Boris Bazarov

Barry Parker

Boris Bazarov was born in Lithuania in 1893. A talented linguist he joined the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (Cheka) in 1921. Over the next three years he worked in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Bazarov next assignment (1924-27) was in the Soviet embassy in Vienna.

In 1927 Bazarov returned to Moscow. The following year he was sent to Berlin and was involved in the recruitment of Ernest Holloway Oldham. His wife, Lucy Oldham, was also part of the network (codename MADAM). Oldham was paid $1,000 a month for the information he provided to the Soviet Union. It is believed that Oldham was the first Soviet spy recruited in Britain. Richard Deacon has argued: "There is evidence that Oldham did more harm to the USA and Canada than to Britain by providing the names of prospective agents in key positions in those countries. It is thought that he obtained some of these names from a mysterious female agent named Leonore. One of the Soviet contacts was a Russian oilman named Feldman who operated in Britain under the name of Voldarsky and who later started a Soviet network to spy on the USA from Canada."

Boris Bazarov in New York

In 1935 Bazarov became the NKVD station chief in New York City. One of his senior agents was Peter Gutzeit who was based in the Soviet Consulate. Gutzeit identified Laurence Duggan as a potential recruit. One of his objectives was to use Duggan to draw Noel Field into the network. He wrote on 3rd October, 1934, that Duggan "is interesting us because through him one will be able to find a way toward Noel Field... of the State Department's European Department with whom Duggan is friendly."

The task of recruiting Duggan and Field was passed to Hede Massing. According to Massing's report he (Field) had been recently approached by Alger Hiss just before he left to attend a conference in London: "Alger Hiss (she used his real name because she was unaware of his codename) let him know that he was a Communist, that he was connected with an organization working for the Soviet Union and that he knew Ernst (Field) also had connections but he was afraid they were not solid enough, and probably, his knowledge was being used in a wrong way. Then he directly proposed that Ernst give him an account of the London conference."

Hede Massing continued in the memorandum about the involvement of Alger Hiss with Duggan: "In the next couple of days, after having thought it over, Alger said that he no longer insisted on the report. But he wanted Ernst to talk to Larry and Helen (Duggan) about him and let them know who he was and give him (Alger Hiss) access to them. Ernst again mentioned that he had contacted Helen and Larry. However, Alger insisted that he talk to them again, which Ernst ended up doing. Ernst talked to Larry about Alger and, of course, about having told him 'about the current situation' and that 'their main task at the time was to defend the Soviet Union' and that 'they both needed to use their favorable positions to help in this respect.' Larry became upset and frightened, and announced that he needed some time before he would make that final step; he still hoped to do his normal job, he wanted to reorganize his department, try to achieve some results in that area, etc. Evidently, according to Ernst, he did not make any promises, nor did he encourage Alger in any sort of activity, but politely stepped back. Alger asked Ernst several other questions; for example, what kind of personality he had, and if Ernst would like to contact him. He also asked Ernst to help him to get to the State Department. Apparently, Ernst satisfied this request. When I pointed out to Ernst his terrible discipline and the danger he put himself into by connecting these three people, he did not seem to understand it."

On 26th April, 1936, Boris Bazarov reported back to Moscow: "The result has been that, in fact, Field and Hiss have been openly identified to Duggan. Apparently Duggan also understands clearly her (Hede Massing) nature... Helen Boyd (Duggan's wife), who was present at almost all of these meetings and conversations, is also undoubtedly briefed and now knows as much as Duggan himself... I think that after this story we should not speed up the cultivation of Duggan and his wife. Apparently, besides us, the persistent Hiss will continue his initiative in this direction. In a day or two, Duggan's wife will come to New York, where she (Hede Massing) will have a friendly meeting with her. At Field's departure from Washington, Helen expressed a great wish to meet her again. Perhaps Helen will tell her about her husband's feelings."

Noel Field & Laurence Duggan

Headquarters instructed Bazarov to be certain that none of his agents undertook similar meetings across jurisdictional boundaries without your knowledge". Bazarov was particularly concerned about the behaviour of Hede Massing "knowing that her drawbacks include impetuousness". They made it very clear that they were very keen to recruit Laurence Duggan and his wife: "Therefore we believe it necessary to smooth over skillfully the present situation and to draw both of them away from Hiss... It is our fault, however, that Field, who is already our agent, has been left in her (Hede Massing) charge, a person who is unable to educate either an agent or even herself."

