I have taken the time to transcribe this interview with ex-KGB propagandist Yuri Bezmenov. The video has been making the rounds on some conservative websites. The transcription includes screen captures of Bezmenov's slides, which were shown during his interview. You can also buy a DVD from this website.
I went through the trouble of transcribing the interview so that it will be searchable. Thus if somebody searches for "Edward Kennedy" and "useful idiot," they will get my transcription.
G. Edward Griffin: Our conversation is with Mr. Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov. Mr. Bezmenov was born in 1939 in a suburb of Moscow. He was the son of a high-ranking Soviet army officer. He was educated in the elite schools inside the Soviet Union and became an expert in Indian culture and Indian languages. He had an outstanding career with Novosti, which was the—and still is, I should say—the press arm or the press agency of the Soviet Union; it turns out that this is also a front for the KGB. One of his interesting assignments was to brainwash foreign diplomats when they visited Moscow. And he’ll tell us a little bit about how they did this, and how they planted information which eventually wound up in the press of the free world. He escaped to the West in 1970, after becoming totally disgusted with the Soviet system, and he did this at great risk to his life. He certainly is one of the world’s outstanding experts on the subject of Soviet propaganda and disinformation and active measures. Mr. Bezmenov, I’d like to begin by having you tell us a little bit about some of your childhood memories.
Yuri Bezmenov: Well, the most vivid memory of my childhood was [the] second World War, or to be more precise, the end of the second World War, when all of a sudden [the] United States, from a friendly nation which helped us to defeat Nazism, turned overnight into a deadly enemy. And it was very shocking, because all [the] newspapers were trying to present an image of belligerent, aggressive American imperialism. Most of the things that we were taught [were] that [the] United States is [an] aggressive power which is just about to invade our beautiful, free socialist country; that [the] American CIA is dropping Colorado beetles on our beautiful potato fields to eliminate our crops, and each schoolboy had a picture of [a] Colorado bug on the back page of his notebook, and we were instructed to go into collective fields to search for those little Colorado bugs. Of course we couldn’t find any. Neither [could we] find many potatoes, and that was explained again by the encroachments of the decadent, imperialist power.
The anti-American paranoia [and] hysteria in the Soviet propaganda was of such a high degree that many less skeptical people (or less stubborn) would really believe that [the] United States is just about to invade our beautiful Motherland, and some secretly hoped that it [would] come true.
Griffin: That’s interesting. Well, getting back to life inside the Soviet Union, or inside Communist countries in general: In this country, at the university level primarily, we read and hear that the Soviet system is different from ours, but not that different. And that there is a convergence developing between all of the systems of the world, and that really it doesn’t make an awful lot of difference what system you live under because you have corruption and dishonesty and tyranny and all that sort of thing. From your personal experience, what is the difference between life under Communism and life in the United States?
Bezmenov: Well, life is obviously very much different for [the] simple reason that the Soviet Union is state capitalist economically. It’s a state capitalism, where an individual has absolutely no rights, no value; his life is nothing; it’s just like an insect. He is disposable. Where[as] in [the] United States even the worst criminal is treated as a human being, he has a fair trial, and some of them capitalize on their crimes; they publish their memoirs in their prisons, and get handsomely paid by your crazy publishers.
The differences of course in the daily life are very various, depending on who were are talking about. In my own private life, I never suffered from Communism, simply because I was brought up in a family of [a] high-ranking military officer. Most of the doors were open for me, most of my expenses were paid by the government, and I never had any troubles with the authorities or with the police. So, in other words, I would say I enjoyed, or I had good reasons to enjoy, all the advantages of [the] so-called ‘socialist’ system. My main motivations to defect had nothing to do with affluence. It was mainly moral indignation, moral protest: rebellion against the inhuman methods of the Soviet system.
Griffin: Well, specifically, what did you object to?
Bezmenov: I objected, first of all, [to the] oppression of my own dissidents and intellectuals, and that was the most disgusting thing that I witnessed as a young man, young student, who was brought up at [a] very troublesome period in our history, from Stalin to Khrushchev, from total tyranny and oppression to some kind of liberalization.
