THE STORM PETRELS: The Flight of the First Soviet Defectors by Gordon Brook-Shepherd

THE STORM PETRELS: The Flight of the First Soviet Defectors

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Today few realize that before World War II a handful of high-ranking Soviet defectors tried to expose the real nature of Stalin's Russia. While Walter Krivitsky's and Alexander Orlov's books once attracted some notice, they, along with fellow secret agents Georgi Agabekov and Ignaz Reiss, Stalin's secretary Boris Bajanov and diplomat Grigory Bessedovsky, are now all but forgotten. Gordon Brook-Shepherd's popular history dwells on these defectors' bizarre adventures in the shadowy inter-war world of Russian ÉmigrÉs. All were escapees and one, Bessedovsky, actually climbed over his embassy's wall. Several died mysteriously; Reiss' bullet-riddled body was found on the side of a Swiss road, Krivitsky was a suspicious suicide, and Agabekov simply disappeared. Still, one sometimes wonders about the author's choice of emphasis. Does Agabekov's exhaustingly described romance, billed as ""one of the most baffling and most tragic love affairs of their, or any other generation,"" really deserve such lengthy treatment? And what about the defection of senior NKVD agent Alexander Barmine, mentioned only in passing? We never find out how he became sufficiently trusted to work for the OSS and Voice of America. It is confusing, moreover, to learn that Britain was able to debrief Krivitsky properly because of traditional expertise in Russian espionage, after having been informed of its bumbling performance with Bajanov. But while Brook-Shepherd's account is not a total success, its colorful cast makes for lively reading.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich