Yuri Ivanovich







INT: So who are we talking about, what are the names of the people whom you got to know?

YM: Oh, well, it was first of all Cairncross; then it was Burgess; and then it was Blunt. Philby wasn't in London at that time, but we knew each other and we contacted each other through Burgess.

Burgess was his very close friend. Maclean wasn't in England at that time too: he was First Secretary at Washington; then he went as chancellor to Cairo, and from Cairo he returned to Great Britain very ill, and was sent to... was allowed to... well, to... (Clears throat)... I mean, doctors insisted that he should rest, and he rested for about... more than half a year.

INT: You talk about these men as revolutionaries, but men like Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt were very much establishment sort of figures...

YM: Oh, yes...

INT: ... in Britain.

YM: ... especially Burgess, yes. (Laughs) No doubt about that. But at the same time, you would be surprised if I will tell you: somewhere at the end of the war - I don't remember exactly when - our leaders made a decision to give them a pension, pension for till the end of their lives. As a matter of fact, all of them refused, all of them refused this pension. And when Burgess was writing a letter and he said: "Well, I... thank you very much, but I can't accept this, but don't worry about me. You know, though I'm Englishman - no doubt about that - I like London enormously - it's no doubt about that - I like all my friends and in the state service, and just friends, but you know, you can be sure I will work for the Party uptil the end of my days." And he did. (Laughs)  

INT: And how did you personally get on with particularly Burgess, Blunt and Cairncross?

YM: Well, as far as Burgess is concerned, I'll tell you that (Clears throat) he liked me very much, and I liked him very much, though I knew his personal shortcomings and all that - it's quite understandable. He taught me quite a lot of things. You know, he was... though, as you call him, an "establishment man", yes, he was... at the same time, he was somewhat different, you know, and what... that "somewhat different" was very important for me, and he taught me that. Relations were absolutely wonderful - I will tell you that. And he... when I've... s... you know, I've been serving and I've... someone got in trouble, and great trouble, well, and all the people... well, we're not looking at me and all that, and... but he was the only man - he was in Moscow already at that time - who said, "I'm standing on the position of Monsieur Modin. [Laughs] I support him and I think that he's right." You see, that speaks something about the man. As far as Cairncross is concerned, I'll tell you I liked him very much, I liked him maybe more than anybody else, just because he was... how to say?... he was weaker. It doesn't mean that he wasn't clever - oh, he was absolutely clever man, and able, enormously - but... somehow, well, speaking as human beings, he was somewhat weaker than those. But we worked with him wonderfully, without any difficulties.

INT: Right, we'll just stop there.


INTERVIEWER: And you were just going to come on to tell me a little bit about working with Blunt.

YURI MODIN: Blunt. (Clears throat) Well, you know, when... I've been speaking about Burgess and Cairncross - they were... as I've told you, they were revolutionaries; no doubt about it, but they were... they've been keeping to the Party line, if I can call it. They were Marxists and all that; it's all right. But as far as Blunt is concerned, he was someone different. The point is, he was a very great friend of Burgess; Burgess influenced him very much indeed. And though Blunt was older than Burgess - in years I mean - nevertheless Burgess was the leading person, and he tried very hard to make a Marxist revolutionary from the Blunt; but he failed. He failed because Blunt accepted only one part of Marxism, and that part concerned paintings, concerned pictures, concerned architecture, all that which is being called one word I don't know... arts, yes. He was a man of arts. And in that respect he accepted Marxism correctly; and if you look at the,... to a number of articles which were published by him before the Second World War, you will be... find that he was Marxist. But that doesn't mean that he accepted, say, the Soviet side, or if you call it, Soviet Communism. He thought that Russians were doing, or trying to do, Marxism in the wrong way. There are quite a number of different ways, of course - it's quite understandable - and he thought that the Russians, or Russian leadership, is wrong. He thought that... that foreign policy of the Soviet Union is wrong. And once we've been talking about that, he said, "Well, George, don't bother, don't speak about all these problems of your foreign policy, all that. I thought and I knew that your policy was like a tsarist policy - I mean, external policy was like a tsarist policy. But don't pay attention to that. We've got quite a lot to do besides that." (Laughs) He... in other words, he invited me to talk business but not to talk about all this political problem, because he was thinking differently from me, from Burgess, and from others, you know. That's the speciality of Blunt; though he was a very clever man, and I think not simply clever, but very strong man, with very strong will. I can tell you that he was being interviewed or... interviewed, yes, by the British counter-intelligence, from 1951, in the late 1951, up 'til 1963. That means 12 years he's been interviewed by one, by another, by a specialist, then by another specialist; and he didn't say anything, you know. (Pause) He had a will, a very great will, and that, his character of his, yes, that is... (Hesitates)... it's just his character. Well, that's what I can tell you about all this.

INT: So how many documents were you getting hold of - was it just one or two documents? How much information...?

YM: (Overlap) Dozens. Dozens. I mean, all the diplomatic going in and out from the Foreign Office; we had access to everything. We needn't ... (Laughs)... so much, but you know, at the same time... well, all the intelligence officers are hungry: you know, they are trying to get as much as possible. So that's that.

INT: And how would they get these documents to you? These are secret documents. How do you come to see them?

YM: Well, you know, the point is that when... after their work, they took these documents, and there was a habit of all the Foreign Office officers to take documents home, and after tdinner at home they were sitting and doing with these documents. And in the morning they brought these documents again to the offiand continued to work withthem. So they did it absolutely the same. But as far as I'm concerned, in the evening I met them, I took these documents with me, I've... with different ... my special ways, I've brought it to the station, intelligence station, then be made copy of it, and I've returned these documents either late in the evening this day, or very early in the morning next day.

INT: Now we're talking about the era before photocopiers and Xerox machines.

YM: Oh, yes, yes...