Igor Gouzenko - the face behind the hood

The spy who came into the cold, a Russian cypher clerk who left the Russian Embassy in Ottawa on  September 5, 1945 with documents that blew the lid off of Soviet espionage activities throughout the free world.

Mr. Gouzenko  defected to Canadian authorities, with some difficulty and drama, and was moved to Camp X, which had been a base for espionage activities during World War II.  picture of Gouzenko with a hood over his headUntil his death in 1982, Gouzenko only appeared in public with a pillowcase over his head, and took extraordinary precautions to protect himself.  Gouzenko even destroyed any pictures of himself on file at the embassy, before defecting.  The February 11, 2004 Winnipeg Free Press has a front page story, with pictures, about a bronze bust of Gouzenko that was commissioned by Derrick Davy, son of Syd Davy.  Syd Davy is president of the Winnipeg based Intrepid Society, which celebrates all things to do with Sir William Stephenson, the man known as "Intrepid", who was knighted for his services as spymaster to British intelligence during World War II.  Sir William was born in Winnipeg.

The Canadian Intelligence Resource Centre  is a good place to start if you want more information on Gouzenko.  The next place to go to is the CBC archives for a dozen related audio and video clips.

Pay close attention to the This Hour Has Seven Days clip where Laurier LaPierre seems to have a bizarre fascination with the use of sexual favours by the Soviets to conduct spying on Western politicians. Ostensibly, Gouzenko was interviewed for background on the Gerda Munsinger affair, where a couple of Canadian politicans were implicated in spying because of their heterosexual affairs with Miss Munsinger. Many years later, LaPierre outed himself as a homosexual, ran unsuccessfully for office as a Liberal, was appointed to the Senate by Jean Chrètien, and is considered to be a long-time socialist sympathizer, even if he was not an activist. As it turned out, the Soviets were able to thoroughly compromise MI5, the British intelligence agency, by manipulating highly placed homosexuals. There is absolutely no evidence that LaPierre ever spied for the Soviets, in fact his patriotism is well known, but perhaps Lapierre had been approached by Soviet spies because of his contacts with the Canadian socialist movement, and they were aware of his sexual orientation. This is strictly wild speculation, but in 1966, LaPierre would not have been able to go public with such information, even if there was some truth to it.

There was an immediate and sustained effort for decades to discredit Gouzenko, by accusing him of being an ugly, illiterate alcoholic who was just trying to get money from the Canadian government in return for intelligence of little value. Both Igor and his wife, Svetlana, spent years fighting this smear campaign, and in 1987, Svetlana not only revealed her own face in a CBC interview, but she displayed pictures of Igor, to show what he really looked like. Therefore, this sculpture is not really the first unmasked public image of Gouzenko, but presumably everyone at the Free Press and the Intrepid Society had forgotten about the interview seventeen years earlier.

The connection with the Intrepid Society presumably comes through an action of Stephenson's.  Shortly after Gouzenko died, his family were in danger of losing their home in Mississauga, Ontario, and Sir William (who was still alive) put up $200,000 to help the Gouzenko family keep their house.

Senator Joseph McCarthy is a modern day villain for going after public figures and accusing them of being Communists in the 1950's. However, the Soviet Union made great use of Communist sympathizers for espionage and propaganda purposes during the Cold War, for the express purpose of defeating Western nations like Canada, the United States and Great Britian. Just because nuclear Armageddon was avoided, and the Soviet Union collapsed on its own, does not negate the serious threat of Soviet espionage and propaganda from the time that Stalin came to power to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Igor Gouzenko's defection was a turning point in the Cold War, by revealing the Soviet Union to be a terribly dangerous enemy, and his contribution to Canada and other Western nations cannot be overstated. The Soviet Union relied on espionage to get the technology to build nuclear weapons, and it relied on the propaganda activities of sympathizers in Western nations to weaken the resolve of their governments to counter Soviet aggression.

The sculpture was done by  Leo Mol, a world-renown artist who was born in the Ukraine and immigrated to Canada in 1948; and who also lives in Winnipeg.  Mol was given a couple of family photos to use to make his sculpture, and a Google search produces no other pictures that show Gouzenko's facial features.  The bust was publicly unveiled this January at the Intrepid Society's annual celebration of  Sir William Stephenson's birthday.  The article in the Free Press is written by Gordon Sinclair, Jr., who is the son of the Gordon Sinclair who was well known to Canadian baby-boomers for his regular appearances on Front Page Challenge, and who had been a war correspondent early in his career.  These pictures are not reprinted with the permission of the Winnipeg Free Press, but it should be impossible to mistake them for anything but the copyrighted property of the Free Press, and the author of this web page is not attempting to claim any copyright to the two pictures below.  The picture above of a hooded Igor Gouzenko is publicly available through the Canadian Heritage Gallery.
bust of Gouzenko

Update 10/27/08: The snapshot hosted at the CSIS website is now a broken link.  However a copy of the image is hosted at Canadian Mysteries, a website funded by Heritage Canada.  In case this link is also broken in the future, I'm placing a copy of this image below:

unmasked photo of Igor Gouzenko, from Canadian government archives?

Update 02/27/06: Regarding the statement above that "a Google search produces no other pictures that show Gouzenko's facial features," CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) now has a snapshot posted.

Update 02/25/06:  I've checked some of the links I previously provided. Syd Davy's personal web space site is no longer available, and I didn't save a paper copy of the Free Press article, so if you want to read the article itself, you will need to contact the Winnipeg Free Press, or check with a periodical library. I've changed the link for Leo Mol, you can still find pictures of some of Mol's sculptures on the Loch Gallery website but their links seem to move from time to time, and the Wikipedia link above should be permanent.

I don't want to be maudlin, but Igor Gouzenko's defection was one of those events that really, truly changes the course of history.

This page was created July 3, 2004
Last change October 27, 2008
©Rick Glasel, except where noted otherwise