861.1051/1–648: Airgram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State


A–19. Reference despatch No. 47, January 10, 1948,1 regarding the 30th anniversary of the Soviet secret police2 and airgram No. 9, January 3, 1948,1 regarding a recent decree regulating relations between Soviet and foreign institutions.3

The trade union newspaper Trud of December 21, 1947, carried another article celebrating the 30th anniversary of the secret police, which contained two different and interesting points. The first was the phrase, “the developing international connections of the Soviet Union with foreign powers are being used by capitalist intelligence agents in order to send spies and diversionists into our country.” If these words represent a widely held view in Soviet governmental circles, they offer one more indication of the hopelessness of trying to cultivate friendly cultural or even official relations with the present regime, to whom “developing international connections” are a source of dangerous espionage.

Even more interesting was a direct caveat to foreigners in the USSR, warning them against showing any interest in Soviet internal affairs and containing a reference to the Hilton incident4 (cf. Embassy despatch No. 1952, December 20, 19471):

“And it is necessary to remind certain of our overseas ‘guests’ that too much interest in the internal affairs of the Soviet people, affairs which have a simple and perfectly clear name—state secret, is pregnant with unpleasant consequences. In any case, they should not forget about the much publicized incident involving the Military Attaché of the English Embassy in Moscow, when this attaché was detained by a group of workers in the region of a building having defence significance under quite delicate circumstances. This foreigner can confirm that, despite all our hospitality, it is possible to fall into an extremely unpleasant situation among us if, let us say, someone sticks his nose in a place where it does not belong.”

Despite the ironic reference to Soviet “hospitality,” language like the above offers full confirmation, if any is needed at this late date, [Page 791] of the fact that the Soviet Government is trying to isolate completely the Western diplomats within the USSR.

  1. Not printed.
  2. The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission, or Cheka, had been established on December 20, 1917, as an organ of state security.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Concerning this decree of December 16, 1947, see telegram 155 from Moscow on January 29, 1948, p. 798.
  5. Brig, (later, Maj. Gen.) Richard Hilton, Military Attaché of the British Embassy in the Soviet Union, had been detained by police authorities while out walking in November 1947 on a charge of spying with field glasses. The British Ambassador, Sir Maurice Drummond Peterson, had been instructed to make a strong and frank protest over the treatment accorded him.
  6. Not printed.