Kryuchkov, Vladimir Aleksandrovich

(1924– )
   During World War II, Kryuchkov worked in a factory and in the Komsomol in his native Stalingrad. He served several years in the procuracy, and then entered the diplomatic academy, and from there was assigned to the Soviet embassy in Budapest. Kryuchkov came to the attention of then Soviet ambassador Yuri Andropov during the Hungarian revolution of 1956. Kryuchkov’s opposition to the “counterrevolution” and his tireless support of a hard line won Andropov’s admiration and later his patronage. When Andropov went to the KGB in 1967, he made Kryuchkov head of his personal secretariat, and in 1971 made him the number two person in the KGB’s foreign intelligence component, even though he had no previous experience in foreign intelligence. In 1974 Andropov promoted Kryuchkov to head the First Chief Directorate (FCD).
   Kryuchkov was not a popular foreign intelligence chief. Some of his staff thought too much time was spent on the pursuit of dissidents within the Soviet bloc and active measures against the West. Other critics believed that during his tenure the FCD became overbureaucratized and plagued with defectors. Nevertheless, during Kryuchkov’s 14 years as chief of foreign intelligence, the service had major triumphs in gathering technical intelligence and managed to penetrate American intelligence and counterintelligence services. One evaluation of Kryuchkov’s worth to his political masters was his rise inside the party leadership and his close association first with Andropov and then Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1981 he became the first Soviet foreign intelligence chief to be made a member of the Communist Party Central Committee. During the first years of perestroika, he became a trusted advisor of Gorbachev, and in December 1987 he accompanied the Communist Party general secretary on his visit to Washington. In 1988 Gorbachev made Kryuchkov KGB chair in a purge of party hardliners.
   Gorbachev came quickly to regret his decision to promote Kryuchkov. In 1990 Kryuchkov became one of Gorbachev’s principal critics from within the party and KGB, condemning many of Gorbachev’s allies as servants of Western intelligence. Kryuchkov was the prime mover behind the August putsch of 1991, and more than a dozen senior KGB officers took part in planning the abortive coup. Following the failure of the August putsch, Kryuchkov was arrested, but he was amnestied before being brought to trial. He has since written his memoirs, which accuse many of Gorbachev’s allies of high treason and responsiblity for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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