The Mitrokhin archive: KGB defector's copied files reveal Soviet dismay at ‘constantly drunk’ Guy Burgess

Soviet defector’s newly opened collection names KGB spies – but one remains a secret

They were two of Britain’s most notorious double agents, responsible for passing on some of this country’s most sensitive secrets to the Russians, but documents reveal that Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean were viewed in an unflattering light by their Soviet masters.

Among thousands of typed Russian documents in the Mitrokhin archive, open to public inspection for the first time this week, they describe how Burgess, who was “constantly drunk”, horrified his KGB controllers by staggering out of a pub one evening and dropping stolen Foreign Office documents on the pavement. Moscow was also kept informed about Donald Maclean’s alcoholic binges and loose tongue.

It emerges that the spy they valued most was the remarkable Melita Norwood, nicknamed “The Spy Who Came in From the Co-op”, who died in 2005 aged 93. She was never prosecuted and would never have been exposed but for the archive of Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior officer in the Soviet political police who brought the documents to Britain after he defected.

When she was uncovered in 1999, she was living quietly in Bexleyheath and flatly refused to apologise for her past. From 1937 to 1971, she passed to the Soviet Union information she picked up as the personal assistant to the head of the British Association for Non-Ferrous Metals Research, which was working on nuclear technology. For 11 years, the Soviets paid her £20 a month. They offered to reward her when she visited the USSR in 1979, but she declined.

Former Soviet spy Melita Norwood was exposed in 1999 (PA) Former Soviet spy Melita Norwood was exposed in 1999 (PA)
Another exceptionally valuable spy kept so well out of sight that his or her name is still unknown.

Russia possesses an amazing collection believed to contain every Foreign Office cable sent to or from any major British embassy between 1924 and 1936. The Mitrokhin archive reveals they were passed to Soviet intelligence by an unnamed cipher clerk working in the Rome embassy.

Video: Bush and Gorbachev final discussions

There is also a wealth of documents denouncing Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, as a dangerous anti-communist. Other documents reveal the immense number of agents the KGB put into the field to destabilise the Czechoslovak communist leadership in 1968 during the Prague Spring, when for the first time people living under communism enjoyed the right of free speech.

Folders in the Archive Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge (PA) Folders in the Archive Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge (PA) Other documents – which can be inspected at the Archive Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge – show evidence that Dick Clements, who worked for Labour leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, was in the pay of the Soviet secret service.

Dick Clements was editor of Tribune from 1961 until 1982, when Michael Foot invited him to move to Labour Party headquarters to run the leader’s private office. He was retained as executive officer when Neil Kinnock succeeded Foot, until 1987. The document says that “Dan” was Tribune’s “editor” (redaktor in Russian).

Clements admitted meeting Soviet officials but denied they had influenced Tribune’s editorial line. He laughed off the idea that he might have been “Agent Dan”.

But the most remarkable story relating to the documents is Vasili Mitrokhin’s own.

The former KGB officer Vasili Mitrokhin as he looked the day he defected to the West The former KGB officer Vasili Mitrokhin as he looked the day he defected to the West In 1972, the KGB decided to rehouse its vast archive and Mitrokhin was, for 12 years, the officer responsible for transferring the documents from the Lubyanka to their new location. As he catalogued them, he meticulously copied them out by hand into little green-lined school exercise books.

He retired in 1984, aged 62, wanting this vast treasure trove preserved, but not knowing how he could smuggle it out of the USSR. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 the Baltic states broke free of Russian control, but the usual tight border controls were not yet in place.

Mitrokhin travelled to one of the Baltic capitals – probably Riga – carrying a bag that contained documents hidden under dirty underwear. He deliberately looked shabby to avoid attracting the curiosity of border guards. Having failed to get anyone to listen to him at the US embassy, he visited the British embassy where member of staff offered him a cup of tea and took the documents to be examined by experts. British intelligence quickly discovered they had landed what the FBI later described as “the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source”.

The documents belong to Mitrokhin’s family, who live in the UK, though no one but a select few know where or under what name.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable