April’s talk, entitled “KGB remembered”, was given by former diplomat Keith Muras and focused on his experiences with the KGB during his 3 years in Moscow during the early 1980s, at the height of the Cold War.
He provided some background on the creation of the organisation and outlined its broad structure. The organisation had a huge number of members, but had in addition the support of unpaid informants who worked both overtly and covertly. Every street and every building was observed 24 hours a day, with foreigners the particular target. He argued that the harassment of foreigners was seen as a potential route to breaking some and turning them in to Soviet spies.
However the most fascinating aspects of his excellent presentation were his descriptions of his own personal experiences:- the lights which stayed on in his apartment including one above the bed when the electricity was turned off at the mains; his trying to assist 2 Jewish women and 4 children, Refusniks, escape from the British embassy after they sought help there and being descended on and beaten up ( the women and children were hustled away in a van as soon as they emerged); the difficulties of organising a family sight seeing trip out of Moscow and his and his families arrest for straying away from the prescribed route. Then the knowledge of shown by the local police – including what was in their picnic sandwiches and wanting his opinion on Margaret Thatcher and the Falkland’s War! His guilt at seeking directions from an elderly woman in the street realising as soon as he had done this, that she would be arrested and interrogated about why she had spoken to a foreign diplomat. He can still remember to this day her horrified face when she realised he was a foreigner.
Keith has many more stories to tell of his Soviet experiences and we therefore look forward to his return next year.