Oleg Gordievsky was a KGB agent during the cold war who, appalled by what he could see was happening under Communism, defected to Britain after a long time as a double agent.
He was born in Moscow in 1938, and became a diplomat, speaking excellent German. As a result, he was posted to East Berlin in August 1961. He had already become disillusioned with Communist teachings, having been brought up hearing every day how new 'Enemies of the People' had been removed, who up until that day had been upstanding, respectable citizens. It was in East Berlin, however, that he first saw the terror inspired by Communism. He saw the citizens of the German Democratic Republic fleeing westwards and later said, "It was as if the whole of the GDR was sitting on its suitcases." This wasn't to last as, a few days after his arrival, the Berlin Wall was set up. Watching people flee across the border in desperation convinced him of Communism's flaws. He had believed it had gotten better since Stalin's death. Perhaps, but clearly not enough.
By the time of his visit to Germany, he was already connected to the KGB thanks to his brother, who was already an agent. He was working both for the KGB and for the diplomatic service. On his return to Moscow he was driven to School 101, a KGB training camp 50km north of the city. Here he learnt fieldcraft and anti-surveillance techniques. He also discovered that this was all secondary to recruiting active agents and, more commonly confidential contacts who were useful to the KGB, often unwittingly.
He became an illegal in Copenhagen. An illegal is not declared to that country's government. Here he saw the benefits of western democracy. Here he also first contacted the British. He had been finally convinced of the wrongness of soviet philosophy when Russian troops and tanks moved into Czechoslovakia, a soviet republic and fired on soviet citizens in the infamous invasion of August 1968. He gave the British much information, both in Copenhagen and, later, London, where he was next posted.
He always believed his greatest service to the West was revealing the paranoia bred by the communist system, particularly in the KGB itself. The KGB always believed everything was bugged and simply did not understand how western civilisation worked. The bureaucracy was unbelievable, and most of what was reported was complete garbage, aimed at increasing the reputation of the one who had filed it.
In 1985 he was summoned back to Moscow, ostensibly to receive his posting as head of the London Consulate. In fact, he had been betrayed by a double-agent pretending to work for MI6, the British Intelligence service. He was drugged and interrogated but apparently revealed nothing. He was forced to use his emergency escape plan and was smuggled out by British Agents in the back of a car.
He spent a long time trying to bargain for the release of his family, including his wife, whom he had never told about his work for the British and, finally, with the help of President Ronald Reagan he got it. He was only to find that his wife had turned the tables on him. She had never forgiven him for not telling her, and had simply pretended to still be in love with him to get her and the children out of Russia!
Oleg now lives in London and has written two books: KGB: The Inside Story and Next Stop Execution: The Autobiography of Oleg Gordievsky, in which he reveals many the Soviet Union sought to 'cultivate', including Michael Foot, Prime Ministerial candidate, and many trade union leaders.