Thursday, February 2, 2023
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    How the KGB recruited priests – archive documents

    Author: Pavel Kapko Source: Obozrevatel

    It seemed to Moscow that the issue of religious life on the territory of Ukraine had long and forever been settled. But there is a nuance…

    Recently declassified documents of the State Security Committee under the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the Ukrainian SSR, labeled “Top Secret,” tell how the KGB interfered in church affairs and what the Russian Orthodox Church and Moscow Patriarchate did to destroy Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Since then, nothing has changed in the attitude of the Russian security forces to churches.

    In June 1930, the Supreme Council of Ukrainian Emigrants in Europe delegated Chairman of the Council of People’s Ministers of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in exile, Professor Vyacheslav Prokopovych, to meet Ecumenical Patriarch Photius II, to tell about the fact that “the Orthodox population of Ukraine does not have the opportunity to satisfy their religious needs and practice their spiritual life”. At that meeting, the Ecumenical Patriarch was handed an appeal in which he was asked to “pay blessed attention to the religious life of Ukraine.” The corresponding Memorandum talked about free religious life, which was supposed to develop after the restoration of Ukraine’s independence and the renewal of spiritual relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate according to historical traditions, as well as according to the will of the nation. It also contained a request for creating an Autocephalous Church in an independent Ukrainian state. The last paragraph is also worth quoting: “The Supreme Council of Ukrainian Emigrants allows itself to ask Your Holiness not to refuse to accept the Ukrainian believers who are in Western and Central Europe and to consider them from now on as your flock.”

    According to eyewitnesses, the meeting took place in a friendly atmosphere, the relevant Memorandum was left to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, who promised to help Ukrainians. But that was the end of it… And although there is no documentary confirmation that it was the security agents of the Soviet Union who did everything possible to prevent the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from receiving Autocephaly in 1930s (all NKVD and KGB documents of that time are stored in Moscow archives), but there is no doubt that this happened precisely because of their interference in church affairs.

    But let’s move from assumptions to documents. Let’s take a look at the top secret “Case of Operational Correspondence”, four volumes of which cover the period of 1960s-1970s.

    On July 11, 1960, KGB senior operative Major “F” drew up an instruction “On the intelligence work against church centers”, in which he clearly outlined recommendations to use legal channels to bring KGB assets abroad. They were supposed to pose as those commissioned to foreign parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate or for training in the Baptist colleges of a number of capitalist countries, considering that “these opportunities are a reliable cover for intelligence work.”

    In November of the same year, a memo was filed to a chief of the 1st Department of KGB’s Ukrainian Office, Colonel “S,” saying that during the selection of human assets from among churchmen for their further deployment abroad, significant difficulties are experienced due to the fact that most do not have the necessary skills to perform intelligence tasks due to their weak training.

    In accordance with the KGB’s decision, one-year training courses for employees of Moscow Patriarchate offices abroad shall be organized at the Moscow Theological Academy (Zagorsk, Moscow region), with the aim of employing them in intelligence work.

    The courses were planned to be opened in February 1961 and staffed by trustworthy assets from among clergymen and operatives operating under the guise of the faithful. The courses were supposed to teach foreign languages, history of international relations, church politics, as well as offer elementary concepts in some theological disciplines.

    And then came the appeal: “We ask you to give instructions to urgently select reliable assets from among two or three operatives, who could, through your contacts, be introduced into the church circles with subsequent deployment for studies in the city of Zagorsk.”

    The resolution imposed by Colonel S is laconic: “Urgently prepare candidates.”

    And here is what is said in the order of KGB intelligence chief Colonel Hryhorenko, dated May 3, 1965:

    “The assets who travel to capitalist countries along the lines of the Moscow Patriarchate must, as a rule, speak the language of the host country, have a special theological education, be well versed in international policy issues, be reliable and sufficiently tested in practical matters.”

