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Intelligence, N. 28, 8 January 1996, p. 1



by Richard H. Cummings*

(COPYRIGHT USA 1996 -- Richard H. Cummings -- All Rights Reserved)

In February 1991, former dissident and Bulgaria's first post-
Communist President Zhelyu Zhelev made a five-day visit to
England.  During the visit, he had lunch with Britain's Queen
Elizabeth and met with numerous business and political figures.
He had decided to also do something more personal on his last
day in England, he left London and drove to a cemetery in
Whitchurch, Southwest England.  He participated in a short
memorial ceremony conducted by a Bulgarian priest and walked
over to one grave.  President Zhelev stood quietly over the
flower- covered grave and read the epitaph:

In Memory of Georgi Ivanov Markov
Novelist & Playwright
Most dearly beloved
By his wife Annabel
His Daughter Sasha
His Family & his Friends
Born Sofia 1. 3. 39
Died London 11 .9. 78
In the Cause of Freedom

President Zhelev then bent over and placed a wreath on the
grave.  After a few seconds, he stood up, turned to the small
crowd, including Georgi Markov's wife and daughter, who had
gathered around and said: "I am hopeful that Bulgarian
authorities will soon reach some conclusions on who was
responsible.  The killing has shamed Bulgarian and mars it
reputation abroad."

On October 20, 1991, the CBS broadcast it's second "60 Minutes"
television program about the murder of Georgi Markov.  In his
opening remarks, journalist Ed Bradley said: "In her wildest
dreams Agatha Christie couldn't have conjured a more bizarre
murder and a more bizarre murder weapon than the one that
killed a Bulgaria writer named Georgi Markov who, while living
in exile in London, wrote commentaries for Radio Free Europe. .
. ."

Who was Georgi Markov? Why is he buried in England? Why would
the President of Bulgaria attend a memorial service, place a
wreath on his grave and make such a provocative statement? How
did he die "in the cause of freedom?"  To understand how and
why he died, one has to start with understanding who he was.



When Georgi Ivanov Markov was born, his father was a career
Bulgarian army officer.  The Communist Party assumed power in
Bulgaria 9 September 1944, and his father became a "class
enemy" of the Communist regime.  Georgi Markov was not allowed
to attend a university reserved for family members from the
ruling elite.  He studied chemical engineering at the
Polytechnic Institute but his first love was literature.  He
soon gave up his career in chemical engineering and started
publishing short stories.  When he was 32 years old, his first
novel "Men" was published to rave reviews.  Georgi Markov
entered the privileged world of the Bulgarian literary and
intellectual circles.  His published works became very popular.
He was financially so successful that he drove around Sofia in
a German BMW, an impossibility for most Bulgarians.

Markov joined the Bulgarian Writers' Union as an "officially"
approved writer, an "insider." He started a new career as s
successful dramatist and entered the cultural world of leading
artists, actresses, and performers of the Bulgarian State
theater.  Markov was also accepted by the leaders of the
Communist Party and government hierarchy who mingled within the
theater and literary circles.  He attended parties with them
and knew the intimate details of their personal lives hidden
from the public.  This would lead to his success abroad and his

But with all his material success and popularity among the
elite, Markov was unhappy in Bulgaria.  Though he secretly
decided to leave Bulgaria, he did so with mixed feelings: "I
tried to compromise as much as I could and it was eventually
too much.  And the whole atmosphere was in deep disagreement
with myself.  I don't want to say I am let's say braver or more
honest than other people.  Perhaps if I were more honest, I
should have been there.  Because if you are honest, your should
stay there and fight about it there, not here."

In 1969, Markov succeeded in getting official permission to
leave Bulgaria, on the pretext of visiting his emigre brother,
Nikola, who was living in Bologna, Italy.  His last play was
not well received in Party circles and friends advised him to
leave Bulgaria as soon as he possibly could.

On 16 June 1969, Markov left Bulgaria and drove through
Yugoslavia on his way to Italy.  Instead of returning to
Bulgaria, Georgi Markov remained in Italy until 1971.  He later
flew to England, where he received political asylum.  As a
defector, he was branded a "traitor" by the Bulgarian media.
Five years later, Bulgarian authorities tried him in absentia.
The court sentenced Markov to six-and-half-years imprisonment,
and confiscated all his personal property.

After his arrival in England, he joined the British
Broadcasting Company (BBC) and wrote scripts for the Bulgarian
language broadcasts about cultural life in the West.  Markov
later married a fellow BBC co-worker, Annabel Dilke, and their
daughter Sasha was born in 1976.

