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Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  745 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Spymaster, defector, double agent—the remarkable true story of the man who ran Russia's post–cold war spy program in America.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, the cold war ended, and a new world order began. We thought everything had changed. But one thing never changed: the spies.

From 1995 to 2000, a man known as "Comrade J" was the highest-ranking operative in the S
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Published February 7th 2008 by Tantor Media (first published October 4th 2007)
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Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather than spying daring-do, for me the best part of this biography was seeing the Tretyakov gradually lose his faith in Russia under the kleptocracies of Yeltsin and Putin. All spies and defectors seek to justify their actions to themselves and others, but Tretyakov's disgust at the oligarchs who used their power to enrich themselves at the expense of the Russian people and the world community rings true. His warning that Putin does not view the US as a friend or ally, but as a rival and oppon ...more
Al Berry
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting readable book on a Soviet Spy based in Ottawa and New York who ended up defecting to America.

I quite enjoyed the read as Earley can keep the reader engaged, all anecdotes were interesting.

Most amusing was his fellow officer thinking the part of town they lived in was really bad since there was a drugstore and he thought the pharmacy was selling narcotics to teenagers.
Erik Graff
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian/USA citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
I'd previously read Earley's books on Aldrich Ames and the Walker spy family, both of which were also quick and easy reads which should please anyone interested in contemporary espionage. This one, being about a former Russian citizen, rests on a weaker evidential footing than the others, reliant as it is on the testimony of its subject, Sergei Tretyakov. Beyond learning of his life in the USSR's secret services during the eighties and into the 2000s one also learns about the Russian espionage e ...more
Nicholas Whyte

This book, about the career of Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov before his defection to the US, was strongly recommended to me by someone who said that its portrayal of how intelligence agents handle contacts was scrupulously accurate (and my source is in a position to know). This was before the recent revelations about the group of deep cover Russian agents in the US and UK, and indeed before Tretyakov's own sudden death in June this year (not revealed unti
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with interests in Russian affairs
This book builds up with a certain cloudy suspense that keeps you thinking, "hey this is about to get really great!", but sadly it never delivers. Honestly it gets worse as the book progresses. Sergei Tretyakov's tales starts out strong with his induction into the KGB and all of the in home spying that goes on against their own. You grow with Sergei through the KGB's treacherous ranks, and you patiently wait as he progresses within it's networks. And finally, you travel abroad with him, first to ...more
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Hey, I love Le Carre and Clancy and Comrade J is a good book to follow up fiction with reality. The book teases with promises of scandalous secrets revealed. However, as the subjects of the secrets are on the whole still very much active, nothing is really confirmed. It is fun to try and track down some of the leads in the book. One item that piqued my interest was the claim that Nuclear Winter was one of the great successes of the KGB. If you want a real laugh take a peak at the Wikipedia edito ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A compelling, well-researched account of the spying and defection of a high-ranking operative in Russia's KGB/SVR, Sergei Tretyakov, and his family. Even though this book was published in 2007, it provides insight into the unlikely assent to power of Putin and his ongoing corruption. As Comrade J asserts--the MAIN ENEMY (and later the MAIN TARGET) of the Russian government has always been first and foremost the United States, then the U.N. and then China. Putin has continued to facilitate the go ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I almost felt bad giving this book a five star rating as I have never particularly like the idea of spying, generally, no matter who is spying on whom. As the volume conclude Sergei Tretyakov rationalizes his betrayal of Russia (the Soviet Union?)(the KGB) by designating himself an American patriot. Perhaps a stretch, but as Sergei relates the story of how the KGB gutted the republics one can sympathize with hie outlook.

I recall clearly reading of the cruelties visited upon draftees in the army,
Tyler Standish
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who is interested in the complicated relationship between Russia and the United States should read this book.
Sergei Tretyakov defected in October of 2000, his words from th epilouge:
-No one recruited me, no one approached me.
-I was not seduced, blackmailed, or bribed.
-I had a promising future.
-We (me and my family) have never regretted our decision.
-I never asked for compensation from the U.S. all money from the U.S. was out if gratitude.
Two reasons for defection:
1. Growing disgust and c
Overall a decent read and informative. Obviously, covers active measure operations concerning nuclear winter (albeit briefly) which Wish the author was able to add citations and get personnel involved from FBI and CIA who were involved actually better on record. Lastly, it is a shame that Sergai has since passed and cannot be interviewed any longer to re-address some of the chapters lacking. The tradecraft mention within was informative and how internal politics within KGB/SVR work, etc. Places ...more
Almantas Leika
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Quote from the book - words by Sergei Tretyakov, former Russian SVR officer in Canada and the U.S./Citata iš knygos - buvusio Rusijos SVR karininko Kanadoje ir JAV Sergej Tretjakov žodžiai:
"After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and Russia entered into what was supposed to be a new era of cooperation. The Cold War was behind us. We could become friends. Many in the U.S. believe today the old Spy-versus-Spy days are finished. <...> Russia was suddenly, and is today viewed as, a
While interesting, this book wasn't quite what I was expecting and took longer to read than I would have liked due to a lack of excitement. I've read quite a few factual accounts of Russian spies and all of the other books have been much more exciting. This book focuses much less (actually, almost not at all) on Tretyakov's spying and more on his career in the KGB and SVR and what types of things he did and saw which ultimately led to his defection.
Tech Historian
An extended resume

