A spy’s eye view of Russia: Never-seen-before pictures

  • Douglas Smith released the extraordinary photos taken by US Army Major Martin Manhoff from the 1950s
  • The US diplomat was expelled from USSR for espionage after documents he left on a train were found
  • He had travelled around the country taking thousands of photographs during the Stalin era 60 years ago
  • They remained untouched in a closet in Washington, U.S., until Mr Smith asked if he could explore his home 

An American historian has unearthed never-seen-before pictures of Stalin-era Russia which were taken by an Army Major.

Martin Manhoff’s collection has been described as a ‘unique visual archive’ of life in the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

He was deported for spying in 1954, and hid the photographs in his closet in Washington State.

Until today, they remained untouched, but American historian Douglas Smith has now released the stash of the pictures taken from behind the Iron Curtain.


A child walks through a run-down street in Moscow near the Moskva river. The formerly rundown road is a now a middle-class commuter area with a Holiday Inn.  This picture is one of a number of extraordinary photographs taken by a US diplomat stationed in the city in the 1950s


Women are pictured crossing the street in front of a butchers shop in Moscow’s Arbat district. It is one of several photographs unearthed by an American historian – Douglas Smith


A public bus and several cars  is photographed trapped in a flood caused by summer rains in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. The photo was taken from a car and is part of Army Major Martin Manhoff’s collection 


Russian officials are photographed from a window above the street in Murmansk, a small port city in the extreme northwest part of Russia. The run down houses are made from wooden planks and a small, blue beer shack sits outside.  The almost empty street was captured by the US diplomat Mr Manhoff who was later deported on suspicion of spying

Army Major Martin Manhoff served in the US embassy in Moscow from February 1952 until June 1954, when he was expelled from the USSR on charges of espionage. 

During his two years in the Soviet Union, Manhoff traveled widely and recorded much of what he saw on both color slides and color 16mm film. 

All of this material ended up in a closet in his home in Washington State where it lay unseen for over half a century.

Mr Scott, who has a new book out called Rasputin, said: ‘After his wife’s death, I was asked to visit the Manhoff home this past summer and see whether Martin had left behind anything of value. I was amazed at what I discovered. 

‘For the past several months I have been digitizing and organizing the photographs and films. 

‘Among the gems is approximately 15 minutes of color movie footage of Stalin’s funeral taken from an upstairs window of the old US embassy in the Hotel National. 

‘There are thousand of color photographs taken on the streets of Moscow, Leningrad, Murmansk, Yalta, and at points along the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

‘I am now working on finding the best way to make this unique visual archive available to the public and to find a permanent home for the entire Manhoff archive.’ 


Men, women and children are pictured walking past a cinema in the Ukranian capital, Kiev in 1954. Flags of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic are displayed on the buildings in the tree-lined street


A picture from a previously unseen set of Stalin-era Russia photographs from Martin Manhoff’s personal archive. The picture shows Ostankino Palace based north from Moscow. It is a former summer residence and private opera theatre of the noble Sheremetev family 


Hundreds of Russian soldiers are pictured lining the streets for a state-sponsored public funeral in Moscow. A parade of Black horses and a can be seen making their may through the square 


Three boys sit happyly on a bench outside the Novospassky Monastery, one of the fortified monasteries to the south-east of Moscow. It was the first monastery to be founded in the Russian capital in the early 14th century


American diplomats expelled from the USSR on espionage charges travelled across Russia taking photographs, which have only now been released. This photos show a woman collecting water in a bucket in the Russian countryside and heading back to a humble log cabin


Thousands of photos were found by historian Douglas Smith. This one shows teenagers enjoying the sun in the gardens of Kuskovo, a country house and estate that belonged to the Sheremetev family. It was built in the mid-18th century and sits in the east of Moscow


A woman in a padded jacket and thick gloves braves the cold to pose for a photograph in the street. Other similarly dressed  women rush past behind her, giving the camera a cautionary glance


A group of teenage schoolgirls in uniform are pictured smiling and laughing as they pose for a photo which appears to have been taken at the Kolomenskoye estate, a former royal estate several kilometers to the southeast of Moscow city centre and on the ancient road leading to the town of Kolomna

In the Chicago Tribune on March 26, 1954, the paper covered the story of Manhoff being sent home.

The story said he and three other American diplomats had been sent packing for abusing the hospitality shown to them by Russia. 

It said a local state-run paper carried news that the men had left espionage documents under a paper napkin while on a Trans-Siberian train the previous year. 

The Russian newspaper said: ‘If the above mentioned persons would like to get back their documents, which were evidently forgotten in a rush, they can do so by calling the porter’s office.’ 







Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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