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“The head of military intelligence number one”: what role did General Peter Ivashutin play in the formation of the Soviet special services

2019-09-18T12:14:22.087Z

110 years ago, Hero of the Soviet Union Peter Ivashutin was born, who became one of the brightest employees of SMERSH and the head of the GRU. Military historians call him the most successful and honored leader of the Soviet special services in the post-war period. He began working as a fitter at a factory, after which he served in aviation, then in military counterintelligence, was the Minister of State Security of the Ukrainian SSR, deputy chairman of the KGB and headed the GRU for almost a quarter century. Under his leadership, Soviet military intelligence has become one of the most effective intelligence services in world history, experts say.


The legendary leader of the Soviet military intelligence Peter Ivashutin was born in Brest-Litovsk on September 18, 1909. At birth, he received the name Ivashutich, however, due to an error in the documents, he later became Ivashutin.

His father came from Little Russia, and his mother was from Belarus. He himself considered himself a Russian all his life. In early childhood, the future intelligence officer, together with his parents, moved to the city of Snovsk, Chernihiv province, where his father began working as a steam locomotive engineer. There, Peter studied first at a seven-year school, and then at a vocational school.

After graduation, Ivashutin worked for some time as a railway fitter, but dreamed of continuing his education. However, he could not do this at that moment, since in the late 1920s a Ukrainianization campaign was taking place in the Ukrainian SSR, and Ivashutin did not know the Ukrainian language. As a result, his family decided to move to Ivanovo-Voznesensk (today - the city of Ivanovo).

Ivashutin failed to enter the Ivanovo-Ascension Polytechnic Institute immediately after the move due to the lack of party recommendations. As a result, the young worker had to turn to the labor exchange, where he was offered a job as a locksmith at the Santekhstroy plant.

Locksmith, pilot, counterintelligence

Although work at a large enterprise was not easy, Peter Ivashutin liked it. Soon he led the brigade and joined the party. In 1931, by a party appeal, he was sent to the Red Army, where he ended up in the educational institution that many young people of those years dreamed of - the Stalingrad Military Pilot School No. 7.

After completing his studies, he was assigned to the 107th Aviation Brigade of the Moscow Military District, where he served as a pilot for heavy bombers. In 1936, Ivashutin accomplished a feat by safely landing a plane with an inoperative engine.

  • Peter Ivashutin - member of the bomber crew
  • © Photo from the archive of the GRU USSR Armed Forces

Soon Ivashutin was sent to continue his education at the Air Force Academy. Professor N. E. Zhukovsky. He successfully began his studies and was preparing for a new appointment in aviation, but in 1939 a sharp turn took place in his life: he was paid attention to in the NKVD. As a result, Ivashutin became an employee of the military counterintelligence and was sent to the front to participate in the Soviet-Finnish war as deputy head of the special department of the 23rd Rifle Corps.

“Ivashutin made a career during the Winter War. The actions of the Soviet counterintelligence agents during the hostilities were very successful, ”said Alexander Kolpakidi, historian of special services, in an interview with RT.

"Death to Spies!"

Ivashutin met the Great Patriotic War in Transcaucasia, where in the spring of 1941 he was sent to work as deputy chief of the 3rd department of the Transcaucasian Military District. On its basis, the Transcaucasian (later - Caucasian and Crimean) front was formed.

Ivashutin took part in heavy battles in the Kerch region. In the fall of 1942, he was appointed deputy chief of the special department of the Black Sea Group of Forces of the North Caucasus Front, and a year later he headed the SMERSH command of the 47th Army, and then the Southwest and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts.

When in Moscow he was accepting another appointment, Viktor Abakumov, who headed the Soviet military counterintelligence, inquired about the fate of his family. Ivashutin admitted that he had not heard anything about relatives since 1941. As a result, Abakumov managed to find out that the wife, parents and children of the intelligence officer are in a safe place - in evacuation in Tashkent.

  • The certificate of the employee "SMERSH"
  • © Sergey Pyatakov / RIA Novosti

At the head of the counterintelligence of the front, Ivashutin had to confront the Abwehr during the battle on the Kursk Bulge, and then take part in the liberation of the Ukrainian and Moldavian territories from the Nazis.

His unit successfully identified dozens of enemy spies and developed an orientation by which Nazi agents could be quickly identified. So, counterintelligence officers noticed that the Nazis sew epaulets to shoulder straps in the seam of the sleeve, tighten with fabric buttons on underwear, give officers 20 rounds of revolvers instead of twenty-one. Similar signs made it possible to identify scouts.

