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Oleg Antonovich Gordievsky ( ), CMG (born 10 October 1938 in Moscowmarker, Russian SFSR, Soviet Unionmarker), was a Colonel of the KGBmarker and KGB Resident-designate (rezident) and bureau chief in Londonmarker, who was a secret agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 1974 to 1985.

Early career

Oleg Gordievsky attended the Moscow State Institute of International Relationsmarker, and on completion of his studies, joined the foreign service where he was posted to East Berlin in August 1961, just prior to completion of the Berlin Wallmarker. He joined the KGB in 1963, and was posted to the Soviet embassy in Copenhagenmarker, Denmarkmarker.

Double agent

During his Danish posting, Gordievsky became disenchanted with his work in the KGB, particularly after the Soviet invasion of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republicmarker in 1968 – and made his sentiment known to MI6, who subsequently made contact with him. The value of MI6's recruitment of such a highly-placed and valuable intelligence asset increased dramatically when, in 1982, Gordievsky was assigned to the Soviet embassy in Londonmarker as the KGB Resident-designate ("rezident"), responsible for Soviet intelligence gathering and espionage in the UK.

Two of Gordievsky's most important contributions were averting a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia when NATO exercise Able Archer 83 was mis-interpreted by the Soviets as a potential first strike, and identifying Mikhail Gorbachev as the Soviet heir apparent long before he came to prominence. Indeed, the information passed by Gordievsky became the first proof of how paranoid the Soviet leadership had become about the possibility of NATO nuclear first strike.

Gordievsky was suddenly ordered back to Moscowmarker on 22 May 1985, taken to a KGB safehouse outside Moscow, drugged and interrogated by Soviet counterintelligence. Apparently the leak came from two sources, one of which might have been Aldrich Ames, an Americanmarker CIA officer, who had been selling secrets to the KGB.


Gordievsky was taken to a KGB safehouse, drugged and questioned for about 5 hours. He was then released and told he would never work overseas again. Although he was suspected of espionage for a foreign power, for some reason his superiors decided to stall. In June 1985 he was joined by his wife and two children in Moscow.

Although he almost certainly remained under KGB surveillance, Gordievsky managed to send a covert signal to MI6 about his situation, and they reactivated an elaborate escape plan which had been in place for many years, ready for just such an emergency.

On 19 July 1985, Gordievsky went for his usual jog, but he instead managed to evade his KGB tails and boarded a train to the Finnish border, where he was met by British embassy cars and smuggled across the border into Finlandmarker, then flown to Englandmarker via Norwaymarker. Soviet authorities subsequently sentenced Gordievsky to death in absentia for treason, a sentence never rescinded by post-Soviet Russian authorities. His wife and children – on holiday in Azerbaijan at the time of his escape – finally joined him in the UK six years later, after extensive lobbying by the British Government, and personally by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during her meetings with Gorbachev.

Recent times

Gordievsky congratulated by Baroness Thatcher on investiture, 18 Oct 2007
Gordievsky has written a number of books on the subject of the KGB and is a frequently-quoted media pundit on the subject.

In 1990, he was consultant editor of the journal Intelligence and National Security, and he worked on television in the UK in the 1990s, including the game show Wanted. In 1995 the former British Labour Party leader Michael Foot received an out of court settlement (rumoured not to be particularly substantial) from The Sunday Times after the newspaper alleged, in articles derived from claims in the original manuscript of Gordievsky's book Next Stop Execution (1995), that Foot was a KGB "agent of influence" with the codename 'Boot'.

On 26 February 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Buckinghammarker in recognition of his outstanding service to the security and safety of the United Kingdom.

Gordievsky had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph on 3 August 2005, accusing the BBC of being "The Red Service". He said:
"Just listen with attention to the ideological nuances on Radio 4, BBC television, and the BBC World Service, and you will realise that communism is not a dying creed."

Gordievsky was featured in the PBS documentary Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy.

Gordievsky was appointed Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for "services to the security of the United Kingdom" in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours (in the Diplomatic List). The Guardian newspaper noted that it was "the same gong given his fictional cold war colleague James Bond."

Suspected poisoning

On November 2 2007, Gordievsky was taken by ambulance from his home in Surreymarker to a local hospital, where he spent 34 hours unconscious. He is still partially paralysed. He claimed that he had been poisoned in an assassination attempt, saying he had obtained tablets of what he believed to be the sedative Xanax from abroad with the assistance of an unnamed Russian. He said he took tablets on October 31. He told The Mail on Sunday that he was certain he had been targeted by the KGB (its successors), and that the pills were almost certainly tainted.


  • Jakob Andersen med Oleg Gordievsky: "De Røde Spioner - KGB's operationer i Danmark fra Stalin til Jeltsin, fra Stauning til Nyrup", Høst & Søn, Copenhagen (2002).

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