How the KGB Organized an Explosion in the Moscow Metro and Blamed the Armenians, 1977

And yet, the most famous and largest operation possibly carried out by “Alpha” is the explosion in the Moscow metro on January 8, 1977.

My understanding of this crime differs from both the statement of Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov and, of course, the official explanations of this major task of Andropov and Bobkov.

If my understanding differs from Sakharov’s opinion, it is only because he was not aware of many materials discovered later. Without them, Sakharov was more cautious in his conclusions and only assumed that the explosion was a crime, a provocation committed by the KGB.

Explosion in the Moscow Metro 1977 (from the book “Half a Century of Soviet Restructuring”). Sergei Grigoryants

As for the official version of Armenian terrorists, firstly, it contradicts many established facts to a large extent, secondly, it has been presented over the years in supposedly indisputable but later inconsistent versions, and thirdly, the very necessity to classify everything, not to allow anyone, even relatives, to attend the trial, not to give them a single meeting, except for an hour-long one before the execution, and to shoot the accused in three days without even mentioning the names of two of the three innocently executed people in a brief newspaper report. All these are undeniable signs that the KGB had something to hide.

This monstrous crime at the time (it was unthinkable then to cover a Russian city with carpet bombing, to blow up multi-story residential buildings in Moscow and not only there, and other achievements that grew precisely from the Andropov era) was evidence of the power of dissident, protest, national, religious, neo-communist, monarchist, and many other movements.

The very nature of Soviet power was such that everything was hostile to it, even the work of a cobbler at home, sewing fashionable women’s boots for acquaintances that were not available in stores. And secretly studying Hebrew, uniting disabled people to protect their rights – this was simply malicious anti-Soviet activity.

At the same time, despite all the arrests, the “Chronicle of Current Events” continued to be published, almost a dozen Helsinki groups were working – not only in Moscow but in Kiev, Yerevan, Vilnius, Tbilisi, as well as the Commission on Abuses in Psychiatry, the “Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Believers,” and Sakharov’s voice was heard all over the world, in addition to the Ukrainian, Jewish, Lithuanian, Armenian, Crimean Tatar national movements, and the Public Fund for Assistance to Political Prisoners.

It is also possible that the Politburo (and this crime could only have been committed with its sanction – Andropov would not have dared to commit it on his own initiative) considered this act as a response to the signing of the Helsinki Agreements with its brilliant third basket, proposed by Konstantin Melnik – Botkin’s grandson and the head of De Gaulle’s security service – providing for the observance of human rights.

Brezhnev was personally extremely interested in the Helsinki Agreements – they not only made the post-war Stalinist conquests invulnerable but also put a certain restraint on Soviet marshals. Brezhnev, brought to power by them, was ready to give the army as much money as they asked for, but did not want the start of World War III in 1965, 1968 (during the invasion of Czechoslovakia), or the 1970s, which would have deprived him of supreme power. However, they also did not want to fulfill the requirements of the third basket in the Kremlin.

We have experienced so much over these decades that the series of explosions in Moscow in December 1976, which I believe were coordinated in the Kremlin, already seems very delicate. There was only one in the subway – 7 dead, about 40 wounded, but it was on an open stretch, not underground, between Pervomayskaya and Izmailovskaya, which greatly mitigated the severity of the damage. Two other bombs – one under the sturdy counter of a grocery store, which self-damped so that not even the seller was injured, the other – in a massive cast-iron trash bin on Nikolskaya, which was not even damaged.

And here, since both the “Alpha” group itself and the entire planned bloody provocation were top secret, inexperienced in Western life, and without the opportunity to consult, Andropov and Bobkov made a serious mistake that sealed the fate of the unfortunate Armenians and nullified their seemingly brilliant plan.

The most extensive and visible public movements in the USSR were the dissident and national Jewish movements, which consisted of two equally influential currents: those aiming to leave for freedom in Israel to join their relatives and those striving to recreate traditional Jewish life and culture within the framework and conditions of the Soviet Union.

The latter, naturally, was less powerful, influential, and energetic in those years than those aiming to leave the USSR, but together they were a very noticeable public force. Unlike Russian samizdat, Jewish self-publishing periodically used duplicating machines (for example, in Kishinev), on June 22, 1971, 30 “refuseniks” from the Baltic states began a hunger strike at the central telegraph office in Moscow, and from 1972 there were refusals to serve in the army, including because the military secrets to which a soldier was initiated served as a basis for refusing permission to leave.