He contributed his first free-lance program to Radio Free
Europe (RFE) on 8 June 1975.  It was called "The Debts of
Contemporary Bulgarian Literature." For the next three years,
he wrote more than 130 Sunday-evening programs in his series
called, "In Absentia, Reports about Bulgaria." These programs
were not only informative on cultural life in Bulgaria, but
they also revealed the otherwise-hidden life styles of leading
regime figures, especially Communist Party leader, Todor

There are eight million adults in Bulgaria.  One listener
survey estimated that five million adults listened to Georgi
Markov's programs.  One popular joke that circulated around
Sofia was: "Why didn't the Politburo watch television Sunday
night? Because they were all listening to Georgi Markov on

In 1977, Georgi Markov's father was dying of cancer.  Georgi
Markov last saw him the day he left Bulgaria.  He had falsely
promised his father he would return in a few weeks.  Georgi
asked the Bulgarian regime for permission to return to
Bulgaria, or have his father visit him in the West.  The regime
denied both requests.  His father died in June 1977, without
Georgi having the chance to say farewell. 

The tone of his programs over Radio Free Europe changed.  His
satirical series of eleven programs from November 1977 to
January 29, 1978, were now called "Personal Meetings with Todor
Zhivkov." This program series was relentlessly critical of
Zhivkov's aristocratic and hypocritical life.  These programs
exposed a side of Zhivkov's personality and lives of the
Bulgarian intelligentsia previously unknown in Bulgaria.  The
"Cult of Personality" was the rule in Bulgaria.  No one told
the Emperor he was naked.  Because Markov's programs were so
popular with his listeners -- even with jamming -- the mood in
Zhivkov radically and dramatically changed because of Markov's

Radio Free Europe's Bulgarian language broadcasts were heavily
jammed.  One frequency was deliberately not jammed so that a
unit of Bulgarian State Security (DS), could monitor and
prepare reports on the broadcasts.  Communist Party Secretary,
Todor Zhivkov, was very well informed about Radio Free Europe
broadcasts.  He daily received a highly-classified report and
transcript of RFE's broadcasts, prepared by the Bulgarian State
Security "Directorate for Struggle Against the Ideological
Subversion." Also, he read another classified report called
"Anti-Bulgarian Propaganda Bulletin" that included selected
program transcripts of RFE, VOA, BBC, Deutsche Welle, the
Vatican Radio.  This report was produced by the Bulgarian Press
Agency and distributed through Communist Party channels to
Central Committee members and chief editors of the central
press, radio and television.

Zhivkov also knew of Markov's plans to publish a book of these
interviews and other material included in his Radio Free Europe
program series.  Zhivkov was also upset with the rise of the
Bulgarian dissident movement "Declaration 78" that appeared in
spring 1978.  "Declaration 1978" put out six demands including "
an end to violations of human and civil rights" and 
"the abolishing of privilege in all spheres of public life." 
Zhelyu Zhelev, who later became Bulgaria's first
democratically-elected President, was one of the dissidents
influenced by Georgi Markov's RFE programs.  Markov appealed to
the nascent dissident movement.  He was known as a "rebel" and
once said, "I feel in myself a necessity to rebel against any
kind of authority.  If you want really to make me hate
something, tell me that the authorities want, like or impose
that music or that thing, and I would never accept it."


In Moscow, early in 1978, Georgi Markov's fate was decided
during a meeting in a third floor office in KGB Main
Headquarters Building, "The Center." Those in attendance were
Yury Andropov, Chairman of the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov, then
Chief of Intelligence (First Administration), his first deputy,
Vice Admiral Usatov, and General Oleg Kalugin, Chief of Foreign
Counterintelligence.  Kryuchkov had been a long-time confidant
of Andropov: he served in the Soviet Embassy in Budapest during
the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, when Andropov was Ambassador
to Hungary.

(I had a lengthy meeting with former-General  Oleg Kalugin 
in August 1991. Our conversation forms the basis for the
 reconstruction of the fateful meeting in Andropov's office.)

Kryuchkov received an "urgent" telegram from Sofia, presumably 
through the KGB Resident,  and invited Kalugin to the meeting.  
The meeting in Andropov's office started off routinely with 
discussions of normal operational KGB matters.  
Kryuchkov then told Andropov about the highly-
classified telegram from Bulgarian Minister of Internal
Affairs, Dimitir Stoyanov.  Stoyanov asked them to help kill
Georgi Markov.  Kryuchkov told Andropov that Georgi Markov had
escaped to the West and for the last few years has been working
for the BBC and Radio Free Europe.  He added that Markov had
become an open and very outspoken opponent of Communist Party
Secretary Todor Zhivkov.  He had been close to Zhivkov's
family, friends, and prominent Communist Party members and knew
many "kitchen secrets" of their private lives.

