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Vladimir Petrov (diplomat)

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Vladimir Petrov
Владимир Миха́йлович Петров
Vladimir Petrov in a safe house after defecting to Australia.
Afanasii Mikhailovich Shorokhov

(1907-02-15)15 February 1907
Died14 June 1991(1991-06-14) (aged 84)
Other namesVladimir Mikhaylovich Proletarsky
(m. 1940)

Vladimir Mikhaylovich Petrov (Russian: Влади́мир Миха́йлович Петро́в; born Afanasii Mikhailovich Shorokhov; 15 February 1907 – 14 June 1991) was a Soviet spy who defected to Australia in 1954 with his wife Evdokia, in what became known as the Petrov Affair.



Early life


Petrov was born Afanasii Mikhailovich Shorokhov (Russian: Афанасий Миха́йлович Шорохов) on 15 February 1907 in Larikha [ru], Russia, in what is now Tyumen Oblast in central Siberia.[1]

Petrov was one of three brothers born to a peasant family. His father died when he was seven years old and he entered the workforce at a young age to support the family. He had only three years of formal education and was apprenticed to a blacksmith at the age of fourteen.[1]

In 1923, Petrov established a local Komsomol cell. He subsequently joined the Soviet Navy's cryptographical section where he was a specialist in ciphers. He changed his full name to Vladimir Mikhaylovich Proletarsky (Russian: Влади́мир Миха́йлович Пролетарский) in 1929, naming himself after the proletariat.[1]

Intelligence career


According to his recently released secret British MI5 file, Petrov stated during his post-defection interviewing that his intelligence career was as follows:

  • 1929–1933 cypher clerk Soviet Navy.
  • 1933–1938 NKVD Moscow dealing with overseas cypher communications.
  • 1939 NKVD cypher clerk attached to Soviet Army Western China.
  • 1940–1942 NKVD cypher clerk Moscow dealing with Internal communications.
  • 1942–1947 NKVD cypher clerk Sweden with additional Internal Security duties.
  • 1947–1951 MGB Moscow dealing with seamen on the Danube.
  • 1951–1954 MGB controller in Australia.

Petrov also gave information about the defection of Burgess and Maclean of the Cambridge Five. Their escape had been handled by Kislitsyn, an MGB officer who was in Australia when Petrov defected in 1954. Petrov also disclosed that Burgess and Maclean were living in Kuibyshev in 1954. (National Archives Reference:kv/2/3440)

Joining OGPU


He decided to join the Soviet spy organization, the OGPU, in May 1933. He was subsequently admitted to the Special Cipher Section, which was attached to the Foreign Department of the OGPU. It was his status in this section which allowed him to learn many Soviet secrets by reading the top secret ciphers.[citation needed]

Petrov lived through the purges of Stalin under Yagoda, Yezhov, and Beria. Even though a great number of his friends, colleagues, and superiors were arrested and executed, Petrov escaped unscathed.[2]

Australia and defection


Having graduated from cipher clerk to full-fledged agent, Petrov was sent to Australia by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD)[citation needed] in 1951. His job there was to recruit spies and to keep watch on Soviet citizens, making sure that none of the Soviets abroad defected. Ironically, it was in Australia where events would occur which led to his own defection from the Soviet Union. This came about through his association with Polish-born doctor and musician Michael Bialoguski, who played along in seeming to allow Petrov to recruit him to gather information, while at the same time reporting to Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on Petrov's activities.

Petrov applied for political asylum in 1954, on the grounds that he could provide information regarding a Soviet spy ring operating out of the Soviet Embassy in Australia. Petrov states in his memoirs (ghost written by Michael Thwaites) that his reasoning for defecting lay not in an imminent fear of being executed, but in his disillusionment with the Soviet system and his own experiences and knowledge of the terror and human suffering inflicted on the Soviet people by their government. He witnessed the destruction of the Siberian village in which he was born, caused by forced collectivization and the famine which resulted.

Life after defection


Petrov and his wife were granted Australian citizenship on 12 October 1956. The government imposed a D-Notice, barring reporting of their activities, and established them in a safe house in Bentleigh East over fears that the Soviet government would attempt their assassination.[1] He and his wife adopted the pseudonyms of Sven and Anna Allyson to protect their identities.[3] Although the press agreed not to identify them under the D-notice, the press did not always observe this voluntary protection order. The whereabouts of the Petrovs were still the subject of a D-Notice in 1982.[4][5]

In 1957, under his assumed identity, Petrov began working for Ilford Photo in Upwey, while his wife worked as a typist for a tractor company.[1] They purchased a house in Bentleigh, living a quiet suburban life.[3] Petrov "enjoyed Australian rules football and rabbit shooting" while his wife did voluntary work for Meals on Wheels.[1]

Petrov suffered a series of strokes in 1974 and was hospitalised at the Mount Royal Geriatric Hospital in Parkville (now part of Royal Melbourne Hospital). He remained hospitalised until his death from pneumonia on 14 June 1991, aged 84. A private funeral was held, "attended only by his wife, a few friends, and ASIO officers" including former director-general Charles Spry.[1]

Fictional representations


Petrov's defection has inspired fictional works.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Deery, Phillip (2021). "Vladimir Mikhailovich Petrov (1907–1991)". Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  2. ^ "Stalin purges". www.bbc.co.uk. BBC. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b Stephens, Tony (27 July 2002). "Spies who loved us". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  4. ^ Sadler, Pauline (May 2000). "The D-Notice System". Press Council News. 12 (2). Archived from the original on 11 March 2004.
  5. ^ "D Notices – Fact sheet 49 – National Archives of Australia". Naa.gov.au. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Queensland Premier's Literary Awards: Previous winners". Queensland Government. 30 November 2011. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  7. ^ "The Safe House". leewhitmore.com.au. Archived from the original on 2 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  8. ^ Neill, Rosemary (22 April 2011). "Fully formed: 30 years of The Australian/Vogel Literary Award". The Australian. Archived from the original on 2 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  9. ^ Menglet, Alex; Sitta, Eva; Chilvers, Simon; Picot, Geneviève (27 May 1987), The Petrov Affair, retrieved 2 April 2017

Further reading