In 1983, in a cell next to mine in the Kaluga prison, the son of chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi was awaiting trial for refusing military service. In Kiev, on September 29, the day of the execution of a hundred thousand Jews by the Germans, rallies were held (with the active participation of writer Viktor Nekrasov) in Babi Yar. In 1969, there were 300-400 people, in 1970 – 800 people, in 1971 – over a thousand, and so on. In Riga, at the Rumbula cemetery, 22,000 people gathered.

In 1974 (July 1-5), an international scientific session of Alexander Voronel’s seminar “Mathematics and Physics in Application to Other Sciences” took place, and on December 21-23, 1976 – the session “Jewish Culture in the USSR: State and Prospects”. Nobel laureates from Europe and the USA demanded permission to participate in scientific seminars, they were denied visas, apartments where seminars were planned were blocked, Russian participants were accused of hooliganism and arrested.

It is clear how this annoyed the KGB, and Andropov and Bobkov were greedy, seeking a reason to destroy both movements. For this purpose, Andropov’s personal agent Viktor Louis (a rare scum, I met him a couple of times, and he struck with his cynicism and soft impudence) was instructed to immediately write in the newspaper “London Evening News,” where he was employed as a correspondent, that according to surviving witnesses, they saw some dark-haired, almost hunchbacked people in the wagon, and according to information from “informed sources” (everyone knew what sources Louis had) dissidents were involved in the Moscow bombings.

In Moscow, they also began to call in all possible oppositionists for interrogations. And here Sakharov, who was not at all an anti-Semite, and therefore he didn’t care whether they called in the knowingly uninvolved Russians or Jews for interrogation (along with other dissidents), did not quite correctly assess the situation, especially since the piece about dark-haired people in Louis’s article did not make it into the Radio Liberty broadcast.

Human rights organizations held a joint press conference where they talked about the Moscow metro explosion as a KGB provocation aimed at destroying the dissident movement. In his statement, Sakharov wrote:

“I would like to hope that the criminal offenses of repressive bodies are not a state-sanctioned, top-down policy of suppression and discrediting dissenters, creating an ‘atmosphere of popular anger’ against them, but for now only a criminal adventure of certain circles of repressive bodies, unable to engage in an honest struggle of ideas and eager for power and influence. I call on the international community to demand a public investigation into the causes of the explosion in the Moscow metro on January 8 with the involvement of foreign experts and lawyers in the investigation…”

Sakharov did not know that, unlike the Soviet Union, the West paid more attention to Louis’s hint that the metro explosion was organized by Jews. The Soviet Union’s reputation as a stronghold of anti-Semitism was already strong, but then a number of publicists recalled the events of 1952 with the “doctor-killers”, preparations for Jewish pogroms, and mass expulsions of Jews.

Direct comparisons began to be drawn between the “country of victorious socialism” and fascist Germany. The USSR could find itself in complete isolation, and Andropov and Bobkov had to urgently correct the mistake they had made. By the way, in no official account of the metro explosion is Viktor Louis’s article ever mentioned, but here Andropov had to take into account the reaction to it, and therefore forget about both Moscow dissidents and Jews.

However, they needed to find someone else to replace the latter, urgently find new terrorists. For several months, they apparently searched and eventually settled on Armenians. First, because they were also dark-haired and hooked-nosed, and second, because it was well known in Europe that there were terrorist Armenian organizations tracking and killing Turks – the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide (at least 1.5 million dead).

Finally, when Stepan Zatikyan was chosen as the organizer, he had two more advantages from the KGB’s point of view: a criminal record for creating the NOP party – a party striving for the establishment of an independent Armenia (through a plebiscite, as Zatikyan was a staunch opponent of violence). But he was also a staunch anti-Semite, which was more than used by the KGB – we are fighting not against Jews, but against anti-Semites.

Next, as executors, since Zatikyan never traveled and worked at the Yerevan factory every day, two of Zatikyan’s acquaintances who had nothing to do with the case were chosen, in the hope that they would be easily broken at Lubyanka (one of them, a young artist Bagdasaryan, was only 20 years old).

Ten months later, they were allegedly caught on the Moscow-Yerevan train, and an explosive device was found at the Kursky railway station. However, official sources get confused here: in a recent movie “Investigation conducted…”, a policeman finds the bag with the bomb, scaring off the terrorists.

