Service/branch Red Army
Allegiance Soviet Union Russia
Rank Lieutenant general
|Years of service 1921-1953|
Books Special Tasks
Name Pavel Sudoplatov
Children Anatoliy Sudoplatov
|Birth name Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov|
Commands held State Political DirectoratePeople's Commissariat for Internal AffairsMinistry for State Security (Soviet Union)KGBMain Directorate of IntelligenceMinistry of Internal Affairs (Russia)
Battles/wars Russian Civil WarWorld War IICold WarSpanish Civil War
Died September 26, 1996, Moscow, Russia
Battles and wars Russian Civil War, World War II, Cold War, Spanish Civil War
Lieutenant General Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov (Пáвел Aнатóльевич Cудоплáтов; July 7, 1907 – September 26, 1996) was a member of the intelligence services of the Soviet Union who rose to the rank of lieutenant general. He was involved in several famous episodes, including the assassination of Leon Trotsky, the Soviet espionage program which obtained information about the atomic bomb from the Manhattan Project, and Operation Scherhorn, a Soviet deception operation against the Germans in 1944. His autobiography, Special Tasks, made him well-known outside the USSR, and provided a detailed look at Soviet intelligence and Soviet internal politics during his years at the top.
- pavel sudoplatov
- Early life and career
- Career in intelligence
- Assassination of Yevhen Konovalets
- Near purge
- Assassination of Leon Trotsky
- Peace offer 1941
- Department S and atomic bomb
- Arrest trial and imprisonment
- Later life Memoir
- Personal and death
- Honours and awards
Early life and career
Sudoplatov was born in Melitopol, Taurida Governorate, Russian Empire (in present-day Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine), to a Ukrainian mother and a Russian father, and was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1919 at the age of 12 he left home and joined a Red Army regiment near Melitopol. After being assigned to company flags and served in combat against both the White Army and the Ukrainian nationalist movement during the Russian Civil War.
Career in intelligence
He transferred to the Soviet OGPU in 1933, moving to Moscow, and soon after became an "illegal", operating under cover in a number of European countries.
Assassination of Yevhen Konovalets
According to Sudoplatov, the order to murder Konovalets came directly from Joseph Stalin, who had personally told him: "This is not just an act of revenge, although Konovalets is an "agent" of German fascism. Our goal is to behead the movement of Ukrainian "fascism" on the eve of the war and force these "gangsters" to annihilate each other in a struggle for power."
After delivering the bomb to Konovalets, Pavel Sudoplatov calmly walked away and waited nearby to verify that it had successfully detonated. He then traveled on foot to Rotterdam's railway station and boarded a train for Paris. Then, with the assistance of the NKVD, Sudoplatov was smuggled to the Second Spanish Republic, where he briefly served in combat against Francisco Franco's Nationalists.
Due to his sudden disappearance, both the Dutch police and the OUN immediately suspected Sudoplatov of Konovalets' murder. Therefore, a photograph of Sudoplatov and Konovalets together was distributed to every OUN unit. According to Sudoplatov
In the 1940s, SMERSH... captured two guerilla fighters in Western Ukraine, one of whom had this photo of me on him. When asked why he was carrying it, he replied, "I have no idea why, but the order is if we find this man to liquidate him."
In the fall of 1938, he was made acting director of the Foreign Department of the NKVD (as the OGPU had by then become) after the purging of the previous head, in a set of purges which later culminated in the fall of Nikolai Yezhov (who was eventually replaced by Lavrentiy Beria). Shortly afterward, Sudoplatov narrowly escaped being purged himself.
Assassination of Leon Trotsky
In March 1939, Stalin rehabilitated Sudoplatov, promoting him to deputy director of the Foreign Department, and placed him in charge of the assassination of Trotsky, which was carried out in August 1940.
In June 1941, Sudoplatov was placed in charge of the NKVD's Administration for Special Tasks, the principal task of which was to carry out sabotage operations behind enemy lines in wartime (both it and the Foreign Department had also been used to carry out assassinations abroad). During World War II, his unit helped organize guerrilla bands, and other secret behind-the-lines units for sabotage and assassinations, to fight the Nazis.
