The European Epoch Times reporter Milan Kajínek in front of the New York museum. (Keng Onn Wong/The Epoch Times)
The European Epoch Times reporter Milan Kajínek in front of the New York museum. (Keng Onn Wong/The Epoch Times)

A European reporter in a New York museum and an untold history...

On 14th Street in Manhattan, I entered the KGB Spy Museum which displays gadgets from the secret Soviet security agency. I visited this museum during my trip to New York, and and I want to remind an important story in the background, which this museum doesn’t tell.

When I went inside, a kind guide with a strong Russian accent, introduced me to “the largest collection of KGB equipment in the world”. He enthusiastically spoke about secret cameras, audio recorders and hidden microphones. The museum displays a total of 3,500 “exhibits”.

In reality, those are all devices used during the Cold war and Soviet Union era in Europe. As an inhabitant of central Europe, I am fully aware of how many lives were lost in the communist era and how many people were murdered in times of peace in the name of the Soviet “communist revolution”.

Inside the museum, I met a young student - Wayatt Kent - from Colorado. He still had a positive outlook on communist theory. “I took a couple courses on it (communism), but still don’t know much about it,” Wayatt said. “I heard about the museum and I was excited to come here and learn more about it.”

A large part of what the Soviet KGB engaged in was subversion, not romanticized James Bond spying stuff. It is part of it, but the majority of what it did was subversion. (Milan Kajínek/Epoch Times)
“Do you know how many people died of unnatural causes during the communist era in the Soviet Union?” I asked him, confused by his enthusiasm.

“Oh my goodness I don’t,” Wayatt said.

His teachers hadn’t spoken about that, instead leaving him with a very positive impression of communism. “Communism is very appealing but in the world where we live, with the struggle for power, there is a lot of work we must do before it (communism) will work effectively, or work great,” Wayet said.

One of the visitors inside the museum was the young student Wayatt Kent from Colorado. (Milan Kajínek/Epoch Times)

“I think that this gallery exhibition is incredible and it’s very important for us to remember the history,” he added, as I started to feel a bit uptight.

In Europe, we know that hundreds of thousands of people in the Soviet Union were thrown into concentration camps called “gulags”, where they were beaten, frozen and tortured in the name of communism.

According to the “The Black Book of Communism”, communism killed about 100 million people. Think about that. After I shared with him our experience with communism in Central and Eastern Europe, he said, “Well, it’s also good to remember the lives that have been lost as well.”

Joshua Philipp, senior editor from the New York Epoch Time’s office. (Epoch Times)
As a citizen of the former Czechoslovakia, such an attitude towards communism in the United States surprised me. So I asked my colleague, Joshua Phillip, from the New York Epoch Time’s office, how people in the USA viewed communism.

“There is an unfortunate phenomenon in today’s society, that the crimes of communism have not yet been fully faced by the world,” Joshua said. He is a senior investigative reporter and co-author of the program Declassified. And this museum is, according to him, probably part of that phenomenon.

“Communism is still painted in a positive light. It is shown as this romanticized idea. Not something that people want to face in practice. Not something which people want to look at and say, this is what it actually does when you employ it,” explained Joshua.

Former KGB spy Yuri Bezmenov. (Public domain)
Joshua’s comments reminded me of the testimony of former KGB spy Yuri Bezmenov. As Bezmenov said in 1984, spying and eavesdropping was only a small part of the KGB activity (about 15%). Bezmenov emigrated to Canada in 1970 and later on revealed the KGB's procedures in disrupting foreign countries. According to him, a large part of what the Soviet KGB engaged in was subversion. About 85%.

Joshua and I came to the same conclusion. “It was not that romanticized James Bond type stuff. It wasn’t what we think of when we go to places like this and see, you know, these spy gadgets. That’s part of it, of course. But the majority of what it did was subversion,” said Joshua, and I agree.

Subversion means secretly supporting specific movements which are in conflict with the government, society or the moral perception of society. The goal is to make people fight against each other and undermine the functioning and stability of the state and society. Then, in the chaos and crisis, the state is taken over by the people supported by the KGB.

When the country is taken over, the phase that the KGB called “normalization” starts, explained Bezmenov. We can see this in history. It means that all movements supported by the KGB for the purpose of subversion will be removed and all the leaders of the movements that helped organize a coup in the country will be killed or imprisoned. This is because the task has been fulfilled and the designated country has been taken over. From then on, the KGB doesn’t want anyone to put up obstacles or dismantle the efforts of the new rulers - the communist party.

Bezmenov mentioned the process of “normalization” in the former Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the armies of the Warsaw Pact entered the country and annexed it. From then on, this country was a part of the Soviet Union. Other sad examples can be found in Nicaragua where all Leninist Marxists were put into prison, in Grenada where the Marxist Maurice Bishop was executed, in Bangladesh where the very pro-soviet leftist Mujibur Rahman was assassinated by his own Marxist Leninist military comrades, during the phase of normalization and so on.

“That is a small picture of the crimes these regimes have commited. And it is unfortunate that they are not shown properly when you have museums like this,” remarked Joshua.

The museum does not talk about the victims of the KGB and communism, it only promotes the gadgets of the KGB agents and creates the impression that they are something "awesome" or "technically interesting" - but that’s not enough… (Milan Kajínek/Epoch Times)

Historical lesson

The last question is what happens when society doesn’t learn from history?

This museum presents a false image of communism to the public. It may even encourage young people to become part of some “spy adventure” under the “KGB” brand.

The current leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is a former KGB agent. According to him, he joined the KGB after seeing the Soviet spy film Dead Season (1968) starring Donatas Banionis.

Furthermore, looking back in history, Nazi Germany killed approximately 25 million victims. But its methods of mass extermination were adopted from the Soviet Union and its system of Gulags.

According to the former Soviet military intelligence officer and popular historian Viktor Suvorov, Hitler sent Gestapo officers to Russia to tour and study the experiences accumulated by the Soviets in building the gulag system.

Leaving out the historical context, touring the museum may be quite the adventure. The eminent Greek historian Plutarch held the opinion, that history is supposed to bring us lessons. Without that, it fails to be interesting or useful.

Another philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”