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The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service

The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service

4.8 5
by Andrew Meier

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Filled with dramatic revelations, The Lost Spy may be the most important American spy story to come along in a generation.


Filled with dramatic revelations, The Lost Spy may be the most important American spy story to come along in a generation.

Editorial Reviews

Peter Pringle
The Lost Spy is a valiant effort, a well-written and rewarding romp through the international communist movement of the 1920s and '30s. The book's jacket suggests that it "will rewrite the history of Soviet intelligence in the West." There are too many blanks for that, but Meier reaches an intriguing conclusion: Oggins was arrested because his minder tried to quit. His cell was "rolled up," as spies say, and Oggins was murdered because he knew too much about Soviet spy rings abroad. It seems the most plausible explanation. But for all Meier's dogged sleuthing (and I look forward to his next casebook), the full story of this lost spy remains in the shadows.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Former TimeMoscow correspondent Meier (Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall) tells a remarkable story about Cy Oggins, a Columbia University undergraduate who joined the fledgling Communist Party in 1920. Recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1926, he went to Europe in the guise of an academic; his residences acted as centers for Soviet espionage. After 1930 he sailed to China and Manchuria for various undercover schemes, then traveled to Moscow in 1939 during Stalin's purges. Despite long, loyal service, he was arrested and sent to an Arctic gulag and despite frantic pleas for Oggins's release from his wife, and more modest U.S. government efforts, the Soviets murdered Oggins in 1947 to keep his story from getting out. In Soviet archives, Meier saw a heavily censored fraction of Oggins's 162-page file, supplemented by the FBI's massive records, compiled thanks to J. Edgar Hoover's lifelong fixation on Communists. These files plus the author's extensive research have produced a rich account of American communism's early years as well as the bizarre, tragic odyssey of an American who devoted his life to serving the U.S.S.R. 16 pages of illus. (Aug. 11)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Journalist/historian Meier (Black Earth) draws a well-written, comprehensive portrait of the life of American-born Soviet operative Isaiah "Cy" Oggins. He uses interviews with Oggins's American son, U.S. diplomatic and intelligence files, and an abridged copy of Oggins's KGB/Soviet archive file to inform his study while proposing intelligent scenarios for the story's undocumented and shadowy periods. Actor/narrator David Chandler (Copper River) gives a clear and articulate reading, especially when the narrative's complexity and shifting time lines require heightened listener concentration. A great addition to nonfiction collections. [With tracks every three minutes for bookmarking; the Norton hc was "highly recommended," LJ4/1/08.-Ed.]
—Kristen L. Smith

Kirkus Reviews
Time magazine's former Moscow correspondent profiles an American who traveled the world gathering intelligence for the Soviet Union, until he was swept up in Stalin's purges. Meier (Black Earth: a Journey Through Russia After the Fall, 2003, etc.) unravels an amazing story. The son of a prosperous Russian immigrant, Cy Oggins entered Columbia University in 1917. A brilliant scholar, he was swept up in student opposition to World War I and shared his left-wing peers' fascination with Russia's communist revolution. Thanks to J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with subversion, undercover FBI surveillance, wiretaps and mail intercepts preserve a detailed account of American communism's turbulent birth, in which Oggins and his wife Nerma played a modest role. Meier reminds us that Lenin's USSR was equally obsessed with subversion, quickly organizing an elaborate, worldwide system of spies, moles, couriers and assassins. Recruited to this network in 1926, Oggins never spied against the United States. Soviet intelligence assigned him the cover role of a prosperous American scholar studying abroad; his residence served as a safe house for its spies. Oggins later traveled to China and Manchuria to work on various espionage schemes. But faithful service did not save him from Stalin's paranoia about anyone who had contact with foreigners, which devastated the Soviet intelligence service in the late '30s. Thousands of loyal agents were summoned to Moscow and executed or dispatched to the Gulag. Arrested in 1939 and sent to an arctic slave-labor camp, Oggins had a damaged leg that saved him from the most grueling jobs; he survived until 1947. Meier tells the painful story of his final years and Nerma'sdesperate efforts to secure his release. Gripping tale of a 1920s American radical who ultimately paid a terrible price for his idealism.
Washington Post
A well-written and rewarding romp through the international communist movement of the 1920s and ’30s.— Peter Pringle
Sean Wilentz
“An espionage thriller of the first rank.”
Peter Pringle - Washington Post
“A well-written and rewarding romp through the international communist movement of the 1920s and ’30s.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore
“The Lost Spy is a jewel—one of those great lost spy stories from the cold war.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are Saying About This

Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Lost Spy is a jewel—one of those great lost spy stories from the cold war.
Sean Wilentz
An espionage thriller of the first rank.

Meet the Author

Andrew Meier, the author of Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall, is a recent Fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers and currently a writer-in-residence at the New School University. He lives in New York City.

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The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like LeCarre and Alan Furst, this is for you. All the drama and turns of a spy thriller, but one big difference: the story of the life--and death--of Cy Oggins is true. It must be one of the most bizarre, and important tales from history of US-Soviet relations.
Dawn-Christine More than 1 year ago
Robin Oggins, 70 years old in 2001, was on the eve of retirement from a teaching career in New York when he heard from the author. During that first (telephone) conversation, Robin told Meier, "This is the call I've been waiting for my whole life." (p 9) Robin had not seen his father since 1938, in Paris, when Isaiah left his wife and seven-year old son for the last time. (p 12) Within a year, Isaiah would be arrested in Moscow, forced to serve an eight-year sentence for a crime he did not commit, and horrifically exterminated by direct order of Stalin in 1947. Andrew Meier's moving narrative is structured in an interesting way and one more often seen in motion pictures than books. He presents chronologically (Isaiah's birth, childhood, school years, etc.) but then he "interrupts" the background with the first of a four part story series on the ill-fated years following Oggins arrest. The first story-Oggins time at the Lubyanka prison---is followed by more elaborate and surprisingly detailed accounts of his time at the Norilsk gulag, the Butyrka prison and his execution. Meier reconstructed these crucial years by conducting interviews with survivors and/or their children and delving into the government archives of the United States, China, England, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Russia and Switzerland. He even includes copies of some of the key documents. The National Security Agency documents (of the United States) included coded/decoded messages, but the truly shocking documents came from the various Russian agencies. It is hard for any American over the age of 25 to conceive of such Soviet forthrightness. (Verily, though, many of the documents were missing words or even whole phrases.) To American spectators of the Cold War or even its détente and final dissolution, the former Soviet Union (especially under Josef Stalin!) was a monolithic monster; an evil empire. What on earth could compel a young, bright, American* man to leave his home and his family and become a spy for the Soviets? (*Oggins, though the child of Russian immigrants, was born in the United States and never renounced his American citizenship.) Meier attempts to answer that question by recreating the world in which Oggins grew. He carefully chronicles Oggins years in the small mill town of Willimantic, Connecticut. Like so many other mill towns across the United States in early part of the 20th century, labor unrest reflected the unseemly face of industry while revealing the growing attractiveness of socialism and communism. Oggins, as a very impressionable young man, came of age precisely as labor struggles reached his humble town. When he later studied at Columbia in New York, he met, associated with and befriended others who, like he, supported the great Communist ideal: the Comintern. Oggins even married a woman of the cause. Nerma enthusiastically joined her husband as an agent of the Soviet Union in the late 1920s. They, like so many other Communist devotees in Europe, were part of an elaborate spy network, shuffling information (on every conceivable level) back to Moscow. However, when Nerma gave birth to their only child, a son they named Robin, she returned to the United States and essentially "retired." Isaiah, on his own, continued as a spy for the Soviet Union and spent years in France and China. It was during a trip to Moscow in 1939 that he was arrested by the very people he had been serving. Meier presents a comp
Strahd More than 1 year ago
A very well written and well researched book.
Manirul More than 1 year ago
Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago