.

99. Romanov, Nights Are Longest There, 159.

100. V. N. Nikolsky, GRU v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny (Moscow: Yauza-Eksmo, 2005) (in Russian),, retrieved September 9, 2011.

101. V. P. Babich, Velikaya Otechestvennaya voina: Vospominaniya V. P. Babicha, Chapter 1. Dlinnyi put’ domoi (in Russian),, retrieved September 9, 2011.

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