On November 25, the legend of Soviet intelligence, Gohar Vartanyan, passed away. It so happened that she did not live only three days before the next anniversary of the historic Tehran Conference, the security of which became one of the main operations in the long and enchanting "odyssey" of the Vartanyan family. They were perhaps the most “starry” married couple among the fighters of the invisible front of the department of Lavrentii Beria. Not only incredibly productive and successful, but also widely known. And this is very rare for “illegal” scouts.
Moreover, the images of Gohar and her husband Gevrok became a source of inspiration for the creators of the famous Soviet film devoted to those distant events - Tehran-43. It was they who largely became the prototypes of the main characters of this film. As it usually happens, the cinematic version corresponds to life realities to the smallest degree. It's time to recall the true story of the life and love of these outstanding people, thereby paying tribute to their memory and deed.
Eternal love in intelligence: cloak, dagger and three weddings
For those who are not familiar with the movie mentioned above (I highly recommend it for viewing to everyone who is interested in the military topic), I will say in brief that in addition to the main, historical storyline, there is also a romantic one. The love of the Soviet intelligence agent Andrei Borodin and the French translator Maria Lunina, the daughter of emigrants from Russia, goes through the whole picture, which takes place both during the Great Patriotic War and in the 70s of the last century. And the beautiful song “Eternal Love” performed in an incomparable performance by Charles Aznavour sounds like a refrain ... Actually, the story set out by the filmmakers is deeply tragic - brought together by the most terrible war in human history, lovers cannot be together. Peaceful life ruthlessly scatters them around the world, which after 1945 did not become either more holistic or more secure. The heroes remain truly eternal fidelity to duty and their love and the memory of the brief minutes of happiness that fell to them in the midst of a worldwide fire. In reality, everything was not just a little different, but completely different. And from the beginning to the very end. In any case, at the time when Gevork and Gohar stood under the hot sun of Iran on the aces of the secret war of the Third Reich, both of them were already professional intelligence officers. But they both were not yet 20 years old at that time. However, like the vast majority of those who participated in the prevention of Nazi plans to destroy the "Big Three" gathered in Tehran - Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.
Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at a conference in Tehran, 1943
After the events of 1943 and the Victory, their story - both as scouts and as a happy couple, did not end in any way, but only began for real. In 1946, Gevork and Gohar played a wedding. The first of three ... Naturally, their first union was real in all respects (with a wedding dress, happy parents and a wedding in the temple). The rest were required according to the “legends” in those places where their steep and winding route was thrown in the service of the Motherland in an illegal situation. And yet - they were really lucky. They entered the Soviet Union in 1951, during the lifetime of Stalin and Beria, before the terrifying pogrom that Khrushchev arranged in the "organs" after the coup. Having quickly graduated from the Faculty of Foreign Languages of Yerevan State University and received additional special training, the couple left on a long trip abroad on time. For the whole three decades, they were destined to return to their homeland only in 1986. France, Greece, Italy, the United States ... Many of the geographical locations in which this brilliant couple operated will remain secret for many years, if not forever. As well as the details of the vast majority of operations in which they participated. In any case, over the past three decades, they have successfully left the CIA, the FBI, and the counterintelligence of many NATO countries more than once. God kept them from failures in a foreign land and from repressions in his own. They didn’t fall into any of the many “companies” and “purges,” and after returning for many years, as they say in official documents, “they passed on their wealth of experience to young generations.” Colonel of State Security Gevorg Vartanyan resigned in 1992, not having served until the age of 70! Both he and his wife have received many government awards. Vartanyan became the hero of the Soviet Union in 1984, learning about this from encryption. Subsequently, he said that at least three of the five rays of the Golden Star owed his wife ... However, let's return to Tehran in 1943.
Battlefield - Iran
Naturally, the external intelligence of the NKVD (and our heroes had a relationship with it) in no case could allow the operations of the level depicted in the film to be carried out without many years of the most thorough preparation, and even involving almost not random people! There is no doubt that no one would have thought of holding the first meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Anti-Hitler Coalition in a place where our intelligence and counterintelligence would not have the strongest positions and would not possess the situation as much as possible during the war. The Vartanyan family was one of the cells of the colossal residency that the USSR began to create in Iran as early as the 20s and 30s. In any case, they moved there from Rostov in 1930. Frankly speaking, the time was not the best. Georgiy Agabekov, the main resident of the OGPU in the Middle East, who fled to the West in the same year, not only handed over almost the entire Soviet intelligence network in the region there, but also managed to publish the book "OGPU: Russian Secret Terror". He, of course, was caught and eliminated, but it happened already in 1937, and already little could improve the situation. After the vile “revelations” of the traitor, at least four hundred people were arrested in Iran alone. Four were shot. Improving relations between Tehran and Moscow, all this, as you know, has not contributed in any way. The ruined residency needed to be restored and it was done oh, how difficult. It is not for nothing that, according to the recollections of Gevork, his father was thrown into prison several times, and it was precisely on suspicion of having links with Soviet intelligence that were more than justified.
