Secret service agent Alexander Feklisov: the “hot” routine of the Cold War
Intelligence services work on a lot of issues, but their main goal is to obtain information, which has particular importance as authorities consider important decisions in the field of national security, and which is sometimes impossible to get by legal methods. Confidential information obtained as a result of professional foreign intelligence, frequently assists in resolving vital issues affecting the interests of the many states.
Who were those people that obtained valuable information for the national and state security of the USSR during World War II and the Cold War? How did the authorities use confidential information to lead foreign policy? Why did foreign scientists agree to cooperate with the Soviet intelligence?
These and many other questions are presented in an exhibition dedicated to a Hero of the Russian Federation, Soviet legal resident spy, and Colonel Alexander Feklisov (1914 - 2007).
After World War II, the leading countries started to develop a new type of armament – the nuclear weapon. The first national nuclear projects were started in the UK (1940, renewed in 1947), the USA (1942), and the Soviet Union (1942). In July 1941, the State Defense Committee gave the Soviet residencies in New York and London tasks to obtain relevant scientific and technical information, especially of a military nature. Alexander Feklisov worked in New York from 1941 to 1946 with agents, among who were American engineers Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant.
The severe consequences of World War II in the Soviet Union were one of the main reasons for its lag in the development of its nuclear program. On July 16, 1945 the United States conducted the first successful test of an atomic bomb and became the only country with nuclear weapons at that time. On the 6th and 9th of August 1945 American nuclear bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In order to create Soviet nuclear weapons in such a short period of time and with a minimized cost of production, it was deemed necessary to involve the Soviet foreign intelligence service. During World War II, Soviet spies managed to attract the cooperation of a number of foreign scientists who worked on the atomic project. The greatest of them was the German physicist Klaus Fuchs, a member of the American and British nuclear programs. In 1947, Feklisov was sent to the UK to work with him. However in 1950 after Fuchs's arrest on charges of spying for the Soviet Union, Feklisov was recalled from London to Moscow.
The information gathered from spies allowed Soviet physicists to reduce the time and avoid mistakes during their first atomic tests, which had enormous political significance. A major result of the cooperation between the Soviet nuclear scientists and the foreign intelligence was a successful test of nuclear bomb on August 29, 1949. The Soviet Union became the second country with nuclear weapons in the world. Those accurate and verified of Feklisov prompted the leaders of the two opposing powers John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev for a peaceful resolution of the Cuban missile crisis.
After World War II, the Allies had a strong confrontation in the condition of the start of Cold War. The rivalry of two superpowers the USSR and the USA gradually becomes violent conflict in all areas. The culmination of that confrontation was the Cuban Missile Crisis. For several days in October of 1962 the world was close to beginning a third world war involving nuclear weapons. During the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Feklisov was a Soviet resident spy in Washington. As soon as he received important information via his personal channels, Feklisov promptly handed it over to the Center and brought to the attention of the US administration the most likely response of the USSR. The accurate and corroborated steps of Feklisov prompted the leaders of the two opposing powers, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, to come to a peaceful resolution of the Cuban missile crisis.
On June 15, 1996 Alexander Feklisov was awarded by Presidential Decree the title of, Hero of the Russian Federation for the successful fulfillment of special tasks to ensure national security in circumstances involving risk of life, and for displaying courage and heroism.
The exhibition is based on authentic photos, documents and personal belongings from Alexander Feklisov's archive, which were partially donated to the museum by his daughter Natalia Asatur.
The museum thanks the Archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, and the editorial office of the magazine "Ogoniok” for the photos.