KGB files from the famous Mitrokhin archive — described by the FBI as “the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source” — are now open to the public for the first time. From 1972 to 1984, Major Vasily Mitrokhin was a senior archivist in the KGB’s foreign intelligence archive, with unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of files from a global network of spies and intelligence-gathering operations.
Now, more than 20 years after his defection to Britain, Mitrokhin’s files are being opened by the Churchill Archives Center, where they sit alongside the personal papers of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Professor Christopher Andrew, the only historian to date allowed access to the archive, and author of two global bestsellers with Mitrokhin, said: “There are only two places in the world where you will find material like this. One is the KBG archive — which is not open and very difficult to get into — and the other is here at Churchill College where Mitrokhin’s own typescript notes are today being opened for all the world to see.
Among the 19 boxes and thousands of papers being opened are KGB notes on Pope John Paul II, whose activities in Poland were closely monitored before his election to the papacy; maps and details of secret Russian arms caches in Western Europe and the U.S.; and files on Melita Norwood, ‘the spy who came in from the Co-op.
Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Center, said: “This collection is a wonderful illustration of the value of archives and the power of archivists. It was Mitrokhin’s position as archivist that allowed him his unprecedented access and overview of the KGB files. It was his commitment to preserving and providing access to the truth that led him to make his copies, at huge personal risk. We are therefore proud to house his papers and to honor his wish that they should be made freely available for research.”
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