The USSR in 1970
The USSR comes into 1970 seeing a certain easing of tension with the West following the more acute periods of the Cold War and the arms race, making space for improving international relations and fostering collaborations with the Western Bloc. The Soviet leadership’s policy towards the states of the Eastern Europe is that of a buffer zone that is absolutely essential in order to place distance between NATO and the Soviet Union’s borders.
The USSR saw its peak time in the mid-60s, under Khrushchev’s ruling, associated with space exploration, blooming sciences, and arts, as representatives of а new generation of the Soviet intelligentsia – the «Sixtiers» – took over the cultural scene. They were distinguished by liberal and anti-totalitarian views, and romanticism which found vivid expressions in music and visual arts. Although most Sixtiers believed in Communist ideals, they were enormously disappointed with Stalin’s regime and its repression of fundamental civil liberties.
However, Khrushchev’s “Thaw period” was crashed by Brezhnev coming to power, when in 1964 Khrushchev was dismissed for making certain political and economic decisions based on his personal ideas. The country is now going into an era of stagnation, where all hopes for revitalization of the internal system are lost to external circumstances.
With Brezhnev in charge, the size of the Soviet apparatus (government) increases drastically, with a new class of managers who are lacking in faith in social justice and morality. The nomenklatura surrounds itself with new privileges and material benefits, and its most corrupt members are associated with the «shadow economy». The main source of enrichment for the ruling class in the 60s and 70s are all sorts of bribes and excessive bureaucracy. The ruling elite turns from «socialist» managers of property into its owners. An atmosphere of impunity and permissiveness within the system is being created.
The 1968 Prague Spring causes dread within the apparatus, who fear that an event of a similar magnitude could happen within the USSR’s borders. Prague Spring is followed by a demonstration of eight Soviet citizens against the invasion of Czechoslovakia – known as the Red Square demonstration – that takes place on the 25th of August 1968. The protesters use the slogans «We are losing our best friends», «Shame to the occupiers», and «For your freedom and ours». Seven of the protesters are immediately assaulted, brutally beaten and arrested by the KGB. The Soviet court sentences them to up to several years of imprisonment, psychiatric prison hospital treatment or exile.
These events add to the growing paranoia within the Party, hammering the social and political situation in the USSR as well as the country’s image on the international arena. Together with that, espionage is at its peak, and intelligence services are particularly active and extremely effective with their missions.
The USSR embassy in Norway
The USSR embassy is seen as a key player and is in fact the biggest embassy represented here in Norway. With the ease of tension that the 70s brought, now is the time to build and restore relationships and foster communication between the embassies and the countries they represent. There is no open aggression towards the biggest enemy – the USA, still there is tension and the urge from the Soviet side to watch the US embassy’s every move, plans and development, especially in the fields of science and military.
It is quite obvious to everyone that the USSR embassy pretty much controls the embassies of the Eastern bloc, dictating GDR’s and Czechoslovakia’s moves and strategies, having agents and informants among their embassy staff, and overall having a big say in their politics. Finland at the same time tries to be seen as a neutral party but is influenced by the USSR embassy greatly, seeks constant approval and plays an ally where possible.
The USSR naturally wants to establish dominance over NATO member states, thus intelligence services are constantly seeking potential connections within the Western bloc embassies – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the UK and the USA.
From the outside the USSR embassy looks spotless, everyone is there for a reason, everything is pre-planned and controlled by the party and the embassy members themselves. Though this might be quite far from reality. Norway is not the high profile location and the members of the staff understand this. Most of them were sent to Skien because of past diplomatic mistakes or overall low influence on the political arena back home, others are just young diplomats trying to make their way up. All this creates big space for interpersonal drama, affairs and power schemes within the embassy. Together with that, there is a big amount of intelligence agents that are among the embassy members, some are known, others are not, which creates a huge tension inside the embassy, everybody is watching everybody.
The embassy staff’s allegiance varies a lot and is mostly driven by their past and present mistakes, dramas and personal issues.
- Ambassador (50s, M) – an older party member with a long diplomatic career, disillusioned after the Prague spring, cares about people. Abstaining alcoholic.
- Ambassador’s wife / Archivist (40s, F) – had high diplomatic ambitions in the past, gave up her career in favor of her spouse, the Ambassador. Serving as a low-ranking officer, present at events and meetings with the Ambassador, but has no decision-making power.
- Deputy of mission (30s, N) – a double agent, hedonistic and seeking personal comfort. Had a past affair with a representative from another embassy: after a long time apart, they met again in Norway.
- Counsellor of Politics (50s, N) – a secret service agent (GRU), cold-headed and experienced, too straightforward in communication. Well informed, receives information from representatives of other embassies.
- Counsellor of Science (30s, N) – the child of an enemy of the state, controlled by KGB. They are on a forced mission as a fake-spouse of a KGB agent in the embassy.
- Counsellor of Science’ spouse / Typist (30s, N) – a new KGB agent in the embassy, was sent to report on other agents within the embassy. Leading double life, latent gay.
- Deputy Counsellor (60s, N) – an experienced embassy worker, true Marxist-Leninist communism ideologist, doesn’t like to be told what to do or follow orders. Is an amateur painter.
- Cultural attaché (30s, N) – a young KGB agent, once got exposed but didn’t report it to the agency, financially supports a family back in the USSR. Loves nightclubs and gambling.
- Technology attaché (20s, N) – a young, energetic and naive KGB agent, not trusted by other embassy members. Excited to work in Norway, curious about Western culture.
- Economic attaché (30s, N) – not an agent, but wants to be a handler to get info for other USSR agents: not treated seriously by them or embassy staff. Loyal to those who treat them as an important person.
- Tech communication specialist (20s, N) – a young embassy member who was raised in a prominent communist’s family. Interested in capitalism, writes poems as a hobby.
- Translator (20s, N) – a young professional who comes from a low-income family and earned their way up. Supports communist ideology.
- First Secretary (30s, F) – was sent to a less important location due to past diplomatic mistake: career-driven personality. Lost faith in the Party.
- Assistant Attaché (30s, N) – a GRU agent, pro Communist Party. Cynical, evil and aggressive in their methods.