Journey To Kamera, The Laboratory Of Horrors Made In The USSR
From chemical weapons to terrible assasinations from the Cold War until today.
Little and nothing is known about the research into secret weapons of the Soviet Union even today. A veil of mystery, revealed to be impenetrable, continues to surround and protect (almost) everything that Soviet military scientists studied during the Cold War. Something of those decades shrouded in darkness finally came to light thanks to the Mitrokhin dossier, espionage operations and the testimonies of deserters. Like the story of the legendary Radu radiological super-weapon used against dissenters and critics to lead to cancer which would result in death within months after the exposure. Presumably developed by the Securitate and the KGB, but of which, apart from the story of Ion Mihai Pacepa, there is no other trace. And like the story of Kamera, the KGB’s poisonous potions laboratory.
The story of Kamera
Kamera, also known as Laboratory 1, was the research facility of the Soviet secret police. Presumably established in 1921, that is at the dawn of the Soviet epic, Kamera was initially led by a professor of medicine, Ignatii Kazakov, and was born with the aim of developing unconventional weapons, for the use and consumption of Soviet repression bodies, usable against opponents and rivals of the Kremlin. Supervision of the activities of Laboratory 1 would pass from Kazakov to Genrikh Yagoda by 1926, symbolizing its becoming unofficial laboratory of the secret police. Indeed, a few years later Yagoda would ascend to the leadership of the dreaded People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). And under the auspices of the NKVD, even after the Yagoda escape, Laboratory 1 remained for the entire interwar period. The United States learned of the secret site in 1947, the year of the death of an American spy, Isaiah Oggins, who was executed there by lethal injection of a curare mixture. Prelude to the dawning Cold War between the two superpowers. With the dissolution of the NKVD in 1946, Kamera’s administration would go from chief scientist to chief scientist before returning to a single entity. And starting from 1954, until the extinction of the Soviet Union, the KGB would be in charge of supervising and financing the research in the secret laboratory.
The experiments during the Cold War
The Cold War gave an extraordinary impetus to the research conducted in the cells of Kamera, also due to the influx of hundreds, if not thousands, of Nazi scientists captured by the Soviets during the Osoavikhim operation and taken to Moscow. The Soviets, like their US counterparts — Operation Paperclip — drew on the knowledge of Nazi colleagues to accelerate and elevate the quality of their research into cognitive, chemical, biological, radiological and space weapons. And Kamera, in this feverish context of research and development of new unconventional weapons, would have lived a golden age. Kamera’s laboratories became the place to experiment with all kinds of poisons, known and potential, such as curare, mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin. Objective: to create odorless and tasteless compounds — therefore easily administered to the unsuspecting victim — and, possibly, not detectable by autopsies. Human guinea pigs, forced against their will to participate in experiments, often with a predictable outcome: death.
The victims of Kamera
The list of excellent victims who died in the Kamera laboratories is quite long, as it goes from the 1920s to the 1980s, and because in addition to them, moreover, the deaths of those murdered opponents and rivals of the Kremlin should also be reported around the Federation (and the world) with the poisons developed there. The known victims of Kamera poisons include:
Nestor Lakoba, Abkhazian national hero, poisoned with an unknown substance in 1936;
Abram Slutskij, director of the INO, poisoned with hydrogen cyanide in 1938;
Nikolai Koltsov, one of the founding fathers of Soviet genetics, poisoned by the NKVD with an unknown potion in 1940;
Isaiah Oggins, executed in Kamera’s cells with a lethal dose of curare in 1947;
Teodoro Romža, archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, poisoned in 1947 in a hospital by an NKVD 007 disguised as a nun;
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, political dissident, who survived an attempted poisoning with ricin in 1971;
Georgi Markov, Bulgarian writer, poisoned in London by Sofia’s secret services with a lethal compound from Kamera in 1978. The story of the assassination was told by H. Keith Melton in The Ultimate Spy;
Hafizullah Amin, president of Afghanistan, for a series of fortuitous circumstances does not ingest the poisoned food introduced in his table by the KGB.
What happened to Kamera in the post-Cold War is a matter of debate: for some it has been definitively dismantled, for others it continues to operate and produce poisons. Which, moreover, never came out of the Moscow paraphernalia — Aleksandr Litvinenko and others teach. To the fearless the burden of discovering what is left of Kamera, among the most secret places on Earth.