Spouses Vartanyan in his youth
However, they failed to prove the “aces” from the Iranian special services, under whose nose intelligence of many countries operated in the country. In 1936, the family moved to the capital. Quite soon, the smart Gevork realized that a significant part of the people whom his father met (for some reason, for the most part were far from extra eyes and ears) were to that part of his life in which Andrei Vartanyan was a respected merchant, owner of a confectionery known throughout the country factories, has nothing to do. And after some time he himself ran on the “petty” instructions of his father: to tell someone nothing, at first glance, a meaningless phrase and bring an answer, to hand over or hide in a designated place a package in which there were definitely not oriental sweets, and even to trace this or that person ... At the age of 16, Gevork was already standing in front of Ivan Agayants, a resident of the NKVD of the USSR in Iran. The Great Patriotic War broke out and Iran was considered by the leadership of the Soviet Union as one of the main theaters of the secret war, completely justified, by the way. It is not surprising that the first assignment of Sergo Beria, the only son of the head of the NKVD of the USSR, after the end of the intelligence school was a trip to Iran. The airfields of the Luftwaffe, which were built at that time in this country by German experts, were planned to be used to strike at the Caucasus, which is vital for supplying the Red Army with fuel. In order to take the country under full control, a coup was planned at the end of August 1941, led by Abwehr chief Wilhelm Kanaris, who personally came to Iran on this occasion. It didn’t help ... Stalin struck first, our and British troops entered the country. The NKVD cleaned Iran from Nazi agents in the most thorough manner and very successfully. It’s enough to mention that Franz Mayer, who headed Abwehr’s residency in Tehran, was subsequently found already in 1943, at the old Armenian cemetery, where he was forced to sit out, having been re-trained as a grave digger. Why did this happen?
Beria Boys vs. Canaris Aces ...
Here is the time to recall Gevork Vartanyan. The main task he received in 1941 from Agayants was the organization of an underground group of the same local boys and natives of the USSR who were like him. It is clear that the militants or saboteurs from them would have been the same ... "Evil Enkavadisty" for such purposes, teenagers could only use the through and through false "perestroika" movie-style. The main task of the Vartanyan group, which received the humorous name of “Light Cavalry” from the curator, was a thing in reconnaissance not just necessary, but archival - external observation. They were entrusted with the most thorough fixation of German agents, their movements, caches, appearances and safe houses. That is why the wolfhounds, who later entered Tehran in cornflower-blue caps, so easily found and took “warm” enemy spies, who were considered to be concealed in the deepest possible way, possessing “impenetrable” masks and “legends”. They just knew who and where to look. And the main merit in this belonged to the boys from the Light Cavalry. Where, by the way, is such a name from? Their main “weapon” in the fight against the Nazis was not Parabellum, tol checkers or walkie-talkies, but old rattling bicycles on which these guys could keep up with anyone and anywhere, rushing like crazy among bazaars, gardens and slums of Tehran. Fritz, moving in cars, won in speed, but knowledge of the Easy Cavalry of every corner and every roundabout trail in the maze of streets and alleys of the eastern city often nullified this advantage. It was practically impossible to shake off the boys who had “sat down on the tail” on the bike, to get out of sight of their burning eyes of excitement. However, what am I all “boys” and “boys”? All in the same 1941, following her elder brother, the only girl in her came to the "light cavalry". Although ... What is there a "girl" ?! At that moment, when Goar was actively involved in intelligence work, she was not even 15!
Subsequently, Gevork Vartanyan wondered more than once: how did it happen that they, who had neither operational experience nor anything remotely pulling on professional training and education, managed to furnish top-class professionals, the “wolf” of the secret war from Abwehr and special forces of the SS? In his deep conviction, the “Aryans” were let down by their self-confidence and the deepest contempt that they feel for all, without exception, “untimers”. Well, some boys revolve around ... Oh, pooh on them! What can they, these little subhuman ?! Underfoot they only get confused, well, and to hell with them. Intelligence, as you know, doesn’t forgive such things. For their own arrogance, the failed "rulers of the world" subsequently paid off with a bullet in their head, and some with long and very soulful conversations in the basements of the NKVD. The group of cutthroats Otto Skorzeny, parachuted into Iran as part of the operation to eliminate the Big Three, from the place of their landing - the outskirts of Qom to Tehran, was also accompanied by the Light Cavalry. Radio communications sessions conducted by militants moving towards the capital did not hide from the eyes of her fighters. Interception, decryption - and the NKVD became aware of the coordinates of the landing of yet another SS landing, at the head of which Skorzeny himself should have stood. “The Reich’s main saboteur,” unfortunately, at that time avoided close acquaintance with the people of Lavrenty Pavlovich. However, the "Big Leap", which should have resulted in the deaths of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, was disrupted, despite all attempts to bring it to the end. The last NKVD saboteurs were killed at the very same Armenian cemetery, where the resident of Abwehr hid for almost three years, to which they broke through in the hope of help. After that, the Nazi espionage network in Iran virtually ceased to exist. However, the problems for the USSR in the country did not end there. So, there was work for the Light Cavalry.
