Silencing Norway’s “political earthquake”

Yesterday we mentioned the Mitrokhin Archive in Britain, which contains 25,000 pages of information about high-profile Western figures who served as KGB spies and contacts during the Cold War. As we noted, some Western officials and journalists have examined these documents with an eye to uncovering the dark side of their own countries’ modern history; in Norway, however, the government and media – knowing that publicizing the facts would cause serious damage to that country’s powerful Labor Party – have essentially collaborated for years to keep a lid on those facts.

HAMAR 196310 Tidligere statsminister Einar Gerhardsen på valgkamp for Arbeiderpartiet foran kommunevalget.Her besøker han Hamar. Gerhardsen på talerstolen, taler og gestikulerer. Foto: Ivar Aaserud / Aktuell / Scanpix
Einar Gerhardsen

So things stood, more or less, until late December 2015, when Norway’s TV2 reported that it had commissioned Åsmund Egge, a professor emeritus at the University of Oslo, to look through the archive. Among the high-ranking Norwegians whose names turned up was Einar Gerhardsen (1897-1987), a Labor Party politician who served as Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, 1955 to 1963, and 1963 to 1965. It was Gerhardsen, fondly referred to as “Landsfaderen” (Father of the Nation), who oversaw the introduction of Norway’s postwar welfare state. According to the archive, he supplied confidential documents to the KGB, which gave him the code name “Jan.”

johansen
Johan Strand Johansen

Two of Gerhardsen’s cabinet members also worked for the Soviets, both of them as out-and-out KGB agents. One was Johan Strand Johansen, a Communist Party member who spent eight years (1945-49; 1954-57) in Parliament, served as Minister of Labor under Gerhardsen in 1945, moved to Moscow in 1957, and lived there until his death in 1970. The other KGB agent in the cabinet was economist Gunnar Bøe (1917-1989), a top academic and Labor Party member who from 1959 to 1962 served as Minister of Pay and Prices. Norwegian intelligence long suspected Bøe was a Kremlin operative, but wasn’t able to come up with enough evidence to arrest him.

førde
Einar Førde

Several more Norwegian politicians, journalists, and military officers who worked with the KGB were identified in Mitrokhin’s archive only by code names and thumbnail descriptions. Egge and TV2 have managed to figure out who some of them were, and to make educated guesses at others. One figure who’s been identified as a likely spy is Einar Førde (1943-2004), a Labor Party politician who was Minister of Education and Church Affairs from 1979 to 1981 and director-general of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) from 1989 to 2001. For several years, in other words, the education of children in Norway and then the dissemination of news throughout the country were under the direction of a KGB man.

In December 2015, Hans Rustad wrote at document.no that TV2’s revelations amounted to “a political earthquake.” They were so sensational, in fact, that – once again – most of the country’s mainstream media chose not to report on them at all.

More to come.

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