KGB Revelations: Finlandization, Spies and The Blind Mirror

In August 1997, a book written by the former KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky and  journalist Inna Rogatchi titled “A Blind Mirror” (Sokea peili) was published in Finland.  Besides including Gordievsky’s first hand information, Inna Rogatchi  interviewed KGB veterans. The book explored the networks and methods of  Soviet espionage and “active measures” in Finland as well as in Sweden and Norway during the Cold War and beyond.  It also contained new revelations and claims about the destiny of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, who lost his life in Stalin’s torture chamber in 1947[1].

Furthermore, the authors did not hesitate to reval that a number of politicians, Finnish ones in particular, for their alleged cooperation with the KGB and the Communist party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). One could say that “A Blind Mirror” was an overview of “Finlandisation” in the whole of Scandinavia.  It dealt with the Soviet “quiet war”, which is comparable to Vladimir Putin’s modern hybrid warfare. However, the credibility of the authors was questioned, and the publisher destroyed the final manuscript which contained additions and amendments. The printed book was based on an earlier manuscript.

Oleg Gordievsky (b.1938), became a double agent for British MI6 during his second assignment as a KGB officer with a diplomatic cover in Copenhagen between 1972-1978. As Councillor and Deputy KGB Resident (head) in London from 1982, MI6 brought him out of the Soviet Union via Finland after revelations by Aldrich Aimes, a high-ranking FBI officer working for the KGB in July 1985. In Britain he was debriefed by several Western intelligence Agencies, also the Swedish Agency (SÄPO), to which he disclosed a list of interesting names.[2]

Ronald Reagan’s July 21, 1987 meeting with Oleg Gordievsky. Photo: Wikipedia/Reagan Library

Together with British professor Christopher Andrew, in Cambridge, Gordievsky published several important books about the KGB and its operations in different countries. Gordievsky’s defection to the West led to the disclosure of several Soviet agents and spies as well as to the break-up of spy-rings in many countries, but not in Finland. Gordievsky handed over to MI6 a list of the Finnish citizens with KGB connections, which was further conveyed to the Finnish Security Police(SUPO) in April 1986. However, the list was buried in the archives of SUPO, based on the decision of president Mauno Koivisto (Social Democrat). Gordievsky’s  reliability is therefore strong, although there may be critical loopholes in his stories too. What he has told Western intelligence units about the KGB and the GRU, however, has proved to be very accurate.[3]

“A Blind Mirror” was exceptionally damaging concerning the former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Finnish Social Democrats (SDP) Kalevi Sorsa (1930-2004). It should be added that the archives of former KGB Archivist Vasili Mitrokhin, as well as the findings of former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, contain additional documents related to Sorsa. In January 2019, the Washington Post published a column by  Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian historian and deputy chairman of  Open Russia, identifying Kalevi Sorsa as an example, in case the archives of the Kremlin were to ever be opened. Kara-Murza insisted that some Western leaders were concerned that within the archives, and that “Yeltsin came under tremendous pressure from the West not to open the archives. Western leaders had too many connections to the Soviet regime; they had made too many secret deals with the Kremlin that they did not want to become known” and that President Boris Yeltsin came under pressure to close the KGB  and the CPSU archives, which also happened.

Without any doubt, one has to be careful concerning the memoirs published in the West by former KGB agents. Some of them have certainly lied, either for money or for their own security. One such example is former General Jan Sejna who escaped from Prague to Italy in February 1968 in order to avoid criminal proceedings for corruption allegations.  At least some of Sejna’s stories have been considered by some as either lies or disinformation.

No doubt, Gordievsky has been taken seriously in the West, but not in Finland or Sweden. Finland’s SUPO had received information from MI6 already in 1986 and later on in the early 1990s, including names of 40 Finns who had been connected to the KGB. These names were published in Verkkouutiset in September 2014 in the articles by journalist Juha-Pekka Tikka who is an expert of espionage. ”A Blind Mirror” revealed some of the same names and documents concerned in 1997.