Duggan agreed to become a spy for the Soviets. Bazarov reported: "It is true that he is widely known as a liberal, a typical New Dealer... But that is not a problem. For the sake of security, he asked us to meet with him once a month, and he would like very much if our man knew stenography. He cannot give us documents yet, but later, apparently, he will be able to... He asked us not to tell his wife anything about his work and revealed an understanding of contact technique."

It was suggested that Duggan should be paid money for his information. Boris Bazarov reported back to Moscow: "You ask whether it is timely to switch him to a payment? Almost definitely he will reject money and probably even consider the money proposal as an insult. Some months ago Borodin wanted to give Duggan a present on his birthday. lie purchased a beautiful crocodile toiletries case with (Duggan's) monograms, engraved. The latter categorically refused to take this present, stating that he was working for our common ideas and making it understood that he was not helping us for any material interest."

Hede Massing

Hede Massing got on very well with Boris Bazarov: "Fred (Boris Bazarov) was a small man, shy and soft-spoken, partly bald and crowding fifty, unassuming and of good education. He was unobtrusive sort who would not draw a second look in a crowd, a valuable asset in his occupation. In Europe, during my frequent courier journeys, I heard that he came from an aristocratic family and had been an officer in the Tsar's army, but I could not confirm this... His wife was with him in New York. But in all our years of cordial relations I never met her nor did I know where they lived." (44) On one occasion he sent her fifty long-stemmed red roses. The note said: "Our lives are unnatural, but we must endure it for humanity. Though we cannot always express it, our little group is bound by love and consideration for one another. I think of you with great warmth."

Nikolai Yezhov established a new section of the NKVD named the Administration of Special Tasks (AST). It contained about 300 of his own trusted men from the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Yezhov's intention was complete control of the NKVD by using men who could be expected to carry out sensitive assignments without any reservations. The new AST operatives would have no allegiance to any members of the old NKVD and would therefore have no reason not to carry out an assignment against any of one of them. The AST was used to remove all those who had knowledge of the conspiracy to destroy Stalin's rivals. One of the first to be arrested was Genrikh Yagoda, the former head of the NKVD.

A law was also passed that stated that the crime of defection was a capital offence. The relatives of defectors were also to be punished by confiscation of property and five to ten years in confinement. If the defector divulged state secrets or collaborated in any way with a foreign state, his crime was considered all the more unacceptable and his relatives, whether or not they knew of his actions, could be executed.

The Great Purge

By the summer of 1937, over forty intelligence agents serving abroad were summoned back to the Soviet Union. Walter Krivitsky realised that his life was in danger. Alexander Orlov, who was based in Spain, had a meeting with fellow NKVD officer, Theodore Maly, in Paris, who had just been recalled to the Soviet Union. He explained his concern as he had heard stories of other senior NKVD officers who had been recalled and then seemed to have disappeared. He feared being executed but after discussing the matter he decided to return and take up this offer of a post in the Foreign Department in Moscow. General Yan Berzin, Dmitri Bystrolyotov and Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, were also recalled. Bazarov, Maly, Antonov-Ovseenko and Berzen were all executed. Ignaz Reiss attempted to defect but he was assassinated on 4th September, 1937.

Two agents, Hede Massing and Paul Massing complained about these deaths. They were invited to return to Moscow to discuss these matters. Amazingly, they agreed to the proposal. Hede later recalled in This Deception: KBG Targets America (1951): "That we ventured on this trip in spite of the fact we had heard that during the first five months of 1937, 350,000 political arrests had been made by the GPU, was fantastic as I look back on it."

Paul and Hede Massing arrived in Moscow on 5th November, 1937. Two days later Elizabeth Zarubina introduced the couple to a man she called "Peter". He was in fact, Vassili Zarubin, her husband. "Helen (Zarubina) would sit quietly and simply elaborate once in a while upon a point that Paul or I had mentioned. She seemed matter of fact. Her relationship with Peter was businesslike, with a slight indication that he was a man of higher military rank than she. At some of my stories, especially my description of certain people, for example, when I dramatized Walter's drunken escapades or Bill's bureaucratic pettiness, Peter roared with laughter. He never restrained me in my critical attitude toward some of my Russian co-workers. He never seemed to think as highly as I did, however, of Fred or Ludwig. That did not deter me from speaking of Ludwig as I always had - with admiration and devotion. When it came to the issue of Ludwig, his whole attitude changed. He would be extremely eager to draw every possible bit of information from me."

