GoFundMe: The Lubyanka Files: The Textbooks for Putin’s Spies

July 21, 2019
Graphic by Michael Weiss

The Interpreter is launching a new GoFundMe page to support the translation, analysis and presentation of never-before-published KGB training manuals spanning multiple decades.

GoFundMe: The Lubyanka Files


The Interpreter is launching a new GoFundMe page to support the translation, analysis and presentation of never-before-published KGB training manuals spanning multiple decades.

This project grows out of our past reporting on KGB manuals which reveal just how much the nefarious methods of the Soviet past are alive today with “active measures” ranging from interference in the 2016 US presidential elections to the attempted assassination of former Russian military intelligence agent Sergei Skripal with the Novichok nerve agent.

The Interpreter will explore the history of Soviet espionage and subversion, as told through these manuals, once used to train Soviet intelligence officers.  These documents are still classified in modern Russia because of their continued curricular use in teaching tradecraft to Vladimir Putin’s spies at Russia’s domestic and foreign intelligence academies.

They range in content from how to recruit and psychologically manipulate agents on Western soil; how to root out enemy disinformation schemes; how to infiltrate international scientific gatherings to recruit agents; to how to outflank suspected agents provocateurs. These are all methods still used today to undermine the United States and European countries.

The goal will be to provide a kind of “living history” of the Cold War, relying almost exclusively on primary sources from the Lubyanka’s own files, similar to The Mitrokhin Archive, but with the added value of bringing this history into the contemporary relevance.

Sovietologists, historians and intelligence experts will naturally find this project an invaluable addition of primary sources for understanding how Soviet intelligence pedagogy and practice worked. Lay readers will come away with accessible and useful pen portraits of how one of the most notorious security services ever contrived cynically tried to snare ordinary people — many of them Soviet citizens — for the purpose of making them do extraordinary things. Most important, this project will help illuminate the theory and practice of ongoing Russian intelligence operations against the West and better immunize people from being duped, seduced or destroyed by them.

The Lubyanka Files will be unveiled over the course of a year, with each calendar month dedicated to the release of a new KGB manual. 

Each publication will be:

– Posted in full in scanned form at The Interpreter;
– Posted in full English translation next to the Russian-language original;
– “Curated” by Interpreter staff

Curation will include a stand-alone essay for each manual explaining the tradecraft it reveals and how it relates to actual historical episodes and contemporary Russian intelligence efforts. (To see examples of how this looks, see Interpreter Editor-in-Chief Michael Weiss’s series on four previously uncovered KGB training manuals in The Daily Beast.) These new manuals will be accompanied by a dynamic “spy exhibition,” hosted at The Interpreter‘s website, which will feature:

– Audio interviews with former intelligence and counterintelligence officers on both sides of the Iron Curtain and international historians who can expound on what the case studies and theory teach us about KGB espionage;
– Short video documentaries revisiting a Cold War spy drama relevant to the manual in question.

The Lubyanka Files will ideally culminate (depending on how much money we can raise) with a physical publication of all the English translations and accompanying essays, as well as a series of international events with historians, experts and policymakers.

The entirety of our budget will go toward paying full-time translator/curators; an editor overseeing them; production costs for curation content; travel expenses; and publishing costs for the anticipated printed report.

The Interpreter is best known for running a daily digest of developments in the war in Ukraine, analyzing Kremlin disinformation campaigns and publishing two major reports: The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money, written by Peter Pomeranzev and Michael Weiss, and An Invasion by Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine , written by James Miller, Pierre Vaux, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, and Michael Weiss. 

Below are the titles of each manual, their page-length, year of publication, and a brief summary of their contents:

Title: Visual Intelligence, 45 pp, 1970

Summary: To perform his varied and complex assignments, the agent must be creative in using all his accumulated experience and apply various methods and means in the arsenal of intelligence.

Visual intelligence is one of the most ancient methods of reconnaissance work. Essentially it consists of clandestine procurement of valuable information through the agent’s personal observation of the target or event.

Although great advances have been made in scientific and technical means such as electronic surveillance equipment, visual intelligence has not diminished in its importance.

It is needed for surveilling military, industrial, scientific and other facilities and for ensuring the security of agents.