The Soviets were able to penetrate into key institutions under the cover of cooperation and friendly relations, which is revealed in “A Blind Mirror”. Finlandisation in essence was about this cooperation which led to the unnecessary influence of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

A Blind Mirror” contains a lot of information about the methods and techniques of the KGB and GRU. In 1980 the KGB launched 350 “active measures”and Moscow received 600 secret or confidential cables from the KGB Residentura in Finland. The Soviet security organs had 216 Finnish agents and operatives in three categories: 88 recruited agents, 73 trusted collaborators and 15 case officers for the illegals. The Soviet military intelligence organization, GRU, had additional resources among its Finnish collaborators. In 1987 The Soviet Consulate on the Åland Islands (autonomous archipelago of islands between Finland and Sweden) was assisting with the secret transportation of Stig Berling, a Swedish agent of the GRU, who was serving life in prison since 1979 but managed to escape during a holiday weekend via Finland to the Soviet Union (and returned to Sweden in 1995). When returning to Sweden, Berling insisted that SUPO was reluctant to stop the KGB operation, but his claim has been denied by the representatives of SUPO.

SUPO had also received sensitive documents from the former Soviet archives from Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet dissident, as far back as 1992. In one of the documents, Kalevi Sorsa was detected to have been a ”confidential collaborator” of the Soviet Communist Party (and the KGB) throughout 1970s and 1980s. Besides SUPO, a major newspaper Ilta-Sanomat received Bukovsky’s material in January 1993. The material was damaging to the reputation of Sorsa, who was a leading candidate in the pre-elections of his party for the presidential elections in May 1993. Sorsa was aware of the documents but the media did not publish anything, which was a big surprise to Bukovsky. Sorsa lost by a large margin to a veteran diplomat Martti Ahtisaari (Social Democrat) who was elected the president of Finland in February 1994.

In Finland, there had not been any serious spy cases prosecuted in comparison, for example to the case of Swedish Lieutnant Colonel Stig Berling, who had been spying ten years for the Soviet military intelligence GRU, and condemned in 1979; or like as in the case of a high-ranking diplomat  Arne Treholt, of Norway, who had also spied for the KGB for a decade and was convicted and imprisoned in 1984. Gordievsky had given decisive tips about both spies to the British intelligence MI6, as Gordievsky states in the book.  “A Blind Mirror” contained revelations which raised doubts about a major cover up by SUPO. The issue is whether SUPO was under the influence of the KGB in the 1970s and 1980s. The head of SUPO, Arvo Pentti (1972-78) has been identified in the Mitrokhin archives a “trusted collaborator” of the KGB with a code name “Mauri” dating back to 1972. Furthermore, the head of counterintelligence in the 1980s and 1990s had been educated at Humboldt University in East-Germany at the end of the 1970s, even though he was on a leave of absence from SUPO. In 2018 it was revealed that he had been protecting a member of the Nokia board who had been recruited by the Polish military Intelligence in 1976. The issue is now under investigation by SUPO.

Although the public debate about the book ended before it really started, it angered politicians, and the book was a hot topic among them in Helsinki. In his diaries, published in 2016, one member of parliament and Finnish foreign minister from 2000-2007 and 2011-2015, Erkki Tuomioja (SDP), wrote on 20. and 25. August, 1997 that “A Blind Mirror” contains ”simplistic and undocumented claims about the KGB and CPSU connections of the Finnish citizens”. In his review in Ydin Magazine (2/1998) Tuomoja lamented  “A Blind Mirror” more or less a Hollywood type of agent story. Tuomioja was wrong.

