James Bond may have had ‘Q’ but the KGB had Vadim Fedorovich Goncharov - that’s Colonel Goncharov, to you. Maybe he was known as ‘G’?
The KGB colonel oversaw the Fifth Special Department during the Cold War and was the go-to man for cutting edge espionage gear from the best bugging devices to the tiniest, clandestine video cameras for recording kompromat.
SPYSCAPE is excited to share with you, comrades, some of the rarest and most important Soviet gadgets of that era. These hand-picked items were acquired from the KGB Espionage Museum in New York City and will soon be on display at SPYSCAPE’s New York City headquarters.
This gold-plated ring camera was used by steely KGB agents in the 1970s. The film is wrapped around the finger, while the top cover opens out to reveal a high definition lens with a fixed focus. Soviet spies needed a steady hand to operate this gadget. It was only possible to take one surreptitious photo, so there was no margin for error. SPYSCAPE’s spy ring is one of only a few in existence, and each has a slightly different design, making this a one-of-a-kind KGB treasure.
This iconic Zenit 12 XPS camera is fitted with a zoom lens and attached to a 'photosniper' shoulder stock and trigger mechanism, all of which fits inside its original metal case. After Germany invaded in World War II, the Soviet Union wanted precision optical instruments. Zenit (the brand name is the Russian word for ‘zenith’) has remained a beloved brand since the SLR camera was first created by Krasnogorsky Zavod. It was manufactured near Moscow and its long history defined Eastern European photography for decades.
Is there a doctor in the house? No, but if this KGB ‘doctor’s’ bag is in sight there’s likely a secret agent nearby. The hidden camera is operated through a movable section on the bottom of the bag. The lens is pointed downward so it was likely used to photograph documents.
Cigarette cases are handy spy gadgets. In The Living Daylights, 007’s (Timothy Dalton’s) cigarette case transforms into a pair of binoculars. Bond’s (Roger Moore’s) microfilm reader is assembled with a cigarette case and lighter in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Scaramanga’s golden gun has a cigarette case for its handle. The Soviets had their own ideas about how to transform the cigarette case for KGB agents: a Tochka camera is hidden inside this model with the lens operated through a small hole on the lid. The Tochka (which means ‘point’ in English) was a fully mechanical subminiature camera.
No one said life as a CIA-KGB double agent would be easy but Aldrich ‘Rick’ Ames has plenty of time to reflect on that while he serves his life sentence in Indiana. Ames could have had it all. He was a CIA counterintelligence officer with more than 30 years experience but in 1982 Ames had an affair with María del Rosario Casas Dupuy, a CIA informant who liked the finer things in life - particularly if they came in Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom boxes. Rick and Maria married and spied for the Soviets to earn more money, betraying at least 12 CIA agents who were either jailed or executed. In the words of former CIA director James Woolsey, the agents died because “this warped, murdering traitor wanted a bigger house and a Jaguar".
If kompromat - compromising information - is required for blackmail or to manipulate a target there’s nothing quite like photographic evidence. This Soviet ‘through the wall’ camera allows photos to be taken via a small hole drilled in a wall. KGB agents stocked up on kompromat, believing their friend today could be their enemy tomorrow. In the early days, kompromat might involve doctored photographs or planted drugs but sometimes it didn’t need to be manufactured. In one of the more successful kompromat stings, prosecutor general Yury Skuratov was investigating former president Boris Yeltsin over bribe allegations. It wasn’t long before RTR TV aired grainy footage showing Skuratov in bed with two prostitutes. He was promptly fired.