There is no insurance against betrayal. Conon Young dreamed of becoming an illegal immigrant again

Weekly “Arguments and Facts” No. 01-02. Why did Kazakhstan burst into flames? 12/01/2022

January 17 – 100th anniversary of the birth of the illegal intelligence agent Konon the Young. 100 not 100, but he left too early – at 48.

Writer, three times laureate of the Prize of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation. E. Primakova Nikolai Dolgopolov:

Escaped from America

English Conon knew as a native. After the death of his father, the aunt took her nephew from her sister's family in need in the United States. There the boy studied for six years. And then, contrary to the persuasion of my aunt, he returned home and graduated from school in Moscow. Before the war he was drafted into the Red Army, fought until the Victory. Scout Molody crossed the front line more than once, dragged captive Fritz-“languages”, for which he was awarded military awards. And along the way, he mastered languages.

After the war, he entered the institute, where he learned Chinese. Probably, even before that, he was noticed by foreign intelligence. A hero, party member, polyglot, he was sent across North America to England. There, at the Conon Institute, or rather, Gordon Lonsdale, the operational name “Ben”, also ate Chinese. Although I studied mainly my fellow students – British and American intelligence officers.

Salisbury was already there, and the Porton Down chemical laboratory located in the area. The young one revealed her terrible secrets. Experiments with chemical weapons were carried out on living people, and Nazi scientists, warmed by our ex-allies, helped create bacteriological poisons. Film «Dead Season» – it's about Conon the Young, who stirred up a vile nest.

But Porton Down – just a small part of his work. “Ben” was able to learn a lot about the US military bases located around the world. The ever-changing British ciphers fell into the hands of Gordon Lonsdale. And the main achievement – creation of an intelligence network in Portland. Piles of documents – drawings, technical descriptions, photographs – helped the Soviet navy to withstand serious threats. 

With Donatas Banionis during the filming of the film “Dead Season”. Photo: from the personal archive of Konon the Young. Back to news »

I took all the blame

Young was arrested on January 7, 1961. Why? He gave no reason to be suspicious. The electronic lock, invented at the Lonsdale firm, was awarded a gold medal at the world exhibition in Brussels. And shortly before his arrest, the Queen awarded the businessman with a diploma for his contribution to the development of British industry.

But there is a betrayal in intelligence, and in all areas of our life, against which we are all powerless. Colonel Golenevsky pointed to Lonsdale. It's amazing how the Polish secret service tolerated this liar and drunkard. And he was preparing for a long time to switch sides and handed over to the Americans a lot of his own, Poles, and a lot of ours. After settling in the States, he declared himself miraculously saved from execution by the Tsarevich Alexei Romanov and for years fooled lovers of sensations.

There is another version of the arrest. Gordon and his best agent Houghtoncaught red-handed right during the transfer of classified information. “Ben” recruited a cipher clerk at a naval base in Portland under a false flag. The Briton was sure that he was working for the CIA. Accepting gifts from Soviet intelligence, the first time he lived still modestly. And then he went into all serious trouble. This luxury attracted the attention of counterintelligence. Houghton was pressed hard, and he betrayed the “American”. The radio operators of “Ben” were also arrested. – spouses Kroger, they are – our illegals, future Heroes of Russia Morris and Lona Coen.

When a bunch of spy equipment was found in the house of the modest second-hand book dealer Kroger, Gordon Lonsdale told the court that it was he who, taking advantage of their naivety, hid radio transmitters and ciphers in someone else's villa. I took all the blame. It did not help: Lonsdale, whose origin was never established, was given 25 years, the Krogers – by 20, Houghton –15. 

Scout Young (on the right) with friends from the front. Photo: from the personal archive of Konon the Young.

What did friendship lead to

At the Hero of Russia Alexei Mikhailovich Kozlovhad their own take on the story. It was impossible to let Houghton shine with expensive cars and yachts. And most importantly – An illegal should never communicate openly with his radio operators. Only secret communication and no personal meetings. My timid: “But how friendly they were with the Krogers!” – Kozlov, who had been imprisoned in a South African prison because of the betrayal of Oleg Gordievsky, was angry. He answered harshly: “And where did this friendship lead Morris and Lona? To the prison cell.

Konon was quickly exchanged for the traitor's liaison Penkovsky Grenville Wynn. And the Coens-Krogers, exchanged under the Polish flag, spent almost a decade in Her Majesty's prisons. 

I did not like everything at home

Konon Trofimovich loved hockey. As well as his good friend colonel of intelligence Pavel Georgievich Gromushkin. He, strict and impartial, worked in the disciplinary commission of the All-Union Ice Hockey Federation. And regularly supplied Konon and the actor who became friends with him Vyacheslav Tikhonovtickets to the cherished Luzhnikov box “A”. Then they were mainly rooting for the invincible CSKA and the people's Spartak. However, a group of well-dressed comrades, among whom the actor Tikhonov was noticed, loudly supported Dynamo. Then the future Stirlitz said that he adopted his cine style of smoking from Molodoy. It couldn't be. At the age of 7, caught with a cigarette, Konon promised his mother never to smoke. And he kept his word. 

And another myth. Allegedly, Molody told the future creators of the film “Seventeen Moments of Spring” how his wife Galya was secretly brought to Western Europe, which served as the basis for the famous scene of the meeting in the Stirlitz cafe with his wife. There was no such thing. But Galina was indeed sent to the then friendly Czechoslovakia, where she rested with her husband, who at some point had escaped from England.

Previously, almost all illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly colonels, after returning received the honorary position of the head of the sector in their department. And in the – one person: himself an illegal immigrant. According to the stories of one prominent intelligence officer, Konon the Young on the first day of work ran through the corridors, loudly asking: “Where is my sector?” Difficult after many years in “special conditions” sit down at the table and do something completely different from the work that has become the meaning of life. Teaching activity did not bring him joy either.

It's good that Rudolf Abel worked nearbyaka William Fisher. They often visited each other, drank tea, remembered… Konon did not like everything at home. The bureaucracy, the cumbersomeness of the management system, was especially irritating, which, to the displeasure of the authorities, he publicly announced when speaking to the workers of ZIL. And one day, two heroic illegals committed something like an act of defiance within the walls of their strictly closed institution. For holidays, employees were given sets with scarce sprats, buckwheat, Indian tea with an elephant and real smoked sausage for three rubles and kopecks. As the two colonels were sorting out packages of food, a lower-ranking employee entered the office and admired: “Oh! Hungarian sausage! It turned out that the sausage relied only on those who had three stars on shoulder straps. The indignant Young went to the authorities: why such inequality? And he gave up his food package. As Evelina Vilyamovna told me,Fischer's daughter, her usually reserved, cautious father joined the rebel and also returned a hefty package. The illegals had their own concept of equality.  

Conon Young dreamed of working illegally. Arranged for plastic surgery. I didn’t have time, it didn’t work out. 

There are so many twisted around the death of Young too… They talk as if he died right during a picnic, where they drank and ate. Son Trofim Kononovich knows the truth. Let's go to dad's favorite mushroom places. What kind of drink when driving? They wandered through the forest, climbed far. Tired, sat down to eat. And suddenly the father fell on the grass, could not move. Until we got to the phone. And then there's the day off… Mom, Galina Petrovna, remembered only the number of Abel. I got through, he contacted the management, they sent a company car. Did not help: 48 years and a massive stroke. Rock family. After all, Konon's father died relatively young just as suddenly.


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