People named in KGB archives offer explanation

Not many people are willing to tell the public how their name has ended up in the recently-published KGB document trove, colloquially called the Cheka bags. The names of less than a quarter of the estimated 24,000-strong network of Soviet secret police informants have been preserved. Most of the people Latvian Radio approached for this story refused to talk. 

Ojārs Rubenis, one of the three former hosts of LTV's popular show, Labvakar (Good Evening), refused an interview, like his colleague Edvīns Inkēns. "I won't be discussing this topic. I have said everything in the film Lustrum. I don't feel guilty, I just don't want to traumatize myself for yet another time," he Rubenis told Latvian Radio.

Meanwhile Inkēns said that Labvakar hosts have an agreement to discuss the matter later. He also said he has a court order proving that he's innocent (many people have recently turned to court to prove they didn't collaborate with the KGB). Politics expert and professor Mihails Rodins refused to talk, as did legendary director Jānis Streičs. 

Man 'becomes' agent as KGB apparatchik has to recruit set number of people each year

"Hello! I'm the agent double O," says a smiling Aldis Ermanbriks. Latvian Radio met him at his Rīgas skaņas record studio, in a cramped underground office with no direct sunlight, and the walls lined with CDs, vinyls and recording equipment. 

"I think that everyone living here in Latvia and other Soviet republics had to deal with the KGB. It's just that often enough we were unaware of the fact. You see, every larger company had an HR department, and every HR department had a Cheka officer..we met them and often enough did not even know who we're talking to.

"I can tell you that I had not been recruited but nominally I was nevertheless an agent. It's possible. Because I went to the court and the court found that there's a decision..that I have not been a KGB informant," says Ermanbriks.

Last March, the Rīga City Latgale District Court indeed found that Aldis Ermanbriks was not a KGB informant and did not secretly collaborate with the security service of the former Latvian Soviet Republic. Aivars Dombrovskis, a KGB apparatchik who entered the information on Ermanbriks' index card, testified to the fact. 

"The KGB employee who supposedly recruited me said that he had burned all the actual cases. A journal says it. I can show you the journal that says all the cases were destroyed in 1990 and 1991. And these aren't related only to me. This was confirmed by an employee of the Constitution Protection Bureau.

"Now, it begs the question as to how, exactly, was it possible to burn tons of paper - work cases and reports. I did not write reports, but if there's an agency, there should also be reports. All of these, reportedly, have been burned. But not the index card. It's a tiny piece of paper that doesn't have my signature on it," said Ermanbriks.

Ermanbriks recalled that KGB employees did not use physical violence against him. In a somewhat comic episode, after Ermanbriks had married a woman, whose father was Italian, an apparatchik asked him whether he'd like to go on a business trip to Italy as they wanted to send a package there. The problem was that the father was dead. 

He also recalled that he had been approached by a KGB employee during a music festival. Ermanbriks was in charge of broadcasting the festival. An apparatchik awaited him at the service entrance, and asked to report if anything bad for the Soviet state happens during the festival. While Ermanbriks did not report anything, he did agree to do it if he heard something.

Aldis Ermanbriks' index card appeared in the archives in 1983. He said he was unaware of the fact. While the KGB employee said he had fulfill a plan of recruiting at least four agents a year. 

Ermanbriks' card from the KGB archives

Ermanbriks also claimed that one time he was interrogated by the KGB after broadcasting a Lionel Richie song during the musical show Varavīksne (Rainbow) in the mid-80s. The song was from the soundtrack of White Nights, a film about escaping the USSR via Leningrad, featuring Rīga-born ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

"I had to report and testify, in written form, not why I had broadcast it but where I'd gotten hold of it. Of course, I was sweating all over. I wrote that I got it in Moscow," he said.

Ermanbriks also ventured to say that he thinks the publication of the KGB archives was a mistake, as it's very difficult to prove culpability. And that's why even if someone has their name cleared, the public still suspects them. 

Document proving Ermanbriks' non-collaboration with KGB. 

Former Security Police employee named in Cheka bags due to work in police

For dozens of years, Rauls Kreicbergs has worked in security institutions. He arrested thieves and murderers during the Soviet era and received awards for successful cases. As Latvia reinstated its independence, his ties to the Cheka were carefully examined but there was no doubt about his loyalty to the fledgling Latvian state.

"I worked [with the KGB] as concerned specific cases. I admitted this to the Constitution Protection Bureau in writing - about which cases and with which people. These cases are all found inside the Interior Ministry archive and I think that they did vet me, seeing as I had the highest-level access to state secrets. I was the regional head of the Jelgava Security Police. I would not have been accepted for this job and post if they hadn't checked it," he said.

His card was added to the archives because he had interrogate an important witness in 1985, and the KGB guaranteed the witness' safety. 

"I wouldn't have been allowed to question him at the Stabu iela [KGB headquarters] if I hadn't signed a document that I won't disclose what I saw there and what I talked there. Otherwise the work wouldn't have progressed. That was one of the main reasons [why I had to sign the index card]. The second was that there were high-ranking police officials involved in the case," said Kreicbergs, adding that all contacts with the KGB ceased after the case was finished.

He likewise thinks that there might have been foul play as concerns the preservation of the KGB files, speculating that it's possible people who didn't want to really collaborate with the KGB were left in the archives on purpose, so that "Latvians would devour one another at some point in time". 

No recollection over being named in the Cheka bags

The name of Normunds Beļskis, a PR specialist, a poet and an adviser to many cabinet ministers, is likewise found in the KGB archives. His name reflects a trend consistent in the archives: that there are very many culture employees named inside.

Upon meeting Latvian Radio, he said that he had voted for Latvia's independence as a member of the Supreme Council (the interim parliament). "Back then, [Latvian president] Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga decided to grant the Order of the Three Stars to everyone who voted for independence. But she did know that more than 30 of us are named in the archives," Beļskis said.

Beļskis says he does not recall what happened in January 1983, the time of his recruitment, according to his index card. He was a member of the Rīga Young Literati Studio and knew the person who recruited him. 

"They often arrived to Latvian Radio and there were a number of broadcasts that were supervised by the KGB and created on the orders of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The KGB saw to it that we don't go too far," he said.

He also said that, recently, a woman contacted him on Facebook, asking whether he hadn't kissed her on the orders of the KGB, and it turned out to be a fake profile.

Beļskis did not directly answer whether he had actually collaborated with the KGB. "What does 'reporting' really mean? I think that we have someone reporting something or complaining about something every day. I have neither complained about anything, nor reported anything. I have been contacted by people who arrived here and tried to understand the future course of events in Latvia. It was the level of General Majors, and I later saw these people side by side with Gorbachev, the father of the perestroika. I gave my opinion about these processes and didn't have to write anything," Beļskis said.

Beļskis' card from the KGB archives.

He wants to write an autobiographical novel within the next two to three years. It would include the things he'd discussed with these people. "Whatever I explain, there'll nevertheless be people, after your broadcast, that will attack me and say something. I simply know that. But I'm strong enough to protect myself and my family," he said.

Beļskis, the recipient of Latvia's highest civil service award, does not have any qualms about his dealings with the KGB. "As I look into myself and into my soul, if it has had any black spots at all, I have cleared them with my work since reinstatement of independence..I think I have done everything to my best conscience," he said.


Seen a mistake?

Select text and press Ctrl+Enter to send a suggested correction to the editor

Select text and press Report a mistake to send a suggested correction to the editor

Related articles