Yuri Ivanovich Sum,
INTERVIEW WITH YURI IVANOVICH MODIN - 31/1/96
YURI MODIN: ... than British people. But all the same, there was quite a lot of shortages and it was difficult to buy this or that, or something like that. And that continued uptil 1947, when I came to London to work in the Soviet Embassy in London, in Great Britain. So that was the beginning. My impression was generally very positive, very positive... I don't know why. I think very positive because during the war I was in a very difficult position; I've been dealing with very hard people, I've been...difficult to live... sometimes I have nowhere where to live and even to eat. But when I came to Great Britain, the first thing... that was in nineteen forty-five, and in 1947 I've been impressed by the good attitude of Britishers to foreigners. I think they differed ... their attitude to foreigners was different, but at that time their attitude to Russians was very, very good, and I am very... was very thankful to my British acquaintances, that they helped me to start to live (Laughs) in Great... in the condition of Great Britain. Well, that's what you wanted to know?
INTERVIEWER: Yes, thank you.
(B/g talk. Cut.)
(Mr Modin is asked to look at interviewer)
INT: Right, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions,
first of all about the Marshall Plan in the period 1947-1948. In the early days of the Marshall Plan, how much did the KGB discover about the American thinking and planning for what became the Marshall Plan?
YM: Well, I think our intelligence service knew everything; they've read all the documents which were produced by United States, by the government of the United States, which was sent to almost all European countries, including the government of the Soviet Union, but... and other documents which were sent to the Soviet Union, and that is one of the reasons why the Soviet Government reacted unfavourably to the suggestions made by the... General Marshall.
INT: Why was that? What was it... do you remember specifically?
YM: Well, it's very difficult for me to say concretely, because it's quite a lot of ago, but I know that there were details, all the details, the proofs of something to be done. The American documents show it, and the interpretation by the British and other European governments was such that all this was known. But the interpretation of these documents, as far as the Soviet Union was concerned, was somewhat different. Our leadership thought - and as far as I know, it was proved, it was really like that - that this government made our position very vulnerable, I mean the position of the Soviet Union: that if we agreed to the requests made by the Americans in view of this Marshall Plan, that that would put our country in a position of dependence. We hated that. At that time, in the psychological atmosphere of after-the-war views and all that kind of thing, it was just like that. It was the position of the Soviet Government, and I was young man, of course (Laughs) at the time; I supported wholeheartedly.
INT: It's always been a puzzle to me that Molotov went to the conference in Paris to discuss the Marshall Plan, and then Stalin called him home from there. Was that because of any particular piece of information that Stalin heard?
YM: Well, you know, I don't know that exactly, just because at that time I haven't been working in the at the centre or just at the intelligence service of the Soviet Union, because I've been sent to Great Britain to work in the field, as they call it, and I've just been there in Paris just at the time when the conference, which had to discuss this Marshall Plan, and all the ministers of foreign affairs of all the European countries were collected in Paris and they've been discussing all these problems. I don't know. (Laughs)
INT: Right. As the Marshall Plan unfolded, and as the years passed, how much information were you able to get hold of about the implementation of the plan?
YM: Well, you know, the problem is that I don't really think that our intelligence was trying very hard to get all the details. It was interested in getting the information, wouldn't let the Marshall Plan to be realised; but when it started to go, well, just looked at the general trends. And... at that time, of course you can understand that the Soviet press was very critical of the Marshall Plan and all the mistakes which have been made by the Western powers. They've been of course discussed and described, and certain views were expressed about that.
INT: Were you aware at that time, in your job, of the activities that were going on to support Communists elsewhere in Western Europe? I'm thinking particularly of France and Italy.
YM: Well, no, I have no... I wasn't able to know that. I knew only Great Britain. (Laughs)
INT: Was there any support... again I'm talking of '47-'48-'49... was there any support for Communists or pro-Communist forces in Britain at that time?
YM: Well, certainly, yes. We were always... our press at least always expressed... or they described the position of the Communist Party of Great Britain, described the actions of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and [it] was supported in the press and other means of information. It was.
INT: Yes. Can you tell me, broadening out a little bit more generally then, where was your information coming from to you in London at the time?
YM: Well, in 1947 I haven't got any information, except from Americans. I've got on good terms with American journalists,... and they've been much more easy to deal with than (Laughs) with the British, and they've... knew quite a lot, and they were not... they were not trying to conceal something from me and so on. They openly said that I was wrong in that, but when I was right, they said, "Oh, that's all right. [Laughs] We agree." But I haven't got any information from anybody, because I haven't been meeting with anyone, with any British, whose relations with us was not common but extremely friendly.
INT: So coming on then, a year or so later, to the point at which you were allocated, first of all I believe Cairncross, and then other British agents to deal with, can you tell us a little bit about the procedures, how you would make contact, and how this would work?
YM: Well, you know, it... before answering this question, I've got to say the basis of my dealings with them. You know, they are regarded in Great Britain - and I think it's... of course it's your right - you consider him traitors and all that kind of thing. But for me, they are not traitors and they are not even agents. In fact, it's the great mistake which was being made by the British public. They regarded them as agents, but you know, I regarded them as revolutionaries, and they were revolutionaries. And the basis on which we established our relations were just like that; they've been revolutionaries, they've been thinking about world revolution; they've been Britishers, not Russians, they've been Britishers and their attitude was British, but they regarded all this,... their relations to us was concerned, we wanted to help the country which was a 'far post'... is it understand, 'far post'?... far post of the world revolution. But at the same time, they've been absolutely sure that Russia would never be a leader of the world revolution, and they said that it would be... this revolution would be carried out in English. (Laughs) That's why, say, Maclean, Donald wanted... while studying in Cambridge, wanted to go after finishing his studies, wanted to go to Russia and teach the Russian boys and girls English. When his mother, Lady Maclean, knew... learnt about that and ask him why, he said, "Well, you know, the revolution would be in English, so the Russians should be taught English." (Laughs) Well, that's the thing I've wanted to say. I'm not certain whether I've touched all the points which you wanted me to (Overlap) touch.
INT: (Overlap) Well, I think we can come back to... you've already answered points I was going to come on to. So then just talk me through a little bit of the procedures. No, no, first of all, perhaps just tell me a bit about your job in the LonSoviet Embassy, and how that developed.
YM: Well, it developed very,very good indeed, because I've been sent there as a cipher worker, but there were no conditions to work productively on this. And the Ambassador of that time, Monsieur Zarubin, he knew that I knew English a little bit, and he asked me... well, speaking with me, he said, "Well, I would like you to come to my office and to help my secretaries." And so I started working with them. Mainly, my work consisted of... I (Clears throat) arrived usually very early in the Embassy; I've looked through all the main, major papers, looking at the most important problems (Clears throat), then set... typed very short reports as far as Times is concerned, Economist, Daily Telegraph, Mirror, and certainly Daily Worker. (Laughs) And at the start of the working day, the Ambassador read it, and he liked these documents which I've printed for him, and so it continued for a very long time. As far as these men are concerned, I've told you already that I've worked with them not as with agents, but as with people who are thinking and believing in something common for us all. I've never tried to show myself as an expert or a spy, you know, super-spy or something like that. I've acquain... trying... well, getting acquainted with them, I have told them absolutely truly that they know more about intelligence services than I do, and I said that I would be very happy if they teach me. And they did. (Laughs)