In January 1938 they were interrogated by Mikhail Shpiegelglass. "Peter (Vassilli Zarubin) brought a man with him one night whom we both liked very much. He seemed as European as Peter was Russian: cultured, civilized, pleasant. He spoke German almost fluently, with a slight eastern intonation that reminded me of Ludwig and Felik; and made me feel at home with him. They had come many hours later than they had announced themselves, and I accordingly was set to be as cross as possible... His manner had a way of putting one on the defensive. He shook hands heartily and said, 'I am Comrade Spiegelglass.' Somehow we knew that this was his real name, the significance of which we learned many years later when Krivitsky's book was published. This charming comrade was responsible for the murder of Ludwig! (Ignaz Reiss). In keeping with routine procedure, he must have earned a medal for it. Obviously, he had come into the last phase of our initial interrogation and wanted a few points elaborated upon. It was as though it was his job to pull in all the loose strings and weave them tightly, securely, together. After he had finished with us we were taken into the social and family life of the NKVD. Their purpose in doing this was to express their gratitude, their esteem and trust of us."

Hede Massing asked Vassili Zarubin if they could have an exit visa so that they could leave the Soviet Union. He said that he did not have the authority to do that. A few days later he arranged a meeting with Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the NKVD. Zarubin warned her: "Hede, be careful when you talk to this man; don't tell him what you said to me, but tell him that you want to go out-and don't stress the point that you want to leave our service. He knows that. He is very important."

"The meeting took place in the Sloutski apartment, the same one where I had been at our first party. When we arrived, the important man was not yet there. There was an atmosphere of expectation. There was no vodka, as was usual before meetings. We sat and waited. There was not even flippant conversation. Finally he arrived. He, too, was in uniform. Though he had little glitter, still it was obvious that he was of a higher rank than my two companions. He was a man of about thirty-five, a Georgian, and fairly good looking in a foreign kind of way; to me, from the very first second, he was despicable. He took a seat on the other side of the room from me, crossed his legs, pulled out a heavy gold tabatiere, slowly tapped a cigarette on it - scrutinizing me throughout the process. Then he said in Russian what amounted to, Let her talk."

Zarubin told Hede Massing, "Tell your story, and I will interpret." Hede was so angry by Yezhov's attitude that she replied: "There is no story to tell. I'm tired of my story. I understood that I was brought here to ask this gentleman for my exit visa. All I am concerned with at this point is that my husband and I be able to leave for home. I've told my story time and again; I am sure that Mr. X can have access to it. So all I have to say now is - when am I going to leave?" Yezhov laughed out loud. "It infuriated me! I mimicked his laugh and said, 'It is not that funny, is it? I mean what I say!' He got up, said in Russian that the conference was ended, and without a word or a nod toward me, he left." (57)

Hede and Paul Massing appeared to have no chance now of getting an exit visa. Boris Bazarov, who was back in Moscow, was unable to help. Soon afterwards they met Noel Field who was also visiting the country. She decided to use this opportunity to get out of the Soviet Union. She telephoned Bazarov and told him: "When I had been connected and heard his answer at the other end of the wire, I said in a loud and clear voice, 'Boris, I have been asking you for our exit visas long enough! We have guests, Herta and Noel Field. I want them to be witness to my request. I am asking you for our exit visas for the last time... I should like to have our passports with the visas today. If we do not get them today, I shall have to make use of my rights as an American citizen. I will then go with my friends, the Fields, to the American Legation to ask for help.' I hung up. I was shaking."

Several hours later there was a knock on the door. It was Bazarov and in his hand he held a large envelope. "Here are your passports and the visas and a slip for Intourist, with which you can pick up your tickets tomorrow morning. We have made reservations for you on the evening train, via Leningrad." Hede Massing later recalled: "No further comment. He left. I held the envelope out to Paul. All strength had left me, I could not have opened it. It was true. It was really true. We could leave!"

Boris Bazarov was sentenced to death for “espionage and treason” on 21st February, 1939. He was executed the same day.

Primary Sources

(1) Boris Bazarov, report to headquarters (26th April, 1936)

The result has been that, in fact, Field and Hiss have been openly identified to Duggan. Apparently Duggan also understands clearly her (Hede Massing) nature... Helen Boyd (Duggan's wife), who was present at almost all of these meetings and conversations, is also undoubtedly briefed and now knows as much as Duggan himself... I think that after this story we should not speed up the cultivation of Duggan and his wife. Apparently, besides us, the persistent Hiss will continue his initiative in this direction. In a day or two, Duggan's wife will come to New York, where she (Hede Massing) will have a friendly meeting with her. At Field's departure from Washington, Helen expressed a great wish to meet her again. Perhaps Helen will tell her about her husband's feelings.