At the beginning of 1944, the Ivashutin's “death rowers” ​​carried out a startlingly daring operation. Soviet officers, disguised as SS men and a Romanian gendarme, who accompanied the captive commander of the Red Army, entered the occupied Odessa just before the liberation of the city and handed over new codes for communication to Soviet illegal immigrants operating in Hitler’s intelligence services.

It was Ivashutin who initiated negotiations with the political leadership of Romania, which led to the overthrow of dictator Jon Antonescu and the country's withdrawal from the alliance with the Reich. This saved thousands of lives and led to the destabilization of the rear of the Nazis in Southeastern Europe.

In total, in the autumn of 1944, in the territory of Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, SMERSH officers arrested about 1,100 enemy agents and saboteurs. Another 858 Nazi spies were identified by SMERSH of the 3rd Ukrainian Front in Vienna in 1945.

After the war ended, Ivashutin headed the SMERSH of the Southern Group of Forces, the counterintelligence department of the Ministry of State Security for the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany, and the military counterintelligence of the MGB of the Leningrad Military District.

New challenges

In 1951, Ivashutin was appointed deputy head of the 3rd Directorate of the Ministry of State Security of the USSR, and in 1952 - Minister of State Security of the Ukrainian SSR. According to Kolpakidi, in this position Ivashutin successfully fought with local nationalists.

As Ivashutin himself said in an interview with writer Vladimir Lot, in 1953, before leaving Kiev for Moscow, he warned the local government that the fight against Bandera could resume in the future.

“Years will pass, the convicts will serve their sentences. Not all of them will return to Ukraine repentant. Children and grandchildren of the repressed will grow up. Resentment for the fate of their fathers and grandfathers will remain in their souls ... With powerful replenishment from the West, in the wake of Ukrainian nationalism and Russophobia, Bandera will revive. Therefore, adequate opposition is needed - political, economic and social, but especially ideological, ”Lota quotes his words in the article“ Marshal of military intelligence ”published in the newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda in 2009.

In the summer of 1953, Ivashutin returned to Moscow to the post of deputy chief of the main department of military counterintelligence of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, after which for some time he led counterintelligence work in industry.

  • Peter Ivashutin (right) and Lieutenant General V.M. Rudenko (center)
  • © Photo from the archive of the GRU USSR Armed Forces

After the formation of the State Security Committee under the USSR Council of Ministers, Ivashutin in March 1954 headed the department of economic counterintelligence, and in June became deputy chairman of the KGB.

According to Kolpakidi, Pyotr Ivashutin had a chance to head the KGB of the USSR and even climb even higher up the career ladder, but he chose a different path because he "did not want to engage in politics."

In 1962, Ivashutin personally led the operation to curb the treasonous activities of GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, who worked for American and British intelligence. Exposing the traitor led to massive personnel reshuffles. The head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, Ivan Serov, also lost his post.

After that, Ivashutin himself turned to the personnel department of the Central Committee of the CPSU Central Committee with a request for a transfer to military intelligence. This work was less politicized and was familiar to him.

In March 1963, Ivashutin was appointed head of the GRU and held this post for a record period of 24 years.

“Ivashutin quickly earned unquestioned authority in the GRU. This was the most effective and respected leader of the Soviet special services in the post-war period, ”emphasized Alexander Kolpakidi.

According to the expert, Ivashutin “always kept up to date”. He rebuilt the work of the GRU, conducted a large-scale implementation of radio engineering, aviation, space, and naval reconnaissance methods.

“Ivashutin personally stood behind every major success of the GRU at that time,” the historian said.

Military intelligence officers under the leadership of Peter the Great (sometimes called the head of the GRU as subordinates) were able to obtain valuable information about Western weapons of mass destruction, military planning in NATO member countries and misinformation activities carried out against the USSR.

  • Head of the First Main Directorate of the KGB of the USSR Vladimir Kryuchkov (left) and Peter Ivashutin (right)
  • © Photo from the archive of the GRU USSR Armed Forces

In 1985, for the courage shown during the Great Patriotic War, and for the activities to strengthen the USSR Armed Forces in the postwar period, Peter Ivashutin was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Prior to this, he would have been awarded three orders of Lenin, five orders of the Red Banner, three orders of the Red Star and other high awards.

After many years of intense service, Petr Ivashutin’s health weakened and his eyesight problems arose. In 1987, he moved from the post of chief of the GRU to the group of inspectors general of the USSR Ministry of Defense. And in 1992, after the collapse of the USSR, he was dismissed.

Ivashutin passed away on June 4, 2002 at the age of 92. In 2017, a street in Moscow was named after him.

“Peter Ivashutin is a great and amazing person. For all his colossal merits to the Motherland, he led a very modest, almost Spartan way of life, completely devoting himself to work. This was the number one military intelligence leader in the history of the USSR, ”summed up Alexander Kolpakidi.

Source: russiart

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