Gossip From a 1955 CIA Spy Report Of a Soviet Cocktail Party
By Nick Greene
On June 3rd, 1955, a goodbye party was held in Sweden. It was bittersweet, as these kinds of affairs always are, and folks drank and reminisced as usual. However, after everyone shared their goodbyes and adjös, this particular get-together became the subject of a classified CIA report.
You see, the soiree was thrown for a high-ranking Soviet official at the embassy in Stockholm. Major Vladimir Konobeev, an assistant to Russian Military and Air Attache Colonel Semen Iouchtchenko, was returning to Moscow, and a party for him was held in Colonel Iouchtchenko's apartment. Various foreign service employees were invited to toast Mr. Konobeev. Two American Air Force attaches were in attendance, and they dished all the gossip to the CIA. Not cool, guys. Can't a few people get together to say goodbye to a good bud without all the da-ra-ma?
The report, titled "Observations at a Russian Cocktail Party Where Western Service Attaches Were Guests," has since been declassified, and we obtained it through the Freedom of Information Act. The war may have been cold, but the gossip was hot.
There Was a Pretty Low Turnout For the Party. What's Up With That?
"Apparently all of the foreign service attaches assigned to Sweden were invited; however, not all attended. This may have been due to another party at the Norwegian Embassy."
Sounds Like Colonel Iouchtchenko Doesn't Know How To Let His Hair Down
"The host, Colonel Iouchtchenko, seemed to have full command of the situation. Several times a glance or a nod from him would cause other iron curtain members to move away from the person to whom they may have been speaking."
Who Are All These Unfamiliar Ladies?
"There were several other women present, presumably wives of the above officers, but their identity was not determined."
Konobeev was wearing WHAT?
"Major Konobeev was the only iron curtain attache in uniform."
Major Konobeev Has The Most Incredible Nickname
"On one occasion when Major Konobeev had moved away from his position in the receiving line, one of the Canadian service attaches approached him and stated, 'Cornbeef, how is it that you are wearing wings? I thought you were a soldier and not a flyer.' Major Konobeev seemed anxious to discontinue the conversation because he immediately moved back to his position in the receiving line with the comment that a soldier had to be able to do anything."
Cornbeef! How wonderful is that? Major Cornbeef! The Cornbeef-inator! Cornbeef on Rye, makin' copies...
The Interpreter Made a Fool Of Himself
"The interpreter...did not participate in the social gathering but appeared to be standing aside to assist when needed. He stated...that he was the Russian interpreter and could speak English and Swedish quite well. He had spoken only a few words when beckoned away by Colonel Iouchtchenko. He left immediately and excused himself somewhat embarrassed."
Sounds Like Cornbeef Didn't Approve Of People Getting Down On The Dance Floor
"A British Service attache, who knows Major Konobeev better than most, volunteered the following: Although he and the Dutch Service attache were invited to (and attended) this party, neither of their respective wives were invited. He felt that the reason, in the case of his wife, was that she had reminded Major Konobeev of his rudeness at the Service Attache Ball last May 12th; her reason for doing this was when Major Konobeev twice terminated her dancing by calling her Russian officer dancing partner away in the middle of the dance."
The Brits can always be counted on for some primo gossip.
Wait, Cornbeef Isn't Even His Real Name???
"The British believe...that Konobeev is still a full fledged member of the Red Air Force and a member of the MVD; also that Konobeev is not his real name."
Is Cornbeef Actually The Top Dog?
"A reliable Swedish source also volunteered the information that Konobeev was in the Red Air Force during World War II, but as a pilot; that he was shot down, received frost bite on his hands, that he is still in the Red Air Force in the MVD even though he declares he is in the Red Army. Also, that he is the Number One man in the Russian Embassy in Stockholm and that Konobeev is not his real name."
There's more to Cornbeef than meets the eye...
Even If His Name Isn't Cornbeef, He's Still a Great Guy
"Major Konobeev has been the most friendly of the Russian and Iron Curtain attaches. His knowledge of several languages, unobstructed conversations with other western attaches, and the fact that the Russian attache saw fit to have a farewell cocktail party for this individual, indicate that Major Konobeev is recognized in his own government, or at least in the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, as one of greater importance than perhaps his rank or title reveals."
We're gonna miss you, good buddy. Next time we're in Moscow, we'll be sure to give ol' Cornbeef a ring.