Piotr Ivanovich Rachkovskij

Pyotr Rachkovsky.

Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky (Russian: Пётр Иванович Рачковский; 1853-1910) was chief of Okhrana, the secret service in Imperial Russia. He was based in Paris from March 1885 to November 1902.

Activities in 1880s-1890s

After the assassination of Alexander II of Russia in 1881, the reactionary oppression increased and various revolutionary factions operated in emigration or were hiding out. Rachkovsky's principal mission was to compromise Russia's growing revolutionary movement. The list of penetration agents hired by Rachkovsky included:

By personally winning the good will and cooperation of the services of host countries, Rachkovsky indirectly assisted his agents and crowned their efforts. For instance, when a penetration agent in Geneva had supplied the essential information about a gathering of terrorists there and external agents had located by surveillance their clandestine printshop and weapons store, Rachkovsky could call on Swiss security units to help destroy the underground and arrest the ringleaders. This happened in 1887; it was repeated in 1888, then again and again in other countries. His powers of persuasion were sufficient to recruit Lev Tikhomirov, one of the leading terrorists, when he had been softened by contrived exposure, and get him to write an anti-revolutionary book.

Rachkovsky's political action operations, often highly successful, were exclusively his personal effort. He devised some plans for using others, but in every major instance he was the sole operator. He befriended a Danish journalist, Jules Hansen, during his first visit to Paris in 1884. Besides being one of the bright lights of his profession, Hansen was a counsellor in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a friend of Minister Delcass�. He became the principal channel for promoting a friendly press for Russia in western Europe, and he made contacts for Rachkovsky with leading ministers and politicians, including even President Loubet. On the other hand, Rachkovsky also cultivated important personages in the imperial government and at court. In these activities he was, as revolutionary writers accused him of being, a manipulator behind the scenes preparing the ground for acceptance, both in Paris and at Petersburg, of the Franco-Russian alliance signed in 1893.

Rachkovsky devised and developed access to several other governments beside the French. The files contain copies of dispatches about an audience he had with Pope Leo XIII and a proposed exchange of diplomats between Russia and the Vatican with particular view to the unrest in Catholic Poland. Advisers to the Tsar in Petersburg turned down the proposal, but the idea of combatting the insurrectional campaign in Poland by using religious interests clearly illustrates Rachkovsky's high-level concept of political action.

Rachkovsky's major provocation operation was primarily in support of political action. In 1890 agent Landesen, having promoted among the revolutionaries in Paris an elaborate plot to kill the Tsar, arranged that after one underground meeting a large number of the terrorists would each have on their persons their weapons and written notes on the parts they were to play. The French police, tipped off through cutouts by Rachkovsky, arrested the entire group, and that summer they were tried and sentenced, Landesen in absentia. Rachkovsky thus scored a victory not only over the enemies of the state but against those in Saint Petersburg who had opposed the Franco-Russian alliance on the grounds that France was too soft on subversives. The stern police and court action proved to Petersburg that France too had a strong government capable of dealing with internal enemies.

Role in the creation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

These faction fights provide the backdrop to the infamous fraud The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Many historians maintain that it was Rachkovsky's agent in Paris, Matvei Golovinski, who in the early 1900s authored the first edition. The text presented the impending Russian Revolution of 1905 as a part of a powerful global Jewish conspiracy and fomented anti-Semitism to deflect public attention from Russia's growing social problems. Another Rachkovsky agent, Yuliana Glinka, is often cited as the person who brought the forgery from France to Russia.

Career after 1905

After the Revolution of 1905, martial law was introduced in Saint Petersburg. Rachkovsky was brought back to head the entire Okhrana, first as MVD Special Commissioner and then as the Deputy Director of Police.

Rachkovsky had the reputation of being an unrivalled master of intrigues and provocation. In 1902 he faked a letter by the leader of the Russian social democrats Georgy Plekhanov that accused Narodnaya Volya leaders of cooperation with the British Intelligence Service. This allowed the police to exploit mutual distrust and recriminations between the factions.

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