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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 32, New Delhi, July 25, 2020

Khrushchev’s Speech at the 20th Party Congress of the CPSU: How a secret document got into American newspapers | Artyom Dobrovolsky

Friday 24 July 2020

[English translation of an article that appeared in a Russian news site]

Three years passed after the death of the Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the CPSU (B.) Joseph Stalin. With his death, the Cold War between the USSR and the USA not only did not end, but also began to gain momentum. As a result of a complex bureaucratic struggle, Nikita Khrushchev came to power in the USSR. He became one of the initiators of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU, which was called upon to determine the policy of the superpower for the near future.

The whole world froze in anticipation: what will happen next? In what direction will the Soviet Union go? Will Stalin’s harsh policies continue or will the new leadership set a course for reconciliation with the United States?

The Twentieth Congress of the CPSU was held on February 25, 1956. He passed under the most stringent security measures: not only foreigners but also party members with a guest mandate were not allowed into the hall. Nobody outside the Kremlin knew what Khrushchev said during the congress. In this regard, literally in a day, the text of the report of the congress became the most important document on the planet. All world intelligence began to look for ways to get the coveted report.

As a result, a secret document, for the protection of which the Soviet special services put so much effort, was published in the New York Times on June 4, 1956, and after that it spread throughout the American and world media. This was made possible thanks to the special operation of the Israeli counterintelligence Shabak.

With these words you can imagine a kind of top-secret operation, developed by the first persons of the Israeli special services. The imagination brought up by Hollywood films will draw pictures of how a special squad in the middle of the night sneaks into the Kremlin, steals a report and, firing back, escapes at the last moment by helicopter, clutching the coveted document. In life, everything was much more prosaic.

The fact is that in order to avoid rumours and gossip, the text of the report was sent to the leaders of the Communist parties of the socialist countries. The leak occurred in Poland. At that time, Viktor Graevsky (née Spielman) worked in Warsaw, a journalist and employee of the Polish Press Agency. Just a year before the Twentieth Congress, he was in Israel for the first time, where he was recruited by the newly formed Israeli intelligence. The leadership of the Jewish state wanted to keep abreast of any plans of the USSR regarding Israel, in connection with which it tried to introduce its people into various Soviet institutions.

As a member of the press, Graevsky was aware that Khrushchev read out some sensational text, which was the object of interest of all the intelligence services in the world. According to some rumours, US President Dwight Eisenhower allocated about a million and a half dollars for a special operation to receive a report.

At that time, Graevsky had a romantic relationship with a girl named Lucia Baranovskaya, who worked in the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party. Once he went to her work to invite her to a cup of coffee, but she was very busy. While the journalist was talking with his lover, his eyes fell on the red folder on the table. It was stamped "Top Secret" and the name "Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party, Khrushchev’s speech." At first Graevsky did not believe his eyes: the most wanted document in the world lay right in front of him. Having gathered quickly, he unconstrainedly asked Baranovskaya to borrow a report for a short while, to which he received consent.

With the treasured folder under his arm, Graevsky went to the Israeli embassy, to his acquaintance Yaakov Barmor. At that time, the journalist did not know that Barmor himself was an agent of Shabak. Barmor’s reaction was similar: at first he turned pale, then asked to read the document. Having received it back after an hour and a half, Graevsky returned it to the Baranovskaya table. On this, his role in this story ended. Already in 1957 he was repatriated to Israel.

Barmor, on the first plane, flew to Vienna, where he handed over a photocopy of the document to his boss, the head of the Shabak, Amos Manor. That same evening, Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion read the text of Khrushchev’s report at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU. He had a difficult choice: what to do with the document? As a result of much thought, he decided to give it to the Americans to strengthen relations between the countries. The report was transmitted free of charge, but on one condition: the signing of an agreement on the exchange of information.

The price for such a valuable document was low, so CIA Director Allen Dulles agreed without objection. However, the Americans for a long time could not believe that they were outplayed by the intelligence of the microstate that arose on the map just a few years ago. As a result of lengthy checks, the report was handed over to President Eisenhower. Without thinking twice, he ordered the text of the document to be made public. The effect of the published report was tremendous. Thanks to this special operation, which actually happened by chance, a myth about the omnipotence of Israeli intelligence arose in the world consciousness. More than a decade has passed since then, and the Israeli special services have had a number of high-profile failures, but this myth is still alive.

Artyom Dobrovolsky

Original Russian text at:

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