WASHINGTON – Such a secret organization as the KGB always attracted my attention, and not just because I was born in the USSR. And it is not because Russians know a lot about this organization. I would say the opposite.
I have always been interested in things that I don’t know about or don’t understand. I know what kind of organization the KGB was and what place it held in the past. But except for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, I have never heard about people who worked for the state security police when the KGB was operating. That’s why, when I learned there would be a film screening at the International Spy Museum about a Soviet spy, I decided to go.
The 2009 movie directed by the French director Christian Carion, “L’Affaire Farewell,” stars Serbian filmmaker and actor Emir Kusturica. He plays Sergey Grigoriev, the character based on Vladimir Vetrov, a high-ranking KGB official who became a double agent.
First, I want to say that the movie is French, with subtitles, so some of facts about Grigoriev’s private life seem intrusive and unnecessary. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching.
Second, this is a feature film, so some parts of it are made for the audience, including Grigoriev’s perfect knowledge of French poetry, which I doubt.
Vetrov was a high-ranking KGB spy in the early 1980s, during the Cold War. He sent secret information to France and NATO, including data on the Soviet Union’s clandestine spy program aimed at obtaining technology from the West.
He was assigned the code name “Farewell” by the French intelligence service DST, when he was working in France for the KGB, obtaining information about science and technology from western countries.
To my mind, stealing the information – especially science and technology – from other countries does not show the best qualities of human beings. If you can’t create something worthy, you take it from other countries, secretly, of course, because you don’t want others to know your weakness.
Vetrov was disappointed with the government under USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. He thought that by providing the names of Soviet spies and information abroad he could change something in his country. And he did, Peter Earnest the International Spy Museum director, said. Earnest served as a CIA case officer in Europe during the Cold War.
Earnest said Vetrov’s information enabled western countries to expel nearly 200 Soviet technology spies.
I think Grigoriev’s mission in the movie as a fighter for freedom is too pathetic. I doubt that he was thinking about such a heroic idea as devastating the Soviet economy. Probably, I’m wrong. But it is the rule of the genre. People want to see something beautiful and inspiring on the screen; otherwise they simply will stop going to the movies. But the reality sometimes can be too brutal: A hard-drinking Soviet KGB officer who is disillusioned with the Soviet regime sells his country for unworthy money, cheats on his wife and is finally convicted, imprisoned and shot as a traitor.
But who knows what the real situation was? We can just guess and see what other peoplesay.