As an urban legend, I've heard this claim many times. Allegedly, in the 1970s, the KGB sponsored various Western "anti-war" movements, especially the ones that could hinder Western nuclear tests. As a matter of fact, Greenpeace was one such movement, created in response to nuclear testing in Alaska, which allegedly earned them the help of the KGB. Quite vague claims. However, recently, I've seen political discussion where more concrete claims were made. Allegedly, the original Rainbow Warrior, after being bought by Greenpeace, was refurbished in a shipyard in Tallinn at the KGB's expense. Allegedly, the information comes from the Mitrokhin Archive.

Is there any truth to any of these claims?

  • "Sponsered" seems like a funny word to use here---I'm envisioning a gaudy KGB logo on the bow of the ship---should we take this to mean that the KGB gave substantial amounts of money to Greenpeace with the knowledge of the people running the organization? Is there a better way to say that? Mar 1, 2013 at 16:10
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    @dmckee: I believe "sponsored" to be the correct term to use here. Compare for example with usage as in "State-sponsored terrorism".
    – vartec
    Mar 1, 2013 at 16:13
  • @dmckee - "sponsor: a person or an organization that pays for or plans and carries out a project or activity". (M.-W.) . Sponsorship needs not be for advertising purposes, though it frequently is.
    – user5341
    Mar 1, 2013 at 16:29
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    It would be quite surprising if there wasn't some KGB money involved--doesn't mean Greenpeace knew it was Russian money. Funding Greenpeace would be something consistent with how Russia operated. Oct 2, 2023 at 2:38
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    @LorenPechtel Really? It would seem somewhat counterintuitive given that Greenpeace's first anti-whaling campaign was carried out in opposition to a Soviet whaling vessel. The Soviets killed a lot of whales.: "Though Greenpeace was not the only organization protesting commercial whaling at the time, its campaign against the Soviets had the single greatest impact on the growing movement to save the whales."
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 3, 2023 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


It's impossible to prove that no money from the KGB, or any other source, ever reached Greenpeace (and if it did it might have been without the knowledge of Greenpeace). However we can answer the specific question about the Rainbow Warrior's conversion

Rainbow Warrior (formerly 'Sir William Hardy) was acquired by Greenpeace in 1977 and refitted in London. (See also here and here)

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    is www.socialphy.com (or a book citing an unknown source) considered reliable evidence?
    – user5341
    Mar 1, 2013 at 2:23
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    Not the most reliable source I've ever seen, but certainly more reliable than the original claim. Mar 1, 2013 at 3:17
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    "More reliable than the original [claimant]" is a low bar to be setting.
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 1, 2013 at 11:34
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    True, original claim isn't reliable. OTOH, what I'd considered really reliable concerning the ship, would be some kind of official ship registry, which would mention where it was build and where it was refitted.
    – vartec
    Mar 1, 2013 at 11:37
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    How is Greenpeace's own statements in any way reliable as evidence when they have every interest to lie about this? They didn't post any fincncial documents showing the exact budget and how repairs were paid for.
    – user5341
    Mar 1, 2013 at 16:26
  1. USSR state recording company Melodia helped Greenpeace raise money via co-sponsoring a jointly release album (U2 et al).

    http://www.musicstack.com/item/206504892 / http://music70-80.narod.ru/katalog/sbor/greenpeace.htm

    While there's no explicit mention of KGB, given the timeline, and the way USSR worked, it was 100% impossible that KGB wasn't in full explicit approval.

    The album was heavily promoted (I remember that myself), and Soviet press was quoted in 1989: “Everyone who buys the album can consider himself a member of Greenpeace, which means it will soon have millions of new members here in the Soviet Union.”

    Quoting from Russian Wiki (all quotes from that are sourced from Greenpeace itself - " История Гринпис (рус.). Greanpease.org. Архивировано из первоисточника 3 февраля 2012. Проверено 13 мая 2011):

    В СССР Гринпис появился в 1989 году благодаря средствам от продажи альбома «Гринпис. Прорыв» (Greenpeace Breakthrough). В его записи участвовали U2, Eurythmics, R.E.M., INXS, Шаде, Брайан Ферри и другие рок-звезды.[8]

    Альбом во всём мире вышел тиражом около 10 миллионов экземпляров, очередь за пластинкой в Москве вошла в книгу рекордов Гиннесса. В течение первых часов с момента выхода пластинки было продано полмиллиона экземпляров. К 15 мая 1989 года общее количество проданных альбомов достигло миллиона.

  2. Again from Russian Wiki (same source):

    В июле 1989 года на пресс-конференции на борту корабля Гринпис «Воин радуги» Алексей Яблоков (в то время председатель комитета по охране окружающей среды СССР), официально объявил отделение Гринпис в СССР «первой независимой организацией в Советском Союзе»

    In July 1989, during press conference on board "Rainbow Warrior" shop, Alexej Yablokov (President of USSR State Committee for Preservation of the Environment) declared Greenpeace the "first independent organization in USSR".

    Again, given that it was 1989, this was fully State approved and like any interface with the foreigners, fully curated by KGB.

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    You also write "given that it was 1989, this was ... fully curated by KGB". 1989 was just one year before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the period of Glasnost and Perestroika. Mar 1, 2013 at 16:44
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    And the only source for the first two is your personal opinion. Mar 1, 2013 at 17:07
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    "given the timeline, and the way USSR worked, it was 100% impossible that KGB wasn't in full explicit approval" I think this is the line that needs supporting the most. It may be true, but it isn't enough to say there was a conspiracy. You need some evidence.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 1, 2013 at 20:31
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    Ah, but you also said that you didn't consider Greenpeace to be a reliable source :-) Mar 2, 2013 at 18:34
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    @user5341 The whole answer hangs on that assumption. This is a Q&A site. The reader may not have all the context you do. Your answer should provide the necessary information and context for the reader (or point to good references). And without it, nobody can check your assumptions. Fill the gap to educate the reader, and so it can be checked.
    – Schwern
    Oct 1, 2023 at 20:55

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