A transcription of the 1984 interview between G. Edward Griffin and ex-KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov.
Transcribed and edited by Tao Steven Zheng (郑涛)
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G. Edward Griffin
Our conversation is with Mr. Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov. Mr. Bezmenov was born in 1939 in a suburb of Moscow. He was the son of a high-ranking Soviet army officer. He was educated in the elite schools inside the Soviet Union and became an expert in Indian culture and Indian languages. He had an outstanding career with Novosti, which was the — and still is, I should say — the press arm or the press agency of the Soviet Union. It turns out that this is also a front for the KGB. One of his interesting assignments was to brainwash foreign diplomats when they visited Moscow. And he’ll tell us a little bit about how they did this and how they planted information which eventually wound up in the press of the free world. He escaped to the West in 1970 after becoming totally disgusted with the Soviet system, and he did this at great risk to his life. He certainly is one of the world’s outstanding experts on the subject of Soviet propaganda and disinformation and active measures. Mr. Bezmenov, I’d like to begin by having you tell us a little bit about some of your childhood memories.
Well, the most vivid memory of my childhood was the Second World War. Or, to be more precise, the end of the Second World War when all of a sudden the United States, from being a friendly nation which helped us to defeat Nazism, turned overnight into a deadly enemy. And it was very shocking because all newspapers were trying to present an image of belligerent, aggressive American imperialism. Most of the things that we were taught is that the United States is an aggressive power which is just about to invade our beautiful, free, socialist country, that American CIA is dropping Colorado beetles on our beautiful potato fields to eliminate our crops. And each schoolboy had a picture of a Colorado bug on the on the back page of his notebook. And we were instructed to go into collective fields to search for those little Colorado bugs. Of course, we couldn’t find any. Neither could we find many potatoes. And that was explained again by the encroachments of the decadent imperialist power. The anti-American paranoia — hysteria — in the Soviet propaganda was of such a high degree that many less skeptical people, or less stubborn, would really believe that the United States is just about to invade our beautiful motherland. And some secretly hope that it will come true.
That’s interesting. Well, getting back to life inside the Soviet Union — or inside communist countries in general — in this country, at the university level primarily, we read and hear that the Soviet system is different from ours but not that different, and that there is a convergence developing between all of the systems of the world. And that really it doesn’t make an awful lot of difference what system you live under because you have corruption and dishonesty and tyranny and all that sort of thing. From your personal experience, what is the difference between life under communism and life in the United States?
Well, life is obviously very much different for the simple reason that the Soviet Union is a state capitalist economy — it’s state capitalism where an individual has absolutely no rights, no value. His life is nothing, just like an insect. He is disposable, whereby in the United States, even the worst criminal is treated as a human being. He has a fair trial and some of them capitalize on their crimes. They publish their memoirs in their prisons and get handsomely paid by your crazy publishers. The differences, of course, in the daily life are very various, depending on who or whom we are talking about. In my own private life, I never suffered from communism simply because I was brought up in a family of high ranking military officers. Most of the doors were open for me. Most of my expenses were paid by the government and I never had any troubles with the authorities or with the police. So in other words, I would say I enjoyed — or I had good reasons to enjoy — all the advantages of the so-called socialist system. My main motivations to defect had nothing to do with affluence. It was mainly moral indignation, moral protest, and rebellion against the inhuman methods of the Soviet system.
Well, specifically, what did you object to?
I objected, first of all, against oppression of my own dissidents and intellectuals. And that was the most disgusting thing that I witnessed as a as a young man, a young student, who was brought up in a very troublesome period in our history, from Stalin to Khrushchev, from total tyranny and oppression to some kind of liberalization. Second, when I started working for the Soviet embassy in India, to my horror I discovered that we are millions of times more oppressive than any colonial or imperialist power in the history of mankind. That my country brings to India not freedom, progress, and friendship between the nations, but racism, exploitation, and slavery and, of course, economical inefficiency to this country. Since I fell in love with India, I developed something which by KGB standards is an extremely dangerous thing. It’s called split loyalty. When an agent likes a country of assignment more than his own country. I literally fell in love with this beautiful country, a country of great contrasts, but also great humility, great tolerance, and philosophical and intellectual freedoms. My ancestors used to live in caves and eat raw meat when India was a highly civilized nation six thousand years ago. So obviously the choice was not to the advantage of my own nation. I decided to defect and to entirely disassociate myself from the brutal regime.
Mr. Bezmenov, we’ve read a lot about the concentration camps and the slave labor camps under the Stalin regime. Now, the general impression in America is that those things are part of the past. Are they still going on today or what is the status?
Yes, yes. There is no qualitative change in this Soviet concentration camp system. There are changes in the numbers of prisoners. Again, this is unreliable Soviet statistics. We don’t know how many political prisoners are there in the Soviet concentration camps, but we sure know from various sources that at each particular time there are close to 25 to 30 million Soviet citizens who are virtually kept as slaves in a forced labor camp system. The size of a population of a country like Canada is serving terms as prisoners.
So I would say that those intellectuals who try to convince the American public that the concentration camp system is a thing of the past are either conscientiously misleading public opinion, or they are not very intellectual people. They are selectively blind. They don’t — they lack intellectual honesty when they say that.
But we’ve spoken about the intellectuals in this country and also the intellectuals in the Soviet Union. What about down at the broad mass level? Do the people in general, the working people, the workers in general in the Soviet Union, do they support the system, do they tolerate it? What is their attitude?
Well, average Soviet citizen, if there is such an animal, of course, does not like the system because it hurts. It kills. He may not understand the reasons. He may not have enough information or educational background to understand. But I doubt very much there are many people who are conscientiously supporting the Soviet system. There are not such as such people in USSR. Even those who have all the reasons to enjoy socialism — people like myself who are members of the journalistic elite — they also hate the system for different reasons, though, not because they lack material affluence but because they are unfree to think, they are in constant fear, duplicity, split personality. And this is the greatest tragedy for my nation.
Well, what do you think are the chances of the people actually overcoming their system or replacing it?
