The Selling of the KGB

The Selling of the KGB

Amy Knight

What's behind the wave of sensational revelations about Cold War espionage?

Read Time:
1m 10sec

The fascination in the West with spy stories seems limitless. Tales proliferate about the Cambridge Five spy group (Kim Philby et al.), the various New Deal subversives whose treachery in giving away secrets to the Soviet Union went unnoticed for years, and the efforts of the KGB to subvert Western democracies through propaganda and terrorism. But apparently readers do not tire of the accounts, judging from the recent sensational response to The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive, by Christopher Andrew, a history professor at Cambridge University, and Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB officer.

The Sword and the Shield is the latest example of an emerging genre of spy histories based on materials from the KGB archives. For almost a decade now, Western writers and current or former Russian foreign intelligence officers have been collaborating on books about the KGB's foreign operations during the Soviet period. All of these volumes have a similar style and format, with chapter headings such as "The Great Illegals," "Love and Loyalties," and "A Dangerous Game," along with lengthy appendixes listing code names of secret agents and KGB operatives or presenting organizational charts of the KGB. They also tend to cover much of the same ground. Time and again the reader is told about Lenin's Cheka, the assassination of Trotsky, and Soviet atomic espionage.

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About the Author

Amy Knight, a former Wilson Center Fellow, recently published her fourth book on Soviet and Russian affairs, Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery.