As mentioned above, the universe of White Russian underground organizations was composed of three distinct, but closely related groups, and at the center was the ROVS, a veterans’ organization. Once its subversive activities were compromised by Operation Trust, they primarily focused on participating in foreign wars against communism.
Linked to the ROVS was a youth organization, the People’s Labor Union (Narodno-Trudovoi Soiuz, NTS), that specialized in intelligence and collaborated with the Polish secret services. Creation of NTSEarly Entities in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and France (1924)
The NTS’s origins came from the youth circles among young White émigrés in the early 1920s. The largest of these groups settled in the coal mines of Pernik, Bulgaria, where, in 1924, the Circle of Russian National Youth was founded, led by Wilhelm R. Schubert.⁶⁴ ⁶⁵
The Circle largely constituted young White army officers and cadets. In 1927, the idea that originated in Pernik had multiplied in several cities of Bulgaria and had transformed itself into the National Union of the Russian Youth (Natsional’nyi soiuz russkoi molodezhi, NSRM).
Around 1924, V. Lanine, a representative of the Supreme Monarchist Council (Vyshii Monarkhicheskii Sovet, VMS),⁶⁶
launched an appeal to the young emigrants living in Yugoslavia to establish a twin association to the NSRM in Bulgaria. Following the intervention of the VMS, a Russian National Youth Union (Soiuz Rousskoi Natsionalnoi Molodezhi, SRNM) was founded in 1924 in Belgrade. Victor Mikhailovich Baidalakov (1900–1967)
was elected president of the Yugoslavian SRNM in 1928, and retained his position until 1955.⁶⁷ ⁶⁸
The NSRM model was also emulated in France. Young Russians, who had left Bulgaria for France, founded the first groups of the NSRM on French territory in 1924 with Russian workers recruited in the industrial and mining centers.⁶⁹
On March 2, 1930, the French section of the Union of Russian National Youth⁷⁰
was officially founded in Paris under the presidency of Duke Sergei Nikolaevich of Leuchtenberg (1903–1966)
, the nephew of Georgii Leuchtenberg
, the financer of the Brotherhood of the Russian Truth (Bratstvo Russkoi Pravdy, BRP) and founder of the Banque Slave du Midi.⁷¹Fusion and Unification
In September 1929, the Bulgarian NSRM and the Yugoslavian SRNM decided to join together.⁷²
The official merger happened at the Congress in Belgrade from June 1–5, 1930. A new umbrella organization encompassing all local branches, the National Union of Russian Youth (Natsional’nyi Soiuz Russkoi Molodezhi, NSRM), was created and directed from Belgrade.⁷³
The organization underwent several subsequent name changes until in 1942 it became the National Labor Union (Narodno-Trudovoi Soiuz, NTS).⁷⁴
Going forward in this document, we will use the acronym NTS to refer to this organization, regardless of the name in use at the time.Leadership
From 1930 on, the leadership of the NTS was as follows⁷⁵
: first a council, composed of representatives of different sections, was headed by Sergei Leuchtenberg, who was also the head of the French section. The council elected an executive board, which directed the activity of the organization between sessions and was centered in Belgrade. The president of this executive board was Victor Baidalakov, and the secretary general was Mikhail Alexandrovich Georgievskii (1888–1950)
A further role, the head of underground activities in the USSR, was filled by Georgii Sergeevich Okolovich (1901–1980)
Since the second congress⁷⁸
in December 25–28, 1931, the central structures of the NTS were located in Belgrade because Yugoslavia had not recognized the Soviet Union. Belgrade gave the organization better protection than Yugoslavia could.⁷⁹
After 1931, new branches of the movement developed in other countries⁸⁰
, but it was in Belgrade, headquarters of the president, Victor Baidalakov
, that the movement’s work was most intense.