There is a great possibility that the system will sooner or later will be destroyed from within. There is a self-destructive mechanism built into any socialist or communist or fascist system, because there is a lack of feedback, because the system does not rely upon the loyalty of the population. But until this Soviet junta is being supported by the Western so-called imperialists — that is, multinational companies, establishments, governments — and, let’s face it, intellectuals — so-called academia in the United States is famous for supporting the Soviet system — as long as the Soviet junta will keep on receiving credits, money, technology, grain deals and political recognition from all these traitors of democracy or freedom, there is no hope. There is not much hope for changes in my country. And the system will not collapse by itself simply because it is being nourished by so-called American imperialism. This is the greatest paradox in the history of mankind when the capitalist world supports and actively nourishes its own destructor.
I think you’re trying to tell us something.
Oh, yes. I’m trying to tell you that it has to be stopped unless you want to end up in the Gulag system and enjoy all the advantages of socialist equality: working for free, catching fleas on your body, sleeping on the planks of plywood — in Alaska this time, I guess — that’s where Americans will belong. Unless they will wake up, of course, and force their government to stop aiding Soviet fascism.
Well, you told us a moment ago why you left the system. I’d like to hear the details of how you did it. I must’ve been a very dangerous thing.
It was not so dangerous, it was crazy. First of all, because defecting in India is virtually impossible thanks to very strong pressure from the Soviet government.
Excuse me. You were in India on assignment?
Yes, I was working for the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi as a press officer, and defecting for a Soviet diplomat is next to impossible. It is, as I said, because great friend Indira Gandhi pushed a law through parliament which says, and I quote, “No defector from any country has a right of political asylum in any embassy on the territory of the Indian Republic,” which is a masterpiece of hypocrisy. No other defector, but the Soviet one, needs a political asylum. So knowing that perfectly well, I planned the craziest possible way to defect. I started counterculture in India. There were thousands of young American boys and girls with no shoes, long hair, smoking hash and marijuana, studying sometimes Indian philosophy, sometimes simply pretending that they studied. And they greatly annoyed the Indian police and they were laughingstock of Indians, because obviously they were good-for-nothing students. I studied carefully where they congregate, what routes they travel, what language they speak, what they smoke. And one day I simply joined a group of hippies to avoid the detection of Indian police. I was dressed as a typical hippie with blue jeans, long Kameez shirt with all kinds of nice decorations like beads, long hair — I bought a wig because for several weeks I had to turn myself from a conservative Soviet diplomat into a very progressive American hippie — and that was the only way that that I could avoid detection. It was a very interesting experience, but it was necessary because from my own knowledge as a member of Soviet embassy staff, I knew that there were many cases when Soviet defectors were betrayed by Indian police and also some Western embassies played a very dirty role in betraying the Soviet defectors. According to our information, there were some — I wouldn’t call them double-agents but simply amoral people — working for this for the United States embassy, and confiding in people like this would be suicide. So I had to be extremely careful. I could not trust anyone. And that was the reason for such a crazy way to defect.
Well, had you been caught in the act of trying to get out, what would have happened to you?
Oh, most likely I would end up in concentration camp or, depending on the situation and on the whim of some bureaucrat in KGB, maybe even executed. This is normal practice. Quietly, of course, not publicly. But that would be the end of my defection, of course.
Well, when did you finally make it to the United States?
In 1970, after about six months of debriefing in Athens by the CIA, and I presume FBI, too. They let me go first to Germany, then to Canada. That was my decision. I had to change my identity to protect my family and my friends in USSR. And also, I was a little bit paranoid knowing that both Soviet KGB and probably some double agents within the American system may be after me. So I wanted to settle down as far away as possible. I requested CIA to give me some kind of new identity and just let me go on my own. And I settled in Canada. I was a student. I changed many professions from farm help and laundry truck driver to language instructor and broadcaster for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Montreal.
What have you had any threats on your life or any unpleasantries?
Yes. In about five years, KGB eventually discovered that I’m working for Canadian Broadcasting. See, I made a very big mistake. I started to talk. I started working for overseas service of CBC, which is similar to Voice of America in Russian language. And of course, monitoring service in you a picked up every new voice. Every new announcer, they would make it a point to discover who he is. And in five years, sure enough, slowly but surely, they discovered that I am not Thomas Schumann, that I am Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov at that time, working for Canadian Broadcasting and undermining the beautiful detente between Canada and USSR. And the Soviet ambassador Alexander Yakovlev made it his personal effort to discredit me. He complained to Pierre Trudeau, who is known to be a little bit soft on socialism, and the management of CBC behaved in a very strange, cowardly way unbecoming of representatives of an independent country like Canada.
They listened to every suggestion that Soviet ambassador gave, and they started a shameful investigation analyzing content of my broadcasts to USSR. Sure enough, they discovered that some of my statements were probably too — would be offending to the Soviet Politburo, so I had to leave my job. And, of course, subtle intimidations. They would say something like, “Please cross the street carefully because, you know, traffic is very heavy in Quebec.” And fortunately, I know about the psychology and the logic of activity of the KGB, and I never allowed myself to be intimidated. This is the worst thing. This is what they expect, a person, a defector, to be intimidated. Once they spot that you are scared, they keep on developing that line. And then eventually you either have to give up entirely and work for them, or you they neutralize you. They would definitely stop all kinds of political activity, which they failed to do in my case, because I was stubbornly working for Canadian Broadcasting. And in response to the intimidations, I said, “Look, this is a free country and I am as free as you are. And I also can drive very fast. And the gun control is not yet established in Canada. So I had a couple of good shotguns in my basement. So welcome to visit you someday with your Kalashnikovs, machine guns.” So obviously it didn’t work. Intimidation didn’t work. So they tried a different approach. As I described, they approached on the highest level: on the level of Canadian bureaucracy.
At that level they were successful.
On that level they were successful. On individual level, they failed flat.
Mr. Bezmenov has brought a series of slides with him that he has taken from the Soviet Union. And I think this is a good time to take a look at the slides. Now, the viewers will be able to see these slides as we talk about them.
Yes, this is a collection of slides, which are — some of them are snapshots from my family album, some of them are documents which I smuggled from the Soviet embassy, and some are reproductions from local mass media. I usually show them to establish my credibility as a defector.
