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Important terms and phrases appearing throughout the RED FILES are explained below.

Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Volunteers from North America, mainly the United States, who went to fight in defense of the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Well-depicted in George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

Brigade included many American anarchists, Communists, socialists, and other leftists. Veterans of the American Lincoln Brigade maintain an archive, which has a useful website.


New Mexico secret test range 210 miles south of Los Alamos where the first atomic bomb test code named Trinity, of a "fat man" nuclear devise took place 16 July 1945.

Box 1663

The official 'cover' address of the Los Alamos, New Mexico compound/campus of The Manhattan Project. Babies born to those working at the top secret Los Alamos facility were issued birth certificates that read: Place of Birth Box 1663. Note: Secret Soviet Research and Military Complexes went by Box identification until very recently, as did some sharashky.


Severe downturn in US economy (1929-1931) that threw millions out of work, wrecked thousands of businesses, shuttered hundreds of banks. Kicked off by Black Thursday, 24 October 1929 Stock market crash. Some $30 billion in stock values lost in crash. President Franklin D. Roosevelt elected in wake of crash and onset of depression uses state intervention to create jobs and revive economy. It takes huge government programs for war to completely end depression. During the depression many doubted the viability of capitalism and looked to communism in the Soviet Union as a viable alternative. [PBS The American Experience-Riding the Rails During the Depression]

Enormous [Project ENORMOZ]

Russian codename for effort to build the Atomic bomb and Soviet efforts to obtain information on it through espionage. Directed first by Viacheslav Molotov then by Lavrenty Beria.


Soviet Military Intelligence. During WWII Soviet military counter-intelligence was called SMERSH (Death to Spies).

Georgia, Georgian

An ancient state, long an independent Kingdom south of Russia, by the Black Sea in the Caucasus. Georgia became a Russian protectorate in 1801, under Tsar Alexander I. Georgia enjoyed independence under a non-Bolshevik socialist government 1917-1921. Bolshevik troops invaded and soon joined Georgia to Bolshevik Moscow. Georgia regained independence in 1991. The people of Georgia, Georgians are a non-Slavic peoples with their own unique language and a rich and ancient culture, religion (Georgian Orthodoxy--they converted to Christianity in the fourth century; Russians did so only in the tenth century), and way of life. Georgians say they can trace their civilization back 3,000 years. Stalin and his NKVD boss, Lavrenty Beria were both Georgians.


Openness or candor. The more honest discussion of the Soviet past. Filling in the blank spots of Soviet History Gorbachev once called for was an important but not the only part of his opening of the Communist party and Soviet society to reform and to new ideas. A campaign of truth telling begun by Mikhail Gorbachev. Glasnost allowed archives and secret information to be published.


The System of Prison, Labor and Concentration Camps Spread across the Soviet Union. Officially most were "corrective labor colonies." Rooted in the exile in Siberia system of the tsarist period, the GULAG was organized by the Communist government in 1918 and vastly expanded under Stalin. GULAG is a Russian acronym for a department of the secret police, "chief administration of corrective labor camps."


a Soviet citizen who after long and meticulous training takes the identity of a foreigner and goes to work in another country with a false passport and other documents (in contrast to a spy working under the Soviet of diplomatic status; diplomatic passport offers protection from arrest)

Iron Curtain

A term used during the Cold War to refer to the closed societies of the Soviet socialist block. Usually refers to the satellite nations enslaved or forcibly tied to Moscow and the Soviet Union itself. The dividing line between the 'free' west and 'enslaved' socialist puppet states of Eastern Europe. The terms comes from the first major speech Winston S. Churchill gave in the United States as British ex-Prime Minister (voters turned their wartime leader out of office in July 1945 parliamentary elections) at Westminster College, Fulton Missouri on 5 March 1946. He said, "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent." Churchill's Fulton Speech is sometimes used to periodize the start of the Cold War. The Iron Curtain metaphor was not an original coinage by Churchill.