Zhivkov personally asked the U.S.S.R. for this help, and
Minister Stoyanov simply passed it through his KGB intelligence
contact, according to Kryuchkov.  He also said that Zhivkov
approved the plan to murder Markov, by using a decree issued by
Bulgaria's then-ruling Communist Politburo in 1977.  Because
Minister Stoyanov had sent the message requesting KGB
assistance, Zhivkov was in a position to deny direct knowledge
of KGB assistance in the killing; i.e., "plausible denial."


In December 1991, General Katsamunski, then Head of the 
National Investigative Office investigating the murder of 
Georgi Markov, would give a few more details of the July 1977 
Politburo Decree.  He said thatZhivkov had decreed in June 1977 
that "all measures could beused to neutralize enemy emigres." 
The ruling Politburoapproved this measure.  This 1977 decree 
created the atmospherewhich "freed the hands for individual 
decisions by Ministers,Secret Services and other organs." 
Katsamunski said, "InSeptember 1977, General Stoyanov ordered 
the Ministry ofInterior to act on this decree."


After Kryuchkov finished speaking, Andropov rose and slowly
paced around the office.  He paused and then emphatically said,
"I am against political murders! I am against political
assassinations!" He sternly added: "The days when this kind of
thing could go unpunished are gone.  We can't turn back the
clock.  I repeat I'm against it.  We are being dragged into all
sorts of situations.  This is their problem; let them solve it
on their own."

Kryuchkov interrupted Andropov, who continued standing behind
his chair: "Yury Vladimirovich, please understand, if we refuse
the Bulgarians, we will put Minister Stoyanov in an awkward
situation.  Zhivkov will think that Stoyanov no longer has
respect in the KGB.  That the attitude toward Bulgarian
Comrades is changing in the U.S.S.R., in the leadership here.
In short, this may not be the best thing in terms of
consequences for the development of our relations and, in
particular, for Minister Stoyanov who helps us in everything."

After some silent and tense moments, Andropov sat down and
finally agreed, on condition there would be no direct Soviet
participation in the killing itself: "All right, you have my
consent to participate, on the technical side only -- no
personnel involvement.  Send an instructor, give them
appropriate technical means and equipment.  Let the Bulgarian
resolve this problem on their own.  That is all.  This is as
far as I am prepared to go."

Like Zhivkov, Andropov also was in a position to deny any
"direct" KGB involvement in the death of Markov.


After this meeting, Kalugin and Kryuchkov returned to the
Foreign Intelligence Headquarters outside Moscow.  Kalugin told
me that he went to his office and called two of his KGB
subordinates:  General Sergei Golubev, Chief of the Security
Service and specialist on "murder" and another KGB officer.  He
repeated it in various television interviews he gave in the
immediate years following the collapse of Communism in the USSR
and East Europe.  He would later change this in his memoirs
published in London, as we will see below.

General Golubev had a distinguished career abroad: he had been
assigned to New York in 1961; Washington, 1963-64; Cairo, 1967-
1969; and was one of those hundreds of KGB officers expelled en
masse from Great Britain in 1971.

Kalugin told Golubev: "We have an assignment, a job to do.  You
have to get in touch with the scientific division of the KGB
that will provide you with the necessary poisons and weapons.
We will give you instructions, and you then will go to Sofia to
help the Bulgarians."


At the KGB Center, Golubev visited the secret research
Laboratory No. 12, which was a part of the KGB Operational
Technical Support Directorate.  Laboratory No. 12 was referred
to in intelligence circles as the "Chamber," or "Kamera." KGB
General Viktor Chebrikov, Andropov's closest subordinate in the
KGB, was then the Director of the "Chamber." The "Chamber"
developed, among many technical devices, chemical substances
used to incapacitate political enemies and antidotes to these
substances, if Western intelligence agencies used them against
KGB agents.  For example, Laboratory No. 12 successfully
developed the "spray gun" and poison used to kill two Ukrainian
Nationalist anti-Soviet activists in Munich in the 1950s: Ivan
Rebet and Stefan Bandera.

