KGB spread biowarfare rumors

There is ample evidence that the Soviet KGB actively spread the story that "AIDS was a U.S. biological warfare experiment". They may not have invented the premise (Soviet disinformation doctrine favored legends originated by third parties), but they added a number of signature details such as the name of the supposed development site (usually Fort Meade in Maryland) which still show up in most retellings.

According to a defector who was once the KGB chief resident in Great Britain, the KGB promulgated this legend through controlled sources in Europe and the Third World. The Third World version (only) included the claim that HIV was the result of an attempt to build a "race bomb", a plague that would kill only non-whites.

From the CDC AIDS Clearinghouse:

"Soviets Secretly Tried to Blame U.S. for AIDS--CIA" Reuters (09/30/93)

Langley, Va.--For more than five years, the former Soviet Union attempted to blame the AIDS virus on a plot by U.S. military scientists, according to newly declassified CIA documents. The papers reported that the Soviets launched a campaign in 1983 aiming to tie the emergence of AIDS to American biological weapons research. The disinformation was circulated in 25 different languages in over 200 publications, as well as in posters, leaflets, and radio broadcasts, in more than 80 countries before the campaign was finally abandoned by the Soviets, according to a study cited by the CIA in the documents. The Soviets dropped the campaign in 1988 when the United States refused to cooperate with them on a research program on AIDS, which was by then spreading in the U.S.S.R., said the CIA article. The Soviet campaign was apparently retaliation for the Reagan administration's claims of Soviet-produced "yellow rain," or yellow traces found on vegetation due to a Soviet biological weapon.

Reproduction of the above excerpt is encouraged; however, copies may not be sold, and the CDC Clearinghouse should be cited as the source of this information. Copyright 1993, Information, Inc., Bethesda, MD

Moscow Radio, for one, spread this rumor. The following is from Moscow Radio's "World Service" in English on 26 December 1985, 21:00 GMT (Reference: Zhores Medvedev, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 79, August 1986):

"Identifying the origin of a disease makes the search for a remedy easier. Following this rule, Dr. John Searle of Britain has concluded that the AIDS virus has been artificially created and its appearance is possibly the result of a human error. This conclusion supports the view that the AIDS epidemic has been caused by experiments with humans carried out in the USA as part of the development of new biological weapons.
According to John Seale, a Soviet official, Velentin Zapevalov, first asserted that scientists working for the Pentagon in Fort Detrick, Maryland, and in Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta created the AIDS virus by injecting humans with animal viruses. This was in Literaturnaya Gazeta, the official weekly of the Soviet Writers' Union, on October 30, 1985. (Reference: letter, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 79, August 1986)

Acknowledgement: much of this comes from the FAQ.

Ken Shirriff:
This page: Copyright 2000 Ken Shirriff.