Spy Cameras of the KGB

Our talk for the June Meeting was given by David Tomlinson of the Photographic Club of Great Britain.
Considerable interest was provoked by many examples of working cameras which he demonstrated and laid out for all to see and handle. He also illustrated each on slides and was able to point out all the intricacies and developments.

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His interest stemmed from the 1960’s but went back to 1953 with the death of Stalin and the first Soviet H Bomb.The KGB started as the Cheka and evolved through various name changes to the FSB of today.He first tried to travel to Russia in the 60’s but had to search hard eventually lighting on a Sovscot tour starting from £68. The ship started from Tilbury and called at various Scandinavian ports dropping off passengers. Eventually it arrived at Leningrad (St. Petersberg) when the remaining 10 were met by their Inturist Guides (minders). At that stage the KGB employed upwards of 600,000staff in a multitude of roles. The country had no camera manufacturing facilities but Stalin was insistent in trying to make the Soviet Union self-sufficient, so would not allow imports. They had camps for youth offenders where the time was split 50/50 on education and work. (What a good idea!) The youths were set the task to copy the best foreign camera, the Leica which they did with considerable success. Examples of a Leica and it’s copy were shown.From there other adaptations were made e.g.mounting on a gun-stock which we were shown and many others including inside a book, an umbrella, a man-bag, handbag, a brief case and a tie-pin.Some took pictures forwards and some sideways.Another was developed to act as a hand-held photocopier for documents. This is also hidden in a book.

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There were even miniature cameras the aperture of which was through a button. All these adaptations were for surveillance at a distance or close up, to check on enemies, foreigners and citizens alike. To record compromising situations and honey traps.
Ken Taylor gave a vote of thanks complimenting David on his lucidity and the many examples he had brought. The session ended with questions and answers.

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