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The Sword & the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive & the Secret History of the KGB

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  647 ratings  ·  51 reviews
The Sword & the Shield is based on one of the great intelligence coups of recent times: a secret archive of top-level KGB documents smuggled out of the USSR which the FBI has described, after close examination, as the "most complete & extensive intelligence ever received from any source." Its presence in the West represents a catastrophic hemorrhage of KGB secrets ...more
Published March 1st 2008 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1985)
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Marvin Goodman
First of all, I'm filled with respect for the dedication it took for Vasili Mitrokhin to painstakingly copy thousands upon thousands of documents, as a KGB archivist, and secretly store them under his home. The trove most assuredly has been of incalculable value to historians and western intelligence agencies. Because I've always been a fan of the espionage genre - both historical and fictional - I expected to binge-read this book, growing drunk on previously unavailable levels of detail and acc ...more
Antonio Nunez
Quite recently a colleague told me that he resented a newspaper columnist who had referred to a relative of his as a communist spy. My colleague believed his relative had been an innocent victim of McCarthyist red baiting. I knew that his relative was no innocent but a high-level KGB operative. It said so in the Mitrokhin Archive vol. I, "The Sword and the Shield".

One of the tragedies of the Cold War is that many western communist spies, traitors to their own countries and dupes to one of the wo
Marin Popa
Vasill Mitrohhin is a hero among historians - he had the amazing courage to keep an astonishing amount of data about the relentless spying activities of the soviets from being hidden and deleted.

The result is this very detailed book, which shows how the soviets spied on a scale hard to imagine from the start until the collapse of communism and how so many westerners collaborated with them.

Once again the reality proves to be more fascinating and incredible than fiction.
Dec 16, 2006 Alvar rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: committed readers
This thing is dense. It's not really well written, but the information presented is amazing. It's the Mitrokhin papers, basically hand-copied archives from the KGB archivist, who defected in the early 1990s.
I pick it up every few months, read a couple of hundred pages, and put it down.
I don't think we fully appreciate yet the revelations that are in this book.
A fascinating book, with great accounts of KGB operations inside and outside the Soviet Union, from before the Second World War all the way up to the early 1990s. I was particularly interested in the sections on the Cambridge 5, having just read John Banville's The Untouchable, but there were lots of other really interesting parts, like the accounts of the KGB's efforts to infiltrate the US, and the stories about its charismatic "Great Illegals."

One slight problem I had with the book was Christo
A subtitle that should be considered by any potential reader is "The Paranoia of Stalin". The information alone in the odd way it is presented regarding the activities of Stalin alone make this book worth investigating for those interested in this part of Russian/Soviet history.

Three stars is a higher rating than this work merits on all counts except raw information. And it is raw. Indeed this rates as one of the most poorly organized and constructed historical works of this caliber that has bee
Sep 02, 2008 Walker rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Andy May, Bob Price
Frightening and real: this is a harbinger of the Putin era, as it details the history and string of successes enjoyed by the KGB and its ancestors,the Cheka,the NKVD,et al.

Mitrochkin had to relocate the secret files of the KGB from its location in Llubyanka to a new ring road library. He copied the files in a tiny script and removed them from the building in his socks, subsequently hiding them in his dacha. He sought and received asylum from the Brits in 1991 then published this remarkable and c
Fred R
I don't think people really realize how important Soviet penetration of the western democracies (particularly America and Britain, but including France, Italy, and West Germany as well) was to the early years of the Cold War. There's nothing too surprising from this book in particular, although it does provide a good overview, even if it is too detailed.
Their glory days were really the 40s and 50s. Later on, their activities were reduced to the incompetence of the FBI (sending hate letters to p
Alex Black
Comprehensive, dense, accessible, and an amazing tour of one of the greatest archival treasure troves of the Cold War. Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew takes readers through the Mitrokhin Archive's history of KGB and its predecessor organizations, describing their operations against western nations abroad and dissidents at home and in the Warsaw Pact. The archive extends back to the early days of Soviet intelligence during the Russian Civil War, and goes forward until the mid 80s.

The desc
Dec 28, 2007 Steven rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is fascinated by our old cold war nemesis.
Shelves: history
You may or may not have learned much about world history in school; though if you have, then maybe you'd be interested in learning what the old Soviet KGB and their politburo masters in side the Kremlin were up to during most of the entire cold war.

This book is a collection/copy of the actual archives that were typed up by Vasili Mitrokhin of the old KGB over a 30 year span of time. Communists it seems, are fastidious record keepers. Later in 1992, he smuggled these archives out to the west via
David Groves
Not being an expert on the world of Soviet spying, this is a slow read. It is exhaustive and complex. However, embedded in the story are riveting wow moments of humanity and imperfection. In addition, the authors take the reader through history as seen through the lens of intelligence and counterintelligence.