This is a picture of my native town, Mytishchi, about 20 miles north from Moscow. Characteristically, there is a statue of Comrade Lenin in the central square. This is myself at the age of seven. Again, characteristically under statue of Comrade Stalin extending his friendly hand to the peoples of the world. At that age, of course, I was still an idealistically minded, young communist, and I still believe that sooner or later things will go for better. But I realized that the system stinks, that something is fishy, and that ideology is fake. And the propaganda about advanced Soviet agriculture simply didn’t meet the criteria of reality. If they talk about abundance of food and there is none in the stores, there must be something wrong.
My father was — he is on the left here — my father was an officer of the general staff of the Soviet Army. He was inspector of land forces, Soviet troops stationed in countries like Mongolia, Cuba, East European countries. Were he alive today, most likely he would be inspecting Soviet troops in Nicaragua, Angola, and many other parts of the world. Fortunately, he died and he didn’t see the disgrace because deep inside he was a Russian patriot. He didn’t like the idea of expanding Soviet military might, especially in the areas where we were not welcome at all. Unlike many other military officers, he was reporting directly to the minister of defense, bypassing KGB and diplomatic service. In other words, he was a trusted military professional. And my impression is that this type of people are much less hawkish and adventuristic than party bureaucrats in Kremlin. When American mass media describes Soviet military as potentially dangerous counterpart for Pentagon, I simply laugh because I know better. I know that the most dangerous part of the Soviet power structures are not military at all. Most likely, if they come to power in my country, they’ll be more sensible negotiators for nuclear disarmament and withdrawal of the Soviet troops from many parts of the world.
But if someone from the party structure or the KGB structure were to give the orders for a military venture, they would follow them.
They have to obey, yes, because they are professional military. But they… See, the triangle of power and hate in USSR is the party at the top — the party elite, the oligarchy of the party — then the military, and the KGB at the bottom. They hate each other. And the most hated triangle — the most hated corner of the triangle is the Communist Party bureaucrats. They are the most adventurist, senile megalomaniacs. They can start war, I wouldn’t be surprised. Not the military. They know what war is. At least my father did. This is the picture taken at the entrance of my Institute of Oriental Languages. It’s a part of Moscow State University. I graduated in 1963 and—
Excuse me, which one were you on?
I am on the right here on the right. And on the left is my schoolmate Vadim Smirnov, who later was an apparatchik in the Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party.
What is an apparatchik?
It’s a functionary. Something like civil service in British Empire. Someone who is never fired from the service, who stays there internally. He may not be promoted too high, but he’s a dependable bureaucrat who will stay forever.
I started not only languages, but also history, literature, even music. And in this picture, I’m trying to learn how to play an Indian musical instrument. I even tried to look like an Indian when I was a second year student.
Not bad, really.
Yes, actually, it was strongly encouraged by the instructors in my school because of the graduates of my school were later on employed as diplomats, foreign journalists, or spies. As every Soviet student, I was, quote unquote, “volunteering” for harvesting grain in Kazakhstan. This is the biggest agricultural blunder of the Soviet government. But I didn’t have much choice, of course, because the communist motto borrowed from the Bible says, “Those who do not work shall not eat.” And you can see me eating, therefore I was working and you can see how happy I was about it. I went through very extensive physical and military training, including the military games in areas, suburban areas of Moscow. And here, for example, we are on the tour in Arkhangelsk area. And by the end of my training in school, I was recruited by the KGB. This picture was taken on that day, and you can see again how happy it feels to be recruited by the KGB.
Our conversation with Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, who is a defector from the Soviet Union, a former propaganda agent for Novosti and the KGB, will continue after this message.
All right. As every student in USSR, I went through a very extensive physical and military training and civil defense training, too. Unlike in the United States, where civil defense is virtually nonexistent, zero, in USSR, every student, whatever is major subject, has to go through very extensive four-year military and civil defense training. You can see me here with a group of students during one of the war games near Moscow. The main idea, of course, is to prepare a huge reserve army of the USSR. Each student has to graduate as a junior lieutenant. In my case, it was administrative and military intelligence service. My first assignment was to India as a translator in the Soviet economical aid group, building a refinery complexes in Bihar state and Gujarat state.
At that time, I was still naively, idealistically believing that what I was doing contributes to the understanding and cooperation between the nations. It took me quite a number of years to realize that what we were bringing to India was a new type of colonialism, a thousand times more oppressive and exploitative than any colonialism or imperialism in the history of mankind. But at that time, I was still hoping that, well, maybe it’s not that bad, it could be worse and things may go for better. And I even tried to implement the beautiful Marxist motto, “Proletarians of all the countries unite.” I tried to unite with the nice Indian girl. And, actually, I was fascinated by Indian culture, by the family life in this country. But obviously, Communist Party had different plans for my genes, so I had to marry this beautiful Russian girl. In the span of my career I married three times. Most of these marriages were marriages of convenience on advice from the Department of Personnel. This is normal practice in USSR. When the Soviet citizen is assigned to a foreign job, he has to be married either to keep family in USSR as hostages or, if it’s a convenience marriage like mine, so that the husband and wife are virtually informers on each other to prevent defection or contamination by decadent imperialists or capitalist ideas. In my case, I hated that girl so much that the moment I landed in Moscow we were divorced and I married later a second time. By the end of my first assignment in India, I was promoted to the position of public relations officer. You can see me here translating a speech by a Soviet boss.
And you’re on the right.
I’m on the right here, yes. And it was — the occasion was commissioning of the refinery complex in Bihar, Barauni. Back in Moscow, I was immediately recruited by Novosti Press Agency, which is a propaganda and ideological subversion front for the KGB. Seventy-five percent of the members of the Novosti are commissioned officers of the KGB. The other twenty-five are, like myself, co-opted agents who are assigned to specific operations. In this particular case, you can see me talking to students of Lumumba Friendship University in Moscow. This is a huge school under the direct control of the KGB and Central Committee where future leaders of the so-called “national liberation movements” are being educated and selected carefully. And some of them have absolutely, they neither… This, for example, is a group of students from Lumumba. They don’t look like students at all. They look more like military, and that’s exactly what they were. They were dispatched back to their countries to be leaders of the so-called “national liberation movements” or, to be translated into normal human language, leaders of international terrorist groups. Another area of activity when I was working for the Novosti was to accompany groups of so-called progressive intellectuals, writers, journalists, publishers, teachers, professors of colleges.
