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Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer - The True Story of the Man Who Recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames
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Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer - The True Story of the Man Who Recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  526 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
In his four decades as a KGB officer, Victor Cherkashin was a central player in the shadowy world of Cold War espionage. From his rigorous training in Soviet intelligence in the early 1950s to his prime spot as the KGB's head of counterintelligence at the Soviet embassy in Washington, Cherkashin's career was rich in episode and drama. In a riveting memoir, Cherkashin provi
Paperback, 338 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Basic Books (first published December 28th 2004)
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Sep 19, 2008 Jonathan rated it really liked it
This is Victor Cherkashin's story about his 40-year career as a KGB officer. It provides a good inside look at spying. Both the CIA and KGB used very similar tactics, just on different sides. I like how Victor gives a very honest and realistic history of his career, and he tells his story without any kind of Cold War bias. One very interesting point that Victor makes is that most people do not decide to betray their country and spy for another one due to a disbelief in their country's idealogy. ...more
Pretty interesting read about the KGB and CIA battles of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, told in memoir form by the former handler of KGB spies Robert Hanssen and Aldritch Ames. Most interesting is the viewpoint of the "enemy" in regards to the spy games the two agencies were involved in -- it helps give a clearer picture of the conflict as a whole, rather than focusing on the propaganda and agenda of one side. The memoirist Victor Cherkashin also offers up some interesting insight on the state of Americ ...more
Mar 24, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cold-war, espionage
I really enjoy reading books discussing Cold War espionage but there's always been something missing. What's been missing is the other side. You never believe what one person says about an event; there is always another side of the story. This book represents a lot of "the other side". More than just telling the story of two spies, the author was able to allow the reader inside the life of a KGB officer stationed not only in the United States but also around the world.

Anyone interested in the Co
Dec 15, 2012 Zack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was quite good. Not quite as good as Oleg Kalugin's Spymaster. Still, worth a read. Lots of interesting lines about who can really be approached to be turned and such.
Mar 03, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it

An interesting look at the Cold War from the inside of the KGB. Very interesting when paired with other works about the spy game, especially Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner.
Joe Chapman
Mar 23, 2014 Joe Chapman rated it really liked it
A must read for any Cold War history enthusiast.
Mar 11, 2017 Shelley rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
It's self-serving and biased, but who would have expected otherwise? Until the end (which is muddled) it was a fun read.
Clark Goble
Feb 22, 2015 Clark Goble rated it really liked it
I first became in interested in Cold War era espionage after watching the movie 'Breach' starring Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe. The movie chronicles the true story of the FBI's attempt to bring down Robert Hannsen who is commonly referred to as the worst spy in US History. Hanssen sold US secrets to the Russians for over twenty years and betrayed our country to the tune of billions. "Spy Handler" tells the story of Russian intelligence operative Victor Cherkashin who handled both Hanssen and ...more
Feb 18, 2017 Ruth rated it really liked it
Dan Cohen
Mar 13, 2015 Dan Cohen rated it it was ok
Despite the low rating I've given it, I am glad I read this book and I did enjoy it. It was fascinating to read something written by a Soviet believer and the accounts relating to Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen are very interesting. But the book has a plodding style and the last few chapters rather dragged. For much of the time the book reads as an attempt by the author to clear his name and set the record straight. Whilst this is no doubt very important to him, it left me cold. It also seemed ...more
May 31, 2016 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cold war enthusiasts.
Hanson and Ames. They were not flipped by the Soviets, they offered their services. Not for ideological reasons but because their feelings were hurt. The information they provided led to executions of agents providing information to the U.S.

Ideology is not the primary reason persons turn to betraying their countries. It is revenge, money, perceived slights, entrapment, sex, and other base reasons.

I found The Billion Dollar Spy A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. HoffmanThe Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal to be more thrilli
Aug 20, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
This was an incredible book written from the other side of the iron curtain. Cherkashin provides a novelistic narrative of his entire career at the KGB, and provides great details of how Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen volunteered to betray the US intelligence community. He also speculates that there is another spy that has yet to be brought out into the open, although he provides very little detail of that.

What also is interesting is the difference of procedures between the KGB and CIA. I just
May 25, 2012 James rated it really liked it
Interesting book,
one thing that caught my eye, Aldrich Ames was partly motivated to spy because he was angry how the CIA was lying to Congress about the threat the Soviet Union posed to the US.
It did that to get MORE MONEY.

Also the author makes the point that most of the spying was just a game of trying to recruit agents to spy on the other side and uncovering "moles" the other side has.

The CIA has probably cost over 3 TRILLION dollars in the last 65 years,
and we have nothing of value to show
Dec 02, 2012 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage
I enjoyed this book as it provides a different point of view from the other espionage stories of the Cold War. That is, the different view being written from the adversary's perspective. The author takes great pride in his work and that of his officers but is also critical of members of his leadership that he clashed with much like anyone else in a large bureaucratic organization. He talks about the pains they took to shield Ames and Hansen from detection as well as what happen with the Yurchenk ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Claire rated it it was ok
Forced this book done fast so I don't spend all my life buried in spy lit.

