The Defection of Sergei Kourdakov
20-year-old naval cadet Sergei Kourdakov was disillusioned with the Soviet system. When his ship moored off the coast of British Columbia in September 1971, he seized the opportunity to defect. Kourdakov made an “excellent” first impression on the Canadian intelligence community. He was eager to cooperate with interviewers and had valuable insider knowledge of Soviet radio procedures that the RCMP thought might be important for signals intelligence purposes. Kourdakov's insights were sent to Britain, Australia and the United States.
RCMP documents reveal that the defector quickly became a handful. He became a prominent member of the evangelical movement, raising funds to smuggle Bibles across the Iron Curtain. Kourdakov's growing “self-importance” and “embellished accounts” of life in the Soviet Union raised concerns about his ability to distinguish between “truth and fiction.” Canadian intelligence officials concluded Kourdakov was a "mercenary" hungry for profit and "adulation." The RCMP broke contact with him before his accidental death in 1973.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service released 802 pages of documents on Sergei Kourdakov. These records were requested and made available by Jim Bronskill. For more on Kourdakov, read Bronskill's December 2022 piece in the Canadian Press. For a broader survey of Canada’s handling of Cold War defectors, consult historian Timothy Sayle’s 2021 article, “We now know...a little bit more: Canada’s Cold War defectors.”