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Poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services, alternatively called as Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12, and Kamera which means "The Chamber" in Russian, was a covert poison research and development facility of the Soviet secret police agencies. [1][2][3][4]



  • 1921: First poison laboratory within the Soviet secret services was established under the name "Special Office". It was headed by professor of medicine Ignatii Kazakov, according to Pavel Sudoplatov. [5]
  • 1926: The laboratory was under the supervision of Genrikh Yagoda, a deputy of OGPU chairman Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, who became NKVD chief in 1934 after Menzhinsky's death.
  • February 20, 1939: It becomes Laboratory 1 headed by Grigory Mairanovsky. The laboratory was under the direct supervision of NKVD director Lavrenty Beria and his deputy Vsevolod Merkulov from 1939 to March 1953.
  • December 21, 1951: Grigory Mairanovsky arrested in connection with Viktor Abakumov's arrest, which was presumably a part of Stalin's campaign to remove NKVD chief, Lavrenty Beria.
  • March 14, 1953: It was renamed to Laboratory 12. V. Naumov is the newly appointed head. Lavrenty Beria and Vsevolod Merkulov were executed after Stalin's death. Immediate NKVD supervisor of the laboratory, Pavel Sudoplatov received long prison sentences.
  • 1978: Expanded into the Central Investigation Institute for Special Technology within the First Chief Directorate of the KGB
  • Currently: Several laboratories of the SVR, (headquartered in Yasenevo near Moscow), are responsible for the "creation of biological and toxin weapons for clandestine operations in the West" [6] [7]

Human experimentation

Mairanovsky and his colleagues tested a number of deadly poisons on prisoners from the Gulag ("enemies of the people"), including mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin and many others. The goal of the experiments was to find a tasteless, odourless chemical that could not be detected post mortem. Candidate poisons were given to the victims, with a meal or drink, as "medication"[5]

Finally, a preparation with the desired properties called C-2 was developed [5] According to witness testimonies, the victim changed physically, became shorter, weakened quickly, became calm and silent and died within fifteen minutes[5]. Mairanovsky brought to the laboratory people of varied physical condition and ages in order to have a more complete picture about the action of each poison.

"Sudoplatov and Eitingon approved special equipment [poisons] only if it had been tested on humans", according to testimony of Mikhail Filimonov[5]. Vsevolod Merkulov said that these experiments were approved by NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria.[5]. Beria himself testified on August 28, 1953, after his arrest that "I gave orders to Mairanovsky to conduct experiments on people sentenced to the highest measure of punishment, but it was not my idea" [5].

In addition to human experimentation, Mairanovsky personally executed people with poisons, under the supervision of Pavel Sudoplatov [5] [8]

Prominent victims

  • In 1978, dissident Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov was assassinated in London using a tiny pellet poisoned with ricin; the necessary equipment was prepared in this laboratory. [9] In a Discovery Channel television program about his illustrated book of espionage equipment called "The Ultimate Spy," espionage historian H. Keith Melton indicated that once the Bulgarian secret police had decided to kill Markhov, KGB specialists from the Laboratory gave the Bulgarians a choice between two KGB tools that could be provided for the task -- either a poisonous topical gelatin to be smeared on Markhov, or an instrument to administer a poison pellet, as was eventually done.
  • Attempted poisoning of the second President of Afghanistan Hafizullah Amin on December 13, 1979. Department 8 of KGB succeeded in infiltrating the illegal agent Mitalin Talybov (codenamed SABIR) as a chef of Amin's presidential palace. However, Amin switched his food and drink as if he expected to be poisoned, so his son-in-law became seriously ill, and ironically, was flown to a hospital in Moscow.[10]

Alleged Victims

  • Russian writer Maksim Gorky and his son. During the Trial of the Twenty One in 1938, NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda admitted that he poisoned to death Maksim Gorky and his son and unsuccessfully tried to poison future NKVD boss Nikolay Ezhov. The attempted poisoning of Ezhov was later officially dismissed as falsification, but Vyacheslav Molotov believed that the poisoning accusations were true. Yagoda was never officially rehabilitated (recognized as an innocent victim of political repressions) by Soviet authorities.[5]

Planned victims


When Vladimir Lenin asked Stalin to give him poison, he probably meant from this laboratory (known at this time as "Special office") [5]

See also


  1. ^ KGB Poison Factory: From Lenin to Litvinenko, RFE/RL, interview with Boris Volodarsky (Russian) - English version
  2. ^ The Russian Biological Weapons Program: Vanished or Disappeared? by Dany Shoham and Ze'ev Wolfson, Critical Reviews in Microbiology, Volume 30, Number 4, October-December 2004, pp. 241-261.
  3. ^ An Obscure Weapon of the Cold War Edges Into the Limelight, by Gretchen Vogel, Science, Vol. 302, pp. 222 - 223
  4. ^ Re-Evaluating Russia's Biological Weapons Policy, as Reflected in the Criminal Code and Official Admissions: Insubordination Leading to a President's Subordination] by Jan T. Knoph; Kristina S. Westerdahl. Critical Reviews in Microbiology, Volume 32, Issue 1 January 2006 , pages 1 - 13
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Vadim J. Birstein. The Perversion Of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science. Westview Press (2004) ISBN 0-813-34280-5.
  6. ^ Alexander Kouzminov Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West, Greenhill Books, 2006, ISBN 1-853-67646-2 [1].
  7. ^ a b The Laboratory 12 poison plot, by Martin Sixsmith, The Sunday Times, April 8, 2007
  8. ^ History of Soviet poisonings (Russian) by Boris Sokolov
  9. ^ a b Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000), ISBN 0-14-028487-7
  10. ^ Vasili Mitrokhin and Christopher Andrew, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, Basic Books (2005) hardcover, 677 pages ISBN 0-465-00311-7
  11. ^ Edvard Radzinsky Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives (1997) ISBN 0-385-47954-9
  12. ^ Svetlana Alliluyeva Twenty Letters To A Friend (autobiography, published 1967, London, written 1963) ISBN 0-06-010099-0
  13. ^ "Russian journalist reportedly poisoned en route to hostage negotiations". IFEX. 2004-09-03. Retrieved 2006-10-11. 
  14. ^ a b Ken Alibek and S. Handelman. Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World - Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran it. 1999. Delta (2000) ISBN 0-385-33496-6
  15. ^ Reburial for Georgia ex-president. The BBC News. Retrieved on April 1, 2007.


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