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Soviet Vice-Consulate in Los Angeles and Espionage

Proletarian Paradox



Soviet Vice-Consulate in Los Angeles and Espionage

excerpt from Enemy Amongst Trojans. A Soviet Spy at USC, 2010, p. 40

Soviet Vice-Consulate in Los Angeles and Espionage

The USSR Vice-Consulate in Los Angeles, Calif., operated from early 1940s till 1948. It first occupied a building at 2315 N. Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz and then moved in 1945 to a nearby mansion at 2405 Glendower Avenue. According to foreign attaches stationed in Los Angeles, the Soviet Consulate "was of size and splendor to qualify as an embassy in most parts of the world." [16]

Southern California had emerged as an important region for Soviet espionage operations. The [Soviet secret service] KGB and [military intelligence] GRU focused on Hollywood [17] and the growing defense industry. A highly publicized case of a famed producer and musical director Boris Morros, [18] who spied for the USSR, provided insights into Soviet attention to Hollywood. The FBI had successfully turned Morros into a double agent who was then reporting on the Soviet espionage effort for a number of years.

The Vice-Consulate provided vital support for [Soviet military intelligence] GRU resident [station chief] Witczak-Litvin [posing as a student at USC]. An FBI report described that "the contact of Ignacy Witczak and [his wife] Bunia Witczak in the Soviet Consulate in Los Angeles, California, was Mikhail Fedorovich Mukhachev, a reported [secret service] NKVD agent ... [who] ... entered the United States destined for the Soviet Consulate on April 19, 1944. In contacts with the Witczaks Mukhachev used the cover name 'Doctor Harley'." [19]

When the Vice-Consulate closed in 1948, the Los Angeles Times mused on its impact on the social life in Los Angeles, calling it a "Proletarian Paradox," [20]

Closing the U.S.S.R. Vice-Consulate here is a blow—paradoxically—to the de luxe element in the social life of Los Angeles' growing Consular Corps. It is a paradox, that is, if one thinks of the Soviets in terms of drab, all-work-and-no-play proletarians.

Only Chinese Consul General's annual reception honoring the birthday of the Chinese Republic has approached the lush repast offered to the entire corps, plus hundreds of other guests, each November on the anniversary of the Russian revolution ...

While lapping up vodka (or name your own poison) and nibbling on delicacies, including caviar, some Consuls General from other nations were prone to compare the embassy-type quarters [of the Soviet Vice-Consulate] with their own two-by-four offices in prosaic downtown buildings.

"And this is only a Vice-Consulate!" was their oft-repeated comment as they rubbed elbows with city officials and Soviet-sympathetic Hollywood stars ...

And certainly no one could ever claim that the Los Feliz district mansion was run down—as was charged against some Russian officials who rented estates in the East. So far as was evident, everything on the premises was as neat and polished as the portraits of Stalin and Lenin ...


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Book review  (Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf) studies in intelligence

"Mike Gruntman, an astronautics professor at USC, has written an interesting and succinct account of this [espionage] case that heretofore escaped the attention of other espionage academics. A nice contribution to the literature."

Studies in Intelligence (unclassified extracts), CIA, Vol. 59, No. 4, p. 74, December 2015.


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