Peace offer 1941
In late July 1941, under the orders of Lavrentiy Beria, he met (in a Georgian restaurant in the centre of Moscow) with the Bulgarian ambassador, who was the representative of Germany in USSR, at the time. Sudoplatov asked the ambassador if Hitler would stop penetration of the USSR, in exchange for giving Germany, a large part of USSR. No one knows if this proposition was true or if it was an attempt of USSR to gain time.
"Department S" and atomic bomb
In February, 1944, Beria allegedly named Sudoplatov to head the newly formed Department S, which, according to Sudoplatov, united both the army intelligence (GRU) and NKVD intelligence in an effort to aid and secure the Soviet atomic bomb project. Sudoplatov's exact role and contribution, as well as his claim that he "engineered the theft of atomic secrets from the United States with the aid of four eminent scientists" is under discussion, since, according to the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia, Department S was established in September 1945, and Sudoplatov had limited access to the Soviet atomic effort from that time until October 1946 and did not have any access to foreign agents tasked with collecting the atomic intelligence. In 1995, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) conducted an investigation and declared that it,
"...is not in possession of any credible evidence that would suggest that Neils Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, or Leo Szilard engaged in any espionage activity on behalf of any foreign power..., the F.B.I. has classified information available that argues against the conclusions reached by the author of 'Special Tasks.' The F.B.I., therefore, considers such allegations to be unfounded."
The spelling Neils (sic) Bohr is in the original quoted.
In the summer of 1946, Sudoplatov was removed from both posts, and in September he was placed in charge of another group at the newly renamed MGB, one which was supposed to plan sabotage actions in Western countries. In November, 1949, he was given a temporary job helping suppress a guerrilla Ukrainian liberation movement in Ukraine that was a relic of World War II.
In the spring of 1953, around the time of Stalin's death, Sudoplatov was appointed to head the yet-again renamed MVD's Bureau of Special Tasks, which was responsible for sabotage operations abroad, and ran networks of "illegals" who were given the task of preparing attacks on military establishments in NATO countries, in the event that NATO attacked the Soviet Union.
Arrest, trial and imprisonment
After the fall of Lavrentiy Beria, Sudoplatov was arrested on August 21, 1953 as his alleged collaborator in crimes. He simulated madness to avoid being executed with Beria, and therefore he was tried only in 1958. He was accused, among other things, of involvement with the Mairanovsky's laboratory of death:
"As established [during the court trial], Beria and his accomplices committed terrible crimes against humanity: they tested deadly poisons, which caused agonizing death, on live humans. A special laboratory, which was established for experiments on the action of poisons on living humans, worked under the supervision of Sudoplatov and his deputy Eitingon from 1942 to 1946. They demanded he provide them only with poisons that had been tested on humans...".
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After serving the full term (during which time he was housed with a number of Stalin's top assistants, also imprisoned), he was duly released in August, 1968.
Later life. Memoir
Sudoplatov thereafter worked for some time as a German and Ukrainian translator, and also published three books under a pen name Anatoliy Andreev based on his activities during the World War II.
After an extensive letter-writing campaign, including a publicity effort during the glasnost era, he was finally rehabilitated and cleared of wrongdoing on 10 January 1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In his memoirs, he wrote with bitterness about his rehabilitation:
"The Soviet Union—to which I devoted every fiber of my being and for which I was willing to die; for which I averted my eyes from every brutality, finding justification in its transformation from a backward nation into a superpower; for which I spent long months on duty away from Emma and the children; whose mistakes cost me fifteen years of my life as a husband and father - was unwilling to admit its failure and take me back as a citizen. Only when there was no more Soviet Union, no more proud empire, was I reinstated and my name returned to its rightful place."
In 1994, his autobiography, Special Tasks, based part on Sudoplatov's memory, part on some KGB documents and written with the help of his son Anatoliy and two American writers, was published; it caused a considerable uproar. In addition to extensive details of many Soviet intelligence operations during Sudoplatov's career, and a similarly extensive discussion of the political machinations inside the intelligence services and the Soviet government, it claimed that a number of Western scientists who had worked on the atomic bomb project, such as Robert Oppenheimer, while not recruited agents for the Soviets, had provided important information. At first, this revelation was treated as a scoop by the American media, but later it has been disputed by the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia and the F.B.I., and dismissed by American and Russian scientists and historians.
Personal and death
He died on September 26, 1996 and was buried next to his wife at the New Donskoy Cemetery in Moscow.