You can see me here in Kremlin — I’m second on the left — with a group of Pakistani and Indian intellectuals. Most of them pretend that they don’t understand that we are actually working on behalf of the Soviet government and the KGB. They pretended that they are actually being guests of VIP intellectuals, that they are treated according to their merits and their intellectual abilities. For us, they were just a bunch of political prostitutes to be taken advantage of for various propaganda operations. Therefore, you can see perfectly well the senior colleague of mine on the left doesn’t really have that much respect on his face. And myself with a very skeptical smile — typical KGB sarcastic smile — anticipating another victim of ideological brainwashing. This is how a typical conference in Novosti headquarters in Moscow looks. Sitting in the middle is Boris Burkov the then director of Novosti Press Agency, high-ranking party bureaucrat in the Department of Propaganda. I’m standing next to a famous Indian poet, Sumitranandan Pant. He was famous because he was the author of the famous poem titled, “Rhapsody to Lenin.” That’s why he was invited to USSR. And everything was paid by the Soviet government.
Pay special attention to the number of bottles on the table. This is one of the ways to kill the awareness or curiosity of foreign journalists. One of my functions was to keep foreign guests permanently intoxicated. The moment they land at Moscow airport, I had to take them to the VIP lounge and toast to friendship and understanding between the nations of the world. Glass of vodka, then a second glass of vodka. And in no time, my guest would be feeling very happy. They would see everything in kind of pink, nice color. And that’s the way I had to keep them permanently for the next fifteen or twenty days. At a certain point in time I had to withdraw alcohol from them so that some of them who are the most recruitable would feel a little bit shaky, guilty, trying to remember what they were talking about last night. That’s the time to approach them with all kinds of nonsense, such as joint communique or statement for Soviet propaganda. That’s the time they are the most flexible. And of course, what they didn’t understand — they didn’t realize it pretended not to realize — that myself who was drinking together with them was not drinking at all. I had ways to get rid of alcohol through various techniques, including special pills which were given to me by my colleagues. But they were taking it seriously. In other words, they would consume quite large volumes of alcohol and feel quite uneasy the next morning.
In 1967, the KGB attached me to this magazine, Look magazine. A group of twelve people arrived to USSR from United States to cover the fiftieth anniversary of the October socialist revolution in my country. From the first page to the last page, it was a package of lies, propaganda, cliché, which were presented to American readers as opinions and deductions of American journalists. Nothing could be further from the truth. These were not opinions. They were not opinions at all. They were the clichés which the Soviet propaganda wants American public to think that they think, if it does make any sense at all. It sure does because from the viewpoint of the Soviet propaganda, although there are some subtle criticism of the Soviet system, the basic message is that Russia today is a nice, functioning, efficient system supported by a majority of the population. That’s the biggest lie. And, of course, American intellectuals and journalists from Look magazine elaborated on that untruth in various different ways. The intellectualize that lie. They found all kinds of justifications for telling lies to American public.
Excuse me, it was partly your job to make sure that they got these ideas and accepted them as their own ideas.
Right. Actually, even before they arrived to USSR — and they paid astronomical sum of money for that visit — they were submitted… This Novosti Press Agency developed so-called backgrounders, 20–25 pages of information and opinions which were presented to the journalists even before they bought their tickets to Moscow. They had to analyze the situation and, judging on their reaction to that backgrounder, the local Novosti representative or local Soviet diplomat in Washington, D.C., would assess whether they have — whether they be given visa to USSR or not.
They were selected ahead of time.
Oh yes, they were preselected very carefully. And there is not much chance for honest journalists to arrive to USSR and to stay there for one year and to bring this package of lies back home. This, for example, is a centerfold of Look magazine. They presented this monument erected by Communist Party in Stalingrad as the symbol, personification, of Russian military might. And they said in the article, which is published on the side, that Soviets are very proud of the victory in the Second World War. This is another big myth, a lie. No sensible people would be proud to lose 20 million of their countrymen in the war, which was started by Hitler and comrade Stalin, and paid by American multinationals.
Most of the Soviet citizens look at this type of monument with disgust and sorrow because every family lost a father, brother, sister or child in the Second World War. Yet American journalists — who were trying to appease, to please their hosts — presented this picture on the centerfold as the symbol and personification of Soviet national — they call it “Russian national spirit.” And it was greatest, greatest misconception and a very tragic misunderstanding. Of course, Look magazine was not distributed in USSR. The main audience was in the United States. But I presume that many Americans, millions of Americans who were reading Look magazine at that time, had absolutely the wrong idea about the sentiments of my nation, about what the Soviets are proud of and what they hate.
This is a group — you see the same lady with the sword in Stalingrad — this is the group of journalists, myself is in the center with the same devilish smile. And Mr. Philip Huntington is on the extreme left there with his camera. This is the gentleman which was so deaf or so uninterested in what I had to say to him. This is the same picture, a blow-up of the same the same picture.
Many guests from various countries, in this particular case from Asia and Africa, were taken by me as a Novosti Press Agency employee for a tour across Siberia. For example, we would show them typical kindergarten. You see, nothing special by American standards, just nice children sitting, eating their breakfast or lunch. What they could not understand, or they pretended not to understand, is that this is an exemplary kindergarten. This is not the kindergarten for the average person or average family in the USSR. And we maintain that illusion in their minds. You can see myself under the red spot in the middle there with the same businesslike expression. I’m doing my job, that’s what I’m assigned to do and that’s what I was paid to do. But deep inside, I still hope that at least some of these useful idiots would understand that what they are looking at has nothing to do with the level of affluence in my nation.
This is a better picture which reflects the true spirit of the Soviet childhood. This picture was printed in a Canadian government publication by mistake. In the middle you can see children playing on a small courtyard and the caption goes, “This is a typical kindergarten in Siberia.” What these idiots didn’t understand is that it is not kindergarten at all. It is a prison for children of political prisoners. But there was not a single mentioning that what they were visiting actually was in the area of concentration camps. And the job of people like myself was to help them not to notice that they are actually talking to prisoners. Most of the children were dressed, especially on the occasion of the foreigners visit. Of course, there were no corpses on the ground. There were no machine gun guards, and well, it looks not very pleasant as you see it. So it looks dull. But obviously it does not create an impression that this is actually a prison.
Well, did any of the journalists have the curiosity to ask about the prisons and that kind of thing?
