A collection of thousands of artifacts documenting the rise of the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB translated in English as the Committee for State Security), the Soviet Union’s intelligence agency and secret police, is set to be auctioned on 13 February 2021, at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills and online simultaneously.
The 57-year-old Lithuanian collector Julius Urbaitis and his daughter Agne Urbaityte invested years in collecting the relics of the Soviet Union’s intelligence agency in order to open a museum in Downtown Manhattan.
The memorabilia of Cold War relics opened two years ago is now a dashed dream with the father-duo daughter forced to closing down the museum permanently because pandemic has made it unsustainable to operate.
Among various spy equipment is the gun masquerading as a tube of lipstick, a purse containing a hidden camera and shutter for taking photos while undetected and a Bulgarian umbrella with a needle on top.
The weapon umbrella shoots a needle that goes out and shoots a small shot of ricin poison, the harshest poison in the world, even now. Many suspect that Bulgarian dissident author Georgi Markov was killed with a similar weapon on Waterloo Bridge in 1978, Agne Urbaityte tells The New York Times.
The museum also includes exhibits like a model of a chair used for interrogations, a re-creation of an officer’s workspace, and original artifacts, like the doors from a K.G.B. prison.
Some of the exhibits were used by Soviet intelligence agents for surveillance by embedding recording devices in rings, cufflinks and dishes to hiding cameras in belt buckles.
However, the highest estimates in the auction are anticipated for a Soviet Fialka code cipher machine, which is capable of producing around 590 quadrillion possible combinations and looks like a Soviet typewriter.
“The KGB Espionage Museum’s collection of Cold War-era items is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world,” Martin Nolan, the Executive Director of Julien’s Auctions, told Observer. He said the museum’s collection includes more than 300 lots estimated to fetch anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $12,000.
As many people are familiar with novel spy gear from television and movies, the auction is likely to attract a wide range of collectors from museum curators to historians to James Bond fans who would want to get in touch with the quirky strangeness of real spying items.
The latest report by Reuters has suggested that a group of Russian hackers accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election earlier this year targeted the email accounts of Democratic state parties in California and Indiana, and influential think tanks in Washington and New York.
The Reuters report says that attempted intrusions were carried out by a group often nicknamed “Fancy Bear”, controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency. Last week, the US Justice Department had charged six Russian intelligence officers in an extensive worldwide hacking campaign.
The New York Times had reported that officials are more worried about Russians interfering in the elections than Iran. “F.B.I. and Homeland Security officials also announced that Russia’s state hackers had targeted dozens of state and local governments and aviation networks starting in September,” the NYT report said.
While the reports of interference by Russian intelligence comprises of cyber attacks, the Cold War relics tell the historical tale and some of KGB’s state secrets.