A well-executed narrative of the mechanics behind the Cold War that may be a bit too dense and/or dry for casual readers.




Intensely detailed history of the Russian spy services, from the revolution through glasnost.

Haslam (History of International Relations, Cambridge Univ.; Russia’s Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall, 2011, etc.) focuses on myriad individuals who rose and fell within the competing factions of Russia’s spy services after 1917. As the communists had to build an intelligence structure from scratch, under assault from czarist remnants and neighboring states, they developed a simple system of “illegal” (covert) or “legal” (diplomatic) rezidenturas posted abroad in both political and military intelligence, divisions kept separate and subject to meddling by a paranoid Stalin. Haslam portrays the first generation of Soviet spies as colorful, tough zealots, largely liquidated during the terror of 1937-1938. The author argues that the Russians were only able to survive the German onslaught of 1941 due to their success in purloining intelligence from the British—notably from Kim Philby’s infamous circle. After the war, a pattern developed of the Soviets lagging in technological fields like cryptolinguistics yet countering Western espionage with superior human intelligence. “Berlin held centre stage in the Cold War for many years,” writes Haslam, “but the United States was always the principal objective.” Yet the endgame proved swift: when the Reagan administration ramped up military spending, “the two rival services, the KGB and GRU, failed to do what was vitally necessary in terms of evaluation” of the apparent military threat, ultimately leading to the fall of the Soviet Union. Haslam concludes by observing how, with Vladimir Putin’s ascendancy, “the history of the Soviet intelligence services thus becomes…a vantage point into the story of the present.” The author writes authoritatively, deftly managing his labyrinth of ruthless personalities, but the large historical canvas can be overwhelming.

A well-executed narrative of the mechanics behind the Cold War that may be a bit too dense and/or dry for casual readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-21990-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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