S2E11: The Gouzenko Affair

July 4, 2019


A family hiding in a neighbour’s apartment, a briefcase full of stolen documents, the exposure of a new enemy, and the start of an international incident.

After his workday ended on the evening of September 5th, 1945, cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko left his job at the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa carrying 109 classified Soviet documents. These documents proved that Russia was spying on its allies (the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada). In choosing to defect, Gouzenko risked the lives of both him and his family and his decision arguably sparked the beginning of the Cold War.

Guest host Nick Johnston joins us to explore the Gouzenko Affair and its broad impact not just on Gouzenko and his family, but on the larger postwar era.


A rare photograph of Igor Gouzenko, captured by Toronto Star photographer Bob Olson in 1975. Credit: Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Photo Archive, acc. tspa_0051087f.


Bothwell, Robert. Alliance and Illusion: Canada and the World, 1945-1984.” Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2007.

Crawford, Blair. “Fifteen Canadian Stories: Igor Gouzenko’s defection put Ottawa on the front line of the Cold War.” Ottawa Citizen. Accessed January 25 2019. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/fifteen-canadian-stories-igor-gouzenkos-defection-put-ottawa-on-the-front-line-of-the-cold-war

“Gouzenko Affair.” Canada’s Human Rights History. Accessed January 25 2019. https://historyofrights.ca/history/gouzenko/

“Gouzenko Affair.” Parks Canada. Accessed January 25th 2019. https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/qc/stlaurent/culture/histoire-history/evenements-events/natcul2e

“Gouzenko Affair: Sept 5 1945.” The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum  Accessed Jan 25 2019. https://www.lermuseum.org/second-world-war-1939-45/1945/gouzenko-affair-5-sept-1945

Hannant, Laurence. “Igor Gouzenko and Canada’s Cold War.” The Beaver, Vol 75 no. 5 (October 1995): 19-23.

“Igor Gouzenko.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed Jan 27 2019. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/igor-sergeievich-gouzenko

Washington Post. Accessed Jan 25 2019.

King, William Lyon MacKenzie. Secret and Confidential Diary Relating to Russian Espionage Activities, in Diaries of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Accessed January 27, 2019. https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/politics-government/prime-ministers/william-lyon-mackenzie-king/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=29052

Mahar, Donald G. Shattered Illusions: KGB Cold War Espionage in Canada. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, 2017.

Obituary of Fred Rose, Soviet Spy. CBC Digital Archive (video). Accessed Jan 25 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/obituary-of-fred-rose-soviet-spy

Obituaries for Svetlana Gouzenko. https://www.economist.com/obituary/2001/09/13/svetlana-gouzenko; https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2001/09/08/svetlana-gouzenko-dies-at-77/2690f103-c6e8-4423-94de-9d68b6119ef8/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.15b12ecc21a4.

Robert Taschereau. Royal Commission to Investigate the Facts Relating to and the Circumstances Surrounding the Communication by the Public Officials and Other Persons in Positions of Trust of Secret and Confidential Information to Agents of Foreign Power. Ottawa, Printer to the King’s most Excellent Majesty, 1946. Accessed January 27, 2019. http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pco-bcp/commissions-ef/taschereau1946ii-eng/taschereau1946ii-part1-eng.pdf

“Soviet Spy Scandal.” CBC Learning. Accessed Jan 25 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP15CH1PA1LE.html.


Hosts: Robin Mullins, Nick Bridges, and Keely McCavitt

Guest Host: Nick Johnston

Producers: Robin Mullins and Emily Cuggy

Researchers: Nick Johnston, Beth Sollis, Stacey Devlin, and Samantha Clark

Audio Editing: Emily Cuggy

Web Content: Casandra Masse

Image Credit: Montreal Star / Library and Archives Canada / PA-129625