    Four years have passed, and the senior officer Major Ch (one of the thousands of KGB employees who was dealing with the issue) reports on his performance throughout 1969:

    “Together with the 5th Directorate of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR, selected the following individuals: an asset from among the priests “Mykhailo”, “Ivanov”, “Patriot”, and “34”, who were offered to the Center for a long-term deployment to Canada.

    Three operatives were selected to work under the cover of the Russian Orthodox Church. One of them refused to work in this sphere, the second was rejected by the Center, and the candidacy of the third is under consideration at the PGU of the KGB of the USSR. It is planned to send this operative as part of a group of priest-assets on a long-term deployment abroad with a task along the lines of the 1st Department.

    Together with the 5th Directorate of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR, assets “Visler” and “Novyi” were selected and offered to the Center.

    A representative of the Center prepared and approved a document on discrediting priest Korzhan, who, as reported by the nationalist press, was supposed to lead the UAOC abroad. However, Skrypnyk was elected as head of the UAOC, so this document was not distributed and will be revised depending on the future situation.”

    And now let’s see how the KGB and their assets-priests of the Moscow Patriarchate operated abroad.

    “We plan to introduce three to four monks, who are proven assets of our agencies, into the group of monks sent by the Moscow Patriarchate for a long period (up to 10 years) to the Russian monastery on Mount Athos (Greece).

    In view of this, we ask you to let us know who of the assets in men’s monasteries located on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR could be included in the specified group.”

    This is an extract from the order by Colonel “I”, dated March 30, 1962. The given document is an unconditional confirmation of how the KGB (and today, be sure, the Russian FSB and SVR do the same – the facts confirming this are periodically made public by Ukrainian special services and law enforcement agencies) interfered in church life, preparing to distort it from the inside.

    There are many such documentary evidence pieces. Here is the report of the deputy head of the KGB’s Ukrainian Office in Odesa region.

    “Among the former autocephalists the UKGB works with asset Ivanov, who was ordained a priest in 1942 in the city of Dnipropetrovsk.

    “Ivanov” is being prepared by us to be deployed abroad along the lines of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    We consider it appropriate to use “Ivanov” in Canada. Along with performing tasks along the lines of intelligence, “Ivanov” could lead the efforts there to incline “G” to join the Moscow Patriarchate and to cause a split in the autocephalous episcopate in Canada.”

    Not everything was coming easily, so in the report by the deputy head of the KGB’s Ukrainian Office Major General Shulzhenko, dated February 26, 1965, addressed to the head of the KGB intelligence in Ukraine, Lieutenant General Sakharovsky, he complains and offers the following:

    “A significant number of Ukrainian emigration representatives are under the influence of foreign anti-Soviet church formations and in particular the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

    These churches are usually well organized and have a solid material base.

    The KGB in Ukraine undertakes separate measures for HUMINT penetration into emigrant church circles to ensure their degradation and the cessation of hostile activities of these churches, but the capabilities of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and in particular the Kyiv Exarchate, in intelligence work against foreign church formations are not yet being used sufficiently.

    Also worthy of attention is the possibility of using the exarchate in the selection and training of priests to serve the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in capitalist countries and in carrying out certain activities of a propaganda nature.

    It is impossible to study and use in intelligence the full potential of the exarchate through the existing HUMINT network from among the bishops and priests, although some work in this regard is being carried out. In view of this, we consider it appropriate to send an operative to work in the exarchate.

    In our opinion, this operative must covertly perform secretarial and protocol functions, as well as deal with issues of external relations of the Exarchate; besides, his position must be approved by the Moscow Patriarchate.”

    The KGB carefully monitored church life and insidiously used for its own purposes all the infighting and individual contradictions in views on the church system. The situation that has developed around the prominent Ukrainian church figure His Holiness Patriarch Mstislav Skrypnyk and the corresponding plans of the KGB are a clear testimony to this. The report by Colonel “S,” dated April 21, 1964, reads about creating conditions for a split in the Ukrainian churches and the discrediting of the UOC archbishop of the USA Skrypnyk.

