SVR (Russian Foreign Intelligence Service) - Elizaveta Mukasei posed for decades as a housewife while pursuing her real job as a Soviet spy. She died Sept. 19 at age 97.
With a radio transmitter hidden in her vacuum cleaner and a homey fire burning in the living room to destroy incriminating documents, Elizaveta Mukasei posed for decades as a housewife while pursuing her real job as a Soviet spy.
Known by code names of Zephyr and Elza, the couple did undercover work that has been trumpeted in recent years by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. While the Mukaseis described their spying exploits in a memoir published in 2004, many details about her life are difficult to verify independently. From 1939 to 1943, the couple were posted to Los Angeles, where Mikhail was vice consul at the Soviet Consulate. From their diplomatic perch, the couple gained access to elite Hollywood circles, aided in part by sympathy for America's wartime ally.
The Mukaseis befriended celebrities in the movie industry, Ms. Mukasei wrote in the memoir, though it isn't clear how the couple used these relationships in their intelligence-gathering. Charlie Chaplin became close to the Mukaseis, she wrote, and they plied him with vodka and presented him with a Russian bear cub on behalf of the Soviet state. Ms. Mukasei also claimed the couple befriended such luminaries as the conductor Leopold Stokowski, the writer Theodore Dreiser and others who they believed were politically connected in Washington.