Second, when I started working for the Soviet embassy in India, to my horror I discovered that we are millions [of] times more oppressive than any colonial or imperialist power in the history of mankind, that my country brings to India not freedom, progress, and friendship between the nations, but racism, exploitation, and slavery, and of course economical inefficiency to this country. Since I fell in love with India, I developed something which by KGB standards is [an] extremely dangerous thing. It’s called ‘split loyalty’: when an agent likes a country of assignment more than his own country. I literally fell in love with this beautiful country, a country of great contrasts, but also great humility, great tolerance and philosophical and intellectual freedoms. My ancestors used to live in caves and eat raw meat when India was [a] highly civilized nation, six thousand years ago. So obviously the choice was not to the advantage of my own nation. I decided to defect, and to entirely disassociate myself from the brutal regime.
Griffin: Mr. Bezmenov, we’ve read a lot about the concentration camps, and the slave labor camps under the Stalin regime. Now the general impression in America is that those things are part of the past. Are they still going on today, or what is the status?
Bezmenov: Yes, yes. There is no qualitative change in the Soviet concentration camp system. There are changes in [the] numbers of prisoners. Again, [these are] unreliable Soviet statistics. We don’t know how many political prisoners are there in the Soviet concentration camps. But we sure know from various sources, that at each particular time, there are close to 25 to 30 million of Soviet citizens who are virtually kept as slaves in [the] forced labor camp system. [The] size of [the] population of [a] country like Canada is serving terms as prisoners. (G: Incredible) So I would say that those intellectuals who try to convince [the] American public that [the] concentration camp system is a thing of the past are either conscientiously misleading public opinion or they are not very intellectual people; they are selectively blind; they lack intellectual honesty when they say that.
Griffin: Well, we’ve spoken about the intellectuals in this country, and also the intellectuals in the Soviet Union. What about down at the broad, mass level? Do the people in general, the working people, the workers in general in the Soviet Union, do they support the system, do they tolerate it? What is their attitude?
Bezmenov: Well, [the] average Soviet citizen, if there is such an animal of course, does not like the system because it hurts; it kills. He may not understand the reasons; he may not have enough information or educational background to understand, but I doubt very much there are many people who are conscientiously supporting the Soviet system. There are not such people in [the] USSR. Even those who have all the reasons to enjoy socialism, people like myself, who are member[s] of [the] journalistic elite—they also hate [the] system for different reasons, though. Not because they lack material affluence, but because they are unfree to think, they are in constant fear. (Duplicity, split personality.) And this is a [great] tragedy for my nation.
Griffin: Well what do you think are the chances of the people actually overcoming their system or replacing it?
Bezmenov: There is a great possibility that [the] system will sooner or later be destroyed from within. There is a self-destructive mechanism built into any socialist, or communist, or fascist system, because there is [a] lack of feedback, because the system does not rely upon loyalty of [the] population. But until the Soviet junta is [no longer] being supported by the Western so-called ‘imperialists,’ that is, multinational companies, establishments, governments, and, let’s face it, intellectuals. (So-called ‘academia’ in the United States is famous for supporting the Soviet system.)
As long as the Soviet junta [keeps] on receiving credits, money, technology, grain deals, and political recognition, from all these traitors of democracy or freedom, there is no hope—there is not much hope—for changes in my country. And the system will not collapse by itself, simply because it’s being nourished by so-called ‘American imperialism.’ This is the greatest paradox in [the] history of mankind, when [the] capitalist world supports and actively nourishes its own destroyer (destructor).
Griffin: I think you’re trying to tell us something… to this country.
Bezmenov: Oh yes. I am trying to tell you that it has to be stopped, unless you want to end up in [a] gulag system, and enjoy all the advantages of socialist equality, working for free, catching fleas on your body, sleeping on planks of plywood, in Alaska this time, I guess. That’s where Americans will belong unless they will wake up, of course, and force their government to stop aiding Soviet fascism.
Griffin: Well you told us a moment ago why you left the system. I’d like to hear the details of how you did it. It must have been a very dangerous thing.
Bezmenov: It was not so dangerous; it was crazy. First of all because defecting in India is virtually impossible, thanks to very strong pressure from the Soviet government…
Griffin: Excuse me. You were in India, on assignment, at the time?
Bezmenov: Yes. I was working for the Soviet embassy in New Delhi as a press officer, and defecting for a Soviet diplomat is next-to-impossible; it’s a suicide, as I said, because ‘Great Friend’ Indira Gandhi pushed a law through Parliament, which says, and I quote: “No defector from any country has a right of political asylum in any embassy on the territory of [the] Indian Republic.” Which is a masterpiece of hypocrisy; no other defector but the Soviet one needs a political asylum.
