Interview with Soviet diplomat and arabist Vyacheslav Matuzov, with Sarkis Tsaturyan
How did Trotskyism liquidate the state of Lenin and Stalin? What constrained the Comintern, the international department of the Central Committee and the KGB? What of Pitovran, Andropov and Primakov? What follows is an n interview with well-known Soviet diplomat and arabist Vyacheslav Matuzov, who opens the veil of the main secret of the 20th century. We believe readers will take great interest in this, for it explains how parallel structures were created, that these were made possible by shadowy figures who in fact were well known and operated in public, leading right up to center of Soviet power. This interview necessarily explains the mechanics involved, the arrival of a mysterious and subverting dual structure that had the powers of the KGB but which was decidedly not the KGB.
At the same time, this interview is necessarily limited, it is conducted in a somewhat Platonic manner, the reader must untangle the relationship between the USSR’s structures as observed from this critical ‘diplomat’ who engaged in cipher work on a daily basis in Lebanon and Palestine, and how these related to a stark shift in Soviet power which appeared to betray the PLO and the PFLP. What does that lead to, what does that mean? – J. Flores
– What questions did you deal with in the international department of the CPSU Central Committee?
– My working day began at 9 am. For the first 2-3 hours I read the cipher telegram in a special room. They carried out everything related to my subject from the GRU, the General Staff, the Foreign Ministry and the KGB. In each embassy, departments had their coders. People worked highly professional.
From 1974 to 1988 I studied Lebanon. During these years there was a civil war, and those parties with which the CPSU cooperated were in its epicenter. For example, the Lebanese Communist Party, Progressive – Socialist Party , headed by Kamal Jumblatt , and since 1977 – led by his son , Walid Jumblatt . Plus, in my area of responsibility were relations with the Palestinian parties. With Yasser Arafat and other politicians in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The CPSU has often been accused of supporting terrorists, but this is not true. We strictly observed the line between terrorists and national-patriotic forces that fought against imperialism. If the smallest Palestinian organization was noticed in armed actions against a civilian population, it was automatically taken not only beyond the framework of assistance, but beyond the framework of contacts. There were many such organizations.
There were also those who promised the USSR to abandon terrorist methods. In particular, we accepted the apologies and assurances of the leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the person of George Habash that they would never engage in terrorist activities. After that, they were given scholarships to study at Soviet educational institutions. I remember how the members of the Politburo rose to the top, when Leila Khaled was among the students of the University of Peoples Friendship . Then it was decided to transfer it to the Kiev Medical Institute. Past terrorist attacks carried out by the Popular Front influenced the climate of relations between the USSR and this organization. However, their representative Abu Ali Mustafa was a member of the PLO Executive Committee, as was Mahmoud Abbas from Fatah. We treated the front as an integral part of the PLO, but closely followed that there was no recurrence of terrorism.
Relations with the communist parties were carried out through the Solidarity Committee, the most influential organization in those days. Unfortunately, now we do not see such public organizations that would serve as side structures and complement diplomatic agencies. [Then develop an ideology more than iconography of Putin – ed., J. Flores] The role of the public in modern Russia is reduced to incomprehensible meetings in Vladimir and Seliger. This is a problem.
In our international department, work was conducted on a serious level. Suffice it to say that the Tajik writer Mirzo Tursunzade was the head of the Solidarity Committee. But the real work was done by Alexander Dzasokhov. Dzasokhov have been responsible for different directions: one – for the Arab and the other – for the African. He had a responsible secretary for general affairs with him. At different times different people worked there. Work on the ground was carried out through a structured apparatus in which all departments were represented. This allowed people who were at the top of the party to look around and determine the general direction.
After all, if you give all the representatives of the KGB, the GRU or people with general education who have no relation to them, the system would not be able to work effectively. Needed a verified political line. Therefore, we had a sector for working with public organizations. One person in it was responsible for the Committee of Solidarity, the other – for the Peace Committee, etc. Everything was structured.
– How was the Communist Party funded?
– Each fraternal party had its own budget. Money at today’s rates is small – the earnings of one oligarch per month. Suppose the Lebanese Communist Party was allocated at first $ 200 thousand a year, then raised to $ 300 thousand. We had a man in the department who controlled the cash vault. A KGB officer with a briefcase came to him, took the amount, which was then transferred through the resident, who distributed the money against a receipt.
