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The Notorious Umbrella Assassination of Georgi Markov: The Chain Of Suspicion

Updated on February 13, 2009

Several Years Later After The Incident

A Confession or Confirmation after the Fact?

Two former top ranking KGB officers, and defectors themselves, Oleg Gordievsky and Oleg Kalugin, publicly admitted Soviet involvement in Georgi Markov's murder. The entire story was buried and Georgi's death was never actually confirmed in Bulgaria until after the arrest of Bulgarian Communist dictator Todor Zhivkovin 1989 after the fall of the Communism.

On March 1991, Bulgarian authorities had announced that the official files in the Georgi Markov case had been destroyed by former intelligence chief, General Vladimir Todorov. The former deputy Interior Minister, General Stoyan Savov admitted he had give the files to General Vladimir Todorov. Shortly after this, former chief of Bulgarian Foreign Intelligence Vasil Kotsev, who was identified as the person in charge of the Markov operation, died in questionable and mysterious automobile accident.

Writer and author Hristo Hristov won a 9 year legal battle to access to the former State Security files. The court ruling ordered the chief of the National Intelligence Service, Gen. Kircho Kirov, to grant Hristov access to the files related to the Georgi Markov case. Hristov has been quoted saying, "The legend of the "destroyed" files has been yet another tool used by the former State Security to obscure the truth and convince the public, both in Bulgaria and in Britain, that nothing remains in the archives and therefore they should be left untouched."

Hristov found the truth to be quite the contrary. As told by Hristov, "the Markov-related files as they stand in 2008 comprise over 100 volumes. While it is true that some critical documents have been "purged" (missing important information), after the fall of Communism and evidently as late as 1999, what remains indicates beyond reasonable doubt that the Bulgarian State Security commissioned a man to assassinate Georgi Markov in London in 1978 as part of a campaign to destroy, what state called "enemy émigrés." (political defectors)"

What was discovered were that almost all of the files pertaining to the year 1978 are missing and were probably destroyed. However, most files related to Agent Piccadilly aka Francesco Gulino before and after 1978, including payment receipts and meetings between Gulino and Bulgarian commanding officers, which were mainly held in Copenhagen; as well as Vienna, Malmö, and Lisbon and remained.

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence. Like in 1972 State Security and the KGB in Moscow approved a highly classified joint agreement. The KGB would supply Bulgaria with poisons that would be used for assassinations. There are records of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Darzhavna Sigurnost's (State Security) decision to "neutralise" political refugees, both in Bulgaria and in the West. It was all part of a comprehensive plan to silence dissidents and conduct "subversive operations" in the West. Believe it or not, this all happened just after the 1975 Helsinki agreements to which Bulgaria was apart of.

As for Georgi's Assassin, Francesco Gulino

Ultimately, whether Agent Piccadilly was the real murderer... That is for the courts to decide. Regardless all evidence files, that were open to Hristov, point to Francesco Gulino, as the prime suspect.

You know, for a small-time criminal and viewed as a dormant mole. Gullino was exceptionally well paid and treated. He underwent "special training" just prior to Markov's murder. He dined with Gen. Vasil Kotsev, the head of the First Main Department of State Security, the group that was in charge of special operations and "wet jobs"(assassinations).

General Vladimir Todorov

After being extradited from fleeing to Russia, presumably to avoid arrest in May 1991, even though it was claimed that he went to Russia for medical treatment. Vladimir Todorov returned to Bulgaria to face trial:

Gen. Vasil Kotsev, his Deputy General Vladimir Todorov, were alledgedly responsible for "hostile émigrés", and the Deputy Minister of the Interior, General Stoyan Savov, was responsible for intelligence operations.

Deputy General Todorov and General Savov were also involved in the destruction of Georgi Markov’s files in January, 1990. Agent Piccadilly’s files were also cleansed, and parts were destroyed by General Vladimir Todorov, in a flagrant violation of procedures.

