Vardø Etat and the Comintern Boys: Communist Insurgent Intelligence in Northern Scandinavia 1919–1921

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The Communist International (Comintern) had one of its earliest outposts in the small northern Norwegian border town of Vardø. In dealing with the raison d’etre of this so-called liaison point Vardø Etat the paper adopts anon-state actors’ intelligence perspective, by uncovering the secret communist activities and identities of the main actors involved in the transnational clandestine network and comparing its features with the characteristics of insurgent intelligence actors. The paper argues that the political aim of exporting the October Revolution to the rest of the world, together with a heritage of pre-revolutionary Bolshevik organizational practice and experience, contributed to forming the Vardø Etat’s use of internal security, counterintelligence, HUMINT and covert actions. Though, despite similarities to other insurgent groups the Vardø Etat was a hybrid, a state proxy, deeply entwined with the Soviet state and its intelligence agencies. Reckless militancy was downplayed as the Comintern took form in the period of 1919–1921 quickly evolving toward a more centralized apparatus staffed by professional cosmopolitan communists. In a longer perspective the Vardø Etat can be perceived as part of the first wave of many later waves of Marxist-Leninist insurgent groups around the world throughout the twentieth century and after.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe International Journal of Intelligence, Security, and Public Affairs
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)210-223
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventNeed to Know VIII: Access to Secrets. New sources and new interpretations of Intelligence - Norsk Luftfartsmuseum, Bodø, Norway
Duration: 29 Nov 201830 Nov 2018


ConferenceNeed to Know VIII
LocationNorsk Luftfartsmuseum

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