My Secret Past: The KGB File

In early August 1991 a man who introduced himself as Andrei Stanislavovich Pshezhedomsky telephoned, saying he was assistant to Chairman Ivanenko of the Russian Republic KGB. His chief, he said, wanted to meet with me. Out of old dissident habit, I replied that I didn’t pay calls on the KGB and if they wanted to see me they should send an official warrant. The man quickly assured me that I had misunderstood, that “they” had great respect for me and simply wanted to meet me. At the time the independent KGB of the Russian Federal Republic was in its infancy. I had no idea what it would become, but expected nothing good. Still, I was curious.

I said, “If you really want to get acquainted, come to see me.”

A few days later, they did. At first our conversation didn’t go very well. We had little to say to each other. We chatted about my articles in Moscow News, which they said they had liked, and the Sakharov Congress. I finally asked them why they had come. They said that they wanted to establish contact with political figures and with the public at large. They wanted a clearer idea of what was expected of them and hoped to work out a new concept for their organization.

As for the new concept, I recommended that they get in touch with one of the Congressional experts who had studied the new (Union) law on the KGB and had found that it violated almost every human right. I told them that I didn’t consider myself a political figure and that when I spoke out on issues that worried me I was expressing only my own opinion, that I didn’t belong to any political party, and that they therefore had made a mistake in coming to see me. But in general, our conversation was amicable. I had never seen people from the KGB trying to act in this way, especially in my own kitchen over a cup of coffee on a bright sunny day. So I said that I’d like to have something from them: permission to read the KGB files on my parents and my uncle and help in locating the manuscripts and diaries of Sakharov that were stolen by the KGB in Gorky.

Ivanenko promised to satisfy my first request immediately, but he wasn’t sure what he could do about the second. And with that, they left.

A few days later Andrei Stanislavovich called and invited me to come to the KGB on Monday to read the files. But that Monday was August 19—the day of the Putsch. It was only on the twentieth, when I caught a fleeting glimpse of Ivanenko in the Moscow White House, that I remembered the offer—and immediately forgot it. But Andrei Stanislavovich called again, and soon I was crossing for the first time in my life the marble threshold and mounting the marble steps of the building on Lubyanka Square, the place everyone calls the Big…

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