Former KGB agent recalls life with Stalin

November 15, 1997


Staff Writer

Waynesboro, Pa., might have seemed like an unlikely place for a former aide to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to land after World War II, but that's where Alexander Contract found himself in 1949.

He didn't stay there long, as he moved to places like Baltimore, New York, and he even had a brief stay in Hagerstown in the early 1960s. The FBI and its paranoid director, J. Edgar Hoover, did not want him to stay in one place and get too comfortable, Contract said.

"He was a miserable individual," he said of Hoover.

Contract, who is now 75 and lives in King of Prussia, Pa., returned to Hagerstown Saturday night to speak to the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, an organization that works to maintain a base of support among businesses for the National Guard and Reserve.


Wearing his green KGB dress uniform, garnished with numerous medals he earned during his service to his former country, he spoke about a remarkable life in which he has been a soldier, a spy, a lecturer, a seminary student and a U.S. citizen.

Born in the Ukraine, Contract was 18 when he entered the KGB - the Soviet secret police and intelligence agency - and reported directly to the future Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev.

He joined the army in 1941 and was wounded and decorated several times before landing a post at the Kremlin working for Stalin. Among Stalin's inner circle of assistants, spies, interpreters, bodyguards, food tasters and soldiers, Contract was the only Jew.

Contract describes his former boss as a sometimes-likable, sometimes-explosive person. He recalled sharing bottles of wine with Stalin and smoking fine Havana cigars that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would send as gifts.

But Stalin's aides were kept to a strict code of conduct that required absolute allegiance to Stalin, Contract said. Contract was required to wear three pistols, including one behind his neck.

Asked if he ever thought his life was in danger back then, Contract said, "Every time I woke up in the morning."

People often ask Contract if he could have killed Stalin, a move that might have changed the course of history.

"I could have killed him anytime I wanted to, but I would have been killed in two minutes," he said.

Contract was present at most of the high-level meetings that took place near the end of the war that mapped out the fate of much of the war. In the famous Potsdam conference photograph of Stalin, Churchill and President Harry S. Truman in 1945, Contract can be seen in the background.

Contract wrote a book about his experiences in a 1991 called "The Back Room: My Life with Krushchev and Stalin." He said several movie executives have expressed an interest in making the book into a film and he hopes to reach an agreement soon.

After the war Contract, who never joined the Communist Party, decided to defect. His family was killed in the Holocaust and he feared what would happen to him when Stalin would die and a new regime would take over.

"I figured if Stalin was going to die, I was going to get raked," Contract said.

Contract defected to the U.S. Embassy in Germany in 1946, but wasn't allowed to move to the United States until three years later. In the United States he became a dry cleaner, fell in love and was married and became a citizen in 1955.

He has no desire to return to Russia today, believing his life is still in danger for his defection.

"Do you want me to get shot?" he said.

Still, he travels abroad much and admits there is some risk in doing so.

"The FBI wants me to wear a bulletproof vest, but if I wear a bulletproof vest I couldn't get my jacket on," Contract said, laughing.

Contract has one warning for those who believe post-Communist Russia is much different than the former Soviet Union: "Don't believe it. It's not a new Russia. It's the same corrupt Russia ... it's more corrupt than before."

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