Tales of the KGB

HOLLYWOOD hopes to strike a rich vein of docudrama story lines in the heart of Moscow - the once tightly sealed files of the KGB. In the months or years ahead, American viewers may be treated to the "real" story of how Soviet agents penetrated the Manhattan Project and stole the A-bomb. Or the other side's view of the Cuban missile crisis. Or the inside scoop on Lee Harvey Oswald's Russian connection.

The market incentive, it seems, has touched even the dour denizens of what was once the world's premier secret-police/spy organization. The old KGB used to track down "profiteers;" the new KGB doesn't mind pursuing a little profit of its own. Two television and movie firms, Davis Entertainment and RHI Entertainment, are competing for access to the KGB's secrets. But, as befits a deal with the heirs of "Iron Felix" Dzerzhinsky, the first KGB chief, the dollar terms of the bargain are being held close to t he vest.

A third Western entertainment entrepreneur is reportedly dealing with Moscow's Foreign Intelligence Veterans Association, whose members are apparently quite willing to spin a few espionage tales to augment their tiny pensions.

Mining great scripts from KGB history is no cinch, however. The companies trying to negotiate with the spymasters are finding that Russia's turbulent political reforms give new meaning to "labyrinthine." Should they try to stick to arrangements made with the KGB when it was still known as that, work with Russia's new Agency of Federal Security, or hold out for the proposed Ministry of Security and Internal Affairs?

And how good are the goods the Western filmmakers are likely to get? Some longtime observers of the KGB say it's actually offering very little that's new. And don't think that by opening their doors to Hollywood producers and tourists the KGB's successors have left all that's sinister behind. Much of the old system is still up and running, and some Russians want to see it strengthened, not dismantled. The doors could close again.

Hollywood types prospecting for real-life intrigue could look closer to home, at the CIA, which is conducting its own experiment in "openness."

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