24 November - Life of agents; The KGB and the religious underground in Soviet Ukraine

School of History, UCC

Dr Tatiana Vagramenko (UCC)

Thursday 24 November 2022, 16.00, Teams

The paper will be delivered through MS Teams. Links can be obtained from Dr Jérôme aan de Wiel, School of History, UCC, j.aandewiel@ucc.ie Or see link below.


Paper “The agent network is the main weapon of the Soviet security organs”, repeated the KGB documentation throughout the years of its existence. By 1951, there were over 200.000 secret agents in the Ukrainian socialist republic only (4 percent of population of Ukraine). They penetrated every corner of Soviet society, every Soviet enterprise, and every group that seemed suspicious. But most affected, by secret police surveillance and agent infiltration, was the religious life of the Soviet citizen. There was not a single religious group that was not targeted by the secret police or infiltrated by its agents.

Drawing on the recently opened KGB archives in Ukraine, Tatiana Vagramenko will reconstruct the stories of KGB agents working in the religious underground, with a particular focus on the Jehovah’s Witnesses known as the most radical and nonconformist believers. A secret covert operation aimed to infiltrate the Jehovah’s Witness underground organization in Ukraine and to use it as a secret channel in Soviet foreign counterintelligence. There were unexpected side-effects of the operation. Dr Tatiana Vagramenko is Senior Postdoctoral Researcher at University College Cork and Principal Investigator in the SFI-IRC Pathway-funded project “History Declassified: The KGB and the Religious Underground in Soviet Ukraine”.

She has held postdoctoral appointments at University of Barcelona, Friedrich Schiller University, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Maynooth University in 2014. Vagramenko’s research is focused on the history and memory of state repression and cultural opposition in Soviet Ukraine, based on in-depth reconsideration of recently opened Soviet-era secret police (former KGB) archives in Ukraine.

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

Coláiste na nEalaíon, an Léinn Cheiltigh agus na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta

College Office, Room G31 ,Ground Floor, Block B, O'Rahilly Building, UCC