On W 14th street in Manhattan, New York, under three stories of scaffolding there is a three foot tall statue of Joseph Stalin’s head. When you walk through the doors behind this head you’re in the KGB Espionage Museum — a museum that shows the history of the KGB and their spy equipment.
Sergio Kobyev is one of the tour guides at the KGB espionage museum. He was born in Soviet Russia and moved to the United States in 2010 to study opera. He’s been working at the museum since it opened in Jan. 2017. He works there because he wants to fully understand his history, “I’m Russian-American — this is my history.” Kobyev said. “If you don’t know about your history, you don’t know about yourself.”
These wooden blocks were made to replicate animal tracks. KGB spies would use them to cover up their own tracks and keep any possible informants of their trail. Kobyev says these tools are some of his favorites in the museum as he jokes “We should give them to the Mexicans so they don’t get caught crossing the border.”
As recently as 2014, these fake tree branches — equipped with microphones and cameras located inside the wood — were set up by the KGB. They were meant to observe citizens they suspected of disloyalty.
During the Cold War, a children’s camp in the Crimean Peninsula was destroyed. The United States and Britain both sent ambassadors to share their remorse and gift the camp $10,000 and $5,000 respectively in an attempt to spur repairs. In exchange, the children of the camp gave the United States ambassador this wooden seal. Seven years later, microphones were found buried inside the crest — United States higher-ups been monitored for nearly a decade.
The KGB museum is the only of its kind: there is no other public museum in the world with the sole focus of Russian espionage. With dozens of relics and activities for visitors, the KGB museum offers an important history of not only Russia, but of the Cold War and the relationship between communism and the United States.