Georges Agabekov (original family name Arutyunov;[1] Russian: Георгий Серге́евич Агабеков, transliteration Georgiĭ Sergeevich Agabekov) (1896–1937) was a Soviet Red Army soldier, Chekist, OGPU agent, and Chief of OGPU Eastern Section (1928–1929). He was the first senior OGPU officer to defect to the West (1930); his revelatory books led to massive arrests of Soviet intelligence assets across the Near East and Central Asia.

Georges S. Agabekov
Grigoriĭ Sergeevich Arutyunov

1896 (1896)
Died1937 (aged 40–41)
Pyrenees Mountains
Cause of deathassassination
CitizenshipRussian (before 1922), Soviet (after 1922), defected while serving The OGPU in France (1930)
EducationTashkent Praporshchik
Occupationsoldier, spy
Years active1914–1937
OrganizationCheka, OGPU
Known forespionage
Notable work
OGPU (1930)


Agabekov was born in Ashkhabad, the Russian Empire, in 1895 to an Armenian family.

Red ArmyEdit

Georges Agabekov fought in the Russian army from 1914 to 1916 during World War I. At the end of 1916, he was sent to the Tashkent Praporshchiks school. Following the 1917 October revolution, he joined the Red Guard in March 1918.


He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1920; soon after, he joined the Cheka. He partook in the Red Terror at Ekaterinburg and in the suppressing of a peasant revolt in Tyumen.


As Agabekov could speak Persian and Turkish, he was brought to Moscow in October 1921 to join the Oriental Section of the Cheka. In 1922, he was dispatched to Tashkent to work for Yakov Peters. While in Turkestan, according to his own account,[2] he played a key role in locating the camp of Enver Pasha, then Basmachi leader, near Denau (now in Surxondaryo Province of Uzbekistan), thus laying the groundwork for the routing of Enver's troops and his assassination in early August 1922.

In April 1924, he was posted to the Soviet mission in Kabul, where he spied under diplomatic cover.

At the end of 1926, Agabekov was posted in Tehran as rezident of the OGPU Foreign Branch in Persia, where he was successful in obtaining foreign powers' secret codes, recruiting agents and fomenting animosity against Britain amongst the local tribal leaders; however, he failed in the task of dispatching back to the USSR the defector Boris Bazhanov, Joseph Stalin's former assistant.[1]

In April 1928, back in Moscow, Agabekov was promoted to the position of chief of the OGPU Near Eastern Section.

In Constantinople. DefectionEdit

At the end of October 1929, Agabekov arrived from Odessa in Constantinople as "illegal" rezident in Turkey, where he replaced the Trotskyite Yakov Blumkin (alias Zhivoi) executed in Moscow shortly afterward. Like Blumkin before him, Agabekov travelled to Turkey on a Persian passport, posing as a wealthy ethnic Armenian merchant under the name of Nerses Ovsepyan. Apart from Turkey, Blumkin had started to set up "illegal" spy networks in such countries as Syria, Palestine, Hejaz and Egypt. According to Agabekov, prior to 1930, Turkey was viewed by OGPU as a friendly power pursuant to the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Moscow, yet cooperation offers on the part of Turkey's police and intelligence were declined.[3] Mikhail Trilisser, chief of the OGPU Foreign Branch (1922–1930), whose patronage Agabekov enjoyed,[4] envisioned Constantinople as a base of Soviet espionage activity for the entire Near East.[5]

In his book The Storm Petrels: The First Soviet Defectors, 1928–1938 (1977), British intelligence officer and journalist, Gordon Brook-Shepherd, maintained that Agabekov's defection to France in June 1930 was caused solely by the fact that he had fallen in love with an under-age English girl, Isabel Streater, who taught him English.[6] However, Agabekov's own account implies political and ideological motives, as he criticises what he saw as the degeneration of the revolution, the 'bureaucratisation' of the party, the abuses of the apparatus, the lack of democracy within the party and Stalin's autocratic rule.[7]

Shortly after his arrival in Paris, in August 1930, the French authorities expelled Agabekov to Brussels, Belgium, where he lived under his original name of Arutyunov. There, he finally succeeded in establishing cooperation with the British and in marrying Isabel.

Publication of OGPUEdit

The publication of Agabekov's English-language book OGPU: The Russian Secret Terror in 1931, led to sweeping arrests of hundreds of Soviet agents and sympathisers in Persia as well as other Near Eastern countries; a sharp deterioration of Moscow's relations with Rezā Shāh ensued. He also published 2 Russian-language books in Berlin, which have an autobiographical element. Amongst other things, Agabekov said that starting from 1929, the OGPU Foreign Branch actively used Armenian clergy both from the USSR and abroad for the purposes of espionage.[8]


He was believed to have been killed by Soviet agents in the Pyrenees in 1937, after a series of unsuccessful attempts on his life.

However, according to the 1997 memoir attributed to Pavel Sudoplatov,[9] his assassination was perpetrated by a retired Turkish officer in Paris and organised by Aleksandr M. Korotkov (ru), who subsequently became deputy chief of the Foreign Intelligence.[10]

A diverging account of the defector's elimination was provided by Ilya Grigoryevich Dzhirkvelov in his 1987 memoirs [11]. Agabekov was at the time serving the Romanian secret police, who had provided him with a fortified house and a bodyguard near Bucharest. In the summer of 1939, a man going by the name of Vladimir Sanakoyev phoned Agabekov and declared that he had been sent to murder him, but did not wish to complete his assignment. A confidential meeting was organised, ostensibly to work out a plan to deceive Moscow, but which gave Sanakoyev the opportunity he needed to approach his victim. Dzhirkvelov claims that this version was borne out by the material in Agabekov’s file, and that it points to considerable discrepancies with Gordon Brook-Shepherd’s writings.


  • Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, 1930 (pdf)
    • G.P.U. (1930) (French)
    • OGPU: The Russian Secret Terror, translated from French by Henry W. Bunn, (New York: Brentanos, 1931)
    • OGPU: The Russian Secret Terror, translated from French by Henry W. Bunn (1975)
  • ЧК за работой. Berlin, Стрела, 1931 (pdf)
  • ChK za rabotoĭ (1992)
  • Sekretnyĭ terror (1998)
  • Enver paşa nasıl öldürüldü?, Hasan Babacan, Servet Avşar (2011)


  1. ^ a b Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1978). Soviet Defectors: The KGB Wanted List. Hoover Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-8179-8231-0. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  2. ^ See Chapter VI of his 1931 book ЧК за работой.
  3. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 218-219.
  4. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 164.
  5. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 219.
  6. ^ Ближневосточный интерес
  7. ^ See Chapter XXXI of his 1931 book ЧК за работой as well as the conclusion of his Г. П. У. Записки чекиста of the previous year, inter alia.
  8. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, p. 217-218.
  9. ^ Судоплатов Павел Анатольевич. Спецоперации. Лубянка и Кремль 1930–1950 годы Chapter 2, See Ликвидация троцкистов за рубежом part.
  10. ^ "Коротков Александр Михайлович". Archived from the original on 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
  11. ^ Ilya Dzhirkvelov. Secret servant: my life with the KGB and the Soviet élite, See pages 53-55


  • Krasnov, Vladislav (1985). Soviet Defectors: The KGB Wanted List. Stanford: Hoover Press. pp. 11–12.
  • Rezun, Miron (1981). The Soviet Union and Iran.
  • West, Nigel (2009). The A to Z of Sexspionage. Scarecrow Press. p. 283.