cover image Comrade Valentine: Russian Terrorist and Master Spy

Comrade Valentine: Russian Terrorist and Master Spy

Richard E. Rubenstein. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $24.95 (316pp) ISBN 978-0-15-152895-0

One of history's most intriguing double agents, Yevno Azef, a Russian Jew born into poverty, operated simultaneously as a spy for the Czarist secret police and as leader of an antigovernment terrorist group in Russia. Purportedly he was not only responsible for the liquidation of countless Czarist ministers, officials and high-ranking military officers (he came close to pulling off the ultimate terrorist act of his day, the assassination of Czar Nicholas II) but also betrayed many of his comrades in the Fighting Organization of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Exposed as a double agent in 1909, Azef fled to Berlin with his German mistress, a nightclub entertainer, supported himself as a stockbroker and corset retailer, and died a free man in 1918 at the age of 48. Rubenstein, a professor of public affairs at George Mason University, speculates on the motivations of this treacherous figure, but fails to render him any less enegmatic. Readers will find what Azef did of great interest without learning why he did it. Photos. (July)