Visual observation is obviously limited to the external, visible aspects of a target. Experiments have proven that with training, agents can memorize details and retain 75% of them for 10-12 days; untrained persons can retain only 25%.

Title: Opportunities for Use of Psychological Methods, 45 pp, 1988

Summary: This manual reviews the basic problems related to using psychological methods to study an individual under conditions of operational activity, and also discusses specific methods views as the most promising from the perspective of using them to study the target.

To study a foreign target of interest to Soviet intelligence for recruitment, we must study his personality and the features of his character. Much depends on how thoroughly this is done, from successful contact with the foreigner to the formation of a trusted relationship as well the correct selection of psychological influence on him for successful recruitment.

Often there are serious reasons why an agent cannot study a foreigner closely. These include the inability to use certain methods such as personality tests and questionnaires under field conditions, in order to make determinations without personal contact or only brief contact. So other methods such as combing through an individual’s biography, looking at all his scientific articles, literary works, drawings, etc. and even hand-writing analysis can be used.

Title: Exposure of Disinformation in Intelligence Materials, 90 pp, 1968

Summary: Long experience by the KGB’s external intelligence work and analysis of intelligence materials obtained from exchange of information with the socialist countries indicate that the imperialist powers use disinformation in their war against the Soviet Union, and again communist, workers’, and national liberation movements. The efforts of our enemies in this area occupy a significant place in their subversive activity against the USSR.

While not over-estimating the significance of these efforts by the enemy, Soviet intelligence cannot ignore them. The ruling circles of capitalist countries mainly use disinformation to deceive their workers and hide the true aims of the monopolistic bourgeoisie, and to create divisions among the progressive forces. Republican Sen. Hugh Scott stated on June 17, 1966 that he had never seen such lack of trust by the American people in what the US government was telling them. “We have encountered a most serious crisis of trust…The political lie has become an integral part of the activity of the government bureaucracy. Responsible representatives of the American government have even tried to justify the ‘right to lie’.”

Disinformation of all types has the following elements:

– deliberate activities

– aimed at confusing the enemy

– for the purpose of goading the enemy to take actions desirable to, or serving the interests of, the disinformer.

Title: Confidential Contacts, 80 pp, 1977

Summary: The purpose of the KGB’s foreign intelligence is to obtain information needed for important political and strategic decisions made by the Communist Party and the Soviet government and to influence the foreign and domestic policies of the capitalist and developing countries. For this difficult task, a wide network of confidential contacts is required, especially in cases where certain intelligence tasks are not operationally or politically feasible to be performed by agents.

For legal or philosophical reasons, a foreigner may not wish to deal directly with a Soviet agent or may not be willing to consciously serve Soviet interests, and therefore confidential contacts can be used. Foreigners may not be willing to break the laws of their country or go against their loyalties to work for Soviet agents, but with certain incentives, they can consciously “get around” these restrictions, especially if they are only administrative in nature and do not involve criminal offenses. Such contacts are especially useful if they are not under the surveillance or influence of intelligence agencies of their country already.

The foreigner may be involved in conscious conspiracy with a Soviet agent under cover of a Soviet institution or a false flag. Or he may be unwitting, and therefore deceived, or forced to accidentally disclose information, or commit actions that he does not realize will have consequences.

Title: Use of International Scientific Events and Exhibitions on USSR Territory, 132 pp, 1981

Summary: The use of Soviet citizens as recruiters of foreigners has notably increased. The intelligence centers of the scientific and technical revolution have acquired a taste for recruitment of people from among foreigners studying at Soviet universities. A number of cluster meetings have been held in Moscow and Leningrad to increase the effectiveness of operational work at international scientific conferences and exhibits.

Scientific and technical espionage must be performed under conditions where U.S. anti-Soviet activity has increased and conditions for agents’ work has deteriorated. Such espionage has produced over the decade since 1971 310,000 scientific and technical materials and 43,000 samples of foreign technology, valued at about 2 billion rubles [officially said to be about the same in U.S. dollars in that year, but this is relative].

Title: Konspiratsiya [Tradecraft] in Intelligence Work, 32 pp, 1988

Summary: This manual provides a compilation of the experience of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate in providing tradecraft in using covers to perform intelligence missions from Soviet territory. Recommendations are made as to how to increase the effectiveness of such tradecraft for agents in the central office as well as working under ministerial cover.

