A special-purpose audio gadget: a valuable “thing” for the US embassy

    Perhaps, someone understood what the speech from the heading will be about, for the rest I will explain - this post is dedicated to the endovibrator Lev Termen, who is also called “Chrysostom” and “The Thing” (“thing”, “something”). An unprecedented incident in the history of world intelligence services is connected with this device, when the US Embassy in Moscow was tapped with impunity for seven years. At the same time, the US technical security services did not have the ability to detect the “bug”, since the latter did not have a power source and was a small metal structure.

    Developing a brilliant prisoner

    As I have already noted, the endovibrator was first created by the ingenious Russian inventor Lev Termen. The father of the “thing” was widely known as one of the inventors of electronic music and the first electro-musical instrument - the Theremin, the creator of one of the first versions of an electromechanical TV and other advanced devices for its time.

    From 1925 to 1938, Lev Theremin lived comfortably in the United States. Returning to the Union, he was arrested in 1939 on charges of a loud "attempt" on Kirov and participation in the so-called. “Pulkovo” plot. The “humane solution” of the Special Conference under the NKVD of the USSR sent the inventor to atone for non-existent guilt before the Motherland on Kolyma, having appointed an eight-year term of imprisonment.

    A year later, in the office of Lawrence Beria, they thought better of it and transferred the scientist to serve his sentence in one of the Moscow sharashkas (OKB - “special design bureaus” or simply prison-type research institutes for scientists and engineers, with conditions improved for the camps, which is traditional for Soviet penitentiary systems physical labor was replaced by intellectual).

    NII-1 or otherwise “Kuchinsky Sharaga”

    In 1943, Lev Theremin continued to serve time in Kuchinsky Sharaga, where he received the task of developing a device that would be difficult to detect using such methods as a non-linear locator and field indicator, the most common means for detecting radio bookmarks.

    Operating principle

    Considering that the detection methods used at the time suggested searching for an active source of the electromagnetic field, Theremin came to the conclusion that it was necessary to create a passive device that would function as a kind of radio mirror.

    The result of the work was the device, the known analogues of which at that time did not exist. The principle of operation of “Zlatoust” (as it will be called later) was as follows: to activate the device, a powerful ultra-high-frequency (800 MHz) radio signal was sent to it. The membrane installed in the device resonated from the sound waves and then modulated the reflected signal, which was picked up by a special receiver, recorded on a magnetic wire or transcribed.

    The device had no built-in power supplies and was relatively small. The design was extremely simple - a metal cavity with a resonating membrane and a volume of about 2 cubic centimeters, as well as an antenna of about 30 cm in length.

    The receiver deserves special attention, for the characteristic appearance called “Elk”. Created by a team of the same sharashka, he was able to receive and process the modulated signal reflected from the endovibrator so that you can hear and record a clear speech.

    Trojan coat of arms from the Soviet pioneers

    After the device was developed, the case remained for its placement. The goal was the US Embassy, ​​which was one of the most desirable goals of the operational and technical services of the NKVD, the NKGB, the Ministry of State Security and other Soviet special agencies.

    The opportunity came on February 9, 1945, on which date the opening ceremony of the second stage of the pioneer camp Artek was appointed. Soviet students were invited to the big three (Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill) as an exemplary place for recreation, but the coalition leaders did not take the time to visit and sent ambassadors to the event.

    Harriman in the company of Stalin. The ambassador often spoke with the leader, it’s not surprising that Beria’s department knew much about his passions.

    At this event, US Ambassador Harriman decided to hand over the coat of arms of the United States, which was made of fine wood. The emblem was pre-installed with an endovibrator, and also made masked holes for sound, which were placed in the nostrils of the eagle.

    The fact is that Harriman was not indifferent to all sorts of handicrafts made of rare and valuable species of wood, for the “Trojan” gift of such breeds twenty were used at once. According to Vladimir Aleksenko, a retired lieutenant colonel of the KGB KGU operational-technical service, the initiative to make Harriman such a “gift” belonged personally to Lavrenti Beria.

    The original is a large USA stamp donated to Harriman. CIA Museum

    A Gift From Beriafrom the pioneers came after taste. After the presentation, he barely restrained admiration for the present and began to think about where to place the valuable exhibit for his collection.

    According to eyewitnesses, Harriman asked the question: "Where can I hang this miracle?". A Soviet diplomat, Valentin Berezhkov, instantly reacted to him, who in a whisper recommended to hang the emblem in his office in order to arouse the envy of his British colleagues. The gift and recommendation worked, Harriman ordered to hang the coat of arms in his office.

    How “The Thing” worked at the embassy

    To ensure the operation of the device, two secret posts were created, located in close proximity to the US embassy building. At one post there was a powerful radiator of radio waves, which worked at a frequency of 800 MHz, on the other staff were on duty with a receiver “Elk” and tape recorders.

    At the right moment, the transmitter was turned on and the staff at the receiving post could clearly hear and record the talks in the ambassador’s office. Thus, the security officers tapped the ambassador’s office for seven years. After Harriman, until the discovery of the device in the office with a unique coat of arms worked three more US ambassadors.


    There are several versions of device discovery. Employees of the domestic special services claim that treason was the reason for uncovering one of the most effective bugs in history. According to the US Embassy, ​​“Zlatoust” was found by the valiant staff of the technical services of British intelligence.

    So, according to the first version, the defector of the GRU, Peter Popov, told the idea of ​​the “bug” of the western partners, who said that there is a serious information leak in the US Embassy. The event took place in 1952.

    The second version says that in 1951, scanning the air, the technical specialists of the British embassy (located next to the US embassy, ​​about one and a half kilometers) accidentally heard English speech and reported to overseas colleagues.

    However, it is known that an American specialist
    Don Bailey could not detect any devices, suspecting that the KGB had time to turn off the device. One way or another, the “thing” was removed from the coat of arms only in 1952, when, when the ambassador changed, all the items at the embassy were subjected to a thorough check.

    Demonstration of "things" in the UN

    Data on the discovery of the device American diplomats gave publicity only in 1960, the year. They used the UN coat-of-arms demonstration in response to US espionage accusations voiced by the Soviet side after the U-2 pilot, Powers, was detained.

    Mystery Malfunction

    The endovibrator owes its name in Western sources to the bewilderment of the specialists who examined it in the USA. Interestingly, the CIA engineers for a long time could not understand what exactly fell into their hands and how it worked. The problem was added by the fact that those who removed the device from the coat of arms accidentally damaged the thin membrane - this confused the specialists even more.

    Peter Wright and his “things” work scheme

    Only MI-5 employees, and specifically, engineer Peter Wright, who was also Marconi’s lead radio engineer, shed light on the device’s operating principle. He is the first of the Western experts to understand that there is damage to the membrane. Wright described the principle of operation of the device and called it a "volume passive resonator."


    Created in psychologically difficult conditions of imprisonment (fed tolerably in sharashkas), the unique Theremin device proved the victory of ingenuity over circumstances. Having completed work on the “thing”, the physicist was transferred to the Tupolev sharashku (TsKB-29), where he developed the Buran infrared microphone. Soon he was released, awarding the so-called. “Closed” Stalin Prize. Learn more about the life of Lev Theremin here .

    The idea of ​​the Russian engineer was copied many times, from the 50s, similar devices appeared in the American and British special services. Endovibrators and devices operating on similar principles are still popular with the special services, as an inconspicuous device for listening.

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