KGB-Soviet political police

Abbreviations of Russian for Committee for State Security. Many refer to it as the Cheka, its operatives as Chekisty, these names come from the original Bolshevik organized agency created in December 1917 by V.I.Lenin's revolutionary government under the leadership of Felix E. Dzerzhinsky ("Iron Felix"). Cheka stands for The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage. The Soviet government reorganized the Cheka in 1922. Over the years it had many different names. During the worst period of Stalin's bloody regime when its agents murdered millions it was called the NKVD, The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs. In the years of great terror some feared even to whisper the letters NKVD; some referred to it as the Okhranka, The Guards, the name for the tsarist era secret police; others called it "the organs." During WWII the NKVD changed its name briefly to NKGB. At other times it was called or was part of the GPU, OGPU, GUGB, MVD, MGB. A post-Stalin reorganization created the KGB formula in 1954. Since the Soviet government moved to Moscow from Petrograd in 1918 it has been headquartered not far from the Kremlin in a complex of building, starting at n.11 Bolshaya Lubyanka Street and quickly spreading out into building n.2 on the same street. That infamous building, once the Rossiya Insurance Company, fronts on Lubyankaya Square. For many years a giant statue of "Iron Felix" stood in the center of the Square. Jubilant crowds tore it down in the fury that followed a failed hard-line Communist coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1981.


A measure of the explosive power of an atomic bomb. 1 kiloton=1000ton of TNT. A sphere of plutonium approximately the size of a baseball would yield about 20 kilotons of force if made into a simple bomb.


Literally it means "fort". Every early Russian city had one. Moscow's Kremlin started as wooden stockade. Traditionally, it is dated from 1147. The Kremlin often refers to top rulers of the Soviet Union or Russia, just as Americans say, "The White House announced today....."


Headquarters building of the KGB/NKVD/OGPU/CHEKA since spring 1918. Contains offices, jail, and torture chambers. Many prisoners summarily executed by a single bullet to the back of the head in its basement. The most feared building in Europe. See KGB.

Manhattan Project

Secret American effort to build an Atomic bomb in collaboration with Great Britain. Organized by J. Robert Oppenheimer the effort was directed by General Leslie Groves. Pushed by other scientists Albert Einstein first wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 warning that Nazi German could be developing an A-bomb. Roosevelt subsequently authorized the Manhattan Project. Authorities named it after the Manhattan Engineer District of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers where much early research was carried out.


A photographic reproduction of printed materials reduced to the size of a dot or a printed period mark for ease of secret transmittal.


A spy who establishes a cover identity, cover story and cover occupation long before starting espionage.

Morozov, Pavlik

A little boy who became famous throughout the Soviet Union and eventually the center of a cult of denunciation. Pavlik symbolized the evil essence of a totalitarian approach to life. In 1932 according to legend, the young boy denounced his father to the local Communist authorities for hiding grain at a time that the state was forcibly collectivizing agriculture. His father was banished to Siberia. Pavlik's Uncles then killed the little boy. He was turned into a saint, a model of Soviet patriotism for generations of Soviet school age children. Especially at the height of the Great Terror (1936-38) but throughout Stalin's reign (1924-1953) the state and local Communist officials expected children to denounces fathers and mothers, husbands and wives arrested as enemies of the people-but mostly only after the fact. Stalinists were too busy hunting down people they deemed enemies to bother with independent enemy lists.




Special GULAG camps where well-fed prisoners worked on scientific and engineering projects. Often called a "golden cage" by inmates.

Korolev worked on aircraft design in TsKB-39. A. I. Solzhenitsyn well described a sharashka in the novel The First Circle.


Originally the Russian word for "fellow traveler". Russians now use it to mean a satellite.


The technique spies use to conduct their business undetected for example ways of passing information from an agent to a controller on a busy street. Professional tricks of espionage agents.


The Venona Project was the code name used for U.S. Signal Intelligence efforts to collect and to decrypt Soviet NKVD and GRU messages in the 1940s. Sometimes called Arlington Hall from the name of building where the American codebreakers worked.

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