Mystery of Nick Clegg’s ‘Mata Hari’ aunt and a plot to kill Lenin
NICK CLEGG was last night urged to lift a 90-year ban on secret documents that could implicate one of his ancestors in a British plot to kill Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s greatgreat-aunt, Baroness Moura Budberg, was the lover of Robert Bruce Lockhart, a British diplomat posted in Moscow during the Russian Revolution.
Lockhart – said to have been an inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond – is suspected to have been the brains behind an assassination attempt on Lenin in August 1918.
Moura, a sexually liberated Tsarist aristocrat whose colourful love life earned her the nickname the Mata Hari of Russia, was sharing Lockhart’s bed in a British consular flat when Red Guards burst in to arrest them after the attack.
Now a senior MP has called on Mr Clegg to release classified papers that could shed light on his relative’s role in the plot.
Former Labour Defence Minister Kevan Jones said: ‘Mr Clegg is always harping on about the need for open government – why not start by authorising the publication of these potentially fascinating papers about his ancestor?’
Lenin was shot three times in the attack by 28year-old revolutionary Fanny Kaplan. He survived the assassination attempt and thousands were subsequently executed in a bloody reprisal during the so-called Red Terror.
Following their arrests, Lockhart was questioned in the Kremlin while Moura was locked in a dank cell in the notorious Lubyanka headquarters of the Russian secret services.
Moura – whose later lovers included writers H.G. Wells and Maxim Gorky – was freed days later by Yakov Peters, deputy head of Lenin’s secret police, amid suspicions that she had a sexual relationship with him.
Lockhart was held for two months until he was released in exchange for a Soviet diplomat held in the UK.
Last week, British historian Professor Robert Service, an expert on Russia, said he had unearthed evidence that Lockhart’s role in the plot was more significant than he admitted in his lifetime but said his investigations had been thwarted by the classification of key documents.
‘Britain today has a policy for its intelligence services that is openly averse to subverting foreign governments or assassinating foreign political leaders,’ said Prof Service.
‘The thinking in Whitehall is that the pretence ought to be that this has always been the case. That the British have always been clean.
‘But the British haven’t always been clean. They have been as dirty as anyone else.’
Moura, who died in 1974 aged 82, has been long suspected of working for both the Soviets and the British and it is believed she was investigated by MI5 for 30 years. Retired Russian spy Igor Prelin, who has researched the KGB archives, revealed that Moura was close to Genrikh Yagoda, director of the NKVD, the Soviet secret service that operated under Lenin’s brutal successor Joseph Stalin.
According to Prelin, Yagoda, one of Stalin’s most repugnant butchers, arranged visas for Moura to go in and out of the USSR with ease.
‘We know for sure that she was in close touch with Yagoda, and it is likely she was his lover,’ Prelin revealed. ‘When Yagoda was convicted at his show trial in 1936, one of the charges against him was the illegal issuing of visas for Moura. ‘I would call her a private agent to Yagoda – not officially registered with the secret services, but a personal source.’
In1951Moura, whose niece Kira married Clegg’s paternal grandfather Hugh, informed MI5 about British spy Anthony Blunt’s Soviet sympathies, but her intelligence was considered to be unreliable and she was ignored. Blunt’s treachery was not publicly revealed until 1979. Despite her many liaisons Moura regarded Lockhart as the love of her life and there is evidence she became pregnant by him but lost the baby.
Lockhart, who died in 1970 aged 83, always denied being involved in the Lenin attack. But in a letter found in American archives, his son Robin writes that his father was ‘much more closely involved’ with the plotters than he had publicly indicated.
Moura’s father, Ignatiy Platonovich Zakrevsky, who was Mr Clegg’s greatgreat-grandfather and Tsar Nicholas II’s envoy to Egypt, was just as eccentric as his daughter. He became so obsessed with the pyramids that he built a replica – which still stands today – on his Ukrainian estate.
Mr Clegg’s eclectic roots mean he is a quarter Russian, a quarter English and half Dutch.
The Liberal Democrat leader’s maternal grandfather, Herman Willem Alexander van den Wall Bake, a friend of the Dutch royal family, was president of the Netherlands’ banking giant ABN Amro.
A spokeswoman for Mr Clegg said last night that he would not be campaigning to release the documents about his great-great-aunt.
RED RIDDLE: Vladimir Lenin, above, Moura Budberg, right, and, below, diplomat Robert Bruce Lockhart