History, traditions

Life of Soviet intelligence officer Lev Manevich

The name of Lev Manevich who died in 1945, became known only 20 years later, on February  20, 1965 when he was honored as Hero of the Soviet Union.
At that time, the people who fought in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, who had not been timely awarded, were honored.

However, colonel Manevich was not in the combat with fascists, although he contributed much to Russia’s victory...

Manevich was born on August 20, 1898 in town Chausy of Gomel region. When a child, he was brought to Switzerland by his family. He studied in a technical school in Geneva, mastered three foreign languages and the realities of European life.

In 1916 Manevich returned in Russia and joined the Army as World War I was in progress. After the revolution, he joined the Red Army in 1918 to fight the White Army in the Caucasus and Siberia.

After the war Manevich graduated from the School of Staff Work for Commanders, and three years later, in August 1924 – from Military Academy. After that, was appointed fixed-post spy in Germany.

In 1928 he had a serious accident when he was studying at the courses in the Air Force Academy. During a flight in winter, something broke in the plane, and the plane fell down. Manevich was lucky that he fell down in the snow, and the local peasant dug the pilot out of the snow and brought him home.

In December 1929 Manevich was sent to Italy where fascists started coming to power, to work for Russian intelligence from there. When he told his wife about his new job, she lost her temper. “Either you stay here or take me and my daughter!”, she requested. “I am tired of waiting, I am tired of being afraid for you”.

The intelligence chiefs agreed with the idea of his bringing the family abroad. First, Manevich went abroad alone, and then came back to Moscow for his family. Manevich was “put” to Vienna and turned into agent Etien, there he was made a legitimate European, Albert Korner, a businessman who established a patent bureau. The invented occupation gave Manevich the opportunity to be aware of the perspective technology innovations and visit factories and plants. Aviation was the most important issue, he pretended to be a pilot-beginner which allowed him to contact pilots, technicians and other specialists, to visit aerodromes…

Several months later Etien came to Moscow for his family. His daughter Tatiana told me what happened then, “We were supposed to live in Vienna. My mother could not speak any foreign language, but had the passport of a citizen of Finland, and so our Russian did not look weird. The father was thoroughly preparing me for the new role”.

However, it is hardly possible to prepare a little girl to the new life for just several weeks...

“I attracted people’s attention when I exclaimed, “Oh, Daddy, look, their poured soup in bowls and dropped an egg in it”. Like my father, I liked to sing songs, and one day I was running along the corridor in a hotel in Berlin and was singing some song, and rushed into our room with words, “Hail, hail, Soviet country!” I still remember how the parents’ faces turned pale. The mother started reproaching me, but the father asked to leave me alone as I was just a child.

At last, Etien brought his wife and daughter to Vienna, they rent an apartment there. Etien spent several days with them and left to do his job. Meanwhile, his wife realized that counter-intelligence took an interest on her: she was kept an eye on the street, some people started coming to her place to ask about Mr. Corner. The lady was order to return to Moscow immediately.

The family left, and Etien continued his work in Italy. He was considered as a representative of a number of Austrian, German and Czech companies producing weapons. He had 9 agents, the court established. However, the court could hardly identify all Etien’s contacts.

The following document gives the idea of the results of Etien’s intelligence work, “Only in 1931-1932 the Milan agent sent 192 reports and documents on the plans of fascist leaders of Italy. The intelligence officers obtained the drawings of SK-30, SK-32 (fighter planes), Kaproini-80 aircraft, BЕС giant bomber, detailed drawings of air engines AZOR, А5-5, the documents on the technology and organizing foundry, drawings and descriptions of submarines, different kinds of arms and many other valuable technical documents”. According to the Intelligence Administration, up to 70 percent of the obtained documents were “valuable” and “extremely valuable”.

Etien constantly felt being under counter-intelligence scrutiny, and in a course of time he was seriously concerned about this... However, the Center asked to wait until the replacement wwas ready.

However, Manevich did not meet his successor: on October 3, 1932 he was arrested during the meeting with the agent recruited by the enemy’s counter-intelligence. The package with the classified documents was a heavy evidence, but “Corner” referred to his work as a patent engineer and called the offer to admit his Soviet citizenship a provocation...

Nevertheless, a special tribunal sentenced him to 16-year prison term. However, due to Manevich’s denial his ivolvement in intelligence, only two out of the nine agents who were on trial on his case, were admitted guilty and sentenced to 2-year-imprisonment each.

There were some articles about Etien that he allegedly collected important information with the help of the other prisoners working at armament plants, and passed this information to Moscow. This can hardly be true as Manevich spent most of his prison term in a one-man cell; and the workers at the assembly line could hardly possess important information.

The moral and civic heroic deed of Etien is his loyalty to the military oath and duty even after losing ties with Moscow, while he was aware that he would be freed should he admit that he was in intelligence.

On September 8, 1943 Italy surrendered, and German troops occupied it. Corner was sent by Germans to Mauthousen concentration camp. Then he was in Melke and Ebenzee concentration camps.

Ebenzee was took over by Soviet troops, and Manevich was freed after 13 years of imprisonment. He was liberated to die free, he died on May 11, 1945. His last words were, “Tell Moscow that I am Etien”.

...His daughter Tatiana remembers the several days in Vienna with her father as the happiest time in her life. She graduated from the Military Institute of foreign Languages. After that she worked in intelligence like her father did. In the end of the war Tatiana was translating into Russian Hitler’s plan “Barbarossa” found in the safe of Third Reich’s leaders and the inscriptions on the German military units flags thrown on the Red Square during the Victory Parade on June 24, 1945.

Alexander Bondarenko

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