MOSCOW — Legendary Soviet secret agent of Armenian descent Gevorg Vardanyan has passed away at the age of 87 in a Moscow hospital on Tuesday
Vardanyan, who is said to have died of cancer, is the first Soviet spy who was honored as Soviet Union hero during his lifetime.
Born in southern Russia to an ethnic Armenian family, Vartanyan for decades worked as an undercover agent for the Soviet KGB in different countries and Iran in particular. He is best known for his reportedly major role in ensuring security at the historic 1943 conference in Tehran which prevented a Nazi Germany plot to assassinate Josef Stalin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill
Working under the codename Amir, Vartanyan led a spy group which is believed to have exposed hundreds of agents working for Nazi Germany’s intelligence in Iran.
According to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Vartanyan also infiltrated in 1942 a British spy school in Tehran that allegedly trained agents for undercover operations in the Soviet Union. He continued to operate for the Soviet intelligence abroad, in tandem with his wife Gohar, after World War II.
Vardanyan’s name is mentioned in the list of best 100 spies worldwide.
He is also known for his Italian missions that he completed together with his wife Gohar Vardanyan.
His name was decrypted in 2000.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered his condolences to Vartanyan’s family, describing him as a “true patriot of his country” who took part in “brilliant intelligence operations.”
President Serzh Sarkisian sent a similar letter from Yerevan. It referred to the deceased spymaster as a “worthy son of the Armenian nation.” “I maintain the warmest recollections of my meetings and conversations with Gevork Vartanyan,” he wrote.
Sarkisian, who headed the Armenian successor to the KGB in the late 1990s, also declared that Vartanyan “stood by independent Armenia” during the Nagorno-Karabakh war and helped to strengthen its intelligence service “with advice and assistance.”
Vartanyan received an Armenian state award, the Order of Honor, from Sarkisian in 2009. Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) honored him with a medal in 2004.