The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America - -The Stalin Era

Allen Weinstein, Author, Alexander Vassiliev, Joint Author, Allen Weinstein, Introduction by Random House (NY) $30 (402p) ISBN 978-0-679-45724-4
Like Yale University Press's The Secret World of American Communism and The Soviet World of American Communism, by Harvey Klehr et al., this account of the ""golden age"" of Soviet spying, 1933-1945, draws heavily on recently declassified Russian archives, but turns those documents into a narrative history. Historian Weinstein (Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case) and retired KGB agent Vassiliev offer new background for such controversial Cold War figures as Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Unlike recent spies (such as Aldrich Ames), Stalin-era turncoats were motivated primarily by ideology. Many harbored the naive belief that the U.S.S.R. was an oppression-free utopia, while others saw the Soviet Union as the only credible bulwark against European fascism. Some spies even mixed ideology with emotion, such as the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Germany who carried on a love affair with her Russian handler. Soviet espionage's most dazzling success was the theft of atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project, a coup that enabled the U.S.S.R. to accelerate its own nuclear program. Ironically, by the 1950s, when America became obsessed with the ""Red menace,"" Soviet espionage had been decimated by the high-level defections of Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley. The authors write as historians, not polemicists, eschewing both cheap moralism and apologetics. Although the narrative occasionally bogs down in profuse detail, it is also packed with plenty of intriguing characters and cloak-and-dagger tales of secrecy, subversion and betrayal. This is an important contribution to the history of the Cold War. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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