From the Russian Revolution through the White Russian Guard to Stalin's rise to the Great Terror to Hitler's invasion of Russia and beyond, this narrative gives the inside story. Some momen
Scott Martin
This is a book that I have had for a long, long time, but had never got around to finishing (by long time...since I was in college). An interesting perspective on Soviet history and the role that the Checka/NVKD/KGB/FSB played in Soviet history. Having studied Russian history, a lot wasn't that new, but in most of the stories about the Soviet Union, the years between Khruschev and Gorbachev tend to get glossed over. Given the power of Andropov (as KGB head and then Soviet Primer), it is not surp ...more
John Wright
Interesting return to the Cold War. With unverifiable sources and hear-say, as well as a populist writing style, it can be a tiresome read, but it reminds one of the hard line, realist, Great Power beliefs so recently passed, yet ready to resurface. It also reminds us what a giant (if sometimes lethal) boys' game the whole thing was. Biggles and Tintin were role models for some. Also,although nominally a history of the KGB based on smuggled archival material, Mitrokhin and Andrews emphasize the ...more
A historical review based upon information gleaned from a CIA archivist who defected with pallets os stolen intelligence to the Brittish. Since most of the data is early cold-war, it has uncovered many historical tid-bits. While lengthy and dry at most points...a good "put me to sleep at night book", it also contains some eye opening moments that make you understand the intelligence business in general, while explaining away sopme myths, and shedding light on others. MYTH SPOILERS; 1) kennedy as ...more
Right off the bat, the title is misleading. It isn't so much a "secret history of the KGB," but rather an overview of the history of Russian Intelligence, from the Tsar's Okhrana to today's SVR. while it's a bit on the dry side, it is nevertheless extraordinary in it detail and will prove to be a worthwhile resource material for future scribes of espionage history.
For students of Russia, intelligence services, or just interesting history, this is a book well worth examining. New details and information flesh out previous understandings of events in Soviet history, sometimes providing expanded understanding, other times changing our perception entirely.
Paul Mcbride

The sheer amount of information in this book is astonishing. It highlights and brings to life so many facts, dates, and names, and links them all together into a coherent volume which not only deepens an understanding of the Soviet machine but also adds to our understanding of current geopolitical issues and their true origins. If you have any interest in Soviet history, cold war history, or intelligence, this is a must read.
Dick Heimbold
Compelling insight into Russian intelligence system. Revealing look at what the Russians thought of American intelligence operations. This book is for serious readers of Cold War times.
Nick Black
Jan 15, 2009 Nick Black rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Dmitri Alperovitch
Amazon 2008-12-29. I was kinda shocked this was published after The Cardinal in the Kremlin; it seems to set that entire book up. Andrew's editor seemed to have phoned the last few chapters in, with a string of noticeable errors splashed across the closing pages. Furthermore, the arrangement of material is pretty much abominable, lending to massive duplication and disjointedness. That having been said, the material itself is pretty much without peer, so far as I know, and I learned a tremendous ...more
In 1992 Vasili Mitrokhin, who had been illegally, and and great personal risk, been removing secret documents from the KGB archive in which he worked, managed to smuggle thousands of these papers to America via an allied country. Mitrokin's archive threw a huge amount of light on where and how the KGB operated, and outed hundreds of agents in the process.

Christopher Andrew, though occasionally going over the top in his descriptions, entertains and informs in equal measure with anecdotes of how t
The real-life stories behind spies and espionage throughout the USSR's long, long history. A surprisingly fascinating 600-page romp drawing mostly on one source: an archive of the KGB's most secret files, painstakingly assembled over a 12-year period by a secret dissident KGB archivist and only smuggled out of Russia in 1992. It's really cool to think that hardly any of this information ever would have come to light without the courageous daily work of Mitrokhin, who hand-copied thousands of pag ...more
The problem with this book is there is just too much to take in. I can only read a page or two at a time.

Despite Andrew taking a swipe at Sen. Joseph McCarthy, this book does vindicate the man to some extent. Or so it seems to me. The Soviets were all over the place. If anything, McCarthy underestimated the sheer number of spies.

Also impressive is the dedication of Mitrokhin, copying this stuff out by hand for years and years. Good thing he did.

The book is especially relevant right now, with the
Fantastic Book! The only thing that keeps it from 5 stars is that it is not the easiest book to read. It packs so much information about so many people that its easy to lose track. The writing is difficult but the feat that one man accomplished to get all this information out of the country is worth at least an attempted read and it took me a while to finish. However, this is the most in depth and educational book I've ever read about the KGB and inner workings of their organization with spies a ...more
Vasil Kolev
Wasn't an easy read.

The book is a very good description of the KGB's (and some other USSR services) involvement in the history of the 20th century. It clears up some things, but in general it shows a lot of the dirty tricks they've employed through the years.

All in all, this is one of the books that shows that rarely should information should stay secret, and it's a good argument for the existence of things like Wikileaks.

The book is a really good source of information and citations can be seen
Blimey, what a journey that was, this is a very comprehensive insight into the KGB and it's various satellite state agencies workings and actions during the period from the start of the Soviet state to it's inception as that of the Russian Federation security service.

I would like to see an updated version of this with Putin's influence (who is metioned briefly during the last few pages). It is a bit of a slog and was rather turgid in parts but ultimately a rewarding read.
James Courtney
I don't normally rate books 5 stars. This book was amazing. I was required to read it for my Masters. The dedication it took to assemble this information must have been enormous. I love the history of intelligence and security. It shed a lot of light into the KGB. In some ways it was much scarier than I could have imagined. But in other ways, it made the KGB less of a mythical fanged monster. I especially loved the way it proved that McCarthy was a fool.
Eli Kale
This book was a very good read! I enjoyed the facts, figures, and anecdotes detailing the operations of the Soviet intelligence community during the Cold War. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the time period or Soviet history in general. It's hard to believe that something so spectacular could have happened, helping to topple the Soviet intelligence effort in the wake of the Cold War.
I majored in Soviet studies and traveled extensivly in the USSR and the satellite countries. The mysteries were endless and now we can finally figure out the answers to questions that have remained since 1917. The KGB and the history of the USSR are open for all to see and this book is perhaps the most significant book on the Soviet Union since "Let History Judge."
A nice history of the KGB, based on documents smuggled out of the Soviet Union from an archivist who defected. I was struck at how the fate of Russian intelligence gathering fell along with the fortunes of Communism, with it becoming increasingly ineffective as the Iron Curtain became increasingly creaky.
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