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The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB Paperback – 8 Aug 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New title edition (8 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465003125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465003129
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 4.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 866,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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This book is based on unprecedented and unrestricted access to one of the world's most secret and closely guarded archives-that of the foreign intelligence arm of the KGB, the First Chief Directorate (FCD). Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Barry Ryder on 8 Jun 2011
Format: Hardcover
Published in 1999, this is Christopher Andrew's masterful study and analysis of `The Mitrokhin Archive`.

For sheer in-depth and reliable material on the KGB and it's workings this book is without equal.

The author is an eminent authority on the world of intelligence and espionage and all of his published works are rightly regarded as 'bench-marks' on the subject.

This fat volume is crammed from cover-to-cover with - what amounts to - the entire history of the KGB, it's operatives and it's operations throughout the USA and Europe.

Everything is here, from the well-know names of Blake, Blunt, Burgess, Philby and Maclean to names and events that were hitherto unknown to anyone outside the KGB.

For serious students and casual readers alike, your `spy bookshelf' is incomplete without this remarkable offering from Christopher Andrew.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 93 reviews
89 of 94 people found the following review helpful
Don't make this the first book you read on the topic... 28 Jun 2000
By taking a rest - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a large body of work containing an enormous amount of information. The reason for the 4 stars is that I just don't feel that all the information from the KGB files can be taken without any skepticism at all. This is not really harsh criticism just an acknowledgement that with the flood of documents coming from the former Soviet Union and it's Republics, some prudent skepticism is called for. It also is not a comment on Mr. Mitrokhin, truth versus deception, disinformation, and lies, was part of the daily life in the Soviet Union. It is possible all his information is uncorrupted, but a bit of a jaundiced view is reasonably called for.
The book is interesting and loaded with information. I don't suggest this as a first book about the KGB because it reads more like a textbook; it is very meticulous to the point tedious in detail at times. If the subject is one you have some familiarity with, this volume could serve as an excellent reference work. If this were the first book you were to read on the topic, reaching the end would be challenging.
Vasily Nikitich Mitrokhin oversaw 300,000 files on an exhaustive list of prominent names in American History. If there was a person who had access to a library of information, Mr. Mitrokhin certainly qualifies. His willingness to remove information on a daily basis for years on end is both a testament to his courage, and an amazing period of luck.
The work is excellent in depth and breadth of material covered. It is not light reading as the subjects that are covered, or sometimes mentioned briefly, have been the topic of entire books. If you are willing to make the effort and devote the time, your knowledge of this particular man's cache of information will greatly expand your knowledge of what some of the KGB's activities were. With the passing of time a more complete picture will emerge of this opponent of The Cold War. It certainly is not the final word on the matter, but an excellent piece of the story.
Well worth reading if given the time.
67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
A Fascinating Look Behind The Closed Doors of the KGB! 29 Jun 2000
By Barron Laycock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
From this book we learn of one of the most incredible stories to yet emerge from the history of the Cold War; the tale of this Russian defector who had laboriously hand-scribed an astonishing archive detailing the history of hundreds of thousands of secret KGB files. One is breathlessly swept along by two elements in this true story; first, by the tale of the defector himself, who calmly, deliberately and systematically copied the records of so many cases of surveillance, mistreatment, harassment, torture, and murder by KGB agents over the decades at great personal risk to himself and his family, and second, by the tales of horror these files contain.
The defector himself worked for decades as the chief archivist for the foreign intelligence division of the KGB. Part of his duties was to extensively check and then seal each of the hundreds of thousands of cases on file, which gave him unhindered access to all of the secrets of the decades of KGB activity. Of course, one has to ask oneself the most important question; why? Apparently the defector had long ago become badly disillusioned by the nature of the Soviet government and its ritualistic suppression of human rights, especially by its record of systematic silencing of both domestic and international dissidents. Faced with a series of decisions about what to do, he eventually drifted into copying the records as a quiet act of protest, soon the records, smuggled out in his clothing, pockets, inside his socks,shoes, or his underwear, soon grew to fantastic proportions.
The tales of KGB abuse and excess are horrifying to read about, staggering the imagination both in terms of the extent they reached, and also in terms of the absolute lunacy of much of it. It extended from assassination attempts to infiltration of civil rights leader's entourages, from tales of murder and mayhem in the days of the Bolsheviks to stories of deep-cover agents still active when the book was published, from secretly booby-trapped arm caches to hate mail and bomb campaigns in the United States. As amazing as the laundry list of misdeeds may be, what is so incredible is that most of it was so singularly unsuccessful in both conception and execution, illustrating just how culturally inept the KGB was, and how badly misconceived most of this mayhem was.
This is a fascinating book, written in a very readable and entertaining fashion. The difficulties in writing it and the risks associated with smugglingit out of the Soviet Union read like something out of a John LeCarre novel. Yet because of its considerable length and its subject matter, it is a slow and time-consuming read. I enjoyed reading it, and recommend it for anyone interested in just how energetic and devilishly inspired yet motley cast of KGB characters were over a period of almost eighty years.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
It's All There 5 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While not everything in the book is news, the fact that virtually ALL the names (minor and major), dates and actions since 1917 are present makes this book a very valuable treasure indeed. Yes, folks, it's all true - the Rosenbergs were in fact guilty of espionage, Alger Hiss was in fact a Communist agent, the vicious innuendos that have been launched against J. Edgar Hoover since his death did in fact have their origin in Moscow - and the Soviet archives made public since 1991 back it all up. Andrew does sometimes go into tedious detail, but this may be necessary for those without a rudimentary understanding of the history of Soviet espionage. (The section on the Cambridge Five is especially illuminating - I would also recommend "Degenerate Moderns" by E. Michael Jones to anyone who wishes to further study that subject.)
I especially agreed with Andrew's conclusion in that the collapse of the Soviet empire has revealed the traditional faultline between East and West that has existed since the division of the Roman Empire in the fourth century A.D., which culminated in 1054 with the Eastern Schism that shattered the unity of the Christian Church. The cultural and political differences between East and West have been almost 1700 years in the making and sadly will not disappear overnight.
My only complaint about the book is the surprisingly large number of typographical errors, particlularly in regard to foreign names; however, this is of minor importance and does not diminish the book's effectiveness. Hopefully that minor problem will be corrected in subsequent printings.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Longwinded but interesting 11 Mar 2006
By Antonio - Published on
Format: Paperback
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 worst systems humanity has ever known, managed to rebrand themselves as victims of persecution. The paradigm for this view is Miller's "The Crucible", where for

