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Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America
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Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  61 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
This stunning book, based on KGB archives that have never come to light before, provides the most complete account of Soviet espionage in America ever written. In 1993, former KGB officer Alexander Vassiliev was permitted unique access to Stalin-era records of Soviet intelligence operations against the United States. Years later, living in Britain, Vassiliev retrieved his ...more
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Yale University Press
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Lauren Albert
Who would have thought that reading about spies could be so darn boring. Now, I'm not naive--I realize that the world of intelligence is not like a James Bond movie. But this reads like nothing so much as the files of the Human Resources department of a large corporation--recruitment, background checks, job descriptions (responsibilities), employee evaluations, firings, salary and benefit negotiations, etc. Just throw in some secret code names and passwords and you've got Spies--the book. I reco ...more
Jan Notzon
Nov 20, 2016 Jan Notzon rated it it was amazing
The title is more than sufficient to tell you what it is about, and what it is about is absolutely astonishing. This book's content is authenticated by the third author, who was a KGB operative and is cross-referenced by the Venona decryptions, FBI files, among others.
What is most astounding is the difference between the facts of Soviet espionage and the popular belief formed chiefly by the media, i.e. that these Soviet informants were really the victims of unconscionable persecution and were a
Sep 01, 2014 Dan rated it it was amazing
"The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America" by Haynes, Klehr and Vassiliev appears now to be a primary reference for KGB and GRU espionage operations in the U.S. from the 1920's into the 1960's. Vassiliev had access to a trove of classified KGB files. Their accuracy is confirmed and supplemented by Soviet transmissions decrypted by our codebreakers (the Venona Project) and by the several KGB defectors including Whitaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley. The most damaging spies were U.S. citizens.

Nov 26, 2012 Socraticgadfly rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Early Soviet spying in the United States was more than Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers. More than the Rosenbergs and David Greenglass. More than Klaus Fuchs.

The duo of American authors, relying largely on Vassilev's near-exhaustive research, show just how extensive this spying was in the 1930s and 40s, some of the areas it penetrated besides the Manhattan Project and more.

If you ever doubted the snooping of Hiss, or Harry Dexter White, this book goes even deeper than Venona. If you want to lea
Oct 15, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
What a fun book, I read it like a thriller. I always saw this generation's focus on the communist witch hunt as awkward. Yes, everything about me hates the idea of accusing people who have no way of defending themselves. I in general don't like any sort of conspiracy theories or idea that someone out there is trying to do us harm. But I always wondered if it was the witch hunts that made sure this country never became a communist country. What if they spent all this energy preventing a problem a ...more
The American Conservative
"Spies is not exactly bedtime reading—unless, that is, you’re an insomniac. It is filled with confusing code names, long stretches of argumentation linking those names with real persons, and interminable minutiae detailing every known movement of the dramatis personae. The book reads more like an encyclopedia than a narrative. It fails as entertainment, but succeeds as an indictment of an entire era in which some of the nation’s best and brightest sold their souls to a foreign master—and as a st ...more
Jul 21, 2011 Jeremy added it
Incredibly comprehensive and dense. Not a light read. But, using a variety of pre-existing writings (eg, autobiographies, Venona decrypts, congressional hearings) and the new material brought to light by the access granted to Alexander Vassiliev to Russian archives, the book seeks to methodologically establish the penetration of American government and society by Russian spies. In some instances, the new evidence alleges to put to rest lingering questions about who was a spy, and who wasn't. Fas ...more
Nov 30, 2012 Alberto rated it it was ok
Intensely boring. If you're looking for a "The Great Betrayal" or "Spycatcher" type of story, you won't find it here. This is an extremely dry recitation of facts, organized in no discernible order. It would put PhDs researchers working in this field to sleep. And to top it off, it isn't even particularly precise. It commits slight but nevertheless noticeable errors like referring to KGB officers and KGB stations in the 1930s. (KGB was created in 1954. Presumably the authors mean one of its pred ...more
Patrick Farrell
Aug 30, 2009 Patrick Farrell rated it really liked it
This book probably deserves 5 stars for the information provided, but the writing had no flow at all; the whole middle portion was a pain to read. The longest chapter, regarding infiltration of the Manhattan Project, and the conclusion were both incredibly interesting. Also, while a lot, if not most, of the authors' accusations were sufficiently sourced there was quite a bit of innuendo surrounding supposed spies about whom information isn't as conclusive.

Taken in total I would say this book is
Jul 11, 2009 Nick marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy-thriller
A curious Guardian article on Hemingway as a failed KGB agent.
This book assumes a LOT of knowledge. Definitely not a 'baby's first spy book'. One for spy history anoraks who want to rake over every minute detail. Personally, I found the 100 or so pages I read of it boring as fuck.
Cheng Chien
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Oct 26, 2010 haetmonger rated it did not like it
wasn't my bag, mostly.
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