So knowing that perfectly well, I planned [the] craziest possible way to defect. I studied counter-culture in India. There were thousands of young American boys and girls with no shoes, long hair, smoking hash and marijuana, studying sometimes Indian philosophy, sometimes simply pretending that they studied, and they greatly annoyed Indian police and they were [the] laughingstock of Indians. (Because obviously they were good-for-nothing students.) I studied carefully where they congregate, what routes they travel, what language they speak, what do they smoke, and one day I simply joined a group of hippies to avoid detection [by] Indian police. I was dressed as a typical hippy with blue jeans, long camise shirts with all kind[s] of nice decorations like beads—long hairs… I bought a wig because for several weeks I had to turn myself from a conservative Soviet diplomat into a very progressive American hippy. And that was the only way I could avoid detection.
It was [a] very interesting experience, but it was necessary because from my own knowledge as a member of [the] Soviet embassy staff, I knew that there were many cases when Soviet defectors were betrayed by Indian police, and also some Western embassies played a very dirty role in betraying the Soviet defectors. According to our information, there were some—I wouldn’t call them ‘double agents’—but simply immoral people, working for the United State embassy, and confiding in people like this would be a suicide. So I had to be extremely careful; I could not trust anyone. And that was the reason for such a crazy way to defect.
Griffin: Well, had you been caught in the act of trying to get out, what would have happened to you?
Bezmenov: Oh, most likely I would end up in [a] concentration camp. Or, depending on the situation, on the whim of some bureaucrat in [the] KGB, maybe even executed (this is normal practice), quietly of course, not publicly. But that would be the end of my defection, of course.
Griffin: Well, when did you finally make it to the United States?
Bezmenov: In 1970, after about six month[s] of debriefing in Athens by the CIA, and I presume FBI too, they let me go, first to Germany, then to Canada. That was my decision; I had to change my identity to protect my family and my friends in [the] USSR. And also I was [a] little bit paranoid knowing that both Soviet KGB and probably some double-agents within [the] American system may be after me. So I wanted to settle down as far away as possible. I requested [for the] CIA to give me some kind of new identity, and just let me go on my own. And I settled in Canada. I was a student; I changed many professions, from farm help and laundry truck driver to language instructor and broadcaster for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Montreal.
Griffin: Have you had any threats on your life, or any unpleasantries…?
Bezmenov: Yes. In about five years, [the] KGB eventually discovered that I [was] working for Canadian broadcasting. I made a very big mistake. I started working for [the] overseas service of [the] CBC, which is similar to Voice of America, in Russian language, and of course [the] monitoring service in [the] USSR picked up every new voice—every new announcer they would make it a point to discover who he is—and in five years, sure enough, slowly but surely, they discovered that I am not Tomas [David] Schuman, that I am Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, and that I am working for Canadian broadcasting, and undermining [the] beautiful détente between Canada and [the] USSR. And the Soviet ambassador Aleksandr Yakovlev made it his personal effort to discredit me; he complained to Pierre Trudeau, who is known to be [a] little bit soft on socialism, and the management of CBC behaved in a very strange, cowardly way, unbecoming of representatives of an independent country like Canada. They listened to every suggestion that [the] Soviet ambassador gave, and they started [a] shameful investigation, analyzing [the] content of my broadcasts to [the] USSR. Sure enough, they discovered that some of my statements were probably too... would be offending to the Soviet politburo. So I had to leave my job.
And of course, subtle intimidations: They would say something like, 'Please cross the street carefully, because, you know, traffic is very heavy in Quebec.' And fortunately I know about the psychology and the logic of activity of the KGB; I never allowed myself to be intimidated. This is the worst thing. This is what they expect a person, a defector, to be: intimidated. Once they spot that you are scared, they keep on developing that line, and then eventually you either have to give up entirely and work for them; or they neutralize you, they would definitely stop all kind[s] of political activity, which they failed to do in my case. Because I was stubbornly working for the Canadian Broadcasting [Corporation], and in response to their intimidations, I said that, ‘Look: this is a free country, and I am as free as you are, and I also can drive very fast, and gun control is not yet established in Canada, so I have [a] couple of good shotguns in my basement, so [you are] welcome to visit me some day, with your Kalashnikovs, machine guns.’
So obviously it didn’t work; intimidation didn’t work. So they tried [a] different approach, as I described the approach: on the highest level, on the level of Canadian bureaucracy.
