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

(Mitrokhin Archive #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,417 ratings  ·  93 reviews
In 1992 the British Secret Intelligence Service exfiltrated from Russia a defector whose presence in the West has remained secret until the publication of his book. Vasili Mitrokhin worked for almost thirty years in the foreign intelligence archives of the KGB, which in 1972 he was made responsible for moving to a new HQ just outside Moscow. He was congratulated by the hea ...more
Hardcover, 1st, 736 pages
Published September 23rd 1999 by Basic Books (NYC) (first published 1985)
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Showing 1-30
3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,417 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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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
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting read for those interested in Russian or Cold War history or espionage. This book is very thorough, so be prepared for a long read. The writing style is consistent, so my flagging interest at the midway point in the book was a result of my general lack of interest of the post-Stalin Cold War period.

The notes secreted away from the archives and published in the West reveal some very important historical facts. In a broad context, it is clear that the Soviet system was never abl
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Those poor, hapless KGB agents throwing bombs at Trotsky’s grandson (and missing), getting drunk and losing their microfilm nickels to Brooklyn newsboys, and falling in love so hard they gave up their contacts to the Canadian Mounties. Didn’t expect this to be funny, but it was hilarious.
Erik Graff
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: espionage fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This volume (1999) continues and substantially recapitulates Andrew's previous KGB (1991). Like the former, Andrew consulted with a former KGB agent, this time with one who had had long-term access to the KGB archives. Both books are histories beginning with the overthrow of the Czar in 1917, the former going up to Gorbachev, the latter to Yeltsin. Both also discuss the allied intelligence agencies of the Warsaw Pact countries. Reading one right after the other I found the repetition helpful in ...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
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vasili Mitrokhin took a lot of work home with him--and not just his--took notes, sometimes verbatim, and then smuggled the notes out with him when he defected.

Ranging from bone-chilling and frightening to ridiculous and laughable, this book may not have all the KGB's secrets, but it has a lot of them. The KGB could be brutally efficient, but at times its efforts were wildly out of proportion with any sort of rational estimation of the level of threat something presented. Paranoia and conspiracy
This was a really, really long book that took me an unusually long time to get through. (It took me 11 days, when I almost always finish even the longest books in under a week. I think it took me 4 days to get through Brandon Sanderson's most recent book, Oathbringer.)

The information in it was really interesting. I learned an awful lot about the history of the Cold War. I think the most interesting stuff was the history of Soviet meddling in US elections and (more generally) the overall American
Sep 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-read, history, espionage
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
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
whiney mccarthyists given access to secret archives. decent narrative of soviet espionage efforts, including assassinations of monarchists and then Trotskyists. this volume doesn't cover operations such as overthrowing foreign governments, which is the meat of the second volume's allegations.
Dec 16, 2006 rated it liked it  ·  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.
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think we fully appreciate yet the revelations that are in this book.
The book I read was 1864 pages, free on It is well organized.

Christopher M. Andrew has done an excellent job of assembling into a readable account the smuggled voluminous notes made by former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin from official top secret KGB files at the risk of his life. They pertain to the period from about 1918 to 1992. The KGB changed names several times. Mitrokhin did not have direct access to GRU (military intelligence) files.

Any professional intelligence hand who fai
Craig Fiebig
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The greatest political philosophy about-face followed the announcement of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. CP members around the world shifted from "Hitler is evil" to "Hitler's our friend" in less than 48 hours, a position they endorsed and maintained until he invaded Russia in operation Barbarossa in 1941. After the invasion CPs reverted to their original position. Today we see almost the same behavior. Democrats inexplicably described Republican concerns over the USSR/Russian Federation s ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Though it was really cool! (but very very VERY dry and boring at times. #nonfic)
I read several books on the OSS (the American spies/saboteurs during WWII and Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (on English spies/commandos [COMMANOS!!!!]) not to mention several spy movies, but they're all from the US or UK's POV so it was awesome to read this and fill in gaps in the story and see what the KGB was up to.