The U.S. and other capitalist intelligence agencies have stepped up their surveillance and penetration of Soviet agencies, so political vigilance must be increased, as well as strict compliance with the rules of tradecraft and secrecy.

Tradecraft is one of the fundamental principles, an integral element of all Chekist activity, a reliable means of ensuring security, and defense from enemy penetration in the KGB’s cadres and agents’ apparat. Agents need not only to be qualified but must be conscientious in performing their duties under cover and behaving properly in daily life. The enemy has become more informed about the methods of Soviet foreign intelligence, so measures need to be reinforced.

Title: Methods of Exposing and Battling the Enemy’s Agent Provocateurs (Lectures), 45 pp, 1971

Summary: In order to preserve or restore their empires, the imperialists and the exploiter classes are employing not only open warfare such as the provoking of civil war, increase of terror, use of extreme measures, economic blockades, and diplomatic pressure, etc. but also clandestine methods of sabotaging revolutionary and democratic forces to overthrow the power of the people.

Agent provocateurs are usually well-trained and prepared, very cautious and are therefore a great danger to national liberation movements and revolutionary parties. They can cause great damage to a young revolutionary state.

One case study involves a certain Ludi, a South African policeman and agent provocateur, born 1938, who penetrated leftist groups while at university and for a time performed tasks for the Democratic Union. He demonstrated his loyalty, made friends with ANC leaders and traveled to the youth festival in Helsinki and to England. He worked undercover as a journalist; publishing articles critical of the government. He was active and visible to everyone; the leader of the Communist Party noticed him and recruited him. He then gained the trust of Party leaders, criticized the government, and wrote leaflets about difficult lives of various tribes. Ultimately, he made about 60,000 tapes of various conversations and meetings and obtained secret Party documents, all of which he turned over to the South African police. He then turned up as a witness against Party members who were arrested.

Title: Some Aspects of Training of Agents and Psychologically Influencing Foreigners, 29 pp, 1985

Summary: This is a scholarly work that covers aspects of psychological influence on foreigners of interest to Soviet intelligence. The concept of influence is defined, and its basic forms are described. A description is provided of the features of the personality that make it easier to have targeted influence of a person. Specific measures of psychological influence while a foreigner is being recruited are discussed.

Influence is needed to achieve a goal or instill something in someone. This can be done through surgery or psychoactive drugs in order to change a person’s views, convictions, motives for behaviors, premises, psychological states, etc. Painful sensations during torture may also lead to a reordering of an individual’s psychological state.

A person’s mind can also be influenced through material, verbal and combined measures. The deliberate creation of certain situations that utilize factors of the environment that cause corresponding ideas, feelings, moods, etc. can be used. This can range from changing his work conditions to bringing him presents to paying a monetary incentive, organizing trips, visits and so on.

Verbal influence is done through personal communication to provide information and instill ideas. Psychological influence can be addressed to a person’s consciousness, his logical thought, his world view (persuasion) or to his emotions, feelings and subconscious states (psychological pressure).

Title: Recruiting People to Foreign Intelligence Agencies of the Soviet KGB, 66 pp, 1972

Russian foreign intelligence agencies use Soviet citizens on short or long trips abroad in their work. The term for such people is “recruits,” and they operate either under cover of the “legal” rezidenturas and establish connections in circles of interest to intelligence; they are often in communication with agents and are involved in recruitment work themselves.

KGB manuals make the distinction among various categories of persons involved in intelligence work: agent, trusted contact, trusted person. The concept of the “recruited person” has not been clearly defined. This scholarly work will not attempt to clarify this definition but start from the premise that all KGB rezidenturas work with such persons on a wide spectrum, and there are certain recommendations that have been made regarding work with them. Such persons gather information; study foreigners with the aim of recruiting them; establish trusted relationships with foreigners of interest to intelligence; recruit foreigners used in operations with the agents’ network; run agents’ networks of both foreigners and Soviet citizens; perform counter-intelligence assignments and take part in active measures.

