Speaking to Anthony Clare on BBC Radio 4's In the Psychiatrist's Chair, Gordievsky, whose defection led to the mass expulsion of Soviet spies from Britain, says his mother's angry attacks on his Communist Party apparatchik father sowed the seeds of his decision to become a double agent. "It was the influence of my mother, with her common sense, with her peasant attitude, with her normality, who taught me or helped me to take the reality of the Soviet life in its proper light and dimension."
Gordievsky's father, Anton, and brother, Visilko, were both KGB agents, and his father was a staunch party supporter. His mother, Olga, had no links to the party's ruling structures and criticised his father for toeing the party line. "He was a frightened man," says Gordievsky, "because he was already a senior officer during the Stalinist purges between 1936 and '38."
Gordievsky tells the psychiatrist it was normal for a Soviet man to lie to almost everybody: "Having one language within his family, speaking to his wife; another language speaking to the party organisation; a third way of speaking about everything to the boss. So in the beginning it was easy to be a spy, to live another lie."
He says he inherited his father's fear of "whoever was the boss". At home, this was his mother: "In Russia, the women are very power-hungry ... She was a bit too much in that direction. She interfered too much."
Gordievsky says he married his first wife "too hastily" so he could escape from his mother and also because the KGB did not give foreign postings to single men. He wanted a foreign posting because of the money and glamour that spying for the KGB offered: "It was exciting, it was thrilling, it was romantic. It promised also some good life: higher salary, trips abroad."
In 1974 he turned "traitor" while working as a KGB agent in Denmark and went over to working for the British security services. He continued as a double agent until the KGB posted him to London in 1982. An American double agent then betrayed him.
Gordievsky says that after he was exposed, his mother, who died in 1989 or 1990, probably disapproved of his actions, although she was the catalyst for his defection: "She was not profound enough to realise it. In a way she was responsible."
He never saw her after defecting, he said in an interview yesterday. "I was not able to go to the funeral because I was still under a death sentence. But it gave my ex-wife Layla a unique opportunity to communicate with me. The KGB allowed it because of the tragic circumstances."