Gorev (Vysokogorets), Vladimir Efimovich (1900-1938)

Vladimir Gorev

Vladimir Gorev

A Soviet Red Army cadre officer and a prominent member of Soviet military intelligence who served as the GRU’s “illegalresident in the United States from January 1930 until May 1933 – and was the first Soviet handler of Whittaker Chambers, a self-admitted Soviet espionage agent.

Gorev was born in 1900 into a Byelorussian peasant family. He fought in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921 and was sent to Germany as a “military organizer” in 1924. In the same year, he graduated from the Oriental department of the Military Academy of RKKA. From 1925 to 1927, he was a Soviet military advisor in China (using the pseudonyms of “Nikitin” and “Gordon”) and took part in the Northern Expedition (a military campaign led by the Guomingdan from July 1926 to 1928 with the objective of speeding up the Chinese revolution against feudalism and imperialism). From 1928 to 1929, Gorev served as a Red Army officer.

From January 1930 to May 1933, Gorev was posted as an “illegal” resident of Red Army military intelligence in the United States, where his base of operations was New York City. I have firmly identified Gorev as the Russian operative “Herbert,” whom Whittaker Chambers, the self-admitted Soviet espionage agent, described in his 1952 autobiography Witness as his first Soviet handler:

“…we got off at 110th Street, sauntered up Broadway and wove our way over to Riverside Drive near Grant’s Tomb. On the downtown side of the Drive, a big black car was parked. A big man – a Russian, I would soon learn – sat at the wheel…. We drove down Riverside Drive.

… the Russian … was young, perhaps in his thirties, with a round, firm, commanding face … very well dressed and wore a fedora hat.

… I was later to know of him … as Herbert. …

… Herbert was … a tank officer in the Leningrad military district of the Red Army. …

… I never asked what had become of him. But I know that eventually he returned to Russia. …” 1

Gorev was indeed tall, with a firm face, and was very attractive to women, as he could dress, look and talk like an aristocrat. As I was able to ascertain in March 2009, he was the operative who recruited Chambers as a Soviet intelligence agent with the cover name of “Sotyi” (“100th”). 2

As Chambers told the FBI, his first Soviet contact also used the alias “Carl,” or “Karl,” as well as a second alias, “Otto.” This man was independently described to the FBI by another member of Gorev’s group, named Robert Gordon Switz. A man with the same physical features was described under the alias “Otto or Karl Schmidt.” 3

Upon his return to Moscow, Gorev served from May 1933 to February 1936 as an assistant head of the Motor Armored Office; from February 1935 to September 1936, as the commander and military commissar of the motor brigade of the Leningrad Military District; and from September 1936 to October 1937, as the Soviet military attaché in Spain. In 1937, he was promoted to the rank of division commander (Comdiv) and was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Red Banner Order. Gorev was arrested in January 1938, at the height of the Red Army purges, and was sentenced to death. He was rehabilitated in October 1956. 4

  1. Whittaker Chambers, Witness, Henry Regnery Company (Chicago), 1952, pp. 281, 291.
  2. “Nash chelovek v Vashingtone” – Mikhail Boltunov, Razvedchiki, izmenivshie mir, Moskva: Algoritm, 2009, s. 109. (“Our Man in Washington,” in The Intelligence Officers Who Changed the World, by Mikhail Boltunov, Moscow: Algorythm, 2009, p. 109.
  3. “Alexander Petrovich Ulanovski was,” a memorandum dated July 27, 1949; J.A. Cimperman to J.M. Marriott, March 9, 1950, No. 2939. – Ulanovsky Historical file, KV2-1417, pp. 246-248 and 233-234, National Archives, U.K.
  4. V. M. Lurie, V.Ya. Kochik, GRU: Dela i ljudi, Moskva: Olma-press, 2003, ss. 231-232. (GRU: Deeds and People, by V.M. Lurie and V.Ya. Kochik, Moscow: Olma-Press, 2003, pp. 231-232.)