The statutes of the NTS were significantly changed by the third congress of 1934, where a more authoritarian structure was adopted: the president of the executive board, Baidalakov, also became the president of the Union, in the place of Sergei of Leuchtenberg
.⁸¹ Relationship with the ROVSThe ROVS Provided Organizational and Financial Support to the NTS
If the ROVS and the NTS cannot be considered as two sides of the same organization, they do, however, both come from the same pool of members of the former White Army, and the ROVS did provide organizational support to the NTS from an early stage. Indeed, the founding congress of June 1930 was notably held with the organizational support of the two main figures of the ROVS in Bulgaria: Claudius Alexandrovich Foss (1898–1991) and Alexandr Alexandrovich Browner (1890–?).
However, the official collaboration between the two organizations began two years later. In April 1932, the president of the NTS’s executive board, Baidalakov, wrote to the head of the ROVS, General Miller. Baidalakov explained that his union aimed at creating a corps of political agitators to continue the political struggle against the USSR. Therefore, he needed to equip its members with a clear set of political ideals, i.e., the NTS needed senior officers from the ROVS to help them with political and military training. Miller gave Baidalakov his approval, and set the stage for closer relations.⁸²
In addition to military training (notably Golovin’s military courses), the ROVS also provided material support through the use of its buildings, where NTS meetings were held.⁸³
The ROVS's also provided financial support for the NTS. The NTS wished to carry out “active work” against the Soviet Union and asked the ROVS for financial assistance. After the debacle of Kutepov’s involvement with the Trust, senior ROVS leaders endorsed the sending of NTS members, in place of ROVS members, into the USSR. As a result, Miller agreed in June 1933 to give the NTS 10,000 francs out of the Fund for the Salvation of the Homeland.⁸⁴
The money was used by the NTS to finance its trips across the border, and, in exchange, the ROVS benefited from the intelligence they brought back.Joint Enrollment
In 1933 and 1934, the collaboration between the NTS and the ROVS was very tight. Apart from material, organizational, and financial help, the ROVS also agreed to let the NTS recruit from its ranks. An important foundation of the ROVS was its Order n. 82, which forbade ROVS members from joining political organizations. This law was passed in 1923 by Wrangel to prevent ROVS members from being poached by members of the Supreme Monarchist Council (VMS), created by Nikolai Evgenievich Markov (a.k.a., Markov II) (1866–1945)
. The NTS is the only group with which the ROVS ever made an exception to this rule,⁸⁵
proving the extent of their collaboration at that time.
The head of the ROVS’s French department, General Shatilov, took this collaboration even further when on September 22, 1933, he published a circular in which he recommended that members of the ROVS join the NTS and, where there were no groups of the movement, “ensure all possible support for their creation”.⁸⁶
This resulted in a spectacular growth in the activity of the NTS in France.⁸⁷
Split Between the NTS and the ROVS: the Inner Line Affair However, even though the NTS was originally created with the help of the ROVS, and, despite their close collaboration in 1933 and 1934, eventually the NTS leaders decided to abandon the ROVS’s tutelage and go their own way. One of the ways in which this separation was formalized was to draw on the accusation of penetration by the Soviet secret service—which was easy enough after the Trust scandal of 1927—and to accuse the ROVS of being infiltrated, yet again, by the enemy. This was the background against which developed the Inner Line affair.