... And sirs from MI-6
As I have written many times, the belief that our "allies" in the person of Great Britain and the USA in all seriousness were going to do their utmost to help the USSR in the fight against the Hitler invasion, and subsequently build a new, just peace hand in hand with it, today to be inherent exclusively to outstanding lamps of naivety. Those who are able to point blank not to notice completely obvious things. Such, for example, as this fact: the British opened their intelligence school in Tehran in 1942. That's just they did not recruit in it in any way ethnic Germans or even Iranians. A clear advantage in the recruitment was provided to immigrants from the Soviet republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia, who knew, in addition, the Russian language. Acted all this "sharashka" under the guise of a youth radio club almost openly. And Vartanyan received from Agayants a new task: to become a cadet of this school at all costs! He himself later admitted that there were no particular problems. In terms of basic parameters, he approached almost perfectly, but for the rest, the sirs from the intelligence of Her Majesty who “steered” the process thought extremely wildly: a decent young man from a good family wants to join the “Western World” and earn money at the same time. According to Gevork, recruiters were especially impressed by his frank admission that the pursuit of the "long pound" pushed him to a difficult spy path. In short, "in the ranks" he was accepted. But then the British began some kind of obscurity and trouble. The saboteurs thrown by them in the USSR (and, as it turned out, they trained in this school, primarily specialists in this field), one after the other, either died or disappeared completely without a trace. Some, however, regularly got in touch, but with their curators, the farther, the greater the confidence that they work under the control of the NKVD. And, honestly, that’s how it was ... For all the data on them went to Moscow much earlier than the newly made agents managed to smuggle across the border of the Union. Naturally, through the efforts of Vartanyan and his faithful comrades from the Light Cavalry, who took the school under the densest “cap”.
In a word, all the British espionage fuss in Tehran ended in utter shame. They began to carry out checks, looking for a “mole”, but Gevork passed them all with ease, which, again, was facilitated by the signature British arrogance and stereotyped approaches. It got to the point that all this circus was fed up with Agayants and he, having called Colonel Spencer, the head of the London residency, for a personal meeting, demanded that he stop the ugliness in plain text. The Englishman tried to bustle, like in a hot pan, dumping everything on the "unfinished Nazis", but with Agayants such things did not pass. The sirs had to turn their heinous activities away from sin. But Vartanyan’s knowledge gained in science about the methods and approaches of the country's special services, which soon turned into one of the main enemies, was very useful later on. By the way, for all the long decades of illegal intelligence work, he ended up behind bars only once - in Tehran, where the older guys who worked in conjunction with his Light Cavalry, liquidated a very dangerous Nazi accomplice, managed to “inherit” . The hapless liquidators managed to be pulled out in the USSR, but they could not hush up the matter. A thread led taminate (Iran’s secret police) to Gevork. There was no iron evidence against him, only suspicions. Therefore, after three months of “imprisonment,” during which Gohar bore programs to him and was tormented by the unknown, the guy was released. On the other hand, they questioned him during interrogations, according to his memoirs, in the most cruel way. Nothing, endured ... In one of his interviews, which, after removing the strictest secrecy from him in 2000, Colonel Vartanyan managed to give a lot, he said the following: “We were such fanatics of our Motherland!” It was said with great pride ... And, by the way, for their extravagant, puzzling, mortally dangerous cases, the guys from the "Light Cavalry" did not even receive a broken dinar. At the end of his life, their aged leader said: “We are happy that we have given our profession our whole life!”
So it was ... Unlike the cinema heroes of Tehran-43, Gevork and Gohar Vartanyan did not have one thing in their lives - children. Alas, for an illegal scout this is an absolutely unacceptable luxury, a source of terrible vulnerability, an unacceptable risk ... They devoted themselves to serving the Fatherland. They continued tens and hundreds of students, many of whom still follow their path, defending their homeland, remaining invisible and unknown to those on guard of whose peace they stand. And also - our memory with you. The memory of the greatest heroes of our country, which should be the same as their love for it - is eternal.