The Archive of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989

A Catch-22 December 1989, Groundhog-Day Production. Presenting the Personal Research & Scholarship of Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

All the “Soviet tourists” where do they all come from?

(purely personal views, as always, based on over two decades of prior research and publications)



What do previous studies tell us about the Soviets sending in agents posing as “tourists” prior to or during a military action or invasion against another country?

Mark Kramer has detailed Soviet use of “tourist” cover in the following CWIHP Bulletin article (Fall 1993, “The Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia:  New Interpretations (Second of two parts),.  What is important to take away from this?  The Soviets posed as WESTERN tourists.  They did not pose as…”Soviet tourists”!!!



Indeed, what Larry Watts seems to miss in his exposition of claimed incidents of Soviet use of “tourist” cover in the context of planned/actual invasion is that in none of the examples do Soviet agents pose as…”Soviet tourists”…Why?  Because it is a relatively poor cover story that doesn’t give much deniability that they were Soviets.  If you are trying to conceal your Soviet links, you would most likely pose as some kind of other tourist, not as a Soviet tourist…


The practice of infiltrating paramilitary and clandestine agents into countries for purposes of targeted violence, subversion, sabotage and terrorism is firmly embedded in Soviet security practice. The team of professional revolutionaries that Moscow sent into Hungary in November 1918 arrived under the cover of “humanitarian assistance,” in the guise of Red Cross “military surgeons and medical specialists” (as did a team sent to Poland in the same period.) Indeed, Soviet intelligence often used the Red Cross and “humanitarian missions” as façade for smuggling in agents, assassins, saboteurs, terrorists, etc. (R. W. Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution: Soviet Military Intelligence, 1918-1933 (1999): 50, 59)

The KGB, the Soviet military and the loyalist bloc member services all sent clandestine operatives under cover of “tourists” into Czechoslovakia in 1968. Different sorts of “tourists” fulfilled different missions. Some were responsible for the commando operations that established a bridgehead by taking over Ruzyne airport in Prague. Some provided reconnaissance of transportation and invasion routes. Some established clandestine command networks to takeover control of both the soon-to-arrive invasion forces as well as the Czechoslovak armed forces. Some provoked opposition members and demonstrators into actions that could be used to justify the invasion. And some simply gathered intelligence on the unfolding events and their various players. (See L. Grigorescu and C. Moraru, “Trupe în Aproprierea Frontieri şi Turişti în Interior” [Troops Near the Frontier and Tourists Inside], Magazin istoric 32, no. 7 (1998): 29; M. Retegan, In the Shadow of the Prague Spring (2000): 93-100; C. Troncota, Duplicitării [The Duplicitous] (2004): 178, 181)

In 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the provocateurs and intelligence gatherers from the KGB’s PROGRESS operation appeared as “tourists” and “journalists” from West Germany, Austria, England, Switzerland, Lebanon and even Mexico. Meanwhile, the Soviets claimed that Western agents disguised as “tourists” were flooding into the country. (V. Mitrokhin and C. Andrew, Sword and Shield (2000): 251-257, 334; O. Kalugin, The First Directorate (1994), p. 107)

In 1968 Romania also experienced an unusual influx of Soviet bloc “tourists,” mostly coming in over the Bulgarian border – Bulgaria being the least threatening of Romania’s Warsaw Pact neighbors. These “Bulgarians” gathered around stores in the immediate vicinity of the Romanian Ministry Defense, which was subsequently relocated. (Retegan, In the Shadow of the Prague Spring (2000): 93-100)

This was the first time local security organs noted the peculiar urge of young men of military service age, with correspondingly short hair cuts and high standards of fitness, to visit Romania during crisis. Former Warsaw Pact Chief of Staff General A. Gribkov described the Romanian reaction in his 1998 memoires:

“The Romanians were concerned they would share the fate of Czechoslovakia. So they adopted a doctrine of “defense of the entire people.” Gradually and secretly they redeployed their troops. The best-equipped and most combat capable divisions were deployed close to the Soviet border and to the Iron Gates [on the Yugoslav frontier], and close to the border with Bulgaria. Later the Hungarian front was strengthened. They deployed anti-aircraft batteries with combat charges, at all airports, including the capital, for destruction of aircraft and airborne troops. The Commander-in-Chief and Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Pact Armed Forces did not have the right to land at Romanian airports or to fly across its territory to Bulgaria without written permission from the Romanian authorities. When a [Soviet] aircraft approached Romania – it was as if it was about to be put under enemy fire.”

