Rudolf Abel: biography, photos and interesting facts
The specifics of the activities of intelligence officers are such that their true names, as a rule, become known only years after their retirement, or, which is also not uncommon, death. Over the years, they change a lot of pseudonyms, and true life stories are replaced by fictional legends. Their fate was shared by Rudolf Abel, whose biography was the reason for writing this article.
Heir to the family of revolutionaries
The legendary Soviet intelligence officer Abel Rudolf Ivanovich, whose real name is William Genrikhovich Fisher, was born on July 11, 1903 in Great Britain, where his parents, Russian social-Marxists of German origin, were exiled for revolutionary activities. The family was able to return home only after the Bolsheviks came to power, which it took advantage of in 1920.
Rudolf Abel, who received a primary education in England and was fluent in English, arrived in Moscow,For several years he worked as a translator at the Comintern Executive Committee, after which he entered the Higher Art and Technical Studios, known more for his abbreviation VHUTEMAS. This step was pushed by his long-standing passion for visual arts, which began in England.
Beginning of service in the OGPU
After serving as an army and receiving a radio operator specialty there, Rudolf Ivanovich worked for some time as a radio technician in one of the research institutes of the Ministry of Defense. During this period, an event occurred that largely predetermined his future life. In April 1927, he married Elena Lebedeva, a young harpist who had just graduated from the Moscow Conservatory. Her sister, Serafima, worked in the OGPU apparatus and helped her new relative get settled into this closed structure.
Due to the fact that Rudolf Abel was fluent in English, he was assigned to a foreign department, where he worked first as a translator, and then in his military profession as a radio operator. Soon, or rather in January 1930, a mission was assigned to him, from which his scouting path began.
Departure to england
As part of the assignment, Abel applied to the British Embassy for permission to return to England and after obtaining citizenship, he moved to London, where he supervised intelligence activities and simultaneously communicated the center with the residency stationed in Norway.
By the way, one important detail should be noted - at this stage of his career, and up to being cast in the USA in 1948, he acted under his real name and only at a critical moment resorted to a pseudonym, under which he then became widely known.
His very successful activity was interrupted in 1938, after another Soviet intelligence officer, Alexander Orlov, chose not to return to his homeland and fled to the United States. To avoid failure, Rudolf Abel was urgently recalled to Moscow. He had only a few short single contacts with a defaulting agent, but this was enough for Beria, who was suspicious of anyone who had ever had to deal with "enemies of the people", to order him to be fired.
As a matter of fact, in those times it could be considered a very favorable outcome, since many in such situations turned out to be behind bars. Their fate could well be divided and Abel.Rudolph, meanwhile, did not lose hope of returning to the service, which he managed to love.
Service during the war
Over the next three years, as an employee of various Soviet institutions, he repeatedly filed reports on the restoration of his previous job. His request was granted only in 1941, when, with the beginning of the war, there was an urgent need for qualified personnel who had experience in intelligence activities.
Once again becoming an employee of the NKVD, Abel led the department in charge of the organization of the guerrilla war in the temporarily occupied territories. On this, one of the most important sectors of the fight against the enemy in those years, he was preparing sabotage and reconnaissance groups for their subsequent transfer into the German rear. It is known that it was then that fate brought him together with a man who in reality bore the name of Rudolf Abel, who after many years became his pseudonym.
Unfortunately, very soon after the joint victory over fascism, the former allies turned into irreconcilable enemies, separated by the “iron curtain”, and their yesterday’s military fraternity turned into a cold war.
In the current situation, it was vital for the Soviet leadership to have comprehensive information on American developments in the field of nuclear weapons, the enormous destructive force of which was demonstrated during the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was with this task that reconnaissance Rudolf Abel was sent to the USA in 1948, where he lived and carried out his illegal activities, using the passport of the American citizen Andrew Kaiotis who had died shortly before in Lithuania.
Soviet intelligence resident
Soon, Rudolf Abel was forced to change his pseudonym and according to documents issued in the name of a certain artist Emil Goldfus, he opened a photo studio in Brooklyn. Of course, it was only a cover behind which the center of the Soviet residency, which collected data at various nuclear facilities in the country, was hidden. A year later, he changed that name, again becoming William Fisher. For everyone who was part of his extensive network, Abel was known by the nickname Mark, that was how his reports were sent to Moscow.
The closest agents who acted as Abel’s liaisons were the Cohen spouses - Soviet intelligence agents of American origin.Thanks to them, the intelligence center of interest could be obtained not only from American scientific centers, but also from secret laboratories in the UK. The efficiency of the agent network created by Abel was so high that a year later he received a message about awarding him with the Order of the Red Banner.
Agent who became a traitor
In 1952 another Soviet intelligence spy was sent to help Mark, this time of Finnish origin, Reino Häyhänen, who had the pseudonym Vik. However, as practice has shown, it turned out to be unsuitable for performing such a complex and demanding full commitment of work. Many operations entrusted to him were on the verge of collapse solely because of his irresponsibility.
As a result, after four years, the command decided to withdraw it to Moscow, but Vic, who had by then disaccustomed himself to the gray and poor Soviet life, did not want to return to his homeland. Instead, he voluntarily surrendered to the authorities and, entering into cooperation with the FBI, called all the names and addresses of Soviet agents known to him.
Failure and arrest
Round-the-clock surveillance was established for the head of the center, and in April 1957 he was arrested at the Latham Hotel in New York.Here he first named himself Rudolph Abel - his long-time acquaintance, with whom he had trained sabotage groups during the war years. So he was listed then in the official records.
The accused person invariably responded to all the accusations that the US brought against Rudolf Abel with categorical objections. He denied participation in intelligence activities, in any ties with Moscow, and when offered to cooperate in exchange for freedom, he portrayed a complete lack of understanding of the merits.
Years spent in custody
At the end of the same year, the decision of the Federal Court "Mark" was sentenced to thirty-two years in prison, which he began to serve in the Atlanta correctional prison. It should be noted that, in his recollections, the conditions of detention were not particularly strict, and during the years spent behind bars, he had the opportunity to fill the time with his favorite activities - mathematics, art history and even painting.
In this regard, it is curious to note that the former chairman of the KGB of the USSR, V. Ye. Semichasny, said that the portrait of Kennedy, written by Abel in prison, pleased the president so much that, given to him, he hung in the Oval Office of the White House for a long time.
Again in the ranks of the state security
Contrary to such a harsh sentence, freedom came to a highly gifted prisoner much earlier. In 1962, Rudolf Abel, after exchanging him for the American pilot Francis Powers, shot down during a reconnaissance flight over the territory of the Soviet Union, returned to Moscow. In making this deal, the US government, along with Powers, bargained for one of his other students, shortly before he was arrested on suspicion of espionage.
After a period of rehabilitation, Abel continued to work in the Soviet foreign intelligence apparatus. He was no longer sent abroad, but used to train young scouts who were still to embark on this difficult and dangerous path. At leisure, he, as before, was engaged in painting.
The last years of life scout
In Soviet times, experienced professional consultants were often involved in the creation of historical and sometimes detective films. One of them was Rudolf Abel. The film "Dead Season", filmed in 1968 at the Lenfilm Studio by director Savva Kulish, largely reproduces episodes of his own life. Going out on the screens of the country, he was a huge success.
Famous Soviet intelligence officer William Genrikhovich Fisher, known to all of us under the pseudonym Rudolf Abel, died on November 15, 1971 in one of the capital's clinics. The cause of death was lung cancer.