This book reads like a 337 page resume rather than a gripping story. I still can't figure out whether that's because Sergei Tretyakov's story just wasn't that interesting, the author couldn't connect with him emotionally, or couldn't figure out how to put the story in compelling enough context for this reader. It was good enough for me to suggest you buy it and see what you think.
Cynthia Rennolds
Excellent Andy timely

Understanding Russia and its perspective is important. This book, giving a high level Russian spy's view of his country and why he defected to the west gives one mans account. The fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of Yeltsin, the changes this period brought are important in international affairs. This book sheds light on what happened.
Evan Nishi
Although I did not completely finish the book on (pg 284) it was a very interesting book. The main character Sergei was born in Russia. In the story you follow his story in coming into the KGB and eventually leaving it. The book did have some confusing parts that were unclear. There were so many characters to keep track of and so many acronyms to remember it got kind of confusing
Ronald Väli
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage
I read the Estonian translation of this book. What a gripping read! Written so well that it was difficult to put that book down. A must-read for anyone who is interested in espionage, cold war but also networking since a successful intelligence officer has to be an excellent networker to succeed.
Chad Montabon
You don't 'get what is on the box' with this one. The story is a good one and engaging. The scope is wide ranging, but little foreknowledge of espionage or foreign policy is required, just a healthy skepticism of power worldwide.

The writing is uneven and at times lagged badly.
Ronnie Cramer
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the KGB and SVR, as told by high-ranking intelligence officer Sergei Tretyakov, who defected in October of 2000 (he died in 2010). The author did his best to corroborate the information using outside sources.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
Story of a Russian intelligence officer who defected to the United States in the early 2000s.
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now that I’ve read this, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that much of America’s current Republican Party have been compromised by Russia. They haven’t changed their tactics at all.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So very interesting! Oh yeah, the Russian government and their minions are not any country’s friend. They are only out for themselves. Scary.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely remarkable story. An insider's look into the US/Soviet/Russia spy game. Tretyakov made some of the greatest contributions to the US' understanding of Russia.
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
maybe not true but very indicative of a typical russian attitude, outlook on life, priorities and assessment of his accomplishments.
Jonathan Cantor
Solid book. But none of the action is that engaging or particularly interesting. I don't blame the author though. A lot of the information is still redcated.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read for someone with interest in KGB/FSB and U.S.-Russian relations.
Jun 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A quick read which is weak in a number of areas, but has some new information I found extremely interesting.

1. The Russians never slacked on spying against other countries.

2. Nuclear winter was a propaganda campaign put out by the KGB in an effort to prevent the installation of Pershing missiles in Europe.

Some celebrity "scientists" like carl sagan fell for it and promoted the idea with maniacal energy.
Sagan appeared on the johnny carson show 40 times, often saying silly things.

The book gives
This book is the story of Sergei Tretyakov a KGB and SVR, the successor to the KGB, life as a spy and his subsequent defection to the United States in late 2000. His early life in the KGB and his stories of life in KGB headquarters is very interesting. His stories of spying and recruitment of spies while based in Ottawa is a bit eye opening. The number of non-Americans who were willing to give the Russian information on the US because they hated the US was a bit eye opening. It is also interesti ...more
Jul 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I'll admit right off the bat that I have no idea how much of this is true. The author seems reasonably well known and does seem to believe most of what Tretyakov claims. Many of the people he claimed as agents or informants deny it, which they naturally would do. So take this with a grain of salt.

That said, it's a reasonably interesting look behind the scenes of the KGB/SVR. Tretyakov was one of their better operatives; he quit in disgust at the corruption and incompetence of modern Russia, afte
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting profile of the ex-KGB/FSB boss Sergei Tretyakov and his experiences working for Soviet and later Russian intelligence in Canada, Russia and the U.S. Very timely considering the recent capture and exchange of Russian "illegals" hiding out in the U.S., but the fact that their methods only seem slightly more sophisticated than those described in the book and their objectives seem far less clear than those given operatives during the era of Tretyakov's tenure.

While the book kept me cons
Jack Barsky
A profile of Sergei Tretyakov, the most senior resident agent of the SVR (successor of the KGB) in New York in the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union. "Comrade J" became a double agent and eventually defected.
His description of espionage activities was nothing new to me. However, he also lifted the curtain and provided a look at the secret life of senior KGB officials in Moscow. While they were living in the lap of luxury at a compound that provided all the comforts and good of Western so
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Pete Earley is a storyteller who has penned 13 books including the New York Times bestseller The Hot House and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness.
After a 14-year career in journalism, including six years at The Washington Post, Pete became a full-time author with a commitment to expose the stories that entertain and surprise.
His honest

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