On June 1992 Deputy General Vladimir Todorov was sentenced to 1 years and 4 month in jail for destroying ten volumes of material. He said later, "The 3.500 pages did not contain anything important, most of it was press clippings". He served 10 months of that sentence. General Vladimir Todorov was freed in February 1993.

Todorov would be the only one of these men to go to trial.

General Stoyan Savov

According to conversations the instructions for Gulino to murder Markov came from General Stoyan Savov, the deputy interior minister with special responsibility for state security.

In 1992, General Savov committed suicide two days before his sentence was to be read out. For the trial of his role in the part-destruction of Markov’s dossier in the archives. The deception by Savov led most investigators to conclude that the truth of the murder would never be known.

General Vasil Kotsev, Bulgaria's Top Master Spy

Bulgarian spy, Vasil Kotsev, who was widely believed to have been the operational commander of the plot, died in an unexplained car accident. That many have labeled "mysterious."


No other information could be found during research of Vasil Kostev

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Then President Ronald Reagan meeting with Oleg GordievskyNotice the corner of his mouth. How it droops. Gordievsky had been poisoned.
Then President Ronald Reagan meeting with Oleg Gordievsky
Then President Ronald Reagan meeting with Oleg Gordievsky
Notice the corner of his mouth. How it droops. Gordievsky had been poisoned.
Notice the corner of his mouth. How it droops. Gordievsky had been poisoned.

Colonel Oleg Gordievsky

The former Soviet colonel, double agent, who had spied on Russia for British intelligence at the height of the Cold War. Escaped to Britain in 1985, Colonel Oleg Gordievsky was one of the highest ranking defectors of the time.  He fears he is the latest victim of revenge attacks by Russian intelligence on high-profile defectors.

On November 2, 2007, Gordievsky was taken by ambulance from his secret safe- home in Surrey to a local hospital. He spent 34 hours unconscious. He is still partially paralysed. He claimed that he had been poisoned in an assassination attempt, saying he had taken tainted tablets of what he believed were Xanax. Which he had obtained with the assistance of an unnamed Russian. He said he took tablets on October 31. He has told sources that he was certain he had been targeted by what are the successors to the KGB.

We will be looking at Oleg Gordievsky more indepth at another time.

Former KGB Spy, Professor Oleg Kalugin, Discusses Cold War

Major General Oleg Kalugin

Former Chief of Foreign Counter Intelligence from the Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) General - Major Oleg Kalugin, in an exclusive interview on Darik radio made this statement, "Georgi Markov was assassinated according to orders coming directly from Todor Zhivkov. He asked his Russian friends for technical assistance. Consequently the Bulgarian Secret Services conducted the crime, however the Soviets provided some tools for its execution such as the poison,"

Kalugin further said, that the killing weapon had been a "small handgun attached to an umbrella." The General then continued to explained that the then Soviet State Leader Andropov had been hesitant and didn't want to participate. Andropov didn't want to get entangled in political assassinations. Andropov knew that the time of "silencing" political opposition without repercusions were of the past, and the world would not tolerate such inhuamnity.

According to Kalugin, the then Chief of Soviet intelligence Kruchkov, had been begging Andropov to change his mind, insisting that if the Soviets did not comply with the Bulgarian plea for help, this could anger Todor Zhivkov and lead to tensions between Bulgaria and the USSR. Andropov had to listen to this argument and finally did agree. "OK, but without our direct participation. Give them what they want, but without our participation," Andropov had said, according to General Kalugin.

When asked if he had any knowledge of the way the special poisons used to assassinate Markov were made and of a special KGB lab making them, Kalugin said that he had knowledge that there was and is such lab. "Today this lab is way more sophisticated and many people in Russia died from poisonings. I am speaking about the Russian political dissidents," Kalugin concluded, "The Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov remains one of the most famous murders in British history, According to the widespread, but still unconfirmed beliefs, the Bulgarian State Security Services assisted by the KGB made two unsuccessful attempts on his life until they finally assassinated him in 1978 by using the infamous "Bulgarian umbrella.".

