Igor Gouzenko

Igor Gouzenko

Igor Gouzenko was born in Russia on 13th January, 1922. He worked as a cipher clerk in the Russian Legation in Ottawa, Canada. This was only a cover as he was really a KGB intelligence officer. According to Benjamin de Forest Bayly: "The military attaché at the Soviet embassy got Gouzenko to decode one of his messages because he didn't feel like doing it himself. When Gouzenko decoded it he saw it was instructions for him to be sent back to the Soviet Union, because he wasn't trusted." His wife advised him to: "Go into the vault and steal every secret thing you can put your hands on, and change the combination on the vault and lock the door. It'll take six weeks for the Russians to send somebody over to chisel the door of the safe open to find out you've taken all these things. Turn yourself over to the Canadians."

In September 1945, William Stephenson, the head of British Security Coordination, was told that Gouzenko wanted to defect. Gouzenko later wrote: "During my residence in Canada, I have seen how the Canadian people and their government, sincerely wishing to help the Soviet people sent supplies to the Soviet Union, collected money for the welfare of the Russian people, sacrificing the lives of their sons in the delivery of supplies across the ocean - and instead of gratitude for the help rendered, the Soviet government is developing espionage activity in Canada, preparing to deliver a stab in the back to Canada - all this without the knowledge of the Russian people."

Stephenson arranged for Gouzenko to be taken into protective custody. He was then transfered to Camp X, where he and his wife lived in guarded seculusion. Later two former BSC agents interviewed him. He claiming he had evidence of an Soviet spy ring based in Britain. The case was passed on to Kim Philby, head of Section IX (Soviet Affairs) of MI6. He suggested that Gouzenko should be interviewed by Roger Hollis of MI5.

Gouzenko provided evidence that led to the arrest of 22 local agents and 15 Soviet spies in Canada. Information from Gouzenko resulted in the arrest and conviction of Klaus Fuchs and Allan Nunn May. Gouzenko also claimed that there was a Soviet agent inside MI5. However, he was later to argue that Hollis showed little interest in this evidence. "The mistake in my opinion in dealing with this matter was that the task of finding the agent was given to MI5 itself. The results even beforehand could be expected to be nil."

Bill Macdonald, the author of The True Intrepid: Sir William Stephenson and the Unknown Agents (2001), has argued: "He (Gouzenko) is regarded as the most important defector of the era, and his revelations are often regarded as the beginning of the Cold War." Gouzenko also published a novel, The Fall of Titan (1960), about life in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, which won the Governor-General of Canada's Prize for Literature.

Igor Gouzenko, who lived under an assumed name in Ontario, died at Mississauga on 25th June, 1982.

Primary Sources

(1) Igor Gouzenko, statement issued in Canada (10th October, 1945)

Having arrived in Canada two years ago, I was surprised during the first days by the complete freedom of the individual which exists in Canada but does not exists in Russia. The false representations about the democratic countries who are increasingly propagated in Russia were dissipated daily, as no lying propaganda can stand up against facts.

During two years of life in Canada, I saw the evidence of what a free people can do. What the Canadian people have accomplished and are accomplishing here under conditions of complete freedom- the Russian people, under the conditions of the Soviet regime of violence and suppression of all freedom, cannot accomplish even at the cost of tremendous sacrifices, blood and tears.

The last elections which took place recently in Canada especially surprised me. In comparison with them the system of elections in Russian appear as a mockery of the conception of free elections. For example, the fact that in elections in the Soviet Union one candidate is put forward, so that the possibilities of choice are eliminated, speaks for itself.

While creating a false picture of the conditions of life in these countries, the Soviet Government at the same time is taking all measures to prevent the peoples of democratic countries from knowing about the conditions of life in Russia. The facts about the brutal suppression of the freedom of speech, the mockery of the real religious feelings of the people, cannot penetrate into the democratic countries.