Golubev received instructions in the "Chamber," and the next
week he flew to Sofia with Ivan Surov.  Surov's job was to give
the Bulgarian Intelligence Service practical instruction in the 
use of special poisons, which could not be traced after the 
victim's death.  Golubev and Surov discussed with the 
Bulgarians intelligence officers the various options of killing 
Markov.  They worked out one plan to use a poison that could be 
surreptitiously dissolved in tea, coffee, any liquid that 
Markov might drink.


In January 1978, the Radio Free Europe Security Office received
the first warnings that Markov would be killed.  Nikola Markov
called and said he had been warned in a very brief telephone
call that his brother would be killed.  He said the warning
came from a Politburo member and close political associate of
Zhivkov who opposed the order to kill Markov.  Nikola Markov
said he could not identify the informant because it would
endanger him.  The Politburo member told Nikola Markov that
additional information would come from a third party, a
Bulgarian emigre living in Western Europe.

Georgi Markov contacted the RFE Bulgarian Service Director and
said that a Bulgarian emigre named Popov (pseudonym) visited
his brother, a successful stamp dealer, in Italy and told him
that "the Bulgarian Intelligence Service had planned to kill
Georgi Markov in Munich in the middle of January." Georgi
dismissed this possibility as harassment, but he postponed his
visit to Munich.

Nikola Markov later said in a 1991 interview with RFE that
between January and the end of July 1978, the Politburo contact
repeatedly told him , "Georgi Markov's days are numbered."
Nikola passed along every warning to Georgi, whose reactions
changed from disbelief to defiance and finally to resignation.
Georgi Markov did not, at first, believe the Communists would
harm him.  Georgi had been a personal friend of state and
Communist Party Secretary Todor Zhivkov.  As time passed and
the warnings persistently continued, Nikola says his brother
became convinced that the Communists would not harm him because
it would create a "world scandal." Georgi Markov did not
exclude that the information, carried by Popov, to his brother
in Italy, intended to frighten him and discourage him from
publishing his planned book on Zhivkov.

Popov later told Nikola Markov that two Bulgarian agents had
been in Munich and attempted to learn full details of Georgi
Markov's trip: where he would live, sleep, eat, etc.  Popov
told Nikola he should not question him about his continuing
association with the Bulgarian Intelligence Service.  He should
simply accept this association as it was.  Popov advised Nikola
that the Bulgarian Intelligence Service had definitely
"planted" someone within Radio Free Europe and was fully
informed of all its activities.

In spring, Popov added another reason why Markov was being
targeted: the Bulgarian regime believed Georgi Markov was
implicated in the defection of veteran Bulgarian journalist
Vladimir Kostov in Paris in July 1977.  Kostov had been the
Bulgarian News Agency's Paris correspondent, and an experienced
intelligence officer.  He sought, and received, political
asylum for himself and his family -- more on Kostov below.


After a second postponement of his planned trip to Munich,
Georgi Markov arranged to fly to Munich in May 1978.  He
telephoned RFE on 10 May 1978, and said he would keep his
upcoming trip to Munich confidential.  He planned to arrive on
Friday, 19 May, and disclosed this to no one, except a few
trusted friends in Munich.  On Saturday, Markov intended to
visit RFE and another editor at RFE, who then was seriously ill
in a Munich hospital.  Then Markov intended to fly back to
London.  The RFE Security Office notified Munich police, and
other German authorities, of Markov's impending visit.  Munich
police decided not to interview Markov or provide protection,
since the threats were too vague.  Markov returned to London
after an uneventful trip.  Or, was it?

According to former KGB General Kalugin, an attempt to kill
Markov was made during one his trips to Munich in the spring
1978.  One Bulgarian agent was to put a poison pill in Markov's
drink in Munich during a party in his honor.  The plan failed
for reasons unknown.  The Bulgarians, and KGB, decided to try
something else.


Golubev returned to Sofia to work out a new plan to kill
Markov.  The KGB decided to use a camouflaged weapon.  A
folding umbrella was adapted with a firing mechanism and
silencer to shoot a small pellet at close range, one and a half
to two meters.  Golubev requested that the KGB Residency in
Washington purchase several US-manufactured umbrellas and send
them to the Center.  The "Chamber" then adapted the umbrella
tip to enable it to shoot the victim with a tiny metal pellet
containing ricin a highly-toxic poison derived from castor oil
seeds.  Reportedly, ricin is seventy times stronger than
cyanide, and one ounce of ricin could kill as many as 90,000

The KGB was not the only intelligence agency interested in
ricin as a toxic weapon.  In the 1970s, the CIA publicly
revealed that a U.S. Army team called the Special Operations
Division (SOD) at Fort Derrick, Maryland, developed biological
and chemical weapons for the CIA under a Top Secret project
that would last almost twenty years.  This project, MKNAOMI,
was practically unknown at the CIA due to the extreme
sensitivity of its mission.  Few written records were kept.
CIA personnel working at Fort Detrick used the cover of Special
Support Staff of the Department of Defense.

