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social sciences

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Redl, Alfred (1864-1913)  
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While the Austro-Hungarian Army officers may have been in Kazan simply to learn Russian (as opposed to spying as well), the Russians were not shy about spying on them. The Russians did the math and deduced Redl's financial situation: a poor boy rising through the ranks had to have incurred large debts to maintain an officer's lifestyle. Since the Russians knew from experience that those with debts were often susceptible to offers of income from other sources, they kept close tabs on Redl.

Later, the "married" woman was revealed as someone assigned to shadow and inform on Redl. When the Russians discovered Redl was a homosexual, he became doubly vulnerable. The Russians moved in to offer a deal for money and silence. Colonel Nikolai Batjuschin, Chief of Espionage Center, West, Warsaw, became Redl's Russian contact. The homosexual, debt-ridden Redl was blackmailed (and bribed) into spying for Russia and betraying his country, his Army, and his Emperor.

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The arrangement seems to have been more complex than a simple exchange of information and money, however. In court on July 27, 1904, during the trials of Russian spies Simon Lawrow and Bronislaus Drycz, for example, Redl testified as their discoverer; and his purported role served to firm up his reputation as an effective head of counterintelligence. In fact, these two Russian spies had been set up by Batjuschin so that Redl could "discover" them.

Redl in his capacity of the Chief of Counterintelligence also sent Austro-Hungarian agents into Russia only to sell them out. Add to that the fact that Redl double-crossed Austro-Hungarian agents he had buried in the Russian imperial staff, and the damage he orchestrated assumes diabolical proportions. Scholars have asserted that Redl essentially paralyzed Austro-Hungarian espionage inside Russia at the very time he earned a prodigious reputation as a brilliant patriot.

Some researchers claim that Redl began spying for the Russians as early as 1902. The highly suspect official Austro-Hungarian Empire story constructed after Redl's death, however, pegged 1912 for Redl's first sales of information to the Russians. No matter when the arrangement actually started, there is no question that Redl passed a great deal of information to the Russians. When the German army captured Warsaw early in World War I, they found proof of spy-trading deals between Redl and Batjuschin as well as a large number of secret Austrian and German documents in the headquarters of the Russian Espionage Center, West.

Hidden in Plain Sight

The society he lived in was a perfect setting for Redl to hide his secrets in plain sight. The Austro-Hungarian Army was so socially stratified that those at the top had very little to do with the daily life of those under them and barely knew anything personal about them. In general, most people's private lives went unexamined, and the topics of money and sex were tactfully avoided.

Redl, an officer in the General Staff Corps, was honored without question in a society where people were evaluated by their titles. Redl appeared exemplary to his military colleagues. He was well liked, respected, and prominent. His name, after all, was constantly associated with the successful prosecution of a string of enemy spies.

The extraordinary ability of Viennese society to deny, or not see, the obvious is clearly illustrated by Redl's very public relationship with Stefan Hromodka, which lasted for several years. Redl was a veteran of a long and active sexual life when he met and fell in love with Hromodka.

A handsome young cavalry officer, Hromodka had tastes and requirements as refined as Redl's and proved to be an expensive obsession. The modest monthly allowance Redl provided Hromodka in 1909, for example, reportedly increased over ten-fold by 1912. In addition to the allowance, Redl kept Hromodka in the highest style, with an expensively furnished apartment, horses, and a custom-made Daimler. Although Redl and Hromodka both explained that their extravagant lifestyles were made possible by family money, Redl had to sell more and more information to the Russians to finance the arrangements.

When the couple attended public and official functions and Redl introduced Hromodka as his nephew, no one ever challenged him. If anyone had become suspicious about Redl's marital status and the constant presence of a handsome young cavalry officer who might or might not be his nephew, others could, of course, cite army regulations: officers had to obtain permission to marry, and there was a long waiting list because, at any one time, half the officers of the General Staff had to be single.

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