When we arrived in the country, the ambassador greeted us with arms. But on a daily basis, members of the special services were guarding the staff of the international department of the Central Committee.
– It turns out that the participation of the GRU was minimal?
– The participation of the GRU was purely theoretical. Military intelligence was engaged in analytics, for example, the Palestinian resistance movement. And contacts with Arafat went through the Committee of Solidarity, where a colonel from the KGB (First Main Directorate) sat Lev Baucin . He was responsible for solidarity with the PLO. We had friendly relations with everyone. The military solved their problems. There were smart, talented guys, strong analysts. Where did they all go then? Age, I guess. Many of them were older than me …
With the collapse of the USSR, the GRU system was defeated. The Main Intelligence Directorate was turned into the Directorate General Staff. Status, rates and the role of the agency lowered. At the time of Peter Ivashutin, the GRU was an influential structure that had the right to reach the first person with its information and analytics. After Ivashutin left in 1987, everything went sloping.
– The Central Committee of the CPSU had an effective decision-making system, called by some experts as party intelligence. When and why did this system start to fail?
– In my opinion, party intelligence as such did not exist, but there was intelligence from the Comintern. Stalin covered the structure of the Comintern May 15, 1943. On its basis, in 1947, the Communist Information Bureau was formed, which was liquidated after the 20th CPSU Congress in 1956. After the cadres of the Comintern moved to the international department of the Central Committee of the CPSU. For example, the Comintern was Boris Ponomarev , head of the international department . Grigory Shumeiko from the Comintern also worked with us . The methods of the Comintern are preserved and used on a party basis.
Today they say that Vasily Kuznetsov was allegedly the leader of party intelligence . This wasn’t the reality. Can you imagine that Yuri Andropov would allow anyone to control the special services?
– Nevertheless, Kuznetsov was a weighty figure …
– Yes, he was an honorary man, a candidate member of the Politburo. Sometimes he replaced the chairman of the Supreme Council when he fell ill or went on a business trip. Armchair. He had no functions. Kuznetsov never had contact with the fraternal Communist Parties.
That is, there was no party intelligence, in any case, it was not in 1966, when, while still a student, I contacted the international department of the Central Committee. However, the Central Committee apparatus worked very closely with the First Main Directorate (PGU) of the KGB – this is an unequivocal fact. Full bow with PSU.
Although after Khrushchev times there was an unwritten law that prohibited the KGB to follow the workers of the Central Committee and obtain any information in the Central Committee staff. Moreover, they were instructed to render the Central Committee every assistance. Leonid Brezhnev had a feeling that the KGB at some stage could take advantage of its power to liquidate the party leadership.
The party system itself has never collapsed. Pay attention to the same Alexander Dzasokhov , who was Yevgeny Primakov’s closest friend . Remaining the executive secretary, he first left as ambassador to Damascus, then became secretary of the North Ossetian Regional Committee of the CPSU, and on the eve of the collapse of the USSR – a member of the Politburo. As a result of the change of leadership that Mikhail Gorbachev was conducting , people far from party work became members of the Politburo. Primakov and Dzasokhov had nothing to do with the party.
I knew Primakov since 1970. Then I arrived in Lebanon, where he was a correspondent for the Pravda newspaper. It turned out that my head in the international department, the most talented Arabist, Vadim Rumyantsev and Primakov, studied together and were friends. So they hooked me up to this company, in which we drank tea in the evenings (smiles) . I was 33 years old. We knew each other well.
I think that Yevgeny Maksimovich was the central figure that made the transition from “perestroika” to the shootout and the current situation. I believe that Boris Yeltsin and Gorbachev were secondary people. It was an external picture. But the real mechanism that controlled the whole process — before perestroika, during perestroika, and after perestroika, when all sorts of Austrian institutions were formed, was tied to Primakov and other heirs of the Andropov plan.
– Speaking about the Austrian institutions, do you mean the centers where Anatoly Chubais and the whole team of future young reformers went to study?
– Yes. The same forces created the Leningrad Center, where they at one time transferred Major General Oleg Kalugin , who at the PSU headed the department of the USA and Canada, and also was the head of foreign counterintelligence of the PSU.
This was connected not so much with Primakov, as with Andropov. When I joined the staff in 1966, Andropov was also in charge of the Central Committee department for working with socialist countries. In 1967, he became chairman of the KGB, not having the status of a member of the Central Committee and a member of the Politburo. Just like Andrei Gromyko .