It correlates very well with what I know of Soviet history (decided to neither offer "all I know" or "the little I know" though I suspect the latter is far closer to the truth, given my minim-...lazy grasp of Russian).
This book gave me a sense that there is SO MUCH out there I can't access due to my geopolitical position, even if linguistically I'm on the right track considering Russian/Chinese/Farsi, let alone Latin/Greek
Feb 07, 2010 Randomboredom rated it really liked it
Not only did I find this interesting just because of the Aldrich Ames/Robert Hanssen connection but also from what the perspective of a KGB agent during the cold war. Never really thought about what life was life from that perspective. He painted a portrait of hard work under poor paying conditions, but a true, loyalist to his government. And when the iron curtain fell I actually felt bad for him...he wrote as though to be torn apart by it. Was pleasantly surprised by this book. Very good and ex ...more
Sep 09, 2007 Tony rated it really liked it
Most have heard of Aldrich Ames or Robert Hanssen, but is anyone familiar with Viktor Cherkashin, their KGB handler? Fortunately Ames and Hanssen are permanently incarcerated, however their situation prevents them from giving interviews and penning tell-alls. So this book by a KGB case officer is the closest thing you'll get. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy ended up munching on a Polonium-210 sandwich, I am sure there are people in his former organization who don't share his openness.
Jun 19, 2015 Anirudh rated it really liked it
I always love stories, especially real-life stories from the Cold War era. Now, this book has been written more as a diary than a story, which gives it that additional authentic edge. And yes, you can't miss the typical Russian humorless flavor. Victor's description of Russia is realistic enough for you to taste the cold and touch the poverty in the Moscow building walls.
Philadelphia Tee-roy
Dec 20, 2007 Philadelphia Tee-roy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who want to know the reality that is the cat and mouse world of espionage
An extremly dry at times but very reveling look at the world at the cold war cat and mouse game of espionage the agents,double agents and triple0 agents that made up the world of this retired Kgb officer who cultivated the greatest breach(yes I read this book almost a year before the movie hit theaters titled the same "breach") in us history.
Aug 17, 2007 Mike rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People that are into espionage
Even though Cherkashin himself isn't what you'd think of as a 'spy', his treatment of the day-to-day work of espionage is fascinating. There are some slow bits here, but his (apparent) candidness, his insider's look at the major spy cases (Russian and American), and his descriptions of how agents are run are all very interesting. Lebanon, Ames, and Hanssen are all highlights.
Ron Lansverk
Sep 12, 2014 Ron Lansverk rated it really liked it
Shelves: research
For a time early in the book I was interested in his "reporting" of his history in the spy game--you do understand its is a game played by all nations and even non-nations--but did not feel excited by what he shared.

Then, during his time in Washington DC, his personality and true feelings became a larger part of this story.

Read it. I believe you will enjoy "the teams" view.

May 04, 2011 Cristy rated it it was ok
There are two ways a book like this can be written: chronologically, or divided into subjects, stories, or anecdotes. Cherkashin and his co-writer chose to do neither, resulting in a book that backtracks, overlaps and overwhelms with names and events. It's a shame really because the author's career, experience and wisdom are worth sharing.
Frensi Caka
Aug 25, 2012 Frensi Caka rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-english
The most honest story including facts and experience. Only a spy handler could tell such a story without drawbacks. Read it and you'll understand the Cold War and Russia's development through these years. I am 16 and I really loved it!
Jan 27, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir-biography
It was ok... It can all be quite difficult to follow - remembering all those Russian names and following him as he jumps from one time in his life to another (and not necessarily in chronological order).
Dec 16, 2007 Bella rated it it was amazing
Very interesting!
Collapse of the Soviet Union, the August "putch", new Russian "buisiness" environment; Putin...

The book has info about Ames, Penkovsky, Hanssen, Yurchenko, Jack Platt, Vetrov, Vasilenko, Kukhar, Edward Lee Howard, Krassilnikov, Oleg Kalugin, Dmitri Polyakov, and others.
Oct 04, 2014 Athelstan rated it liked it
This is primarily a recounting of the recruitment of American agents to the soviet cause. Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen are the two biggest names but countless others who paid the price are documented well here. Not the best former spy tell-all but not bad, either.
Nov 24, 2013 Holly rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012-ebooks
interesting history
Mar 26, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
It was interesting to read about the Cold War from the point of view of a KGB officer. Not totally absorbing, but well written.
Suzanne Moses
Oct 28, 2015 Suzanne Moses rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of the true-spy genre
Recommended to Suzanne by: Prof. of history of espionage
I found the last few chapters difficult to get through, but the rest of the book is a great look at the "other side." Perhaps it is not a spoiler to say that it is very much like this side.
Jul 11, 2008 Ryan rated it liked it
Interesting view, memoirs of a KGB officer. fast read
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