According to Oleg Kalugin, he had never betrayed any Soviet agents, except those who have been already known to intelligence. He criticized defectors like Gordievsky as called them, "traitors."

Kalugin considers the tide in Russia's resent years, a return to the elements that are reminnscent of the KGB, most notably Vladimir Putin.Kalugin was again accused of treason.

In 1995 he accepted a teaching position in The Catholic University of America and has remained in the United States ever since.

Settling in Washington, D.C., he wrote a book about Cold War espionage entitled The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West and collaborated with former CIA Director William Colby and Activision to produce Spycraft: The Great Game, which was released in 1996. He has appeared frequently in the media and given lectures.

In 2002 he was put on trial in absentia in Moscow and found guilty of spying for the West. He was sentenced to fifteen years in jail, but the United States has refused to extradite him.

He had become a naturalized citizen of the United States on August 4, 2003.

Kalugin currently works for CI Centre, a counterintelligence consulting and training firm in the Washington, DC area. He is also an advisory director of the International Spy Museum.

He remains a critic of Vladimir Putin, whom he called a "war criminal."

'umbrella murder' thirty years later

Will The Questions Of The Markov Case Ever Be Answered?

The murder of Georgi Markov is a huge case spanning now over 30 years. The assassination has transformed, from being a criminal investigation into a political issue.

In the 1980s the Scotland Yard was very serious because it didn't like the idea of having Communist agents killing people in London. When Communism collapsed in Bulgaria the issue became political. A succession of presidents vowed to open up the files and establish the truth about Georgi Markov, but they didn't live up to their promises. Bulgaria's official position now is a British "medical mistake."

Things resently have changed. Since the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London. Which bares an obvious resemblance to the Markov case. We will be digging into the Litvinenko murder case as well, because of the story being so mirrored.

Scotland Yard has renewed its request for access to the Bulgarian Darzhavna sigurnost files. I don't believe know they will be granted access to the files, but if the files are given, I would believe that the whole story won't be there.

Writer and Author Hristo Hristov has expressed his thoughts on this. "By taking over the files the Bulgarian investigation will automatically declare them confidential, as they pertain to an ongoing investigation. That may mean that the files will be closed and possibly purged again."


Submit a Comment
  • St.James profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

    MistyHorizon2003! I hope your holiday was wonderful... I miss vacations

  • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

    Cindy Lawson 

    9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

    Great stuff as usual. I couldn't wait to get back from my holiday so I could read the next instalments :)

  • St.James profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

    One day everyone is handle accountable. Some may not like the answers.

  • Juliet Christie profile image

    Juliet Christie Murray 

    9 years ago from Sandy Bay Jamaica

    Very interesting it is too sad that no matter what we do good or bad one day we will have to give an account to some greater being.

  • Vladimir Uhri profile image

    Vladimir Uhri 

    9 years ago from HubPages, FB

    Excellent. Thank you.

  • quicksand profile image


    9 years ago

    Reminds me of other interesting tales of the KGB, and of defectors.

  • Cathy profile image


    9 years ago from Oregon, USA

    You realize what you've done with this article St. James???!!! Movie! I see movie!! You've created a movie treatment. Ha! Honestly, how long did it take you to research this and is this a passion of yours? Interesting subject...

  • sunshine86 profile image


    9 years ago

    excellent! mOre power to u!

  • Dink96 profile image


    9 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    Another riveting read in this series!  I look forward to reading more, especially the Litvinenko case.  Excellent research.

  • Julie-Ann Amos profile image

    Julie-Ann Amos 

    9 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

    I remember this - my boyfriend was in a band and they had a song called "Umbrella Attack"!

  • Laila Rajaratnam profile image

    Laila Rajaratnam 

    9 years ago from India

    Thanks for the chilling and informative hub! These political mafia are so very ruthless!


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