BOOKS CONCERNING SOVIET STATE SECURITY
by Charles Trew Burke, Virginia
The following is a short collection of books concerning,
either directly or indirectly, the Soviet Committee for State
Security (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, or KGB).
All of the books were written during the 1980's and are
arranged alphabetically by author or editor.
The list is not intended to be comprehensive. The list
contains a wide range of authors. Among the group are scholars,
government officials (active and retired), Soviet bloc defectors,
and other people in positions that afford them the ability to
provide information on the Soviet state security apparatus. Some
of the works deal only with the KGB. Others deal primarily
with other topics yet, still provide insightful commentary on a
specific topic concerning the KGB.
During the late spring of 1989, at the Soviet Congress of
People's Deputies, former weight lifter Yuri Vlasov made one of
the harshest attacks on the Soviet Committee for State Security
(KGB) in recent memory.
Vlasov, whose father disappeared in 1953, stated live on
Soviet television: "This service sowed grief, cries, torture on
its native land...The democratic renewal in the country has not
changed the position of the KGB in the political system." Vlasov
also made a number of other emotional and dramatic charges during
his speech. At the conclusion of his remarks, the hall gave him
an extended ovation.
The incident is, indeed, evidence of how far political
changes have come to the Soviet Union. A very short time ago,
Vlasov's comments would have placed him in very serious trouble.
Yet, Vlasov is quite correct that the KGB has retained its power
and privileged postion in the USSR.
The organization that is now the KGB has undergone a
number of reorganizations and name changes since the inception of
the Cheka on December 7 (or 20), 1917. Although the organization
was supposed to be temporary, the Cheka and its successors (the
GPU, OGPU, GUGB, NKVD, NKGB, MGB, and now the KGB) have remained
a key element in the administration of internal and external
policies of the USSR. Interestingly, members of the KGB still
call themselves Chekists in recognition of a hallowed tradition.
Despite the widespread public recognition of the
organization's existence, few, even in the Soviet field,
comprehend the full role of the KGB in Soviet society. Most
frequently the KGB is compared to the American Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA). However, the scope of activities
carried out by the KGB include the functions that are carried out
in the United States by at least a dozen Federal agencies.
BOOKS CONCERNING SOVIET STATE SECURITY
by Charles Trew Burke, Virginia
Barron, John. KGB Today. New York: Reader's Digest, 1983. 489 pp.
Contains photographs and index.
Barron, an editor at Reader's Digest, has written a number
of articles and books on the KGB. He has benefitted enormously
from CIA cooperation on his books. His access to government
officials and documents, and a number of Soviet defectors, has
allowed him to put together two of the best-selling works ever on
the KGB (his previous work was KGB published in 1974 by Reader's
Aside from providing a wealth of information, Barron
writes in a style that is to easy read. He dosen't get too
technical for the non-specialist or place footnotes everywhere.
For this work, Barron worked extensively with Stanislav
Levchenko, a former KGB Major who defected while on operational
assignment in Japan in the late 1970's (Levchenko has also been
involved in two other works that will be discussed further on).
Corson, William R. and Robert T. Crowley. The New KGB. New York:
William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1985. Contains index and
photographs. 560 pp.
Both authors are retired American intelligence officers.
This work is a very well researched piece which covers many
different periods of Soviet state security.
The objective of the work is to present the reader a
"fresh way of looking at the current operations and global
strategies of the new KGB." The authors argue that the KGB has
taken on a more active role in Soviet government and has
increased its dominance in the Communist Party of the USSR.
Dzhirkvelov, Ilya. Secret Servant. New York: Harper & Row,
Publishers, 1987. 398 pp. Contains index.
A fascinating account by a former member of the KGB who
defected to the West in 1980. Dzhirkvelov, who participated in
many "direct action" operations, is particularly interesting
because he defected for personal reasons and remains unrepentant
for many of his activities. He is still an admirer of Joseph
Stalin, for example, and some of the extermination operations he
participated in against nationalist minorities in the USSR after
WWII. A very unusual autobiography.
Dziak, John J. Chekisty. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1988.
234 pp. Contains index.
A very well written historical account by a senior
intelligence official with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The extensive documentation, frequently using Soviet materials,
is invaluable. The bibliography is also quite useful.
This hard-hitting work has many classic quotes and
comments including the infamous comment on the Soviet secret
police by Felix Dzerzhinski, its founder: "We represent in
ourselves organized terror --- this must be said very clearly..."
(interview with B. Rossov, "From Our Moscow Correspondent,"
Novaya Zhizhin,' June 9, 1918, p. 4). Highly recommended work.
Knight, Amy W. The KGB. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988. 348 pp.
An excellent scholarly work by a senior analyst with the
Congrssional Research Service of the Library of Congress.
The focus of the work is the politcal role of the KGB in
the government of the USSR. This work is very rich in
documentation and detail and is definately more for a specialist.