Yes. Some of them ask questions and, naturally, for the stupid question we give them a stupid answer. “No, there are no prisons in Siberia. No, most of the people who you see are free citizens of USSR. They are very happy to be here and they are contributing to the glory of the socialist system.” Some of them pretended that they believed what I was telling them, and most of them — we may discuss it later — what are the motivations of these people? Why would they stubbornly bring lies to their own population through their own mass media? I have various answers to this. There is not a single explanation. It’s a complex of explanations. It’s fear, pure biological fear. They understand that they are on the territory of an enemy state, a police state, and just to save their rotten skins and their miserable jobs, their affluence back home, they would prefer to tell a lie than to ask truthful questions and report truthful information. Second, most of these schmucks were afraid to lose their jobs because obviously, if you tell truth about my country, you will not last long as a correspondent of the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. They will fire you. What kind of correspondent are you? You obviously cannot find common language with the Russians if they kick you out in 24 hours. So just by trying to conformist to their own editorial bosses, they tried not to offend the sentiments of the Soviet administrators and people like myself. Deep inside, I hoped they would insult or offend my sentiments. Obviously, they prefer not to. Another reason — I refuse to believe it, but obviously there is another reason — obviously, it’s agreed these people earn a lot of money when they come back to the USA. They claim that they are experts on my country. They write books, which sell millions of copies, titles like “Russians: the truth about Russia.” Most of it is lies about Russia. Yet they claim to be Sovietologists. They play back myths about my country, the propaganda clichés. Yet they stubbornly resist the word of truth. If a person like Solzhenitsyn is either defecting or kicked out of USSR, they try all their best to this to discredit him and to discourage him. I don’t have much chance to appear on national network with a true story about my country, but the useful idiots like Kendrick Smith or Robert Kaiser, they are big heroes. They come back from USSR, they say, “Oh, we were talking to dissidents in Russia.” Big deal. Soviet dissidents are chasing American correspondents in the streets, and they are cowardly escaping from these contacts. For some strange reason, if you want to know more about Spain you refer to Spanish writers. If you want to learn more about French, you read French writers. Even about Antarctica I bet you would read penguins. Only about the Soviet Union, for some strange reason, you read Hendricks and Schmendricks and all kinds of Kissingers because they claim that they know more about my country. They know nothing or next to nothing. Or they pretend that they know more than they actually do. I would say they are dishonest people who lack integrity and common sense and intellectual honesty. They bring back all kinds of stories like that, a kindergarten in Siberia, omitting the most important fact: it’s a prison for children of political prisoners.
Another great example of the monumental idiocy of American politicians. Edward Kennedy was in Moscow and he thought that he is a popular, charismatic American politician who is easygoing, who can smile, dance at the wedding in Russian Palace of Marriages. What he did not understand, or maybe he pretended not to understand, was that actually he was being taken for a ride. This is a staged wedding, especially to impress foreign media or useful idiots like Ed Kennedy. Most of the guests there, they had security clearance and they were instructed what to say to foreigners. This is exactly what I was doing. You can see me in the same damn wedding palace in Moscow where Ed Kennedy was dancing here. You see, smiling. He thinks he’s very smart. From the viewpoint of Russian citizens who observe this idiocy, he’s a narrow-minded, egocentrical idiot who tries to earn his own popularity through participation in propaganda farces like this.
Here you can see myself. On the right, again an exemplary Soviet bride. On the left, three journalists from various countries, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Obviously, they are enjoying the situation. They will go back home and write the reports: “We were present at a regular Soviet wedding.” They were not present at a regular Soviet wedding. They were part of a farce, of a circus performance.
Another thing which I had to sometimes risk my life to explain to foreigners. Time magazine, for example, is very critical of South Africa’s racist regime. The whole article was dedicated to the shameful internal passport system where blacks are not allowed to live with whites. For some strange reason, for the last fourteen years since my defection, nobody wanted to pay attention to my passport. This is my passport. It also shows my nationality, and it has a police rubber stamp, which is called Propiska in the Russian language, which assigns me to a certain area of residence. I cannot leave that area the same way as this black man cannot leave the area in South Africa. Yet we call South African government racist regime. Not a single Jane Schmoda or Fonda is brave enough, courageous enough, to come to media and say, “Look, this is what happens in USSR.”
I sent a copy of my passport to many American liberals and civil rights defenders and all the other useful idiots. They never bothered to answer me back. This shows what kind of integrity, what kind of honesty this people have. They are bunch of hypocrites because they don’t want to recognize a good example of racism in my country.
This is the first stage of befriending a professor. You can see myself on the left with the same James Bond smile. On my on the right is my KGB supervisor, Comrade Leonid Mitrokhin. And in the middle, a professor of political science in Delhi University. The next stage would be to invite him to a gathering in the Soviet Friendship Society. There he is sitting next to his wife before he is being sent to USSR for free trip. Everything is paid by the Soviet government. He was made to believe that he is invited to USSR because he is a talented, sober-thinking intellectual. Absolutely false. He is invited because he is a useful idiot, because he would agree and subscribe to most of the Soviet propaganda cliché. And when he is coming back to his own country he is going for years and years to teach the beauties of Soviet socialism to newer and newer generations of his students, thus promoting the Soviet propaganda line. The KGB was even curious about this gentleman. It may look innocent.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a great spiritual leader, or maybe a great charlatan and crook, depending on which from which side you are looking at him. The Beatles were trained at his ashram in Haridwar in India how to meditate. Mia Farrow and other useful idiots from Hollywood visited his school and they returned back to the United States absolutely zonked out of their minds with marijuana, hashish, and crazy ideas of meditation. To meditate, in other words, to isolate oneself from the current social and political issues of your own country, to get into your own bubble, to forget about the troubles of the world. Obviously, KGB was very fascinated with such a beautiful school, such a brainwashing center for stupid Americans. I was dispatched by the KGB to check what kind of VIP Americans attend this school.
That’s you on the left.
