TODAY'S SUBJECT:  Pyotr Ignatov

I've been thinking about Ignatov, the Party functionary who was apparently Schrenk's assistant in the dissident cell (though not, Q guesses, a dissident himself, a point I'll return to momentarily).  Ignatov's an odd duck in the espionage game, a man ready to kill on command, but with a wife who feeds him too well for his own good health and three children he dotes on.  It's unusual we get to learn that much about the personal life of any of Q's lower-level opponents in the field, particularly those who try to kill him under orders.  Too, Quiller seems unusually sensitive toward Ignatov, picking up on his fondness for his family, and intuiting why his threats about maiming Ignatov were so effective (because Ignatov had seen from Schrenk what it's like to be "half-crippled" [14:8]).

Ignatov is clearly flawed agent material for the enterprise Schrenk has in mind.  While he does get away with doing a number on Q by blowing him to the KGB (telling the KGB that Q was "Helmut Schrenk" was a very nice touch), and even earns Q's grudging compliment that he's "good in the street" [12:69], he's out of condition and not well-trained (for example, Schrenk has to warn him to stay clear of Q or Q will use him as a shield).  Ignatov does not appear to have rudimentary martial arts training, as evidenced by his repeated clumsy attempts to get away from Q in the garage, as well as Q's (surprisingly solicitous) concern that he be protected from hurting himself, "because he had absolutely no idea how to fall" [13:2].

Like another flawed conspirator, Natalya, though, Ignatov has one thing Schrenk needs:  a connection to the Kremlin.  Ignatov's a driver for the Politburo, and of course a Kremlin limousine figures in Schrenk's grand scheme of vengeance.

There are a couple of things I find odd about Q's assessment of Ignatov.  First, he identifies Ignatov as the "most difficult" person he's ever met (!):  "I've never met anybody so difficult." [13:4]  Quite a compliment from a man who's made a science out of being difficult; however, it almost has to be an exaggeration, given the obstinate folk Q tends to hang out with.

Another odd thing is Q's strange leap of logic in ascribing motivations to Ignatov for participating in the Schrenk cell.  Q doesn't think Ignatov is a dissident like the other cell members; rather, he says, "I think Schrenk is blackmailing him into cooperating, judging by his subservience....  He's a trusted functionary.  He'd only have to steal a tankful of petrol for his own car to get ten years in the camps.  I'd say Schrenk caught him out in something." [18:74, 76]  Now, I find that hard to believe, primarily because of the profound seriousness of what Schrenk's telling him to do.  After all, we're not talking about ratting out some Party member here:  Schrenk's told him they're going to murder Brezhnev (!), and further, that he's supposed to kill a man he's already identified as a known dissident (Q, identified as Helmut Schrenk) to the KGB!  I don't know what you'd have to have "caught someone out in" to get that kind of commitment, but it sure wouldn't be stealing gasoline.

What are the lessons we can draw from Ignatov and how he figures into Schrenk's operation?  There are two.  First, this points to the overwhelming importance of the DiF in executing the mission.  Without a DiF, one is forced to mount a wildcat operation, improvising as one goes and doing the best one can with what is available (cf. Q's use of Czyn in TWD).  So doing, one must accept less than the best in human and other resources.  The second lesson is the folly of allowing ideological zeal (which, ultimately, is personal zeal writ large) to dictate the course of the mission.  Driven by zeal, one looks not for professionals, but for those who burn with a similar flame, or those one can keep precariously under one's sway by force of threat.  As has so often been said of revenge, tradecraft is a dish best served cold.