Dmitri Polyakov

Dmitri Polyakov
( Russian: Дмитрий Фёдорович Поляков)
Born (1921-07-06)6 July 1921
Ukrainian SSR
Died 15 March 1988(1988-03-15) (aged 66)
Cause of death Executed
Nationality Soviet
Alma mater Graduated from Artillery School in June 1941
Espionage activity
Allegiance United States United States
Service branch GRU
Service years 1951–1980
Rank Major general (1-star general)
Codename Bourbon

Dmitri Fyodorovich Polyakov (Russian: Дмитрий Фёдорович Поляков) (6 July 1921 – 15 March 1988[1]) was a Soviet Major General, a ranking GRU officer, and a prominent Cold War spy who revealed Soviet secrets to the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency. In the CIA, he was known by code names BOURBON and ROAM, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) knew him as TOPHAT (Top Hat).

Early life

Born in Soviet Ukraine in 1921, he graduated from Sumy Artillery School in June 1941 and served as an artillery officer during World War II and was decorated for bravery. After the war and his studies at Frunze Military Academy and GRU Training Courses, he joined Soviet Military Intelligence, the GRU. His first mission was with the Soviet delegation to the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations in New York from 1951–1956.

GRU officer and double agent

On his second assignment to New York, United States in 1959–1961, he approached FBI counterintelligence agents to offer his services as an informant. His follow-up overseas assignments included Rangoon, Burma (1965–1969) and New Delhi, India (1973–1976 and 1979–1980) where he was posted as Soviet Military Attaché. Some in the CIA feel that Polyakov became a mole because he was disgusted with the corruption of the Soviet Party elite.[1] Victor Cherkashin suggested that he was embittered because Soviet leadership denied him permission to take his seriously ill son, the eldest of three, to a hospital in New York where he could get adequate medical attention. This son died as a result of the illness and soon after, Polyakov began his informant activities.[2]

For 25 years, he remained a CIA informant as he rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a General. CIA officers speak in superlatives about the kind of information he provided. Sandy Grimes said of him, "Polyakov was our crown jewel,... the best source at least to my knowledge that American intelligence has ever had and I would submit, although I certainly can't be certain, but the best source that any intelligence service has ever had."[3] James Woolsey said of him, "Polyakov was the jewel in the crown."[1] CIA and FBI officials, including Deputy Director William Sullivan, believed that, at some point, Polyakov was turned by the Soviets and made into a triple agent who deceived the West with misinformation.[4][5]

Among the important information Polyakov provided:

  • Evidence of the growing rift between the Soviet Union and China. This information played a crucial role in President Richard Nixon's decision to open diplomatic relations with China in 1972.
  • Technical data on Soviet-made antitank missiles. While the US never fought the Soviet Union directly, knowledge of these weapons proved invaluable when Iraq employed them in the Gulf War.
  • Proof of spying done by Frank Bossard for the USSR.

Arrest and execution

Polyakov was arrested by the KGB in 1986, six years after his retirement from the GRU. His contacts at the CIA had no information about what might have happened to him. Only later, it became clear that he was betrayed by both Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames.[6] In 1988, Polyakov was sentenced to death for treason and was executed.


CIA officer Jeanne Vertefeuille said, "He didn’t do this for money. He insisted on staying in place to help us. It was a bad day for us when we lost him."[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Elaine Shannon (2001-06-24). "Death of The Perfect Spy". Time. Retrieved 2007-07-22.
  2. ^ Ann Blackman (2005-03-06). "Spooks, shadows, codes, and moles — Spy wars, from inside the KGB". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-07-22.
  3. ^ "INTERVIEW WITH SANDY GRIMES". The National Security Archive. CNN. 1998-01-30.
  4. ^ Fenton, Ben (4 October 2001). "FBI agent betrayed top spy". Daily Telegraph.
  5. ^ Rothstein, Hy; Whaley, Barton (2013). The Art and Science of Military Deception. Artech House. p. 541. ISBN 1608075516.
  6. ^ Bagley, Tennent H.Spymaster, Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief, Skyhorse Publishing Inc, New York, Delaware, 2013.