Poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services, alternatively known as Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12, and Kamera which means "The Chamber" in Russian, was a covert research and development facility of the Soviet secret police agencies[1][2]

Chronology[edit | edit source]

  • 1921: First poison laboratory within the Soviet secret services was established under the name "Special Office". It was headed by professor of medicine Ignatii Kazakov, according to Pavel Sudoplatov.[3]
  • 1926: The laboratory was under the supervision of Genrikh Yagoda, a deputy of OGPU chairman Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, who became NKVD chief in 1934 after Menzhinsky's death.
  • February 20, 1939: It becomes Laboratory 1 headed by Grigory Mairanovsky. The laboratory was under the direct supervision of NKVD director Lavrenty Beria and his deputy Vsevolod Merkulov from 1939 to March 1953.
  • December 21, 1951: Grigory Mairanovsky arrested in connection with Viktor Abakumov's arrest, which was presumably a part of Joseph Stalin's campaign to remove NKVD chief, Lavrenty Beria.
  • March 14, 1953: It was renamed to Laboratory 12. V. Naumov is the newly appointed head. Lavrenty Beria and Vsevolod Merkulov were executed after Stalin's death. Immediate NKVD supervisor of the laboratory, Pavel Sudoplatov, received a long term in prison.
  • 1978: Expanded into the Central Investigation Institute for Special Technology within the First Chief Directorate of the KGB
  • Currently: Several laboratories of the SVR, (headquartered in Yasenevo near Moscow), are responsible for the "creation of biological and toxin weapons for clandestine operations in the West" [4]

Human experimentation[edit | edit source]

Mairanovsky and his colleagues tested a number of deadly poisons on prisoners from the Gulag ("enemies of the people"), including mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin, curare[5] and many others. The goal of the experiments was to find a tasteless, odourless chemical that could not be detected post mortem. Candidate poisons were given to the victims, with a meal or drink, as "medication"[3]

Finally, a preparation with the desired properties called C-2 was developed [3] According to witness testimonies, the victim changed physically, became shorter, weakened quickly, became calm and silent and died within fifteen minutes.[3] Mairanovsky brought to the laboratory people of varied physical condition and ages in order to have a more complete picture about the action of each poison.

Pavel Sudoplatov and Nahum Eitingon approved special equipment [poisons] only if it had been tested on "humans", according to testimony of Mikhail Filimonov.[3] Vsevolod Merkulov said that these experiments were approved by NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria.[3] Beria himself testified on August 28, 1953, after his arrest that "I gave orders to Mairanovsky to conduct experiments on people sentenced to the highest measure of punishment, but it was not my idea".[3]

In addition to human experimentation, Mairanovsky personally executed people with poisons, under the supervision of Sudoplatov [3][6]

Prominent victims[edit | edit source]

  • In 1978, dissident Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov was assassinated in London using a tiny pellet poisoned with ricin; the necessary equipment was prepared in this laboratory.[7] In a Discovery Channel television program about his illustrated book of espionage equipment called "The Ultimate Spy," espionage historian H. Keith Melton indicated that once the Bulgarian secret police had decided to kill Markhov, KGB specialists from the Laboratory gave the Bulgarians a choice between two KGB tools that could be provided for the task- either a poisonous topical gelatin to be smeared on Markhov, or an instrument to administer a poison pellet, as was eventually done.
  • Attempted poisoning of the second President of Afghanistan Hafizullah Amin on December 13, 1979. Department 8 of KGB succeeded in infiltrating the illegal agent Mitalin Talybov (codenamed SABIR) as a chef of Amin's presidential palace. However, Amin switched his food and drink as if he expected to be poisoned, so his son-in-law became seriously ill, and ironically, was flown to a hospital in Moscow.[8]
  • Cy Oggins, significant for being one of the few (if not the only) Americans to become a Soviet spy and then be sent to Gulag and later executed by the Soviets themselves.[9]

Alleged victims[edit | edit source]

  • Russian writer Maksim Gorky and his son. During the Trial of the Twenty One in 1938, NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda admitted that he poisoned to death Maksim Gorky and his son and unsuccessfully tried to poison future NKVD boss Nikolay Yezhov. The attempted poisoning of Yezhov was later officially dismissed as falsification, but Vyacheslav Molotov believed that the poisoning accusations were true. Yagoda was never officially rehabilitated (recognized as an innocent victim of political repressions) by Soviet authorities.[3]
  • Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Russian historians Anton Antonov-Ovseenko and Edvard Radzinsky believe that Stalin was poisoned by associates of NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria, based on the interviews of a former Stalin bodyguard and numerous circumstantial evidence. Stalin planned to dismiss and execute Beria and other senior members of the Soviet government in 1953.[10] According to Radzinsky, Stalin was poisoned by Khrustalev, a senior bodyguard briefly mentioned in the memoirs of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's daughter.[11]
  • Journalist Anna Politkovskaya. During the Beslan school hostage crisis in September 2004 and while on her way to Beslan to help in negotiations with the hostage-takers, Politkovskaya fell violently ill and lost consciousness after drinking tea given to her by Aeroflot flight attendant [12] She survived. The drug was allegedly prepared in the FSB poison facility [2].
  • Another victim was former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. He was poisoned in a sushibar in London. Traces of polonium-210 were found in his body. Litvinenko himself accused, in a farwell letter, president Vladimir Putin of being behind the attack on his life. Litvinenko was critic of the Putin regime and accused the FSB of being behind the 1999 attacks in Russia. He died on the 23rd of October 2006.

Planned victims[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. KGB Poison Factory: From Lenin to Litvinenko, RFE/RL, interview with Boris Volodarsky (Russian) - English version
  2. Shoham, D.; Wolfson, Z. (October–December 2004). "The Russian Biological Weapons Program: Vanished or Disappeared?". Critical Reviews in Microbiology 30 (4): 241–261. doi:10.1080/10408410490468812. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Vadim J. Birstein. The Perversion Of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science. Westview Press (2004) ISBN 0-8133-4280-5.
  4. Alexander Kouzminov Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West, Greenhill Books, 2006, ISBN 1-85367-646-2 [1].
  5. for the mention of curare, see Andrew Meier's The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service, 2008, W. W. Norton
  6. History of Soviet poisonings (Russian) by Boris Sokolov grani.ru
  7. 7.0 7.1 Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000), ISBN 0-14-028487-7
  8. Vasili Mitrokhin and Christopher Andrew, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, Basic Books (2005) hardcover, 677 pages ISBN 0-465-00311-7
  9. Andre Meier, The Lost Spy, WW Norton, 2008
  10. Edvard Radzinsky Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives (1997) ISBN 0-385-47954-9
  11. Svetlana Alliluyeva Twenty Letters To A Friend (autobiography, published 1967, London, written 1963) ISBN 0-06-010099-0
  12. "Russian journalist reportedly poisoned en route to hostage negotiations". IFEX. 2004-09-03. http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/61071. Retrieved 2006-10-11. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ken Alibek and S. Handelman. Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World - Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran it. 1999. Delta (2000) ISBN 0-385-33496-6
  14. Reburial for Georgia ex-president. The BBC News. Retrieved on April 1, 2007.

Sources[edit | edit source]

ru:Токсикологическая лаборатория НКВД — НКГБ — МГБ uk:Токсикологічна лабораторія спецслужб СРСР

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