There are a lot of opportunities for placement of such persons. In the U.S. alone, for example, there are the Soviet embassies in Washington and the UN mission; Amtorg in New York and various consulates. There are numerous international organizations involved in diplomatic, trade, and cultural relations between the U.S. and USSR. There are also Soviet citizens in the UN Secretariat; there are various students and scholars in U.S. universities under exchange agreements with the USSR. All of these Soviet citizens by virtue of their duties are in constant contact with persons of interest to intelligence such as members of civic and business groups.

Title: Psychological Types of Targets for Recruiting, 48 pp, 1987

Summary: This work describes the basic psychological types of personalities and also has brief selections of diagnostic criteria which enables you to assign a foreigner under study to one of the types described.

The description of the psychological types contains also recommendations for interacting with representatives of such types.

– Schizoid Type

The chief characteristic of this type is his withdrawal into his own internal world; his reticence; his weak connection to the outer world. Such people have very limited perceptions of those around them and their actions; they do not notice details or nuances. Above all, they are noted for the independence of their thoughts. This does not always mean they have a high intellect. They also show a great facility for abstract thinking.

Such persons should not be dealt with casually, as they are often professionals; they should be dealt with formally, on very specific issues. They do not tolerate dilettantes.

– Hysteroid Type

This type of person is just the opposite of the Schizoid is directed outward and behaves in dependence on what is happening around him. He is immature and wants Mama, Papa, Grandma, and Grandpa to revolve around him. He is not critical in his thinking and often banishes unpleasant thoughts or memories from his awareness. His motivations should be studied so as to act on his selfish positions and his need to be at the center of attention. He is often emotional and can provide vivid descriptions of events. The problem is not making contact with him as he is very sociable, but in maintaining that contact. Do not express doubts concerning what he tells you about himself.

– Psychasthentic Type [persons characterized by phobias, obsessions, compulsions, or excessive anxiety; the term is no longer in use]. This person is weak and lacking in physical energy and suffers from genetic or chronic illnesses.  His personality drives him to compensate by being pedantic, in order to conserve energy and to develop compulsive actions.

Such persons are good listeners and because they are shy, they seem to agree with a contact although they may not at all. To conserve energy, such persons are selfish and expect only their own satisfaction. They never take leadership roles. They are not motivated by incentives, but disincentives can be used such as fear of doing the wrong thing or failing or having unpleasant consequences. He is often incapable of telling an interesting story or providing enough information. The best thing is to nod and be silent to get him to talk. Since he fears socializing and it makes him uncomfortable, it is best to come to him appearing to consult about some specific issue where he is confident, he is a specialist. They are good targets for pressure.

– Ixgoid Type [Epileptic. This term was invented by the Norwegian psychiatrist Eric Stremgren and is not in use–The Interpreter]. The word comes from the Greek word for “sticky.” Such people are slow to perceive external stimuli; they do not react as quickly as others; their emotional reactions are dulled. They may be capable of complex thinking but usually only when they have sufficient time for it. They build up negative emotions over time until they reach a state of tension and have an emotional explosion. Thus, they appear angry and aggressive as epileptics do.

Such persons are acutely aware of the infringement of their interests so typically they build up grudges and are vengeful. They are hyper-sensitive and easily hurt. Sometimes such people are often found among the fighters for social justice although they are mainly concerned with justice for themselves. They are suspicious. If in better circumstances, they can be willing to help and are conscientious. A relationship can begin with such persons casually; you must be patient and not irritate them. Such persons sometimes “rock the boat.” The Shakespearean character Othello is an example of such persons.

Title: Work with the Agent’s Network, 120 pp, 1970

Summary: This manual covers the exhaustive detail and rigor that goes into training agents to have the correct political and ideological indoctrination to enable them to be trustworthy in the KGB’s range of espionage tasks, from identifying information worth gathering to sabotaging organizations.

The recruiters concede that some of their agents will not be ideological supporters, and especially among emigres, who have grievances with the Motherland, they must take care to keep them engaged. The KGB also frankly admits that some agents are recruited under false flags, believing they are working for some other organization to promote their own political causes.

Some agents are trained extensively but then held in reserve, perhaps living for years as “sleepers” in a foreign country. The intelligence officers must constantly vet and test and second-guess their agents to make sure they are reliable.

Finally, the manual instructs officers how to break off relationships with agents causing trouble — not always suddenly, but in some cases by drifting away to avoid suspicion.