(A. I. Gribkov, Sud’ba varshavskogo dogovora: Vospominania, Dokumenty, fakty [Part of the Warsaw Pact: Recollections, Documents, Facts], (1998): 75-76)

The West German military attaché warned that if the Soviets could not force Romania to host a military exercise in order to achieve “the permanent stationing of Soviet troops and also the replacement of several high officials of the party and state who in one way or another oppose the Soviet line” then “the contingency plan of the Soviet leadership provided for instigation of diversions among population and the establishment of pro-Soviet factions to oppose the measures taken by the Romanian government, both domestically and in foreign policy.” (M. Ionescu and D. Deletant, Romania and the Warsaw Pact: 1955-1989 (2004): 86,

In 1980 and 1981 Soviet bloc “tourists” descended upon Poland. Apparently, their missions were very similar to that of the “tourists” visiting Czechoslovakia (and those involved in aborted missions in Romania) a dozen years earlier. General Gribkov later acknowledged not only that there was a “plan for the entry of allied troops into Poland,” but also that “there was even a reconnaissance of routes of movement and of regions of concentration of troops, in which Polish representatives took an active part.” As part of this plan the “SOYUZ” exercise was mounted and continued for two-months, and the staff headquarters of the Warsaw Pact was relocated from Moscow to Legnica, Poland. (Gribkov (1998): 144-146)

The CIA’s principal asset on the Polish General Staff, Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, likewise reported that the loyalist Soviet bloc members sent officers into Poland “dressed in civilian clothing” to undertake “reconnaissance of invasion routes as well as the distances and terrain for future operations.” ( Czechoslovak intelligence archives confirm that, in 1980/1981, “several hundred agents” of the Czechoslovak state security “volunteered to go to Poland” as part of a Soviet-planned invasion. That group stood down only after martial law was implemented. (Mladá Fronta Dnes (Prague), 21/12/2005.)

Between the Czechoslovak and Polish crises the USSR had invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. In the best of cases Kabul was an unlikely vacation destination and a sudden influx of “tourists” would have stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Thus, commando units were infiltrated in as aircraft maintenance and embassy staff personnel. (Gromyko-Andropov-Ustinov-Ponomarev Reports, 28/6/79 and 6/12/79 in Cold War International History Project Bulletin (CWIHP) 8-9 (1996): 152, 159,

Along with the periodic use of “tourist” and “humanitarian assistance” cover, the exertion of pressure on the borders of non-compliant partners by Moscow had a history of over 70 years before December 1989. Typically, Moscow coordinated reports of border incidents by other bloc members that set the target country in a negative light internationally and registered official complaints against the target country’s border closures. These techniques were applied towards Romania, Poland, Finland and the Baltic states in 1939-40, and again versus Yugoslavia in 1949-51.

As the CIA observed in the latter case, “the Soviet attack was carried on by Hungary and Albania and strongly supported by Bulgaria,” and “included troop concentrations and recurring incidents along the Albanian, Bulgarian and Hungarian borders with Yugoslavia, increased hostile Hungarian espionage activity,” open Bulgarian encouragement of “subversive activities” and sabotage within the country including “harassment by guerilla forays, particularly in Yugoslav Macedonia,” and the “tightening of the economic blockade.” The loyalist bloc members coordinated their propaganda “to undermine Tito’s internal and world position,” giving “considerable play to charges that the other side is suppressing various national minorities and denying their rights.” (CFM Meeting 24/6/49, Tito-Kremlin Conflict 2/9/49 and Propaganda Directed To or About Yugoslavia 1/9/50,

There are also several examples of Soviet bloc “tourism” in which the suspicious sightseers took no apparent operational actions. For example, Czechoslovak “tourists” in Poland under Gomulka in 1956, “Bulgarian tourists” in Romania in 1968, and East German “tourists” in Romania (in and around Brasov) in 1987.

None of this proves anything about December 1989. However, it does prove that the concept of Soviet “tourists” was neither an absurd “fairy tale” [likely an indirect reference to my publication from 2002 at , April 2002, Volume  4, Number  8 THE SECURITATE ROOTS OF A MODERN ROMANIAN FAIRY TALE: THE PRESS, THE FORMER SECURITATE, AND THE HISTORIOGRAPHY OF DECEMBER 1989 By Richard Andrew Hall, Part 2: ‘Tourists Are Terrorists and Terrorists are Tourists with Guns…’ *)   nor a fantastic “myth” invented by Ceausescu. The insertion of Soviet intelligence and military personnel in the guise of “tourists” was eminently plausible precisely because Moscow had done it many times before. The Soviets had even done it before in Romania. By 1989 the precedent of Soviet “tourism” for ulterior purposes was well established.

Why then, in December 1989, in Romania, are we to believe, that the Soviets would have abandoned precedent and posed as…”Soviet tourists”…driving around in Soviet automobiles (more easily identifiable in Romania than other Soviet bloc states because of the domestic production of and dominance of the market by Dacia vehicles) with Soviet tags/license plates, and apparently carrying Soviet passports?  Doesn’t sound particularly intelligent, does it?  Instead, such things would draw attention to you and would mint you as…Soviets!

So the question is then–and where the quotation marks are placed is important–who were the so-called “Soviet tourists”?

(to be continued)

One Response to “All the “Soviet tourists” where do they all come from?”

  1. […] All the “Soviet tourists” where do they all come from? […]

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