Our chief, Ponomarev, was superior in status, was a candidate member of the Politburo, secretary of the Central Committee, and led all international relations. A candidate member of the Politburo and a member of the Politburo is also a big difference: you have the right to listen, but you have no right to vote.
With the appointment of Andropov, the very status of the KGB chairman soon changed, since in the post-Khruschev period Brezhnev was very careful and did not allow the special services to dominate the party apparatus. The head of the KGB has now become a member of the Politburo. The status of Gromyko also increased. And the status of the international department fell. Although then there were some relapses, the agony lasted for a long time … Until the last day, the international department tried to prove to the USSR Foreign Ministry that it was closer to the body of the leader.
– Was there a strong competition?
– Very strong. Relations between Ponomarev and Gromyko were strained to the limit … Who will be the first to grab the information and the first to write a note to the Politburo. I believe that as a member of the Politburo, Gromyko had information from all departments – from the KGB, the GRU, the General Staff.
On the table of a member of the Politburo, everything that was transmitted through closed ciphers was laid out. By the way, not every member of the Politburo had access to read all the information that was intended for 2–3 members, and sometimes just for one.
– You worked under Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev. With Brezhnev understandable. And how did the attitude of the rest of the Soviet leaders to the leading role of the party change?
– The dynamics went unnoticed. Already at the present time, having information that appears on the Internet and on television, it is possible to create an overall picture. For example, when Aleksandr Tsipko , whom no one took to the Central Committee as a serious worker, now says that he was under the personal care of Andropov and prepared closed documents for him that Andropov did not leave in the KGB archives.
The KGB was a system that did not allow to deviate from the general line. Andropov, himself creating this system, understood that if information gets into it, then it automatically becomes utilized by many employees who may be dissatisfied with one or another political position of the leadership.
Therefore, further changes (“restructuring”) were carried out not on the basis of the KGB, but with the help of the KGB, but outside the framework of the KGB. Where did Primakov come from? This is not the KGB system. He is from the side shoots that Andropov created, being already the chairman of the KGB and a member of the Politburo. Director of the Institute of USA and Canada, Georgi Arbatov , director of IMEMO Nikolai Inozemtsev , director of the Institute of Oriental Studies Bobojan Gafurov .
These were parallel structures that duplicated the KGB. Outwardly, they worked in conjunction with the party apparatus. But in reality, these institutions were so strong, being under the patronage of Andropov, that the influence of the leading departments of the Central Committee on them was zero.
I then did not know about it. I happened to fall out of favor with Primakov precisely because of ignorance. When Primakov headed the Institute of Oriental Studies in 1977, he was immediately given the status of a member of the Central Committee, that is, untouchability. By the way, Inozemtsev was a very talented person. The two of us traveled for 40 days after the day of the killing of Kamal Jumblat. We talked with him for 7 days in Beirut. Made a strong impression.
– Very strong. With colossal life experience, a veteran of World War II, was awarded four military orders. Restrained, not a single superfluous word or even movement with his eyebrows. It was a trained public figure, which allowed his personality not to shine.
Tsipko speaks the truth when he recalls Andropov, who did not allow him to send notes to the KGB archives. The last time I met was Tsipko in Washington, when in 1990 I worked as an adviser to the embassy. Then the Central Committee collapsed, there was no one there. The entire cipher translation was banned from being sent to the Central Committee as early as the end of 1988.
– It turns out that Gorbachev just finished off the system?
– Gorbachev is a rag, a pawn, nothing at all. For the collapse of the USSR stood the heirs of Andropov. That is, conditions were created for the transition from the system in which we lived to the Western model.
– “Why did they need to destroy the country?”
– I will tell you in response to a small story from life. In October 1974, when I was in Lebanon, I worked as the first secretary of the embassy, my mother died. I flew to Novosibirsk for the funeral. On the way back, I called Vadim Rumyantsev , who was then made the deputy head of the Central Committee. He called to himself. Visiting him were Primakov and his wife … And then Primakov was a member of the editorial board of the Pravda newspaper.
