COMRADE VALENTINE by Richard E. Rubenstein


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 A life--intriguing in every sense of the word--of legendary czarist police spy and social revolutionary Yevno Azef by Rubenstein (Conflict Resolution/George Mason Univ., Alchemists of Revolution, 1987). One of the most bizarre figures in the latter years of the czarist regime, Azef combined a hatred of czarism and a seemingly genuine aspiration for a more democratic Russia with a total amorality as to how he attained his objectives. Recruited by the Russian police in 1892, he became, with their help, one of the founders of the Social Revolutionary Party and then, unknown to them, the leader of the ``Fighting Organization'' dedicated to assassinating the most repressive czarist officials. To build up his credibility, he shamelessly betrayed dozens of party members, though chiefly those in factions to which he was opposed. In the course of his activities over 20 years, while reporting directly to the top intelligence officials in Russia, but without disclosing his ultimate objectives, he planned the successful assassinations of Interior Minister von Plehve and Grand Duke Sergei and, but for a stroke of fortune, might have killed the czar himself. Rubenstein theorizes that what was important for him was not so much the financial incentives but the power of ``deciding who on each side would live or die'' and, less convincingly, that only ``a man deeply wounded in his identity'' could have behaved in this way. Azef was brought down eventually by an investigative journalist and spent most of the last three years of his life in a German jail, much of it in solitary confinement, perceived as a threat to the German government. Though there is a little too much speculation and less than authoritative reconstruction of Azef's thoughts, this is a persuasive and gripping account of a shadowy but pivotal figure.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-15-152895-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1994


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