Other readers may find the work rough going. Researchers will
find this work invaluable and very well balanced. Highly
Leggett, George. The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police. Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1981 (reprinted with corrections as
paperback, 1986). 514 pp. With index.
This piece is a masterwork of research by a British
scholar. This book is one of the best works ever on the Soviet
secret police, certainly on the Cheka. Totally comprehensive and
"must reading" for information on the beginnings of Soviet state
Levchenko, Stanislav. On the Wrong Side. Washington: Pergammon-
Brassey's, 1988. 244 pp.
Levchenko was a member of the First Chief Directorate of
the KGB (Foreign Operations) working in Japan. This book is his
autobiography and covers the early years of his life and career
up to his defection to the United States in 1979.
This work is very Russian and emotional in style. While
telling the reader about his life and career, Levchenko
effectively illustrates the difficuly and strains of conflicting
loyalties and beliefs.
Pacepa, Ion Mihai. Red Horizons. Washington: Regnery Gateway,
1987. 446 pp. With index and photographs.
A controversial work by a Romanian spymaster who defected
to the United States in 1978. Pacepa had held a number of
exteremely sensitive positions in the Romanian Securitate. One of
his duties included directing the personal security of Romanian
President Nicolae Ceusescu. His defection accelerated a massive
purge being conducted in the Romanian Communist Party by
President Ceusescu. Pacepa was debriefed by the CIA on a full-
time basis for three years following his defection.
His remarks on the turbulent Romanian-Soviet relationship
and Soviet control mechanisms over Warsaw Pact allies are
Richelson, Jeffrey T. Sword and Shield. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger
Publishing Co., 1986. 279 pp.
The author, a professor from the Washington DC area, has
written a number of works on intelligence matters.
Compared to some of the other works available on the KGB,
this work has pretty shallow research behind it. In a number of
areas, up to 20 footnotes will be taken up using only two, maybe
three different sources. Non-specialists may, however, find the
work an easier read than some of the more thoroughly researched
Rocca, Raymond G. and John J. Dziak. Bibliography of Soviet
Intelligence and Security Services. Boulder, CO: Westview
Press, 1985. 203 pp. With index.
An indispensible tool for researching the KGB and its
cousins. The work covers other bibliographies, Soviet accounts,
Defector/First Hand accounts, Second Hand accounts, and
government materials. This is another "must have" work.
Rommerstein, Herbert and Stanislav Levchenko. The KGB Against
Main Enemy. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1989. 369 pp.
Rommerstein was recently director of the Office to Counter
Soviet Active Measures and Disinformation at the US Information
Agency. This work, by two intelligence professionals, traces the
history of Soviet intelligence operations against the Glavny
Vrag, or Main Enemy, as the US is called in Soviet intelligence
The work covers both old and new ground. The authors were
able to successfully dig up some new information on past events
through the Freedom of Information Act. The book also includes
material on events in the late 1980's.
Sharansky, Natan (Anatoly). Fear No Evil. New York: Random House,
1988. 437 pp. Contains index and photographs.
This is the memior from one of the most well-known of the
Soviet refuseniks and dissidents. Sharansky's dislike of the KGB
is matched only by the dislike of the KGB toward him. The book is
a dramatic testament from an intense, determined man.
The work is useful because of the unique view it gives of
some of the KGB's internal roles. Sharansky also has a very
articulate and effective writing style.
Shevchenko, Arkady. Breaking With Moscow. New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1985. 378 pp. With index.
Shevchenko was serving as under Secretary-General of the
United Nations during the 1970's when he agreed to spy for the
United States. He later defected.
Because of Shevchenko's senior diplomatic position, he has
information to provide in a number of areas. One area is Soviet
intelligence operations. Shevchenko, and most other Soviet
employees at the UN, had to preform duties for the KGB. Because
of his senior position, Shevchenko had regular contact with the
top Soviet security personnel in New York and Washington.
Wise, David. The Spy Who Got Away. New York: Random House, 1988.
288 pp. With index and photographs.
Wise is a journalist with a number of articles and books
on intelligence matters to his credit. In this book Wise analyzes
the Edward Lee Howard affair. Howard was an employee of the CIA
being trained to run US agents in Moscow. The CIA discovered that
Howard had lied about his personal life, specifically his drug
use and past thefts. Howard was fired and then retaliated by
passing information to the Soviets. He later made a rare US
defection to the Soviet Union shortly before he was to be
arrested by the FBI.
Wise was actually able, with KGB permission, to interview
Howard in Budapest, Hungary (around the same time British
espionage journalist Phillip Knightly was allowed to interview
Kim Philby in Moscow). Wise also reveals very interesting details
of FBI and CIA counterintelligence operations. A good story.
Wright, Peter. Spy Catcher. New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1987.
392 pp. With index and photographs.
The highly controversial memior from a former MI5 official
that the British government tried desperately (and
unsuccessfully) to prevent from being published. The book is a
treasure trove of accounts of American, British, and Soviet
intelligence operations. The intrigues and conspiricies run wild
in this one.