    Thus, in the Ukrainian newspaper “Nasha Batkivshchyna”, which was published in the USA, the article “The Bishops’ Conspiracy” was published, in which the author, allegedly on behalf of the faithful of the UOC, calls for the removal of Mstislav Skrypnyk from the position of the head of the consistory of the UOC of the USA and his condemnation by the episcopal court. The head of the KGB department dealing with church issues writes:

    “We consider it possible to use the mentioned circumstance to incite enmity between the UOC, the UGCC and the nationalist organizations loyal to them (the OUN and the UNR), as well as to finally compromise Skrypnyk as one of the leaders of the UOC of USA.

    For this purpose, in our opinion, it is expedient to prepare a letter on behalf of the Uniat leadership and distribute it abroad with attacks on the policy of the UOC, in which Skrypnyk’s actions are justified and the Catholic Church is glorified.

    In the future, depending on the obtained results, it will be possible to resolve the issue of circulating other similar documents on behalf of the UGCC or the UOC.”

    The “Operational Correspondence Case” contains documents that show how the KGB infiltrated churches on the territory of Ukraine and what consequences this led to. Here are some excerpts from official correspondence of KGB chiefs.

    On October 8, 1963, Colonel “T” corresponded with Colonel “S”.

    “During the deployment of assets “Khmelnytskyi” and “Horyovoy” in Moscow, meetings were held with them, at which the assets learned about the tasks you had set, and they were also given additional tasks… Both  “Khmelnytskyi” and “Horyovoy” in their reports raise a number of issues that are of some interest. In particular, “Khmelnytskyi” was advised to continue his negotiations with Metropolitan Hilarion on issues of canonization of his church and admission to the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

    And here is what is said in the correspondence of the head of the 1st Main Department of the KGB of the USSR, Lieutenant General Sakharovsky, with the Head of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR, Lieutenant General Nikitchenko, dated May 17, 1965:

    “As for your request for the possibility of introducing your operative through the Moscow Patriarchate into the Kyiv Exarchate, then, in case the issue of positions is resolved, the necessary assistance for the introduction of the employee you mentioned into the Exarchate will be provided.”

    From the memo by the head of Colonel “Ye”, as an addendum to the intelligence report of April 1, 1967:

    “Memo: This information was taken from the asset in order to find new forms of exploiting the exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in measures against the revival of the Unia in Ukraine, undermining the authority and positions of the leaders of the Uniate Church abroad.

    The asset was given the task of preparing for the next meeting his proposals for more active involvement of the bishopric in the western regions of Ukraine in the fight against the remnants of the Uniate opposition.

    Assignment: According to the report received from asset “Antonov”, measures shall be developed to receive the information we need from the UKGB Lviv Office’s asset “Novorichny” (archbishop of ______) using an agent or confidant of the UKGB Office’s Department 1, in order to create negative public opinion abroad against the Uniates and their leaders. Coordinate these actions with the leadership of Department 1.”

    What happens in practice after such impact measures are taken? Here is an extract from the memo haracterizing asset “Sokil”, which was drawn up by the senior operative, Captain “G”:

    “Agent “Sokil” (Vitaly L.), a priest recruited in 1935, in 1959 – headof one of the dioceses on the territory of Ukraine.

    According to our task, he reduced the missionary activity of the Orthodox clergy to a minimum. He carried out and is carrying out significant work on weakening the influence of the clergy and active churchmen on the local population. In the last year and a half alone, according to our proposal, “Sokil” closed 117 Orthodox churches and prayer houses, 19 were left without abbots, 12 priests were deprived of their rank, 23 fanatically faithful were deprived of their parishes and expelled from the state.

    These documents show how the state security agencies of the Soviet government acted in Ukraine and other countries in the past century, but there is no doubt that this is exactly what Putin’s special services are doing today.

    The declassified documents of the KGB not only testify to the oppression of Ukrainian churches during the Soviet Union, but also offer a complete picture of the work of the repressive machine of the state security agencies of that time. The openly aggressive policy of the Kremlin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire democratic world, shows that nothing has changed in the toolkit of the Russian political elite and special services. They might have become even more defiant and cynical.

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