Attended the Moscow Engineering Academy and the Moscow Architectural Institute and joined the Komsomol (the Communist Youth Movement) in 1937. Was recruited by the NKVD in 1939 and served as code and cipher clerk. Served as an intelligence officer on the front lines duing World War II battles against the German Army in 1941.
Was sent to Ottawa, Canada in 1943, working in the Russian Embassy as a cipher clerk, but also by spying on Canadian authorities and sending secret information about the back to Moscow.
Was exposed to a free society for the first time and grew to like the Canadian lifestyle. Also grew disenchanted with the Soviet system and when he was unexpectedly recalled to Moscow in 1944 , decided to defect. On September 5, 1945 left the Soviet embassy with a briefcase stuffed full of secret documents. These documents expose the existence of and size and scope of a Soviet spy ring operating within the Canadian borders. Went to a Canadian newspaper in an attempt to turn this information over but was laughed out of the offices and considered a crank. Likewise, attempted to turn his information over to the Canadian governmental authorities, but they also refused to believe his story.and returned to the newspaper once again.
Terrified that his theft had been exposed, he and his family hid in their apartment that night, ignoring several loud knocks on the door. He contacted his neighbor, a Canadian Air Force officer and explained his story to him. The officer helped him to hide his family and contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A few days later, four men crashed through the door of Gouzenko’s apartment and ransacked it. The men were detained by the police who identified the as employees of the Soviet Embassy. When an inspector on the scene turned his head, the four men fled.
On September 8, 1945, the Soviet Embassy complained about their employees being detained and questioned, citing their diplomatic immunity. Embassy officials the demanded that Gouzenko, whom they described as a criminal, be arrested and turned over to them. They claimed that he had stolen funds from the Embassy and wanted to return him to Moscow for prosecution.
Gouzenko was in the custody of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police and had provided them with a number of documents, the quality of which were compelling enough for them to realize that he was genuine about his desire to defect. The papers described a world-wide spy operation, set into place by the Soviet Union and operating throughout the world. Under protective custody, Gouzenko continued to expound upon his claims. He exposed numerous Soviet agents (listed on index cards from the Embassy) and provided them with notes from the casebook of Soviet spymaster Colonel Nicolai Zabotin. Canadian officials quickly thereafter shared these revelations with the U.S. and British governments.
Because he was exposed by Gouzenko, Colonel Zabotin was recalled to Moscow and was sentenced to four years of hard labor for allowing a disgruntled employee to compromise the entire Soviet spy apparatus. Appeared several times on Canadian television wearing a hood over his head in order to conceal his identity. Penned his autobiography (titled This Was My Choice) in 1948. Died in 1982.