In earlier official accounts, no one frightened Stepanyan and Bagdasaryan; they left the bomb under a bench themselves, and it was accidentally discovered by one of the waiting passengers. It is likely that one could continue comparing the fantasies of official historians, but since the entire course of the case was classified, by 1991 only some of its oddities were obvious:

  • an urgent (3 days after the verdict), completely unprecedented at that time, execution of the convicts;
  • a very strange, only five lines long, piece of information (in the newspaper “Izvestia”) about the trial and execution of the Armenians, which said that there were three of them, but only named the supposed organizer Zatikyan, who did not plant the bomb and did not come to Moscow;
  • a very strange reaction to all this from a number of prominent party figures (Bobkov mentions the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia, K.S. Demirchyan, who banned publications about this in Armenian language newspapers) and KGB leaders. The “Chronicle of Current Events” publishes a message about the indignation of Andropov’s deputy Tsvigun, who even tries to resist the fact that “investigators were sent to Armenia.” According to Bobkov himself, the Chairman of the KGB of Armenia, Marius Yuzbashyan, also behaved this way. He allegedly:

“hid information about the activities of the international Armenian terrorist organization – the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia ‘ASALA’, created instead of ‘Dashnaktsutyun’, in the republic from the leadership of the KGB of the USSR. It is this organization that is responsible for the explosions in the Moscow metro…”.

Regarding “Dashnaktsutyun” – this is another lie from Bobkov. An ordinary foreign socialist party in those years, which still exists today, it did not turn into any army. What is interesting here is that Bobkov’s direct boss, General Tsvigun (not to mention the Armenian leadership) was defeated in this fight. But neither side suffered.

However, in 1991, for those who wanted to know, everything fell into place. The documentary studio “Aik” at the “Armenfilm” film studio and director Alexander Gandzhumyan, before shooting the film “State Murder,” turned to former military prosecutor and now lawyer Artem Sarumov with a request to get acquainted with the case of the explosion in the Moscow metro and provide a conclusion for the film.

In 1991, Bobkov was removed from the KGB, and Sarumov managed to accomplish this. To this day, he remains the only independent lawyer who has seen the case of the explosion. Sarumov did not make any major discoveries, as he was familiar with not the operational but the judicial case, that is, the cover-up documents, but he found out that one of the three alleged terrorists, twenty-year-old Bagdasaryan, admitted his guilt; all the convicts, when they had a meeting with their relatives before their death, were surprised that their relatives were still alive, that is, the investigators blackmailed the arrested people with the fact that their relatives were either already executed or in neighboring cells.

Stepanyan heard his wife’s voice in the hallway – that’s how they extracted confessions from them. Sarumov, himself an experienced prosecutor, also knew that after a death penalty verdict, it usually takes no less than six months for appeals to be considered by the Supreme Court and for a mandatory request for clemency to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Here everything was signed in three days, two of which were Saturday and Sunday. It was impossible to even deliver papers through the institutions in the Soviet Union during this time.

But the most indisputable and revealing evidence was unexpectedly discovered by the filmmakers. Meeting Zaven, the brother of the only one who admitted his guilt, Bagdasaryan, they suddenly learned that on the day of the explosion in the Moscow metro, Bagdasaryan was at his brother’s wedding in an Armenian village, where, according to tradition, all the fellow villagers and two hundred people (many of whom the filmmakers interviewed) were undeniable witnesses of his innocence.

Then it became clear why the publication in “Izvestia” did not include the names of other alleged participants in the terrorist attack and why, despite all party discipline, Demirchyan could not allow publications in Armenia about such a crudely fabricated case by Bobkov and Andropov after the bloody crime they had ordered.

He (as well as the KGB Chairman Yuzbashyan) agreed to the individual assassinations of Paruyr Sevak and Minas Avetisyan, but killing an entire village of witnesses after publishing the names of alleged terrorists was too much at that time (although the time when this became possible came only in Russia).

In 1993, at the conference “KGB: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,” lawyer Sarumov presented a report on the explosion in the Moscow metro. Based on his materials, Natalya Gevorkyan wrote an article in “Moskovskie Novosti.”

An agitated Bobkov, who was the second man to Gusinsky (or Gusinsky was a dirty hat to Bobkov in the Most Corporation, where, as it turned out in a London court, 800 KGB employees worked), immediately showed a film on NTV (owned by Gusinsky) with their version of the explosion in the metro, where he called me an accomplice of terrorists.

I called NTV, asked for the tape and said that I would sue. They couldn’t refuse to give me the tape in 1993, promised to find it in a couple of days, but instead, they repeated the film. In the repeat, there was no mention of me. At that time, Filipp Denisovich Bobkov was not exactly afraid of the court, but he was still cautious.

However, one can judge the involvement of the Alpha group in the explosion in the Moscow metro only by the monstrous amount of lies piled up by the KGB to hide the true circumstances of the crime and, most importantly, by the fact that Alpha was created specifically for such operations.

Original article: Взрыв в московском метро 1977 г – Сергей Григорьянц

Author of the article: Sergey Grigoryants

Translation of the article by Vigen Avetisyan

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