From Red Terror to Terrorist State: Russia’s Intelligence Services and their Fight for World Domination
by Yuri Felshtinsky and Vladimir Popov, Gibson Square 2023,
“Russia is a strange country in which illegitimate power is best seized through lawful elections.” This comment from the Russian secret service historian Yuri Felshtinsky and former KGB lieutenant-colonel Vladimir Popov, pierces the veneer of Putin’s succession to the presidency in 1999 and the widespread belief that he was treading the path of an elected democracy. His accession followed a series of failed coups by the KGB to seize power following the fall of the USSR in 1991.
This labyrinthine book by Popov and Felshtinsky suggests that the real struggle within Russia has always been between the intelligence services and the politicians ever since the October Revolution in 1917. Moreover Jews pop up throughout this detailed work — and they are not always on the side of the angels.
It begins with ‘Iron Felix’ Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, the first Soviet intelligence service, who tried to edge out Lenin after he authorised the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with the Kaiser’s Germany. The authors argue that Dzerzhinsky who wanted to continue a revolutionary war sent Yakov Blumkin, who was Jewish, to assassinate the German Ambassador and probably replace Lenin by the leading Jewish Bolshevik, Yakov Sverdlov.
Blumkin collected Hebrew books from Ukraine to finance a spying network in the Middle East and was eventually expelled from Mandatory Palestine by the British for espionage. Blumkin was shot for being a follower of Trotsky — the death sentence pronounced by Dzerzhinsky’s deputy, Genrikh Yagoda, the son of a Jewish jeweller and Stalin’s enabler of the Gulag.
Fifty years later, Shabtai Kalmanovich, whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, was recruited 50 years later by the KGB to monitor Jews in Kaunas, Lithuania, who showed “nationalist leanings”. When his family was allowed to emigrate to Israel after a 12 year wait, Kalmanovich used this as a means with which to operate as a KGB agent overseas. This was part of a broader plan to mass deploy agents abroad under the cover of the Jewish emigration movement. Even the Lubavitcher Rebbe believed that Soviet intelligence had penetrated the offices of Chabad. Kalmanovich became very wealthy with a castle in Cannes, a villa in Tel Aviv and his own private plane. In May 1987, he was arrested in London, fled to Israel and was tried for working for a foreign power. Sentenced to nine years, he served only five and a half due to Russian pressure. Kalmanovich knew where all the illicit bank accounts were.
Returning to post-Soviet Russia, Kalmanovich reinvented himself as a philanthropist and promoter of concerts by figures such as Michael Jackson. In November 2009, his Mercedes was machine-gunned in Moscow in a contract killing and he died instantly.
Following the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, foreign income and capital flowed into KGB coffers. However with Gorbachev in power and the movement towards a more open society, the KGB wanted to overthrow him and turn the clock back. At the same time, they were preparing for the day when the USSR might collapse — not only by infiltrating their representatives into the body politic, but also by creating some 1,500 companies and channelling funds to the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, an area of 21 km2 housing some 450 offshore banks.
The authors also point to the fact that so many of the early Soviet figures died relatively young — Sverdlov, Lenin, Dzerzhinsky. Perhaps it is simply a coincidence but given the KGB’s propensity to use poisons — Litvinenko, the Skripals and Navalny are recent examples — the suspicion remains.
This is not a book for the fainthearted but it does underline the century-long determination of its intelligence services to control Russia and ruthlessly eliminate any opposition. The matter of communism versus capitalism has always been a secondary concern. Their chameleon-like ability to adapt to new circumstances beyond ideology shines a light on the rationale underpinning Putin’s dictatorship. This book will serve as a reference work for all those wishing to understand the enigma that is Russia.
Jewish Chronicle 10 November 2023