Who is the mysterious Soviet spy ‘Perseus’ from the new Call of Duty game?

Getty Images; МАММ/МDF; Public Domain
Known as Perseus, Mlad, Scientist X or Dr. X, he is considered as one of the most covert spies the Soviet Union used against the U.S. Despite his identity still remaining unknown, you can face and, probably, fight him in the new CoD installment!

Cold war and spy games enthusiasts are excited — a new part in Call of Duty series is to be released on August 26. Black Ops: Cold War drags players into the global and all embracing conflict between two world’s superpowers.

The plot is being kept a secret at the moment. However, in Activision’s recently released teaser trailer we still can find out some details about the “inspired by actual events” game. It says, a Soviet spy with the codename Perseus has infiltrated Western intelligence and his goal is to subvert the U.S. to ensure Soviet dominance in the arms race. And it seems like the player’s task will be to seek out and destroy this dangerous agent. But what did the real Perseus do?

Person of interest

As the trailer rightly states, the identity and whereabouts of Perseus remain unknown to this day. Nobody knows his real name or his background. A valid question is whether he even existed at all.

The first information on Perseus appeared in post-Soviet Russia. In the early 1990s, the country was going through the period of total publicity and openness. Top secret KGB archives were declassified and the secret service’s former operatives started to give interviews and write books. 

It was Colonel Vladimir Chikov, who told the world about Perseus for the first time. According to him, Perseus, also known under the code name ‘Mlad’, was a young physicist at the Chicago University in the 1940s.

In 1944, this “native American, who wore a straw hat, white sandals and white sport shirt”, joined the Manhattan project on creation of nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos laboratory. Right then, he was recruited to work for the Soviets and for several years delivered them top secret information on nuclear research. In 1946, he stopped his cooperation with the Soviet intelligence, returned to the Chicago University and joined the movement against nuclear weapons testing.

Was or wasn’t?

Since the Russian FSB again classified those “so thoughtlessly” opened secret archives, it was impossible to confirm Chikov’s words or deny them. Perseus-mania gripped the world: some believed in his existence, others (such as powerful Soviet spymaster Pavel Sudoplatov) — did not. New versions of his story appeared, new details: Perseus, according to the new theories, joined the Manhattan project at its launch in 1939 and didn’t quit his service to the USSR, cooperating with famous Soviet agent Rudolf Abel even in the 1950s. Still without real proof, all of them (as well as Chikov’s info) remain as speculation.

Members of the Manhattan Project Team.

In 1995, a partial declassification of the Soviet secret messages, collected within the U.S. counter intelligence program, known as the ‘Venona’ project, triggered another wave of discussions. Since they contained the unidentified codename ‘PERS’, many believed it could be this Soviet agent, who stole U.S. nuclear secrets. Others disagreed, saying it was a Soviet intelligence disinformation operation to protect agent Theodore Hall, who was the real ‘Mlad’. The fake Perseus/Mlad was given characteristics that did not fit Hall.

In 1999, a major scandal connected to Perseus occurred. Arms-control advocate Jeremy Stone claimed in his book ‘Every man should try’ that Philip Morrison, a respected professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was in fact this mysterious spy. The latter proved his innocence by pointing out numerous discrepancies between his biography and that attributed to Perseus. Stone was forced to accept his arguments and apologize “for the unfavorable publicity”.    

So, it looks like the Activision’s Perseus is rather different from the “real” one. The game developers decided to turn a silent idealist-researcher from a lab into the skilful dangerous Soviet agent in the very heart of the American intelligence network. How successful they were with this we will find out already soon, when the new Call of Duty game is released.

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