Allegedly, the Inner Line (Vnutrenniaia liniia)
was a counter-intelligence center controlled by the secretary of the ROVS’s Bulgarian Department, Claudius Foss.⁸⁸
Between 1929 and 1930, members of the Inner Line moved to France and began to create cells of the organization there, supervised by Nikolai Dmitrievich Zakrzhevskii (1899–?), and under the overall command of the head of the ROVS French Department, General Shatilov.⁸⁹
The immediate task of the Inner Line was counter-intelligence and collecting information on rival émigré organizations such as the Mladorossy. Soon, the Inner Line took on a life of its own, and members began working secretly to gain control from within the ROVS and the NTS.⁹⁰
The climax of the Inner Line’s efforts was a congress held in Paris from March 31 to April 3, 1934 Organzied by Shatilov, the congress included the NTS, the NORR (Natsional'naia Organizatsiia Russkikh Razvedchikov), the Cossack groups, and Larionov’s White Idea (Belaya Ideya). Shatilov’s secret goal was to establish control of the Inner Line over those groups by creating a permanent committee to unite and coordinate all of the groups’ activity. The NTS quickly realized this, thwarted the plan, and eventually split with the ROVS in October 1937 because of their fear and dislike of the Inner Line. Collaboration with Polish military intelligence
The NTS was an underground organization whose purpose was to send agents across the border to USSR to perform “revolutionary struggle,” i.e., subversion and terror. But another goal of these trips was to bring back intelligence from across enemy lines. This made them desirable to foreign intelligence services, notably the Polish military intelligence. Indeed, in the late 1930s the NTS actively collaborated with the 2nd Department of the Polish General Staff (Oddział II Sztabu Generalnego Wojska Polskiego, or Dwoika) responsible for military intelligence.Creation of a Training Center ("the School") (1937)
In 1937, Gueorgui Okolovich—head of underground activities of the NTS—organized a training center in Warsaw for the NTS members who would go on underground missions to the USSR. Code-named “the School," the training center was support by the 2nd Department of the Polish General Staff responsible for military intelligence and was aimed at preparing NTS members for the border crossing and the “revolutionary struggle.” Captain Jerzy Nezbrzycki (a.k.a. Richard Vraga) (1902–1968), Director of the Eastern Department of the 2nd Department, assisted Okolovich. The center also had support from two leaders of the NTS Polish section, Alexandr Emiliewich Würgler (1901–1943)
and Vladimir Vladimirovich Brandt (1891–1942).⁹¹
After 1939, the NTS’s underground network operated as follows: members were first sent to Berlin, where the connections within the Nazi government⁹²
allowed NTS leaders to oversee the travel. Members then transferred to Warsaw, where Okolovich’s center remained active throughout the war.
Alexander Würgler, one of the leaders of the NTS Polish section, was considered the brain of NTS activities in the occupied territories during the first three years of the war.⁹³
Indeed, in 1942, Würgler became the head of the 3rd Branch of Sonderstab “R” (Ruβland), a clandestine counterintelligence organization established within the Abwehr unit Walli under the leadership of Boris Alekseevich Smyslovskii (alias von Regenau) (1897–1988). The headquarters of Sonderstab “R” were based, like Okolovich’s NTS training center, in occupied Warsaw under the name “Gilsen Eastern Construction Firm.” Würgler hence became the liaison between the Abwehr and the NTS, and he was especially useful to the NTS cell in Gatchina, headed by Boris Fedorovich Glazunov (1895–1963) and Nikolai Nikolayevich Rutchenko (1916–2013).Creation of a Propaganda Center ("the Iceberg") (1938–39)
Captain Jerzy Nezbrzycki of the Polish military intelligence also helped the NTS get in contact with the military attaché of the Japanese embassy in Berlin, Colonel Saito.⁹⁴
With Saito’s help, the NTS created in mid-January 1938 a propaganda center in an isolated dacha near Berlin at Beethovenallee in Falkensee. The project had to remain secret, as the German Nazi government was very suspicious of the NTS’s activities and eventually shut down the German section of the NTS seven months later in August 1938 The center operated for almost two years under the code name “the Iceberg” (L'dina).
Among the members of the propaganda center were Alexandr Stepanovich Kazantsev (1908–1963)
, Boris Vitalievich Prianishnikoff⁹⁵
(1902–2002), and Sergei Anatolievich Zezin⁹⁶
(1909–1998), who was replaced in the spring of 1939 by Dmitry Vsevolodovich Luknitskii⁹⁷
In 1939, the Russian People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, NKVD) learned of the existence of the center, and the Soviet authorities pressured the German government—with which they had just signed the German-Soviet pact—to dismantle it.⁹⁹