Berzin, Yan Karlovich

   Born Peter Kyuzis in Russian Latvia, Berzin had a career as an underground Bolshevik revolutionary before the Revolution of November 1917. In 1924 he was appointed chief of military intelligence, and for the next 10 years he commanded a small corps of illegal agents who made important recruitments throughout Western Europe. In 1936–1937, Berzin served in Spain under the name “General Grishin,” dispatching agents and saboteurs behind Franco’s lines. In June 1937, he was recalled and reinstalled as chief of military intelligence. Like many veterans of the Spanish Civil War, however, he was arrested on Joseph Stalin’s orders. He was tried and shot in July 1938.
   Berzin is credited by many historians as a competent spy master and one of the fathers of Soviet special forces or Spetznaz operations. Like many Latvian, Polish, and German revolutionaries, he fell victim to Stalin’s paranoia. Their deaths deprived the Soviet Union of their best intelligence officers. Berzin was posthumously rehabilitated during the 1950s.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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