Having imposed its communist regime on the people, the Government of the Soviet Union asserts that the Russian people have, as it were, their own particularly understanding of freedom and democracy, different from that which prevails among the peoples of the western democracies. This is a lie. The Russian people same understanding of freedom as all the peoples of the world. However, the Russian people cannot realize their dream of freedom and a democratic government on account of cruel terror and persecution.

Holding forth at international conferences with voluble statements about peace and security, the Soviet Government is simultaneously preparing secretly for the third world war. To meet this war, these Soviet Government is creating in democratic countries, including Canada, a fifth column, in the organization of which even diplomatic representatives of the Soviet Government take part.

The announcement of the dissolution of the Comintern was, probably, the greatest farce of the Communists in recent years. Only the name was liquidated, with the object of reassuring public opinion in the democratic countries. Actually, the Comintern exists and continues its work, because the Soviet leaders have never relinquished the idea of establishing a Communist dictatorship throughout the world.

Taking account least of all that this adventurous idea will cost millions of Russian lives, the Communists are engendering hatred in Russian people towards everything foreign.

To many Soviet people here abroad, it is clear that the Communist Party in democratic countries have changed long ago from a political party into an agency net of the Soviet Government, into a fifth column in these countries to meet a war, into an instrument in the hands of the Soviet Government for creating artificial unrest, provocation, etc., etc.

Through numerous party agitators the Soviet Government stirs up the Russian people in every possible way against the peoples of the democratic countries, preparing the ground for the third world war.

During my residence in Canada I have seen how the Canadian people and their Government, sincerely wishing to help the Soviet people, sent supplies to the Soviet Union, collected money for the welfare of the Russian people, sacrificing the lives of their sons in the delivery of supplies across the ocean- and instead of gratitude for the help rendered, the Soviet Government is developing espionage activity in Canada, preparing to deliver a stab in the back of Canada- all this without the knowledge of the Russian people.

Convinced that such double-faced politics of the Soviet Government towards the democratic countries do not conform with the interests of the Russian people and endanger the security of civilization, I decided to break award from the Soviet regime and to announce my decision openly.

I am glad that I found the strength within myself to take this step and to warn Canada and the other democratic countries of the danger which hangs over them.

(2) Bill Macdonald, The True Intrepid: Sir William Stephenson and the Unknown Agents (2001)

There was a lot of false information floating around that disguised Gouzenko's whereabouts. On one occasion Bayly and his wife heard on the radio, as they were driving from Oshawa to Camp X, reports that Gouzenko was likely staying somewhere in the Laurentians, north of Montreal. "Everybody was heading there. And here's Gouzenko sitting on a deck chair outside the house, just as we drove up. I thought that was quite amusing. Poor old Gouzenko. He had no more brains than a peanut."

"How did he write that book then?"

"I think his wife did it. She was quite a girl. It was his wife who advised him what to do. The military attaché at the Soviet embassy got Gouzenko to decode one of his messages because he didn't feel like doing it himself. When Gouzenko decoded it he saw it was instructions for him to be sent back to the Soviet Union, because he wasn't trusted. "He'd be bumped off on landing," Bayly said, "the way the Russians were running things in those days." Bayly says Gouzenko then asked his wife for advice.

"What do I do now?" And so she told him, "Go into the vault and steal every secret thing you can put your hands on, and change the combination on the vault and lock the door. It'll take six weeks for the Russians to send somebody over to chisel the door of the safe open to find out you've taken all these things. Turn yourself over to the Canadians." So at the time the Canadian Prime Minister, King, said he wasn't going to be mixed up in that kind of Russian politics, and gave strict orders to the RCMP.

Norman Robertson, who was the Secretary of External Affairs, told this story to Bill, and what King was doing with this one. So Bill Stephenson headed up to Ottawa, borrowed my Buick from Camp X, and drove it up to Ottawa and arrested Gouzenko, military arrest, and said, "If you don't want to try him, we'll try him over in England. How would you like that?" King said, "No, I don't want that," so they gave this guy protection, and when he went back to his apartment, the Russians were just breaking into his apartment. They had finally got somebody over.