Vartanian was born on 17 February 1924 in the south
Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, into the family of
an Iranian national of Armenian extraction.
reading the main story
Like sappers, underground agents err only once”
Speaking in 2007
In 1930, the family moved to Tehran where the father,
Andrei, served as a Soviet agent under a business
his father, Gevork became a Soviet agent in 1940 at
the age of 16.
Amir, his task was to root out German and British
intelligence was training Russian-speakers in Tehran
to serve as spies in Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus.
underwent training, then passed on information on
the British school to Moscow.
a result, British-trained spies sent to the USSR were
either captured or recruited as double agents.
In the winter of 1943, the leaders of the USSR, US
and Britain met for a summit in Tehran to decide their
strategy for victory over Hitler.
was held in the Soviet embassy after Stalin alerted
Roosevelt to a Nazi plot to assassinate them.
the time, Tehran was full of refugees from war-torn
Europe, and Nazi agents were active among some 20,000
Germans living in Iran, Vartanian recalled in an interview
for Russia's Ria-Novosti news agency in 2007.
recounted how he had tracked down Germans, including
field station chief Franz Meyer who disappeared.
finally located, Meyer was found to have "grown
a beard and dyed it, and was working as a grave-digger
at an Armenian cemetery".
1940-41, Vartanian and his colleagues reportedly exposed
400 people linked to German intelligence.
1943, the Soviet agents located the landing party
sent by the Nazis for the assassination plot, six
radio operators who were "travelling by camel
and loaded with weapons".
arrested all the members... and made them make contact
with enemy intelligence under our supervision,"
deliberately gave a radio operator an opportunity
to report the failure of the mission."
on his 45 years in espionage, much of it alongside
his wife, he said: "We were lucky - we never
met a single traitor.
us, underground agents, betrayal is the worst evil.
If an agent observes all the security rules and behaves
properly in society, no counter-intelligence will
spot him or her. Like sappers, underground agents
err only once."