Tuomioja also writes about his meeting with Seppo Tiitinen, the Secretary General of the Parliament, who had been head of SUPO 1978-1990. “Tiitinen regretted the publication of  ‘A Blind Mirror’ ”. Tuomioja for his part commented, that  “Tiitinen did not see any problem with the maintenance of these channels (the KGB) in handling Soviet relations”.  This comment is a case in point, in order to understand the legal and political culture related to the cooperation of the Finns with the Soviet security organs in Helsinki during the Cold War. The Soviets were able to penetrate into key institutions under the cover of cooperation and friendly relations, which is revealed in “A Blind Mirror”. Finlandisation in essence was about this cooperation which led to the unnecessary influence of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

As a consequence, the book was like an obduction of Finlandisation. Gordievsky states that Finland extradited 40 Soviet diplomats between 1975-95. He may have had secret information that the government of Finland extradited eleven Russian diplomats, who had been extradited earlier from the Western countries but who were able to work in Helsinki instead in June 1992. This mass extradition in 1992, was kept secret until 2017. The late Olli Ainola, a special editor of Iltalehti, published documents about that unusual extradition in an article on January 7, 2017. The former head of SUPO between 1990-95, Eero Kekomäki, stated in Ainola’s article, that ”it was decided that Helsinki could no longer be a resting place for former Soviet agents, who had been extradited from one of the the Western countries”. Ainola stated that Tiitinen had a different kind of policy approach. “Tiitinen had been soft”. One could ask why? Did he lack professionalism, or was he under pressure, or both?

In July 1990 Tiitinen rejected launching an investigation into twenty Finns who were connected to the East-German security ministry’s foreign intelligence (HVA, Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung)based on the list of the last Resident of Stasi in Helsinki 1986-89, Colonel Ingolf Freyer, who was listed as a diplomat with a fake name Hans Pfailer, 1. secretary, who escaped to West-Germany in November 1989 and handed a list of names to West-German Intelligence BND(Bundesnachrichtendienst). SUPO received this list from BND in March-April 1990. Tiitinen mentioned the existence of this list in an interview in September 2002. Later on Tiitinen has stressed that no important figures was identified. He is often criticized for having a selective memory, because he is known for his exceptional memory. During recent years, a number of important politicians and business leaders have been identified as sources, or trusted contacts, as well agents of both Stasi and the KGB.  They were de facto protected against the actions of the Finnish prosecutor by SUPO.

MP Tuomioja, in his diaries reveals that in September 1993, his “old contact”, Valeri Marejev called for a lunch, because “he had returned to Helsinki”. Two weeks later, during the lunch, Marejev “warned about Nato”. Marejev had been a KGB officer with a cover of a deputy director of APN in Helsinki, going back to the 1970s and 1980s. On May 14, 1983 Marejev assisted Gennadi Titov, a case officer for Arne Treholt, for their meeting in Helsinki. Even the Resident of the KGB seemed to have been unaware of that meeting. According to Gordievsky, Marejev was Resident of the Russian foreign intelligence (SVR) in Helsinki 1994-1997. Later on he worked as a translator of Tuomoja’s book, which was published in Russia while Tuomioja was foreign minister.

Former Swedish diplomat and expert in international law, Ambassador Bo Theutenberg writes in his “Dagbok från UD, Diaries from the Foreign Ministry, that Kalevi Sorsa’s working group of the Socialist International on disarmament established in 1978, was ruled by the CPSU in order to create splits between NATO and the Western countries. Theutenberg has engaged in considerable research about the activities of the KGB and STASI in Sweden to strengthen his arguments. There was for example, a STASI spy in the governing council of SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Theutenberg is critical of both Swedish and Finnish Social democrats for their disarmament policies in the 1980s and for “following the orders of Moscow”, which he proves by displaying extracts from various archives.

Among the “Soviet initiated projects”, he includes the 1980 established “Palme Commission”, which was initiated by Boris Ponomarjov, the Head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, with the special assistance of Kalevi Sorsa.[5] Olof Palme is mentioned on three pages in “A Blind Mirror”. Gordievsky states, that Palme was a target of the KGB  officer Nikolai Neiland from 1972, with an APN director cover. Neiland was a very efficient KGB officer with a Latvian background. He managed to get Palme to pay a visit to Riga, which was kept secret.  Gordievsky states “that Palme was certainly influenced by the KGB”.

