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Digital Archive International History Declassified

June, 2007

THE KGB VS. VATICAN CITY. FOLDER 29. THE CHEKIST ANTHOLOGY.

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    In this entry Mitrokhin describes the history of chilly diplomatic relations between the KGB and Vatican City from the 1960s through the mid 1980s.
    "The KGB vs. Vatican City. Folder 29. The Chekist Anthology.," June, 2007, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Contributed to CWIHP by Vasili Mitrokhin. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110705
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[Translation unavailable. See original. Detailed summary below.]

In this entry Mitrokhin describes the history of chilly diplomatic relations between the KGB and Vatican City from the 1960s through the mid 1980s.

Vatican City officials were interested in establishing strong positions in the Soviet government for religious institutions. Mitrokhin states that during this period of time the KGB administration thought of Vatican City as one of the most crucial strategic locations in the world to monitor because officials there were actively promoting the importance of religion in the Soviet Union.

According to Mitrokhin, organized religion in the Soviet republics was facing a leadership crisis due to the success of the Marxist-Leninist ideology. In the 1960s the Catholic Church actively started promoting anti-Soviet philosophies and nationalism in the Soviet republics by distributing literature about capitalist ideology. As Mitrokhin states, Catholic followers were using different techniques to recruit more Soviet citizens; however, their primary focus was the young generation from becoming largely atheist. Vatican officials in the Soviet Union wanted to prevent another generation. Some Soviet religious radicals were assisting them in their attempts. Mitrokhin provides names, occupations, some biographical facts, as well as the KGB cases of the people who were involved in this undertaking.

Mitrokhin provides a detailed description of spiritual-political life in Lithuania in the 1960s and early 1970s. Mitrokhin states that Catholic clergy played an active role in Lithuanian politics because their goal was to separate church from the government and to create strong religious opposition movement to the Soviet regime. Vatican officials sponsored many anti-socialist activities held in Lithuania yet they considered the Lithuanian opposition and nationalist movements to be the weakest among the Soviet republics. According to Mitrokhin, many Lithuanians were deeply offended by this attitude. In 1973, in the city of Kaunas, a young student named Kalantas committed suicide in public for this reason. Mitrokhin describes the details of that incident. The KGB was very concerned with all of the occurrences that took place in Lithuania. Mitrokhin provides a detailed plan that KGB officials prepared in order to stop religious and opposition movements. The folder also includes names, code-names, and undercover occupations of all KGB agents who were a part of this project.

Vatican officials also provided financial aid for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. According to Mitrokhin, they had been supporting Western Ukrainian nationalists with their desire to religion. Mitrokhin provides evidence to support his statement: in spring of 1979 the KGB confiscated 12,000 undeclared rubles from Italian citizen Bernardo Vinchenso. He confessed that this money was given to him by Ivan Ortunskiy, a Ukrainian priest of the Greek Catholic Church in Italy. Pope John Paul II informed Ortunskiy that he was interested in receiving information about the political environment for the Creek Catholic Church, the exact number of Creek Catholic supporters, and their activities in Ukraine. Pope John Paul II had plans to help establish Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine.


According to Mitrokhin, in 1969 KGB chairman Yuri Andropov ordered the KGB to overcome all Vatican officials' plans towards the Soviet Republics. Mitrokhin provides a specific plan that Andropov prepared to stop religious campaign in the U.S.S.R., the fundamental platform of which was to recruit as many Greek Catholic followers as possible. Mitrokhin provides three detailed examples of what the recruiting process looked like and what methods were used by KGB officers.

According to Mitrokhin, in 1967 Vatican City activities presented a greater threat to the world's communist movement than ever before. That year the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC CPSU) ordered the establishment of a special KGB subunit whose mission would be preventing ideological sabotage. The KGB administration states that the agents had difficulties working in the Vatican due to its small population. Residents of Vatican City were very careful in terms of Soviet espionage and neither trusted nor communicated with the Soviets. Mitrokhin provides a list of all KGB recruited agents who took a part in the mission including their names, code-names, background, and occupations.

In 1970, in Budapest, Cheka officials of the U.S.S.R. and Hungary had discussions regarding the progress being made by their agents in Vatican City. Representatives of both countries were disappointed that their proteges had not yet gained access to the Secretariat of State documentation. The residency in Rome was absolutely focused on issues within the Vatican; Hungary remained responsible for all operations conducted by the intelligence services.

In 1980 the KGB became aware of Poland's close connections with Vatican officials. The KGB administration ordered residents in Poland to tighten relations with the socialist country. It was critical for the KGB to have agents who had Pope John Paul II's trust and who could ask for his attention at any moment. The KGB and Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs started to form mutually beneficial relations. Mitrokhin provides a detailed agenda of goals that were meant to be reached with the help of the Polish intelligence service.



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