"witches" one should read "spies". Except that there were no witches but there sure were spies. The Rosenbergs were spies and they did help Stalin put together his nuclear weapons. Alger Hiss was a spy. And so on and on. And as we have known or suspected for a long time, many NGOs such as the World Council of Churches and many political parties and publications were also preferred haunts for KGB agents and contacts in its neverending propaganda war.

Volume I of the Mitrokhin files is bulky and a longwinded. The writing is what used to be described as workmanlike in that goes to lenghts to avoid rethoric and even elegance. It just piles on fact upon fact. The facts are fascinating. As noted above, many of us knew that the governing and the chattering classes of the West were filled with spies and fellow travelers, but the sheer magnitude of that presence is impressive. We also knew that the Soviet leadership often did not manage to make the best possible use of the extraordinary intelligence it managed to acquire (remember Sorge's warning about the operation Barbarossa, and how Stalin dismissed him as a stooge to the British?). The book goes in mind-numbing detail on just how often political or personal prejudice stood in the way of taking advantage of the information.

As a Latin American I am a much bigger fan of volume II of the files. But volume I is a good place to start, and to never let us forget that the Cold War was a real war, that it could have been lost, and what it could have like if that had happened.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Dangers of Secret Police Directly Taken from KGB Archives 3 Feb 2001
By Donald Mitchell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who is seriously interested in how to conduct government is the most responsible way should read this book. In addition, those who love spy stories, histories, and novels will be rewarded with many new details and perspectives on Soviet and Russian foreign intelligence activities since the Russian Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century.
This book surprised me in several ways. First, I did not expect to learn that the KGB did not have a lot of important successes that were not already known publicly. Second, the KGB's effectiveness was more related to Western mistakes than to KGB brilliance. Third, the Soviet perceptions of the United States and Britain seem to have come from Fantasyland. The Soviet state made very poor use of terrific foreign intelligence because its leaders were such poor thinkers and the system did not encourage free discussion. Fourth, helping the dissidents inside the Soviet Union could have helped undo Communism much sooner.
What makes this book unique is the combination of having had access to almost all of the foreign intelligence archives of the KGB for 12 years and having those archives interpreted by someone in the KGB who was interested in the need to reform Soviet socialism. By having Christpher Andrew join Vasili Mitrokhin in authoring this book, you do get a Western overlay but the fundamental Russian perspective is still there.
I found the "big picture" aspects of the book far more rewarding than the specific examples. The rise of fascism clearly was Moscow's greatest resource in getting information from the West. The most effective spies (like Kim Philby and the other Magnficent Five in Britain) were as much motivated by anti-fascism as they were by helping the U.S.S.R. Although some are always willing to sell out for money or sex, idealism is the most dangerous motivation for traitors.
Interestingly, leaks from the United States about the atomic and hydrogen bombs related again to idealism -- concern about avoiding a world in which those bombs might be used. How might future offensive and defensive technology breakthroughs create similar actions? It's a chilling thought.
At the same time, the failure of the Soviet system eventually limited its ability to gain new traitors. The human rights abuses of the Soviets made Communism seem as dangerous to many idealists as fascism had earlier. Stalin doomed the Soviet system as much as its structural flaws did.
On the other hand, Lenin was just as committed to controlling through secret police and intelligence gathering as Stalin was. Clearly, the Communist hand at the tiller in Moscow would have slipped much sooner if severe repression and fear had not been used.
I also wondered how many of the problems that Western democracies had with the KGB could have been eliminated by having focused on proper security earlier. The shocking lapses of the British foreign service prior to World War II and in the Roosevelt administration clearly allowed a disproportionate share of the Soviet gains through foreign intelligence.
It would also be very interesting to read about how Western democracies could have countered these foreign intelligence operations sooner. Philby was essentially unmasked much earlier, and the same was true of Alger Hiss.
To me, though, the most frightening element of the book is the adoption of the new Russian intelligence operation of a visible connection to the heroes and history of the KGB and its successors. That represents a serious risk to creating a reestablishment of a Russia dominated by the secret police. That development could only lead into directions that are not good for Russians . . . or anyone else. The stories in this book about how KGB agents loyally served Stalin's slaughter, even as 90 percent of them lost their lives, are absolutely frightening. That could happen again! How can we avoid it?
What are the lessons here about secrecy? I suggest that you think about how secrecy affects your work and personal life. Where does secrecy help? Where does it hurt? What are the ethical implications of employing secrecy?
Use truth to help people make good decisions . . . always!
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