Pravdin, Vladimir

   Born Roland Abbiate of French parents in St. Petersburg, Pravdin grew up in Paris. He was recruited for Soviet intelligence by his sister Mieille, who was an accomplished illegal. He joined the OGPU in 1932 and served in Western Europe under a number of pseudonyms. As Vladimir Pravdin, he served in Europe and as an NKVD case officer in New York under journalist cover. In his first creation as an intelligence officer, Pravdin took part in the murder of Ignatz Poretsky in Switzerland in 1937. In 1944 Pravdin was assigned to New York as rezident under cover as a TASS representative. Under journalist cover, Pravdin was a successful intelligence officer; he recruited and ran Judith Coplon, and he managed several other successful operations.
   The defections of Elizabeth Bentley and Igor Gouzenko, plus the Anglo-American success in deciphering Soviet codes, undid Pravdin’s relationship with important agents. Fearing arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, many productive agents were not recontacted. Moscow decided that a more conservative posture in the United States was needed; Pravdin was recalled in 1946 to Moscow and replaced with a nonentity. Blamed for the loss of agents, Pravdin fell under a cloud of suspicion. He was fired partly because of his foreign Jewish ancestry. He made efforts to clear his name but in despair committed suicide.
   Pravdin’s fate demonstrated graphically the deterioration and collapse of NKVD networks in the United States. As Pravdin and other talented case officers were recalled, they were not replaced with competent agent handlers. New officers were warned about the new counterintelligence environment and became risk averse, choosing to write intelligence reports based on articles in the American press. The intelligence empire that had been built up during World War II crumbled.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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