Of paramount interest, is Gordievsky’s revelation that Palme’s close collaborator and the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Bernt Carlsson, the organization in which Kalevi Sorsa was the Vice Chairman, “was KGB’s special trusted contac and who was appointed the UN Namibia representative in 1988 and died 1989 in Lockerbie crash”. Bernt Carlsson was Gordievsky’s contact in London. Perhaps this information sheds a new, intersting light on the Lockerbie crash? The investigation, concerning the role of five former STASI officers, related to the crash was initiated in 2019, as The Guardian reported on March 20, 2019.

However, the most sensational disclosure in “A Blind Mirror” is related to the Raoul Wallenberg mystery, and to his relative, the Bank Director Marcus Wallenberg.[6]

During WWII, the Soviet NKVD (The Soviet secret police until 1954) officer Zoya Voskresenskaya-Rybkina was head of NKVD, with a cover of “press attache” in Stockholm. Gordievsky describes dinners with her in Moscow in the winter 1980 . ”Zoya was an exotic beauty whose sensual attractiveness was used by NKVD for strategic operations” . He adds:

Let us take as an example Zoya’s achievements in handling Marcus Wallenberg in a remote hotel in Saltsjöbaden during wonderful weekends. These weekends led to a favourable trade deal between the Soviet Union and Finland which contributed favourable to the capital of Wallenberg”.

Gordievsky states of Zoya, that “first of all she was hard and skillful, and was promoted to run in the rank of colonel the department of Austria and Germany after the end of war”.

Following this embarrassing, and highly risky affair – exposing Marcus Wallenberg (sr) and his Enskilda Banken to the Soviets and the NKVD-forces, Gordievsky insists that Raoul Wallenberg became a victim of a NKVD recruitment effort which went wrong and was poisoned in 1947.  Zoya had informed Moscow about Raoul Wallenberg’s activities in Budapest, and possible connections to the United States intelligence bureau OSS. Adding to the complexity of the situation, is  Marcus Wallenberg’s special relationship to Zoya Voskresenskaya-Rybkina, who was married to another NKVD-agent in Stockholm, Boris Rybkin, who had played an important role in Helsinki in 1938, as a back-channel under the direct orders of Stalin. An NKVD-agent Pavel Sudoplatov, Zoya’s direct superior, and one of the highest ranking Soviet intelligence officers in the nuclear field (the Manhattan Project),and who died 1995, talked about the poisoning of Wallenberg in July 1947 in his book Special Tasks.[7]

Dr. Alpo Rusi is a visiting professor of internationals relations and diplomacy at the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. He is former foreign policy advisor of Finland’s president (1994-99) and ambassador(ret) as well as an author of several books,like After the Cold War:Europe’s New Political Architecture(Macmillan,London, 1991).

[1] Oleg Gordievsky & Inna Rogatchi, Sokea peili-Ihmisiä vallan ja vakoilun puristuksessa, WSOY, Juva,1997.

[2] Bo Theutenberg, Dagbok från UD (“Diaries from the Foreign Ministry”) vol 3, p 160 et seq.

[3] Together with the British professor at Corpus Christi College i Cambrigde Christopher Andrew (born 1941) Gordievsky has published several books about KGB, its agents, methods and activities: 1) The Inside story (1990), 2) KGB. The Inside Story of its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (1990), 3) Instructions from the Centre: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations 1975-85 (1991), 4) More Instructions from the Centre: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations 1975-85 (1992). These books are vary valuable for the knowledge of KGB-operations and the building up of KGB:s net of agents and spies.

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/09/russia-lab-x-poison-factory-that-helped-silence-soviets-critics

[5] Theutenberg, Dagbok från UD, vol 3, pp 172-175, vol 4 pp 32-38, 51-105.

[6] https://observer.com/2017/09/russia-refuses-to-disclose-details-on-death-of-raoul-wallenberg/

[7] Special Tasks, The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness – a Soviet Spymaster (Little Brown, Boston, 1994); Direktoratet, Stalins spionchef berättar, Norstedts 1994.

Written By
More from Alpo Rusi