How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies

How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies

by Amy Knight
     
 

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On September 5, 1945, Soviet cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko severed ties with his embassy in Ottawa, Canada, reporting allegations to authorities of a Soviet espionage network in North America. His defection — the first following the end of WWII, occurring less than a month after atomic bombs exploded over Japan — sent shockwaves through Washington, London,

Overview


On September 5, 1945, Soviet cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko severed ties with his embassy in Ottawa, Canada, reporting allegations to authorities of a Soviet espionage network in North America. His defection — the first following the end of WWII, occurring less than a month after atomic bombs exploded over Japan — sent shockwaves through Washington, London, and Ottawa. The three allies, who until weeks earlier had been aligned with the Soviets, feared that key atomic secrets had been given to Russian agents, affecting the balance of postwar power. In her riveting narrative, Amy Knight documents how Gouzenko's defection, and the events that followed it, triggered Cold War fears and altered the course of modern history. Knight sheds new light on the Gouzenko Affair, showing how J. Edgar Hoover hoped to discredit the Truman administration by incriminating U.S. government insiders Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. She also probes Gouzenko's motives for defecting and brilliantly connects these events to the strained relations between the Soviet Union and the West that marked the beginning of the Cold War.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An expert in Russian politics, Knight (Beria: Stalin's First Lieutenant) mars this otherwise excellent in-depth portrait of a Soviet defector with inflated claims. Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, defected with his pregnant wife, Anna, and their young son in September 1945. Gouzenko also had a cache of stolen documents proving Soviet espionage against World War II allies: Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. On the basis of those documents and Gouzenko's testimony, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was able to roll up a spy ring that included a member of the Canadian Parliament. In the U.S., the case "marked the beginning of a red scare." After the furor died down, Gouzenko wrote his memoirs, which inspired the movie The Iron Curtain, and a bestselling novel, The Fall of a Titan, which sparked comparisons to Tolstoy, before dying of a heart attack in 1982. Gouzenko's story is a real-life spy thriller, and Knight recounts his defection and its frenzied aftermath deftly. She overreaches, however, when she argues that the affair "destroyed" the "already fragile post-war peace" and led "inexorably into the Cold War." In fact, the wartime alliance foundered on much more fundamental differences. (Sept. 5) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786719389
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
08/28/2007
Pages:
376
Sales rank:
1,221,745
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

How the Cold War Began


By Amy Knight

Random House

Amy Knight
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0771095775


Chapter One

Igor Gouzenko was presented to the West as a man of courage who did a great service in opening up the eyes of the world to Soviet treachery. But like most defectors, Gouzenko is more complicated than that. The popularly accepted account of his defection and the subsequent investigation leaves many unanswered questions. Was Gouzenko really a hero? Those who were accused unjustly of spying, and who had their names and reputations tarnished for life as a result, viewed Gouzenko as an opportunist whose word should never have been trusted. But was it really his fault that his allegations were used for the purposes of realpolitik? Once he made his pact with Western intelligence services, much of what Gouzenko did or said was out of his control.

To understand Gouzenko's historical legacy, we must go back to the beginning, to that fateful day in September 1945 when he walked out of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa with a sheaf of secret documents. What motivated this obscure young cipher clerk to betray his country and embark on what would become a life of fear, acclaim, and, eventually, frustration and poverty? What evidence did he actually produce to show that there was such a massive Soviet spy ring in North America? And what were the driving forces that led Western government officials and politicians to seize on Gouzenko's allegations and engage in an unprecedented struggle against the communist menace?

For decades, much of the official documentation on the Gouzenko affair in Canada, Britain, and the United States was kept under wraps as part of long-­standing secrecy regulations. But government files in all three countries have opened up, and recently the intelligence services of Canada and Britain have released an impressive amount of exciting new evidence. In 2003, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (csis), at this author's request, declassified hundreds of rcmp Gouzenko documents, and at the end of that year the British made a large portion of their mi5 Gouzenko file publicly available. It is now possible to document, for the first time, the details of the defection and the response of the allied governments, and to examine the impact of the case in the years that followed. And thanks to "glasnost," we now can learn about the impact of the Gouzenko affair in the Soviet Union, the turmoil it created in the Kremlin, and the repercussions it had for the Soviet intelligence apparatus.

In chronicling Gouzenko's story, this book renews a debate that began in the McCarthy era and divides historians to this day. To what extent were the people accused of passing secrets to the Soviets during the 1940s really spies, and to what extent were they merely individuals sympathetic to the communist cause and unwittingly drawn into the Soviet espionage network? Another important question, one that resonates particularly strongly in today's post-­September 11 world, is whether the harm that was done to Western interests by those who did spy justified the widespread abuse of individual rights, the vast expenditures of public resources, and the shattering of so many innocent lives. Was the Gouzenko affair necessary to open up our eyes to the evils of the Soviet empire, or did the defection produce an overreaction that polarized Western society and diverted Western governments from a more reasoned and productive response to Soviet espionage as we gradually came to understand its capabilities and aims? Can we say today, with over fifty years of hindsight and a vast amount of new archival documentation, that the Cold War, as fought by the West against Soviet espionage in the early post-­war years, was worth fighting? This book aims to answer these questions.


Excerpted from How the Cold War Began by Amy Knight Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author


Amy Knight has a PhD in Russian politics from the London School of Economics. She has been a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. She has written frequently for the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Her previous books include Beria: Stalin’s First Lieutenant, Spies Without Cloaks: The KGB’s Successors, and Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin’s Greatest Mystery. She divides her time between Ottawa and Switzerland.

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