Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin was an officer for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s secret police. In 1992 he revealed names of Western agents, spies and informers who had worked for the Soviets during the Cold War. His trove of secrets, called the Mitrokhin Archive, had 300,000 confidential documents. Mitrokhin was born on March 3, 1922 in a central Russian town called Yurasovo. The second of five children, he spent most of his childhood in Moscow. After graduating with a law degree, Mitrokhin went to diplomatic academy. In 1948, he joined the Soviet secret services and performed several undercover missions abroad. His superiors transferred him to Moscow at the end of the 1950s and put him in charge of the KGB Foreign Affairs Archive. Mitrokhin’s position gave him access to confidential information about the Communist Party’s intelligence operations. Some of the documents he saw contained proof of the Soviet regime’s systematic repression of dissidents. Mitrokhin became disillusioned with Communism, concluding that the movement had lost its ideological values. He became a secret opponent of the Communist Party.

Mitrokhin invented a code to copy thousands of reports. He stored the information until he could smuggle it outside the country and publish it. By the time he retired in 1984, he had filled six trunks with confidential documents about the KGB’s activities. The opportunity to publish the documents came seven years later [1991] when the Soviet Union dissolved. Borders finally opened up and Mitrokhin was able to release his precious material. In March 1992, he traveled to Latvia with a suitcase full of reports and secret dossiers. His first stop was the US embassy, but the Americans did not consider him credible. Mitrokhin went to the British embassy where officials sensed the importance of his information and asked to see the archive. Mitrokhin moved to England to decode his documents. His work with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, the SIS, was kept secret for seven years. In 1999, Mitrokhin’s revelations were published. Western countries found out the identities of Soviet Union informants during the Cold War. Many of them were well-known politicians, journalists and diplomats. The Mitrokhin archive created an enormous scandal.
Mitrokhin died in London on January 23, 2004. He was 82. While distrusted by many, Mitrokhin was nevertheless considered by the FBI to be the best-informed Soviet source the West ever had.
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