What is the newspaper “Pravda” in those years? If there was a small negative note about the official, then he was immediately removed from his post. Suddenly I heard from Primakov: “The socialist system has become obsolete. We must move away from it and start living as in the West. ”
And here I enter into an argument with Evgeny Makedonovich. In those years, he had such a middle name … When I came to Primakov in 1975, he told me: “Slava, call me Evgeny Maksimovich now.”
– He changed his middle name?
– Yes, this is a unique thing in his biography. Primakov’s personality has been conspired to the utmost to this day. I believe that he was the main actor who completed Andropov’s plan to reorganize the Soviet Union. In simple terms, Primakov has been watching the process — all these years.
Returning to our dispute with Primakov. I give him examples from the history of the USSR … The civil war ends in 1922. The country is in ruin. After 7 years, industrialization began, and by 1939, on the eve of World War II, the USSR met it, having industry, agriculture, the political will of the leadership, and most importantly – it was the population. My maternal grandmother recalled how they lived before World War II: the shelves were filled with goods, food was cheap, socially equipped life, the economy was flourishing. These were colorful memories. And today nobody talks about this: officially, all information is distorted and destroyed, and people who have seen it with their own eyes, are gradually passing away. In 1941-1945 half the country was evacuated to Siberia. I remember that, I myself lived in Siberia then. And in 1945-1955, the development of the rocket industry was already taking place. Then, during the discussion, Yevgeny Makedonovich looked at me like a beast.
The deputy head of the international department, Vadim Rumyantsev, pushes me with his foot under the table: “Slava, let’s go for a smoke.” I go out with him. “Stop it! Do you know who you grappled with? Shut up immediately, ” Rumyantsev tells me. That is, already in 1974, at the level of the international head of the international department, people passed the bearers of the point of view that Pravda correspondent represented Primakov … Even Primakov. And what can we say about the floor above. Then it became clear that our chief, Ponomarev and Andropov, were on the same team.
The “perestroika” mechanism was carried out by Primakov’s supporters outside the KGB, partly drawing from there the personnel that Andropov personally created. After all, Andropov also came to the KGB and the Central Committee not from scratch. And here it is interesting to consider the roots of Andropov himself.
– By the way, about the roots. What factors contributed to Andropov’s career takeoff?
– Andropov was the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Komsomol of the Karelian-Finnish SSR. Otto Kuusinen stood behind him . And who was Kuusinen involved with? With Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Pitovranov . This is the “father” of all Andropov, Primakov and other figures of “perestroika”.
– What was the role of Pitovranov?
– Thread stretches from the Comintern and Leon Trotsky . The “red thread” in this story is the struggle of Joseph Stalin with Trotskyism in the ranks of law enforcement agencies. In my opinion, all this was created on the basis of the special services.
– Would you say that Trotskyism took revenge on Stalinism in 1991?
– Absolute Revenge. And with the same ideas – against Stalinism.
– What is the Comintern?
– This is an interesting topic. The Arab Communist Parties, especially the Lebanese, who had a developed theoretical base, had a special interest in it. The Lebanese remained at that time powerful veterans of the Comintern. Every year at the Volyn dacha of Stalin, we held meetings of the Arab Communist Parties and discussed plans. In 1968, the Lebanese rushed to the archives of the Comintern, legally they had such a right.
I was then sent to the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, where the super-secret archive was located. They were not even allowed there by an ID of an employee of the Central Committee. However, the pass was ordered to me. I sat down and looked through the archive of the Lebanese Communist Party, after which I reported to my chief Rumyantsev: “Vadim Petrovich, honestly, I would not show them a single piece of paper” (laughs) .
– Is it completely beyond the edge?
“Mat-peremat …” The nature of the relationship was very rude. For example, on a request to the Comintern with a request to clarify such and such a question, there is a visa of the well-known head of department: “To feel this asshole!”. And further – in a similar vein. I do not know where the archive of the Comintern is now.
– Was the Comintern an intelligence organization?
– Of course. In the years 1925-1930, the Communist Parties of the Arab countries were created. The epicenter of the communist movement in the Middle East was the Communist Party of Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. The Comintern sent its emissaries to this base, who with a lot of money created party structures there and engaged in propaganda. And the most reliable employees of the Comintern were people of Jewish origin, who did not penetrate sympathy for the local population and clearly followed the instructions of the Center.
