This is the KGB travel operation ... spy me

In from the cold: Now they are no longer spreading the communist web old agents have turned to revealing their secrets

IT'S amazing what you can read in Russia now that the censor has put away his pencil. Traders hawk all manner of books, from guides to tantric sex, to translations of Barbara Cartland.

But the most bizarre book of the season, which was launched with a signing ceremony at the Moskva book shop this week, has to be The KGB's Travel Guide to the Cities of the World.

For decades, KGB agents were among the very few Soviet citizens privileged enough to experience life on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Now, seven retired spies offer their tips on how to dress, where to eat and what to see to a new generation of Russians who are about to travel abroad.

The book, published with the permission of the Lubyanka, headquarters of the security services now called the FSB, is light-hearted and gives away no real secrets. Former agents in Paris, Rome, London, Cairo, New York, Mexico City and Bangkok simply recount anecdotes from their days in the field.

For a travel guide, the book is short on maps and pictures. But it costs only 19,500 roubles (pounds 3), well within the reach of ordinary Russians, most of whom are armchair travellers as their meagre salaries do not stretch to foreign jaunts.

The section on Cairo is introduced by Lev Bausin, who appears in a passport photograph looking unmistakably Soviet despite his disguise of Arab headgear. Mikhail Brazhelonov reminisces about the wonderful moules a la provencale he ate in Paris, but advises his fellow Russians to seek their restaurants away from the Montmartre area because it is overrun with noisy tourists.

His colleague in New York, Oleg Brykin, had a harder time. He remembers that his KGB allowance was so small that he had to take sandwiches with him on a train trip to Chicago. On another occasion, he nearly got eaten himself when he went to meet an agent by the lions' cage at the Bronx Zoo, only to discover this was a park where the animals roamed freely.

For British readers, of course, the most interesting chapter is Mikhail Lyubimov's memoir of his time in London in the early 1960s before he was expelled for "activities incompatible with his diplomatic status". After that, his career went from bad to worse, as he was the careless controller of the spy Oleg Gordievsky who spectacularly defected to Britain in 1985. But Colonel Lyubimov, who has already helped to supplement his meagre KGB pension by publishing one book of memoirs, looks back on it all with a gentle humour.

In order to contribute to the guidebook, he was allowed to return to Britain and he goes down memory lane with an old friend identified only as Chris from Hampstead. The two are riding into central London from Heathrow Airport. "Do you know who you've got in the back of the cab?" Chris asks the Scottish taxi driver. "He's a former KGB colonel, a dangerous spy who in his time recruited Tories left and right."

"Good on yer," says the driver. "Those damned Tories have ruined the country."

"Poor people from the north of England do not like the Tories," Colonel Lyubimov explains to his readers. "I felt very satisfied; I did not work in vain."

The colonel returns to all his old haunts, including Hyde Park where he used to chat up British women, passing himself off as a Swede. He visits the House of Commons and describes the debates there, which once thrilled him, as tame in comparison with the fist fights in today's Russian parliament.

Chris wants to take him to the musical, Les Miserables, but he says he has had his fill of revolutions and prefers to eat fish and chips, the best of an otherwise dull British cuisine, and go to pubs.

In the Sherlock Holmes pub on Baker Street he advises vodka-drinking Russians to persevere with whisky as it will reward them in the end. "Scottish whisky demands patience," he says. "It's like learning to love Richard Strauss. When you acquire the taste, you will go from Johnny Walker to the single malts."

The only piece of trade-craft that Colonel Lyubimov reveals is that Harrods is an excellent place to lose anyone who might be following you because it is crowded and has many entrances, exits, emergency exits and changing rooms. But he advises against shoplifting there. Because of the threat of Irish bombs, he says, the shop is as riddled with security personnel as a "cake is stuffed with raisins".

Colonel Lyubimov, who confesses to a "strange love for England", is, in many ways, more English than the average contemporary English person, although he mistakes Dr Samuel Johnson for a "great Victorian" in his section on the famous Cheshire Cheese pub off Fleet Street.

The colonel goes shopping to replenish his wardrobe with his favourite flannel trousers and tweed jacket, constantly quotes T S Eliot as he wanders the streets of London, and expresses nostalgia for empire - not only Soviet, but British too.

Some of the new Russians disturb him in his hotel. One asks him in broken English if she can borrow money until the next morning to continue her gambling. He replies in his best Oxford accent that he only has a credit card on him.

"Leave him alone," says the woman's husband. "Can't you see that he's just a mean Englishman?"

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style