Over 20 years after being smuggled out of Russia, a trove of KGB documents are being opened up to the public for the first time. The leaked documents include thousands of files and represent what the FBI is said to view as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source." The documents include KGB information on secret Russian weapons caches, Russian spies, and KGB information on the activities of Pope John Paul II. Known as the Mitrokhin Archive, the files are all available as of today at Churchill College's Archives Centre.
"Unprecedented insight into the KGB’s activities"
The files were all smuggled out by Vasiliy Mitrokhin, who worked in the KGB's foreign intelligence archive between 1972 to 1984. During his time there, Mitrokhin is said to have had free access to hundreds of thousands of confidential files. Eventually, he came to dislike the Soviet government and began transcribing documents and smuggling them out in his shoes and jacket pockets. Mitrokhin would then bury the documents. They remained hidden until he shared them with the UK in the ’90s.
"There are only two places in the world where you’ll find material like this," Christopher Andrew, a Cambridge historian, says in a statement. "One is the KGB archive – which is not open and very difficult to get into – and the other is here at Churchill College where Mitrokhin’s own typescript notes are today being opened for all the world to see."
Andrew is the only historian who has accessed Mitrokhin’s files until now. Working with Mitrokhin, who died in 2004, Andrew has published two books based on material in the archives. "The inner workings of the KGB, its foreign intelligence operations and the foreign policy of Soviet-era Russia all lie within this extraordinary collection," Andrew says, "the scale and nature of which gives unprecedented insight into the KGB’s activities throughout much of the Cold War."