This is a word about why Britain made a bid to create the Muslim Brotherhood (an organization whose activities are prohibited in the territory of the Russian Federation – ed) . I studied a lot of materials on this topic, read the memoirs of British intelligence. As a result of the activity of the Comintern, London felt in the 1930s a threat to its influence. And in all Arab countries.
People who came to the Middle East with the principles of the struggle against colonialism, the exploitation and oppression of the peoples received the strongest support on the ground. The French were less agile, but the British made all the necessary conclusions. Therefore, from 1929 to 1932, they created the movement “Blockade of Godless Communism”.
That is, British intelligence represented the struggle against communism as a battle with godlessness, hoping to win over the believing population. So the Muslim Brotherhood was born. This organization is still rooted in the 1930s. True, the control system has changed today, but not by much: MI-6 simply handed over the control panel to the CIA.
– What is Mikhail Gorbachev?
– Gorbachev is a very narrow-minded person, two-faced. He did not have a position, except for the desire to destroy socialism. Gorbachev overestimates the significance of his views so that he is paid more in the West. He endured on the Politburo and made a decision depending on who was the first to approach him.
I will give an example. In November 1988, I was returning from Algeria from the National Council of Palestine, when a fight between Arafat and pro-Syrian groups could destroy the PLO. The deputy head of the international department of the Central Committee, Karen Brutents, then gave me an oral instruction: “Do not interfere, do nothing. Let them destroy each other. It will be easier for us to enter into diplomatic relations with Israel. ”
It was clear that Brutents stated a personal point of view, and not an official position. I took the responsibility and ignored this instruction, since in Algeria Arafat approached me in the congress hall and declared: “Tell your Marxists to stop destroying me. Yesterday I signed a cooperation agreement with the Palestinians, who are in the wake of Hafez Asad . And tonight, I received calls from the King of Morocco, Hassan II, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak , who demanded an immediate end to the agreement. Tell them that I did not liquidate it, but Arab leaders, against whom I cannot speak. ”
I told Arafat the following: “Abu Ammar, you, the wisest of the wisest, have always been able to maneuver. If you are the source of destruction of the PLO Executive Committee, then I guarantee that Moscow will no longer support you. ” To which Arafat retorted: “Well, I will do everything possible, but you talk to your Marxists.” Let me remind you that Arafat was thrown out of Lebanon by Syrians by the hands of pro-Palestinian organizations. And Arafat was offended by us, because the USSR did not protect him from the Syrians.
After Arafat, his opponent comes to me – the leader of the pro-Syrian wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Georges Habash. “Arafat is a traitor. Yesterday we signed an agreement, and today he broke it, ” he said. I said to Habash: “I just spoke to Arafat. He said it was not his decision. You are a wise man, do not become the cause of the destruction of the PLO. “
Our conversations were in these days recorded in their entirety. Very quickly in the international department they learned the content of the conversations. Brutents did not accept me for a week after my arrival in Moscow – he was allegedly busy. Already at the meeting, he made a remark to me: “I told you not to do anything, and you ignored my instructions.” I replied to my boss: “But the PLO has survived, and could have split into thousands of terrorist organizations.”
When the responsible officer of the Central Committee, whom I was, was returning to Moscow, he was preparing an information note outlining the situation and proposals. Further, the note went to the Politburo. It was extremely important. After all, US President George W. Bush commented on the situation with Palestinians several times a day: the Americans closely followed the events. And we had silence, as now …
After I learned that Brutents behind my back made a note to the Politburo (without my signature) – we had a hard order, according to which the document was wrapped by the general department of the Central Committee (it was once headed by Konstantin Chernenko ) and was not considered at a meeting of the Politburo. I prepared a paper with proposals and handed it to Gorbachev, who said that the resolution on this issue had already been adopted, but the proposals set forth in my note would be implemented by direct indication …
The system has already been destroyed. In December 1988, all information flows to the Central Committee were liquidated. No information on special channels. The GRU and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stopped sending cipher telegrams. The only thing that remained was that the KGB sent us generalizing materials and analytics, not daily information from the embassies, as it was before. The structure was virtually absent. Then I went to work at the Foreign Ministry as an expert in the management of the Middle East, and my colleague Vitaly Churkin as an expert in the secretariat to Edward Shevardnadze .
– How do you remember Churkin?
Amazing specialist. Brilliant man, open. He knew the language brilliantly. Dobrynin led him to the international department. Churkin in his Washington embassy for 10 years headed the press service.