Yes, I am on the left. I was trying to get enrolled in that school. Unfortunately, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi asked too much. He wanted five hundred American dollars for enrollment. But my function was not actually to get enrolled in the school, my function was to discover what kind of people from United States attend this school. And we discovered that, yes, there are some influential members of family, public opinion makers of United States, who come back with crazy stories about Indian philosophy. Indians themselves look up upon them as idiots, useful idiots, to say nothing about KGB, who looked at them as extremely naive, misguided people. Obviously a VIP, say a wife of a congressman or a prominent Hollywood personality, after being trained at that school is much more instrumental in the hands of manipulators of public opinion and KGB than a normal person who understands, who looks through this type of fake religious training—
Why would they be more susceptible to manipulation?
I just mentioned that. Because, you see, a person who is too much involved in introspective meditation, you see, if you carefully look at what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is teaching to Americans, it is that most of the problems, most of the burning issues of today can be solved simply by meditating. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t get involved. Just sit down, look at your navel and meditate. And things, due to some strange logic, due to cosmic vibration, will settle down by themselves. This is exactly what the KGB and Marxist–Leninist propaganda wants from Americans: to distract their opinion, attention, and mental energy from real issues of United States into non-issues, into a non-world, non-existent harmony. Obviously, it’s more beneficial for the Soviet aggressors to have a bunch of duped Americans than Americans who are self-conscious, healthy, physically fit, and alert to reality. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi obviously is not on the payroll of the KGB, but whether he knows it or not he contributes greatly to demoralization of American society. And he’s not the only one. There are hundreds of those gurus who come to your country to capitalize on the naïveté and stupidity of Americans. It’s a fashion. It’s a fashion to meditate, it’s a fashion not to be involved. So obviously, you can see that if KGB were that curious, they paid my trip to Haridwar, if they assigned me to that strange job, obviously they were very much fascinated. They were convinced that that type of brainwashing is very efficient and instrumental in demoralization of the United States.
Our conversation with Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, who is a defector from the Soviet Union, a former propaganda agent for Novosti and the KGB will continue after this message.
This picture shows the part of the building of USSR embassy and my supervisors. On the left is Comrade Medhi, an Indian Communist. And on the right, comrade Mitrokhin. My supervisors in the secret Department of Research and Counter-Propaganda. It has nothing to do with either research or counter-propaganda. Most of the activity of the department was to compile a huge amount, volume, of information on individuals who were instrumental in creating public opinion. Publishers, editors, journalists, actors, educationalists, professors of political science, members of parliament, representatives of business circles. Most of these people were divided roughly into groups. Those who toe the Soviet foreign policy, they would be promoted to the positions of power through media and public opinion manipulation. Those who refused the Soviet influence in their own country would be character-assassinated or executed physically come revolution. Same way as in the small town of Hue in South Vietnam several thousands of Vietnamese were executed in one night when the city was captured by Vietcong for only two days. And American CIA could never figure out how could possibly communists know each individual, where he lives, where to get him, and would be arrested in one night. Basically, in some four hours before dawn, put on the van, taken out of the city limits and shot. The answer is very simple: long before communists occupied the city, there was an extensive network of informers, local Vietnamese citizens who knew absolutely everything about people who were instrumental in public opinion, including barbers and taxi drivers. Everyone who was sympathetic to the United States was executed. Same thing was done under the guidance of the Soviet embassy in Hanoi, and same thing I was doing in New Delhi. To my horror, I discovered that in the files where people were doomed to execution. There were names of pro-Soviet journalists with whom I was personally friendly.
Yes, they were idealistically minded leftists who made several visits to the USSR. And yet the KGB decided that, come revolution or drastic changes in political structure of India, they will have to go.
Why is that?
Because they know too much. Simply because, you see, the useful idiots — the leftists who are idealistically believing in the beauty of Soviet socialist or communist or whatever system — when they get disillusioned, they become the worst enemies. That’s why my KGB instructors specifically made the point: “Never bother with leftists. Forget about these political prostitutes. Aim higher.” This was my instruction. Try to get into large circulation, established conservative media, reach filthy rich movie makers, intellectuals, so-called academic circles. Cynical, egocentric people who can look into your eyes with angelic expression and tell you a lie. These are the most recruitable people: people who lack moral principles, who are either too greedy or suffer from self-importance. They feel that they matter a lot. These are the people who KGB wanted very much to recruit.
But to eliminate the others, to execute the others. Don’t they serve some purpose? Wouldn’t they be the ones to rely on?
No. They served purpose only at this stage of destabilization of a nation. For example, your leftists in United States. All these professors and all these beautiful civil rights defenders, they are instrumental in the process of the subversion only to destabilize the nation. When the job is completed, they are not needed anymore. They know too much. Some of them, when they get disillusioned, when they see that Marxist–Leninists come to power, obviously they get offended. They think that they will come to power. That will never happen. Of course, they will be lined up against the wall and shot. But they may turn into the most bitter enemies of Marxist–Leninists when they come to power. And that’s what happened in Nicaragua. You remember most of these former Marxist–Leninists were either put to prison or one of them split and now he is working against the Sandinistas. It happened then in the Granada when Maurice Bishop was — he was already a Marxist — he was executed by a new Marxist who was more Marxist than this Marxist. Same happened in Afghanistan when first there was Taraki, he was killed by Amin; then Amin was killed by Babrak Kamahl with the help of KGB. Same happening in Bangladesh when Mujibur Rahman, very pro-Soviet leftist, was assassinated by his own Marxist–Leninist military comrades. It’s the same pattern everywhere. The moment they serve their purpose, all the useful idiots are either executed entirely — all the idealistically-minded Marxists — or were exiled or put in prisons like in Cuba. Many, many former Marxists are in Cuba, I mean in prison. So most of the Indians who were cooperating with the Soviets, especially with our Department of Information of the USSR embassy, were listed for execution. And when I discovered that fact, of course, I was sick. I was mentally and physically sick. I thought that I’m going to explode one day during the briefing at the ambassador’s office. I would stand up and say something that we are basically a bunch of murderers. That’s what we are. There’s nothing to do with friendship and understanding between the nations and blah, blah, blah. We are murderers. We behave as bunch of thugs in the country which is hospitable to us, a country with ancient traditions. But I did not defect. I tried to get the message across. To my horror, nobody wanted even to listen, least of all to believe what I had to say. And I tried all kinds of tricks. I would leak information through letters or lost documents or something like that. And still, I got no message. The message was not published even in the conservative mass media of India. The immediate impulse to defect was the Bangladesh crisis, which was described by American correspondents as an Islamic grassroots revolution, which is absolute baloney. There was nothing to do with Islam and there was no grassroots evolution. Actually, there are no grassroots revolutions, period. Any revolution is a by-product of a highly organized group of conscientious and professional organizers. It has nothing to do with “grass roots.” In Bangladesh, it was nothing with grass roots. Most of the Awami League Party members — Awami League means “peoples party” — were trained in Moscow in the high party school. Most of the Mukti Fauj leaders — Mukti Fauj in Bengali means “People’s Army,” same as SWAPO and all kinds of liberation armies all over the world, the same bunch of useful idiots — they were trained that Lumumba University and various centers of the KGB in Simferopol, in Crimea, and in Tashkent. So when I saw that Indian territory is being used as a jumping board to destroy East Pakistan, I saw myself thousands of so-called students traveling through India to East Pakistan, through the territory of India. And Indian government pretended not to see what was going on. They knew perfectly well, the Indian police knew it, the intelligence department of Indian government knew it. The KGB, of course, knew it and the CIA knew it. That was most infuriating because when they defected and I explained to the CIA debriefers they should watch out because East Pakistan is going to erupt any moment. They said I was reading too many James Bond novels. Anyway, so East Pakistan was doomed. One of my colleagues in the Soviet consulate in Calcutta when he was dead drunk, he ventured into the basement to relieve himself and he found big boxes which said, “Printed Matter to Dhaka University.” Dhaka is the capital of East Pakistan. And since he was drunk and curious, he opened one of the boxes and he discovered not printed matter. He discovered Kalashnikov guns and ammunition in there. Anyway, it’s a long story. When I saw the preparations for the invasion into East Pakistan, obviously I wanted to defect immediately. The only thing I couldn’t at the time make up my mind when and where and how.