But a KGB agent at the Soviet embassy in Washington, both
Kalugin and Golubev, could have easily discovered that on 23
October 1962, the U.S. Patent Office granted patent 3,060,165
to four persons "as represented by the Secretary of the Army.
The patent was first filed 3 July 1952, Serial Number 297,142"
for the use of ricin as a biological weapon.  The strikingly
honest descriptive language used to apply for this U.S. patent,
in 1952, is very revealing: "Ricin is a protoplasmic poison
prepared from castor beans after the extraction of castor oil
therefrom.  It is most effective as a poison when injected
intravenously or inhaled, . . . a very fine particle size was
necessary so that the product might be used as a toxic weapon .
. ."

In addition to the development of lethal biotoxins, the SOD
developed special weapons, including concealed guns in fountain
pens, walking sticks, and umbrellas.  One adapted pistol 
developed by the SOD could fire a dart the size of a human hair
over two hundred yards at a target.  More on the significance 
of SOD operations below.

Golubev then took the converted umbrellas to Sofia to instruct
the assassin on how to use this weapon.  The pellet was
supposed to penetrate the clothing and be lodged in the upper
skin layer.  The selected Bulgarian agents first tried the
poison on a horse.  A dose of only one milligram was sufficient
to kill the horse.  After that success, the Bulgarians decided
to shoot a prisoner who had been condemned to death, simulating
"field conditions." A Bulgarian intelligence officer approached
the prisoner, and shot the poison pellet into the victim.  The
prisoner cried out in pain and fear with the shot.  To their
surprise several days later, he was still alive with no sign of
ill-health.  Why he didn't die was unclear.

The agents decided on another plan: kill Markov while he and
his family were vacationing on the beautiful Italian island
Sardinia.  Kalugin told me that he believed they wanted to put
some sort of poison on the car door handle, or on the walls of
a room where he was staying.  However, this plan also failed as
the agents during their surveillance of Markov realized that
Markov's wife or daughter might also be poisoned.  The
Bulgarian intelligence agents decided to postpone the operation
until they perfected the umbrella weapon.  As we will see, they
selected the perfect date.  Soon after this decision, the
Bulgarian Intelligence Service agents assigned to the British
Embassy intensified their surveillance of Markov.

Even though he was under death threats, Markov continued to
supply creative scripts to RFE.  On 3 July 1978, he
enthusiastically started a new series of Sunday night twenty
minute programs: "Markov Speaks." His first program in this
series was "The Mind Under House Arrest." These broadcasts
would continue throughout the summer.  One critic called the
program series "A miniature classic of the genre....describing
his reflections on listening to Radio Sofia broadcasting."

Markov last visited RFE in August 1978.  For the first time, he
admitted that about four months earlier he had received a
telephone call in London from a man who advised him to stop
writing for Radio Free Europe.  The anonymous caller had told
him that if he did not stop these programs, he would be killed.
The threatening calls continued sporadically.  When previously
threatened, Markov's response to the caller was to point out
that his assassination would only make him a martyr.  His
murder would confirm the truth of his broadcasts: his death
would demonstrate to the world the depth of corruption of the
Bulgarian regime.

He received the last threat just before he flew from London to
Munich.  This last threat was different from the others.
Because of the tone and emphasis in the voice on the phone, he
was deeply bothered this threat.  "Not this time," said
anonymous caller.  "This time you will not become a martyr.
You will simply die of natural causes.  You will be killed by a
poison that the West cannot detect nor treat." To ensure that
Markov fully understood, he repeated the murder threat.

After the phone call, Markov said he slept poorly.  In the
morning, he went to work at the BBC and told only his closest
colleagues about the new threat.  The brothers met at Heathrow,
and Nikola told Georgi again of the threat information .  This
time, according to Nikola, Georgi said he was fed up with
hearing about the murder plot and told Nikola to leave him
alone.  "If they want to kill me, they can do it." This was the
last time the brothers saw each other.  Then, as the days
passed and nothing happened, he became preoccupied with other
matters and pushed aside the threats.


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