Stasi Chief Faithful to Former Masters

Markus WolfThis week former uber-spy and Communist espionage genius, famed as the “Man with no Face” and the man believed to be the character behind “Karla” in John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, died. Ironically Markus Wolf passed away quietly in his sleep on… get this… the 17th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the 9th November. How appropriate.

I’m sure many of us know the ins and outs of this guy’s biography. He was very powerful and very influential. He had a hotline to Moscow and could pick up the phone anytime and speak to Andropov or any other of the party faithful. He had a monumentally large network of spies working for him, estimated at around 4,000.

What I find interesting is a short interview the guy did for Polish TVN. Messieurs Morozowski and Sekielski, two well-known Polish reporters, decided to talk to the guy whose name made most people quiver in the ‘good ole days’ of the Cold War. The interesting part about it was not the topic of discussion – Wolf flatly denied the KGB having any knowledge of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II and maintained it to be the work of only Ali Agca and the Bulgarian secret service – but rather the manner in which the interview was undertaken, or rather the language of the interview. Morozowski and Sekielski asked their questions in Polish. An interpreter then relayed the questions directly to Wolf in German. However, Wolf then decided to answer the questions in… Russian. Elegant and fluent Russian. Not German, not English, but in Russian.

Was he trying to give the Polish interviewers the middle finger or was he making a blatant show of allegiance to his former masters (Wolf and his family lived in Moscow from the 1930s and only returned after the WWII to cover the Nuremberg trials)? Whatever it was he was attempting to do, it was still one of the oddest interviews I have ever seen.

Most people believe that the KGB were behind the assassination attempt on PJPII and most experts agree that Wolf was one of the best liars the world has ever seen. Perhaps a career in politics might have been more satisfying? But the blatant choice of using Russian in an interview has so many overtones for Polish people that I hardly know where to begin. Anyway, more interesting Cold War info can be gleaned from an interesting link to the Stasi Record Office and also the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

7 thoughts on “Stasi Chief Faithful to Former Masters

  1. Ha, finally, I found you! In case my nick doesn’t ring a bell, just think of the number of hoodies attending your classes at SWPS and the answer will be obious 😉

    As for the topic itself: Russia was ruling it’s satellite “brother” republics with an iron fist, with KGB and Politbiuro attache in every single institution, not to mention spies and squealers. How the hell could Bulgarian “intelligence” stage such a high profile hit without the Big Brother’s permission or knowledge? No way Hose.

  2. Quite. I’m quite sure that the Bulgarian minnows wouldn’t have the balls to go ahead with such a phenomenally risky operation without the backing of the Soviets. So why on earth was Markus Wolf so dismissive of the whole affair? A Soviet agent to the end?

  3. The fact that Russia hired PR specialists doesn’t mean that KGB or GRU have changed their ways. They always issued death warrants on any leaks from their intelligence agencies, or even on writers. I think Mr. Wolf was too well aware of this fact to do something stupid.

  4. I think the term “PR specialists” is not really adequate. 🙂 These guys were more than just spin doctors. As for Herr Wolf, he was perhaps the greatest spy and espionage expert the world has ever known. Yes, the KGB certainly had (has?) an unbelieveable arsenal.

  5. Wolf, as head of the _East German_ spy service (i.e. not the Soviet, Bulgarian or any other Communist-era-polity’s service), need not necessarily have known about an operation carried out by the Bulgarian service with the aid of a Turkish rightist extremist (something akin to the uyoku in Japan with their sound trucks and protests at Yasukuni, by the way, if you want to know his background). Wolf’s responsibilities were elsewhere, in the Germanies and in places connected with the Germanies. He may very well have approved of the action after having learned of it; he may have said, ‘Schade! Bravo, Jungs’ as he sipped his Hennessy’s and drew on a fine Cuban cigar. But I very much doubt whether he was involved.

    And speaking Russian to the Polish TV crew was definitely a fack-off gesture to them; I have heard of that happening to members of the Polish minorities in Latvia and Lithuania, being deliberately provoked by Soviet-era bureaucrats in that fashion. (When they weren’t being told to speak Latvian or Lithuanian, of course. But that’s another set of complexes to examine on another occasion.)

  6. Hmm… if the Bulgarians would act on their own account, without the consent of Soviets, then there would be no more “Bulgarian Intelligence Agency”. Any and all independent moves on behalf of the satellite countries were immediatly dealt with, often with the use of a firing squad.

    And another thing- if Mr. Wolf had no idea what was going on until it actually happened, if he had no acces or knowledge of any operations outside his own german backyard, then how the hell can he be so sure that the Russians were not involved?

  7. Herr Wolf may or may not have known about the situation #at the time#, but I’m quite sure that he did know who was responsible #after# it all settled down. This is a man who knew everything that was going on in the Soviet bloc. He allegiances were not exactly clear-cut, were they?

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