One of the reasons, of course, you see, I was in love with India. I mentioned that before. I spoke the languages, I socialized with people, and I understood that I had to act fast unless I want this beautiful country to be permanently and irreparably damaged by our presence. One of the reasons not to defect was, as you can see, I was living in relative affluence. Who the hell in the normal mind would defect and do what? To be abused by your media? To be called McCarthyist and fascist and paranoid? Or to drive a taxi in New York City? What for? What the hell for should I defect? To be abused by Americans, to be insulted in exchange for my effort to bring the truthful information about impending danger: subversion.
As you can see, I was living in quite the comfortable conditions next to a swimming pool — where Indians were not allowed, by the way. I was a highly paid expert in propaganda. I had my family, I was respected by my nation. My career was cloudless. The third reason: how to defect with the family? To defect with the baby and the wife would be virtual suicide because, according to law — that hypocritical law which I quoted before — the Indian police will have to hand me over back to the KGB, and that will be the end of my defection and probably my life. Again, I cannot smuggle my wife because she was not quite sure what I was doing. She was not that idealistically involved, and she was definitely not in the total picture of what I was doing for the KGB. She would be shocked if I put her in my van and drove her to the American embassy or elsewhere. That would be a great danger.
So, again, I had to defect in such a way that my defection would look like a simple disappearance. And there were many cases like that when the Soviet agents simply disappeared, either killed in action or, thanks to their curiosity and their close contacts with radicals, some of them were killed by the Marxists, by the way. It happened in many African countries when the Soviet KGB were killed by Africans themselves, not because they hated Marxist–Leninists, but because they were simply a trigger-happy bunch of unruly characters. If you give them a machine gun, they will shoot. And some of the Soviets obviously were not careful enough to protect themselves. And they got into embarrassing situations when they were shot in the crossfire between factions of so-called liberation movements.
Anyway, so I decided, as I said, to study the counterculture. I decided this probably would be the best way to disappear. I socialized with characters like this, on the left you see is a barefoot American hippie. It took me quite a long time to study exactly what they were doing and how to mix with them. But eventually I did it. Most of Indian newspapers carried my picture and a promise of two thousand rupees for information about my whereabouts. But they were looking for the wrong person because they obviously tried to stop young Soviet diplomat in a white shirt and tie. And this is how I looked at the time of defection. Nobody could possibly think that the Soviet diplomat would be as crazy as to join a bunch of hippies.
Yes. Travel India and smoke hash. So I made it literally almost like a Hollywood-style detective story. From under the nose of the KGB in Bombay Airport, I landed the plane and I flew to Greece, where I was debriefed by the CIA. That’s basically all for my slides.
We can turn off the projector. And that’s very interesting. Well, you spoke several times before about ideological subversion. That is a phrase that I’m afraid some Americans don’t fully understand. When the Soviet used the phrase ideological subversion. What do they mean it?
Ideological subversion is the process which is legitimate, overt, and open. You can see it with your own eyes. All you have to do, all American mass media has to do, is to unplug their bananas from their ears, open up their eyes, and they can see it. There is no mystery, there is nothing to do with espionage. I know that espionage intelligence gathering looks more romantic. It sells more deodorants through advertising, probably. That’s why your Hollywood producers are so crazy about James Bond-type of thrillers. But in reality, the main emphasis of the KGB is not in the area of intelligence at all. According to my opinion, and the opinion of many defectors of my caliber, only about 15 percent of time, money and manpower is spent on espionage as such. The other 85 percent is a slow process, which we call either ideological subversion or “active measures” — aktivnye meropriyatiya in the language of the KGB — or psychological warfare. What it basically means is, to change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country. It’s a great brainwashing process which goes very slow, and it’s divided into four basic stages, the first one being demoralization. It takes from fifteen to twenty years to demoralize a nation. Why that many years? Because this is the minimum number of years required to educate one generation of students in the country of your enemy. Exposed to the ideology of the enemy. In other words, Marxism–Leninism ideology is being pumped into the soft heads of at least three generations of American students without being challenged or counterbalanced by the basic values of Americanism, American patriotism. The result, the result you can see. Most of the people who graduated in the ’60s, drop-outs or half-baked intellectuals, are now occupying the positions of power in the government, civil service, business, mass media, educational system. You are stuck with them. You cannot get rid of them. They are contaminated. They are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli in a certain pattern. You cannot change their minds. Even if you expose them to authentic information, even if you prove that white is white and black is black, you still cannot change the basic perception and the logic of behavior. In other words, these people — the process of demoralization is complete and irreversible. To rid society of these people you need another twenty or fifteen years to educate a new generation of patriotically-minded, common-sense people who would be acting in favor and in the interests of the United States society.
