From 1972 to 1984, Major Vasiliy 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.
At the same time, having grown disillusioned with the brutal oppression of the Soviet regime, he was taking secret handwritten notes of the material and smuggling them out of the building each evening. In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he, his family and his archive were exfiltrated by the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service.
Now, Mitrokhin’s files are open at the Churchill Archives Centre, where they sit alongside the personal papers of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
In 2014, at the time of their opening, Professor Christopher Andrew, the only historian hitherto allowed access to the archive, and author of two global bestsellers with Mitrokhin, said: “There are only two places in the world where you’ll find material like this. One is the KGB 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”.
Who has placed the archive at Churchill College, Cambridge?
The archive was the private property of the Mitrokhin family and has been deposited by them at the Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.
Why has the archive been placed at Churchill College, Cambridge?
In making this deposit, the Mitrokhin family is honouring the wishes of Vasiliy Mitrokhin who wanted his archive to be publicly available. As this is a private archive, it was felt appropriate to place it in a repository that specialises in personal papers of the modern era. The Churchill Archives Centre has strong holdings for the Cold War era, including the personal papers of Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness (Margaret) Thatcher. The Centre hosted a major international conference on The Cold War and its Legacy in 2009.
How can the archive be viewed?
The open sections of the archive can be viewed by appointment at the Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Researchers are required to sign a specific undertaking indemnifying the College against any breach of the General Data Protection Regulations. To make an appointment, interested parties should ring 01223 336087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What will I see if I visit Churchill Archives Centre?
Mitrokhin’s original manuscript notes remain closed and classified and are not deposited in the Archives Centre. The series of typescript volumes which he produced in Moscow arranged by country (MITN 1), and those produced later in London and arranged by subject (MITN 2), are largely open and available for consultation by prior appointment. Also open are some of the redacted typescript versions of the notebooks that he transcribed in London (MITN 3), typescripts of selected entries for his published anthology Chekisms (MITN 4), and his handwritten and typescript lexicons and glossaries of KGB terms (MITN 5). Churchill College is not in a position to establish the veracity of this information, which has been selected, transcribed, collated, edited and typed up by the late Vasiliy Mitrokhin (1922-2004).
What language is the archive written in?
The entire archive is written in Russian. Translations are not available at the Churchill Archives Centre.
How does the archive relate to the published works by Professor Christopher Andrew and Vasiliy Mitrokhin?
Prior to its deposit in the Churchill Archives Centre the archive formed the basis of several publications on both sides of the Atlantic (with foreign translations), including:
- The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Christopher Andrew and Vasiliy Mitrokhin (Allen Lane, 1999; Penguin revised paperback edition, 2000)
- US edition: The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, Christopher Andrew and Vasiliy Mitrokhin (Basic Books, 1999; paperback edition, 2000)
- KGB Lexicon: The Soviet Intelligence Officer’s Handbook 1st Edition by Vasiliy Mitrokhin (Routledge, 2002)
- The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World, Christopher Andrew and Vasiliy Mitrokhin (Allen Lane, 2005; Penguin revised paperback edition, 2006)
- US edition: The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (Basic Books, 2005; paperback edition, 2006
- Chekisms Tales of the Cheka: A KGB Anthology, Vasiliy Mitrokhin (Yurasov Press, 2008)
What is the best way of finding material in the archive?
Copies of this collection level description and catalogue are available at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge and on the ArchiveSearch website. Readers may find it helpful to use Mitrokhin’s and Professor Christopher Andrew’s published guides to the archive, available in the Archives Centre reading room. Use the index to find the text you need and look at the footnotes. If these give the citation “vol 9, ch 6” for instance, it means that the relevant entry should be found in MITN 1/9; if “vol 7”, you need MITN 1/7. The volumes referred to are MITN series 1, the first volumes that Mitrokhin produced while in Russia and arranged by place. Unfortunately it is not always easy to match the item numbers to the page numbers in these volumes, but the chapters should match up.
If the relevant footnote gives a K file number and then an item number (eg: K5-22) it means that the relevant entry will be in MITN 2 and the Archives Centre list gives the old K number for each of the volumes (eg: MITN 2/1 on “The Church” was formerly K1). These volumes are then arranged numerically by item.
Can I get copies of the material and can I publish them?
The Churchill Archives Centre is able to permit researchers to make their own single copies of documents for private study and research purposes only, but Archives Centre staff are not able to make copies on researchers’ behalf. The easiest way to obtain copies is to bring your own camera and take as many images as you wish.
Researchers are welcome to consult the material, and can report the contents and cite the material using the Churchill Archives Centre references, but we will not licence or assist with the licensing for quotation or reproduction of images.