Also, the bit about JFK's killer...I lau
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This a a huge work. Just holding it read was a marathon. Based on the gleanings from the KGB archives collected by Vasili Mitrokhin. This huge work takes the reader behind the scenes at the Soviet security agency variously called the Cheka, NKVD, MGB, KGB and SVR. It documents the highs and lows, the successes and failures of the agency in its various incarnations from the founding of the Bolshevik state.

The most interesting aspect I found was the way in which the agency had been used to prop up
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a monumental effort detailing the history of Soviet Intellegence serivice, from its conception in the CHEKA to now-sh with the FSB . funny to think that The russians leeches off of other nations' progress because their ecnomic system is so backwards, and are able to convince so many bright young people into their cause. and funny to think that the Russians them selves do not trust the technology that they developed. still the brave men of the NKVD stood like walls of stone against the onslaught ...more
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OMG. WHAT A TOME! And also, deeply fascinating. It's dry and heavily, heavily detailed. Yet somehow also a page turner for me. The topics, setting, tension, politics, paranoia and tactics employed seem surprisingly relevant to our current era. It was interesting to find out there was some actual basis for the red scare (top level penetration of the US government with collaboration of the CPUSA), while not unexpected the information was absent from my education.

I'll miss reading a couple pages b
Michael Thomas
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book, speaks to how evil the Soviet Union was. Think of a mob family that possesses 10,000 nuclear warheads and you get an idea of what the hellish nation was all about. The book is not based on heresy or innuendo, it is built off of smuggled KGB documents that detail the endless crimes these hellishly evil people committed through the entire USSR existence.

Can be some tough places to wade through, but no pain, no gain.
Wilma Krom
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wat een onthutsend boek is dis dit. In alle opzichten. Hoe eenvoudig het was voor de KGB om in Engeland, Frankrijk en USA te spioneren. Er was werkelijk geen enkele beveiliging. Onthutsend is ook hoe Lenin en Stalin geobsedeerd waren zoor zo genaamde samenzweringen tegen Rusland dat ze veel informatie als leugens afdeden. Hoe had de wereld eruit gezien als dat niet was geweest. Het zou mooi zijn als er ook zo'n geheim archief van de FBI en CIA was.
Doug Z
Clearly an important work, but also definite slog to read. I gave up after about 415 pages, but I am certain I have the gist of what the KGB did. Mr. Mitrokhin is a brave individual and I salute him for the work he has done. Mr. Andrew is an excellent writer and I look forward to reading other of his works.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history from KGB archives covering most of the 20th century, and a timely reminder that Russia has been meddling in the domestic politics of other countries and perfecting its war on the truth for decades...
5 stars for the Mitrokhin amazing effort to shed some light on some of the KGB secrets, helping us to better understand a dark era.
On the downside, I found constant use of code names a little bit too much.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit I couldn't get through all 40 hours of this beast. There's a lot of needed repetition. But anyone trying to understand Russia in 2018 had better watch The Americans. And then maybe read its source material.
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This reads more like a reference book than a historical summary of the KGB. This is loaded with dates, codenames and an almost clinical listing of the various KGB measures throughout the world.

In the hands of a spy novelist this really could have come alive with some obviously fascinating situations that I really wanted to see explored with more detail.

As it is, it is a difficult read that had me nodding off as I plodded through it on late evenings. While I can recommend it as a historical doc
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
If you're interested in the Cold War and the role of the KGB, this is a great resource book. Very enlightening!
John Ferringer
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting historical information, but very dense as well.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love the detail chronology. I wish there was a sequel to bring us current to today’s political situation.
Charles Cameron
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Overall very good. A little tedious with all the Russian names, however. Looking forward to volume 2.
TS Allen
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
"Victims of their own deception"
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Christopher Maurice Andrew is an historian at the University of Cambridge with a special interest in international relations and in particular the history of intelligence services.

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