And yet these people have been programmed and, as you say, emplaced — and who are favorable to an opening with the Soviet concept — these are the very people who would be marked for extermination in this country?
Most of them, yes. Simply because the psychological shock when they see in the future what the beautiful society of equality and social justice means in practice, obviously they will revolt. They will they will be very unhappy, frustrated people. And the Marxist–Leninist regime does not tolerate these people. They obviously they will join the links of dissenters, dissidents. Unlike in the present United States, there will be no place for dissent in future Marxist–Leninist America. Here you can you can get popular like Daniel Ellsberg and filthy rich like Jane Fonda for being dissident, for criticizing your Pentagon. In the future, these people will be simply squashed like cockroaches. Nobody is going to pay them nothing for their beautiful, noble ideas of equality. This they don’t understand and it will be a great shock for them, of course. The demoralization process in the United States is basically completed already. For the last twenty-five years — actually, it’s over-fulfilled because demoralization now reaches such areas where previously not even Comrade Andropov and all his experts would even dream of such a tremendous success. Most of it is done by Americans to Americans, thanks to a lack of moral standards. As I mentioned before, exposure to true information does not matter anymore. A person who is demoralized is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures. Even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him a concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it — until he is going to receive a kick in his fat bottom. When the military boot crushes his balls, then he will understand — but not before that. That is the tragedy of the situation of demoralization. So basically, America is stuck with demoralization. And even if you start right now, here, this minute, you start educating a new generation of Americans. It will still take you fifteen to twenty years to turn the tide of ideological perception of reality back to normalcy and patriotism. The next stage is destabilization. This time the subverter does not care about your ideas and the patterns of your consumption. Whether you are junk food and get fat and flabby, doesn’t matter anymore. This time, and it takes only from two to five years to destabilize a nation, what matters is essentials: economy, foreign relations, and defense systems. And you can see quite clearly that in some areas, in such sensitive areas as defense and economy, the influence of Marxist–Leninist ideas in the United States is absolutely fantastic. I could never believe it fourteen years ago when I landed in this part of the world that the process would go that fast. The next stage, of course, is crisis. It may take only up to six weeks to bring a country to the verge of crisis. You can see it in Central America now. And after crisis, with a violent change of power, structure, and economy, you have the so-called period of normalization. It may last indefinitely. Normalization is a cynical expression borrowed from Soviet propaganda. When the Soviet tanks moved into Czechoslovakia in ‘68, Comrade Brezhnev said, “Now the situation in brotherly Czechoslovakia is normalized.” This is what will happen in the United States if you allow all these schmucks to bring the country to crisis, to promise people all kinds of goodies and the paradise on Earth, to destabilize your economy, to eliminate the principle of free market competition, and to put a Big Brother government in Washington, D.C., with benevolent dictators like Walter Mondale who will promise lots of things. Never mind whether the promises unfulfillable or not, he will go to Moscow to kiss the bottoms of a new generation of Soviet assassins. Never mind. He will create false illusions that the situation is under control. The situation is not under control, the situation is disgustingly out of control. Most of the American politicians, media, and educational system train another generation of people who think they are leaving in peace time. False. The United States is in the state of war — undeclared, total war against the basic principles and the foundations of this system. And the initiator of this war is not Comrade Andropov, of course. It’s the system, however ridiculous it may sound. The world communist system or the world communist conspiracy. Whether I scare some people are not, I don’t give a hoot. If you are not scared by now, nothing can scare you. But you don’t have to be paranoid about it. What actually happens now that…? Unlike myself, you have literally several years to live on unless the United States wakes up. The time bomb is ticking. With every second, the disaster is coming closer and closer. Unlike myself, you will have nowhere to defect to. Unless you want to live in Antarctica with penguins. This is it. This is the last country of freedom and possibility.
OK. So what do we do? What is your recommendation to the American people?
Well, the immediate thing that comes to my mind is, of course, there must be a very strong national effort to educate people in the spirit of real patriotism, number one. Number two, to explain to them, the real danger of socialist, communist — whatever — welfare state, big brother government. If people fail to grasp the impending danger of that development, nothing ever can help the United States. You may kiss goodbye to your freedom, including freedoms to homosexuals, to prison inmates — all this freedom will vanish, evaporate in five seconds. Including your precious lives. The second thing… At the moment, at least part of the United States population is convinced that the danger is real. They have to force their government — and I’m not talking about sending letters, signing petitions, and all this beautiful, noble activity — I am talking about forcing the United States government to stop aiding communism because there is no other problem more burning and urgent than to stop the Soviet military–industrial complex from destroying whatever is left of the free world. And it is very easy to do. No credits, no technology, no money, no political or diplomatic recognition. And of course, no such idiocy as grain deals to USSR. The Soviet people, 270 millions of Soviets, will be eternally thankful to you if you stop aiding a bunch of murderers who sit now in the Kremlin and whom President Reagan respectfully calls “government.” They do not govern anything, least of all such complexity as the Soviet economy. So basic… Two very simple — maybe too simplistic answers or solutions — but nevertheless they are the only solutions. Educate yourself, understand what is going on around you. You are not living in a time of peace. You are in a state of war and you have precious little time to save yourself. You don’t have much time, especially if you are talking about young generation. There is not much time left for convulsions and sexual masturbation to the beautiful disco music. Very soon it will go, just overnight. If we are talking about capitalists or wealthy businessmen, I think they are selling the rope on which they will hang very soon. If they don’t stop it — they cannot curb their insatiable desire for profit — and if they keep on trading with the monster of Soviet communism, they are going to hang very soon. And they will pray to be killed. But unfortunately they will be sent to Alaska, probably to manage an industry of slaves. It’s simplistic. I know it sounds unpleasant. I know Americans don’t like to listen to things which are unpleasant, but I have defected not to tell you the stories about such idiocy as microfilm James Bond-type espionage. This is garbage. You don’t need any espionage anymore. I have come to talk about survival. It’s a question of survival of this system. You may ask me, what is in it for me. Survival, obviously. Because as I said, I am now in your boat. If we sing together, we’ll sing beautifully together. There is no other place on this planet to defect to.