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The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West (Penguin Press History) Paperback – 27 Jul 2000
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Derived from 30,000 top-secret files of the KGB's Foreign Intelligence Service, The Mitrokhin Archive has sparked controversy in Whitehall and Fleet Street. It has also made Melita Norwood--Britain's grandmother-spy--an overnight media celebrity. This huge book is the result of a collaboration between Vasili Mitrokhin, a former senior officer of the Soviet Foreign Intelligence Service, and Christopher Andrew, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History and Chair of the Faculty of History at Cambridge University.
Mitrokhin defected to the UK in 1992, bringing with him notes and classified files he had smuggled out of the Soviet foreign intelligence archives. The authors reveal that Norwood was more highly valued by the Soviets as a spy than the more famous Kim Philby. She passed on technical information that had enabled the Russians to build their own atomic bomb. As an employee at the British Non- Ferrous Metals Research Association, she passed on top- secret files on the Tube Alloys (atomic bomb) project. But Norwood was not alone in being approached to spy for the Soviets--others were MPs Tom Driberg and Raymond Fletcher. The book also records a misguided attempt at recruiting Sir Harold Wilson.
The soviets may have been masters at collecting intelligence, but The Mitrokhin Archive shows their inability to interpret the information they received. It's an exhaustive but riveting read--and there's a promise of a second volume. --Susan Sheph --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Christopher Andrew is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History and Chair of the Faculty of History at Cambridge University. His authorised history of MI5 will be published by Penguin in 2009. Vasili Mitrokhin was a former senior officer of the Soviet Foreign Intelligence service whose career spanned the period between 1948 and 1984. He defected to the United Kingdom in 1992 and died in 2004.
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Top customer reviews
Having close relation to someone who lived in the latter part of Soviet times, Mitrokhin's archive even manages to surprise those who were living it day to day.
I enjoyed reading this book from start to finish, but sometimes the level of information given at any one time was too congested, the book jumped from time to time leaving me confused as to which time was being mentioned, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment too much.
My other criticism of this title is that there is an intended second volume from what I can grasp, I feel that as a chronological history of the whole KGB era was presented the introduction of a second volume is largely unnecessary. Maybe a better structure of this volume would have sufficed.
All in all on sheer content I give this book four stars. I really recommend it as criticisms aside, there is a certain "shock value" when you realise that this is fact and not fiction. One of the most interesting, and perhaps worrying, parts deals with the "Centre's" pre-occupations of USA nuclear first strikes both in the 60's and 80's, that was enough to realise that it really is a good job what happened has happened.
Although the revelations about Melita Norwood have made all the headlines, there is much else here to commend this book to the reader of modern history. My favourite piece concerned the influence of Pope John Paul II on the downfall of the Polish communist regime, although you could take your pick from the October Revolution, the Great Terror, or the demise of the Soviet Union in the late eighties; this book spans the entire seven decades of the Soviet behemoth.
Although this book is a heavy read (it is over seven hundred pages long), the patient reader will be rewarded with perspectives on the Cold War that no other book can offer. Thanks to the Mitrokhin archive, we can not only understand why the Soviet regime collapsed, but what preserved it for seventy years.
The Archive is either a very complete account of Soviet foreign intelligence operations which shows the KGB to have been rather ineffectual after the already known successes of the 40's and 50's, or a very effective disinformation operation which protected long range KGB operations in the turbulent years when the Soviet Union collapsed and the KGB had to change its coat. Enjoy with a healthy dose of skepticism.
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