He had a remarkable life.
Vartanian was born on 17 February 1924 in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a Soviet agent at the tender age of 16.
Codenamed “Amir”, his task was to root out German and British spies, which he did admirably. Not only did he and his team manage to root out 400 German spies in 1940-41, according to the SVR, Vartanian also infiltrated British intelligence in the USSR by getting accepted into a British training course for spies in Tehran. Vartanian underwent training, then passed on information on the British school to Moscow.
However, the operation for which he was famous was a great help to his British and English allies.
Working in Tehran in November 1943, he and his group tracked “Long Jump”, an advanced team of German agents who had arrived to attack a conference attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill, the BBC reports. The agents were captured and forced to broadcast false messages of failure to Berlin, which led to the attack being aborted.
Incredibly, Vartanian was only 19 years old at the time. A Russian film, “Tehran 43“, was made about the events of that year.
Vartanian gave an interview with Ria Novosti in 2007 that detailed how he beat the German spies. He ascribes his success to the “luck” of having never “met a single traitor”.
His wife was also a Soviet spy, and after the war they worked together for the next 30 years. The SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, said Vartanian and his wife got married several times in different places as part of their cover. Gevork Vartanian retired from the SVR in 1992, after which he trained young agents.
Offering condolences to Vartanian’s wife Goar, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described him as a true patriot who participated in “brilliant special operations which became part of history of the nation’s foreign intelligence,” according to the AP.
In recognition of his services, Vartanian received the highest Soviet award, the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. He was 87 years old when he died.