Latvia opens up its KGB files and names 4,000+ "informants," many of whom claim they were framed

When Latvia attained independence in 1991, the retreating KGB left behind two sacks and two briefcases containing indexed records of the secret informants who had been paid to turn in their neighbors for offenses including anti-Kremlin activism and watching pornography.

After decades of deliberation, the Latvian Parliament voted to release the contents of the bags, naming 4,141 KGB informants, many of whom are still alive, and vigorously deny any involvement with the KGB; also named in the release is at least one journalist who was killed by Soviet forces while sympathetically covering the pro-independence movement.

The people who say they were falsely accused offer different theories to explain how their names came to be in the files: some say that they were added to KGB operatives' rosters of informants as part of the operatives' campaigns to impress their bosses and/or line their pockets with payouts for informants who were not, in fact, working for them. Others say it was a false flag planted by the KGB as they left Latvia, a way to slowly poison the independent state by sowing internal discord.

"It is impossible that the K.G.B. would leave behind a real list of agents in what it considered enemy territory," Mr. Tjarve said. The files, he said, must have been doctored and deliberately left as a "special gift" to Latvia, now a member of NATO, as part of a "disinformation operation" by retreating Soviet officers.

Latvians found "in the bags," the term of art for people who have turned up in the files, include a two-time former prime minister, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, a onetime foreign minister, leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, three post-independence rectors of the University of Latvia, celebrated filmmakers and assorted television stars and writers. Some names leaked years ago or appeared in a Latvian documentary, "Lustrum," released late last year.

But the publication of the full list has still caused dismay.

4,141 Latvians Were Just Outed as K.G.B. Informants [Andrew Higgins/New York Times]

(via The Grugq)

(Image: The Latvian Institute)