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?"

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform