Oleg D. Kalugin, Spy Man

by Ryan on May 19, 2007

in Russia

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing a lecture from Major General Oleg Kalugin, KGB (Retired) at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC through the American Institute for History Education (AIHE) grant through my school district.  Not only was the International Spy Museum a really cool experience, but Oleg’s lecture was absolutely ground-shaking!

His credentials are numerous, as you can read in the link above, but in short, he was KGB since the 1950s, was Vladimir Putin’s boss, and was an insider against the KGB-hardliner coup of Gorbachev in 1991.  This point is why Putin considers his old boss a traitor and had him convicted to 15 years in prison in absentia. Oleg applied for and received political asylum in the USA and is now a citizen (geez, they’ll give citizenship to anyone!).  The picture below is of Oleg circling the tank that Yeltsin spoke from that fateful August day in 1991, while Yeltsin’s on the other side speaking out against the KGB coup:

It was an absolutely amazing experience, but these are some tidbits from my notes of his lecture that shocked me:

  • By 1953 the Soviets had 327 spies in the US government, while we literally had 1 in Moscow!
  • Oleg recruited American spies often and heavily from New York’s Columbia University while he was a journalism student there in the late 1950s!
  • The Soviets tried to bad-mouth the USA in the propaganda war.  The KGB started the false rumor in 1964 that the CIA helped to kill JFK, that the US military invented AIDS as a biological weapon, and that babies were being stolen by American parents in Latin America to use their body-parts for American children.  All of which successfully harmed US relations at home with government distrust, in Africa and south of the border, respectively!
  • The true kicker was his personal exposure to documents, witnesses and KGB spies which stated that Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, and Klaus Fuchs were all Manhattan Project physicists that passed nuclear information to the Soviets.  So did the Rosenbergs– without any doubt despite how some in America like to wash it over! 
  • Also, the biggest bombshell was Oleg’s reports that J. Robert Oppenheimer himself, lead director of the Manhattan Project, was consciously and willingly passing nuclear secrets to the Soviets during World War II– way more intel than any other source they had inside, including the Rosenbergs, whose contribution was minimal when compared to Oppenheimer’s leaks.

Truly an amazing experience.  By the way, he really doesn’t like Putin–with good reason!

First pic from Wikipedia, taken by Cindy Kwitkoff in 2005.  Second pic from CI Centre.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous May 19, 2007 at 11:04 pm

They have a very good podcast as well

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Ryan May 20, 2007 at 12:10 pm

The whole museum experience is great. The museum has a sense of fun and intrigue that really matches our popular view of the mysterious spy. It would be great to bring kids to for a quick survey, but those of us that remember the Cold War can spend hours and hours looking at all the artifacts and stories.

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Mike Wilson December 14, 2009 at 9:26 pm

I agree, I was in heaven at the museum, and for any espionage nut it’s a must see. The behind the curtain look at the Cold War.

Spy Stuff

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