Griffin: On that level they were successful.
Bezmenov: On that level they were successful. On [the] individual level, they failed, flat.
Griffin: Mr. Bezmenov has brought a series of slides with him that he has taken from the Soviet Union, and I think this is a good time to take a look at the slides. Now, the viewers will be able to see these slides as we talk about them.
Bezmenov: Yes. This is a collection of slides which are… some of them are snapshots from my family album, some of them are documents which I smuggled from the Soviet embassy, and some are reproductions from local mass media. I usually show them to establish my credibility as a defector.
This is a picture of my native town Mytishchi, about twenty miles north [of] Moscow. Characteristically there is a statue of Comrade Lenin in the central square.
This [me] at the age of seven, again characteristically, under [a] statue of Comrade Stalin extending his friendly hand to peoples of the world. At that age of course I was still [an] idealistically-minded young Communist, and I still believed that sooner or later, things [would] go for [the] better, but I realized that the system stinks, that something is fishy, and that [the] ideology is fake, and the propaganda about advanced Soviet agriculture simply didn’t meet the criteria of reality. If they talk about abundance of food and there is none in the stores, there must be something wrong.
My father was—he is on the left here—my father was [an] officer of the general staff of the Soviet army; he was inspector of Land Forces, Soviet troops stationed in countries like Mongolia, Cuba, [and] East European countries. Were he alive today, most likely he would be inspecting Soviet troops in Nicaragua, Angola, and many other parts of the world. Fortunately, he died and he didn’t see the disgrace, because deep inside he was a Russian patriot; he didn’t like the idea of expanding Soviet military might, especially in the areas where we were not welcome at all.
Unlike many other military officers, he was reporting directly to the Minister of Defense, bypassing [the] KGB and [the] Diplomatic Service. In other words, he was a trusted military professional, and [it is] my impression that this type of people [is] much less hawkish and adventuristic than [the] Party bureaucrats in [the] Kremlin. When American mass media describes [the] Soviet military as [a] potentially dangerous counterpart for [the] Pentagon, I simply laugh, because I know better. I know that the most dangerous part[s] of the Soviet power structures are not military at all; most likely if they come to power in my country they’ll be more sensible negotiators for nuclear disarmament and withdrawal of the Soviet troops from many parts of the world.
Griffin: But if someone from the Party structure, or the KGB structure, were to give the orders for military...
Bezmenov: They have to obey, yes, because they are professional military. But they… you see, the triangle of power and hate in [the] USSR is the Party at the top (the Party elite, the oligarchy of the Party), then the military and the KGB at the bottom. They hate each other. And the most hated corner of the triangle is the Communist Party bureaucrats. They are the most adventuristic, senile megalomaniacs. They can start war—I wouldn’t be surprised—not the military. They know what war is. At least my father did.
This is [a] picture taken at the entrance of my Institute of Oriental Languages. It’s a part of Moscow State University. I graduated in 1963, and I…
Griffin: Excuse me. Which one were you?
Bezmenov: I am on the right. And on the left is my colleague, my schoolmate Vadim Smirnoff, who later was [an] apparatchik in the Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party.
Griffin: What is an apparatchik?
Bezmenov: It’s a functionary, something like civil service in [the] British Empire, someone who is never fired from the service; he stays there internally. He may not be promoted too high, but he is a dependable bureaucrat, who will stay forever.
I studied not only languages but also history, literature, [and] even music. [In] this picture I am trying to learn how to play [an] Indian musical instrument.
I even tried to look like an Indian when I was [a] second-year student.
Griffin: Not bad, really.
Bezmenov: Yes. Actually, it was strongly encouraged by the instructors in my school because the graduates of my school were later on employed as diplomats, foreign journalists, or spies.
As every Soviet student, I was quote-unquote ‘volunteering’ for harvesting grain in Kazakhstan. This is a [big] agricultural blunder of the Soviet government, but I didn’t have much choice of course, because the Communist motto, borrowed from The Bible, says, ‘Those who do not work, shall not eat,’ and as you can see me eating, therefore I was working, and you can see how happy I was about it.
I went through a very extensive physical and military training,
including the military games in the suburban areas of Moscow; and here, for example, we are [on tour] in [the] [Arkhangelsk ?] area.
And by the end of my training in school, I was recruited by the KGB. This picture was taken on that day and you can see, again, how happy it feels to be recruited by the KGB.
Continued in Part Two and Part Three.