On September 5, 1945, cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko severed ties with the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, reporting to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police allegations of extensive Soviet espionage in North America, providing stolen documents detailing Soviet intelligence matters to back his claims. This action sent shockwaves through Washington, London, Moscow, and Ottawa, changing the course of the twentieth century.
Using recently declassified FBI and Canadian RCMP files on the Gouzenko case, author and Cold War scholar Amy Knight sheds new light on the FBI’s efforts to incriminate Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White in order to discredit the Truman Administration. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover seized upon Gouzenko’s defection as a means through which to demonize the Soviets, distorting statements made by Gouzenko to stir up “spy fever” in the U.S., setting the McCarthy era into motion. Through the FBI files and interviews with several key players, Knight delves into Gouzenko’s reasons for defecting and brilliantly connects these events to the strained relations between the Soviet Union and the West, marking the beginning of the Cold War.
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Amy Knight has a Ph.D in Russian politics from the London School of Economics. She has been a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, and is a world expert in Soviet and Russian security services. She has written for The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Washington Post, and The New York Review of Books. Her four previous books, The KGB: Police and Politics in the Soviet Union (1988), Beria: Stalin's First Lieutenant (1993), Spies Without Cloaks: The KGB Successors (1996), and Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery (1999), have all received prominent international attention. She divides her time between Ottawa and Switzerland.From Publishers Weekly:
An expert in Russian politics, Knight (Beria: Stalin's First Lieutenant) mars this otherwise excellent in-depth portrait of a Soviet defector with inflated claims. Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, defected with his pregnant wife, Anna, and their young son in September 1945. Gouzenko also had a cache of stolen documents proving Soviet espionage against World War II allies: Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. On the basis of those documents and Gouzenko's testimony, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was able to roll up a spy ring that included a member of the Canadian Parliament. In the U.S., the case "marked the beginning of a red scare." After the furor died down, Gouzenko wrote his memoirs, which inspired the movie The Iron Curtain, and a bestselling novel, The Fall of a Titan, which sparked comparisons to Tolstoy, before dying of a heart attack in 1982. Gouzenko's story is a real-life spy thriller, and Knight recounts his defection and its frenzied aftermath deftly. She overreaches, however, when she argues that the affair "destroyed" the "already fragile post-war peace" and led "inexorably into the Cold War." In fact, the wartime alliance foundered on much more fundamental differences. (Sept. 5)
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