Russian Intelligence

The character of James Bond is often considered to be simply a product of the Cold War, and indeed the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union have played an important part in a number of the Bond novels and movies.

The intelligence organisation that is most associated with the Soviet Union is of course the KGB. The Komitet Gosudarstvennuy Bezopasnosti (meaning "Committee for State Security") was the political police and security agency of the USSR, which was also responsible for intelligence and counterintelligence activities. In contrast to MI6 and the CIA, the KGB's responsibilities were domestic as well as international. It existed alongside the GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye, or Central Intelligence Office), which had responsibility for military intelligence.

The KGB was established in 1954, although its heritage can be traced back through a number of predecessor agencies going back to one called Cheka, which was created in December 1917 in the early days of the new government. The KGB was organised into 17 separate entities. At its peak it was the largest secret police and intelligence organisation in the world.

Fleming's early novels featured villains from the SMERSH, a branch of the KGB (although it actually predated the founding of that organisation). SMERSH really existed. Its name was a contraction of Smiert Spionam (meaning "Death to Spies"). It operated both within the Soviet Union and overseas with about 40,000 operatives in 1955.

Fleming introduces SMERSH thoroughly in a dossier sent to M in the first Bond novel "Casino Royale", which indicates that the purpose of the organisation is to eliminate all forms of treachery, both within the USSR and abroad (hence its name). It was suspected that SMERSH were responsible for the execution of Trotsky in 1940.

SMERSH was organised into five departments (or Otydels). The first was responsible for counterintelligence among Soviet organisations, both domestic and abroad. Department 2 was Operations and Executions, which "From Russia With Love" revealed was headed by Colonel Rosa Klebb. Department 3 was Administration and Finance, Department 4 was Investigations, and finally Department 5 had the ominous title Prosecutions.

"From Russia With Love" featured SMERSH's headquarters in Leningrad and the head of the organisation, Colonel General Grubozaboyschikov, known as "G". In an author's note at the start of the novel, Fleming claims the descriptions of both the building and General G to be accurate

In the novels characters such as Dr No, Auric Goldfinger and Mr Big all worked for SMERSH, whereas in the movies they were given other agendas. Whereas this was mainly due to a desire not to vilify the Russians as villains, this may also have been influenced by the fact that SMERSH itself was disbanded by Khruschev in 1958 and replaced by the Special Executive Department of the MWD. Fleming himself notes this in "Thunderball" since 3 ex-members of SMERSH have joined SPECTRE. However, the movie of From Russia With Love includes a reference that Rosa Klebb has defected to SPECTRE from SMERSH, rather than simply from Soviet Intelligence. Much later, The Living Daylights made use of Smiert Spionam as the name of the supposed KGB assassination plot, with General Pushkin noting that the real organisation had been disbanded 20 years previously.

the KGB in the movies
From the mid-70s onwards the Bond movies started to heavily feature the KGB. The turning point was clearly The Spy Who Loved Me, which introduced the organisation as a counterpart to MI6, a point cleverly made through the parallels in both sides receiving information on the disappearance of their submarine and calling on their best agent. In particular, the film introduced General Alexis Gogol who was shown running the KGB from a large soul-less office in the Kremlin. He has a secretary, Rubelvitch, who also appears in For Your Eyes Only (in which it is implied that Gogol and Rubelvitch have a somewhat closer relationship than, say, M and Moneypenny) and Octopussy.

Aside from the pre-credits sequence, the KGB are not shown to be villainous in The Spy Who Loved Me, and after some initial rivalry between their respective agents the British and Russians team up and work against the real villain, Stromberg. Two films later, For Your Eyes Only is probably the only Bond movie to portray the Russians as the villains in their attempts to retrieve the ATAC system. However, even here Aris Kristatos is an independent who is merely being paid by Gogol. In Octopussy, General Orlov is intent on invading Western Europe but it is made clear that this view is not shared by the rest of the Soviet Security Council, including General Gogol. Indeed by the time of A View To A Kill, relations with the West are such that Gogol is seen visiting M's office in order to award Bond with the Order of Lenin - ostensibly for saving the American microchip industry, but perhaps in part due to the fact that he eliminated a rogue agent in the shape of Max Zorin.

Some time prior to The Living Daylights, General Gogol was promoted to the Soviet foreign service and General Leonid Pushkin assumed the role of head of the KGB. Soon after, General Georgi Koskov defected to the British and claimed that Pushkin had initiated a scheme to murder Western spies, although this proved to be a ruse.

1991 and all that
The KGB found itself out of favour in the final period of the USSR, following the head of the organisation supporting the failed coup. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the KGB came under the control of the Russian Government. It was broken up into several separate agencies, which followed the UK model by having separate responsibilities for domestic and foreign intelligence respectively. Two of these are the SVR (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, or Foreign Intelligence Service) and FSK (Federal'naya Sluzhba Kontr-razvedky, or Foreign Counterintelligence Service).

GoldenEye then portrayed a picture of Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, with the military struggling to keep control of Cold War weapons such as the eponymous satellite system, as well as organised crime and drug dealing. This was continued in Tomorrow Never Dies with Russian General Burakin liaising with the British in order to combat arms dealing within his country.

russian agents in the movies
The following KGB agents have been featured in the Bond films:

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): One of the KGB's top agents who had the codename Triple-X. She was assigned by Gogol to investigate the disappearance of the submarine Potempkin, and this brought her into contact with Bond. Bond and Amasova had both heard of each other, and they ultimately teamed up to investigate the shipping magnate Karl Stromberg. (The Spy Who Loved Me.

Sergei Barzov (Michael Billington): A KGB agent who was also the lover of Anya Amasova. He was involved in a mission to trap and kill Bond in Austria, although it was Barzov who was killed. (The Spy Who Loved Me).

Eric Kriegler (John Wyman): A KGB agent with a sideline as an Olympic biathlon champion who looked after Kristatos during the recovery of the ATAC device. He was killed when he fell from the heights of the St Cyril's monastry in Greece. For Your Eyes Only).

Max Zorin (Christopher Walken): Ostensibly a leading French industrialist and staunch anti-Communist whose company, Zorin Industries, had interests in oil, gas and electronics. He had defected from East Germany in the 60s, but it was revealed that this was only a ruse and he remained a KGB agent. However, Zorin ultimately wished to leave the KGB, against their wishes, in order to concentrate on his own independent scheme, Project Main Strike, to destroy Silicon Valley, until he was killed by Bond. (A View To A Kill).

Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton): A KGB agent who once posed as a dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet in order to seduce Bond. She was later employed by Gogol in order to obtain information from Bond concerning Max Zorin's activities in San Francisco. (A View To A Kill).

Natasha Zarky and Ula Yokhfov: Female KGB assassins recorded on a Secret Service database. The former was a child impersonator who killed with an exploding teddy bear, whereas the latter strangled her victims with her thighs. (mentioned in The Living Daylights).

Valentin Dimitreyevech Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane): In an unseen encounter, Bond shot KGB agent Zukovsky in the knee, leaving him with a limp. Bond also stole his car and his girl. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and dissolution of the KGB, Zukovsky started up as an arms dealer behind the cover of a club in St Petersburg.(GoldenEye). By the time that Bond encountered Zukovsky again, the Russian had supposedly moved entirely into legitimate business, with a casino in Baku, Azerbaijan, and manufacturing his own brand of caviar. However, he does retain some interest in arms dealing... (The World Is Not Enough).

The Bond Film Informant was compiled by Matthew Newton. © Copyright MJ Newton. No part of this site may be reproduced without permission unless otherwise stated.

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