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Chekisty: A History of the KGB Mass Market Paperback – October 31, 1988


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 31, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080410381X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804103817
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,924,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P.K. Ryan on October 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Here we have a concise history of the Russian state security services from 1917 until approximately 1988 when the book was published. Founded directly after the revolution by Dzerzhinskiy and Lenin, the Cheka, as it was then known, eventually morphed into the NKVD and ultimately the KGB. These respective services were the backbone of the Soviet state and were responsible for keeping it in power. Dziak describes the Soviet Union as a counterintelligence state that came into being through a conspiracy and remained a conspiracy throughout its existence. We learn about the terroristic and deceitful methods they consistently employed to this end, as well as the internal power struggles within the system.

One of the themes of the book is how the post-Stalin Soviets attempted to rehabilitate their legacy after Uncle Joe died by going back to a more "pure" version of the Cheka supposedly represented by Lenin and Dzerzhinskiy. In other words, they tried to write off Stalinism and the NKVD as a cruel deviation from its intended purpose. This, according to Dziak, was mostly a cop-out though as the original Cheka was incredibly terroristic as well. While Stalin's vicious personality undoubtedly worsened things in those years, the framework for terror and repression had long been established by Lenin and Dzerzhinskiy.

I should say that this is not an easy read and frankly I wouldn't recommend it unless you are seriously interested in the subject. The sheer number of different acronyms and organizations is enough to make one's head spin, and it would take some serious study of the entire system to fully comprehend it, I think. Being that the book was published before the fall and thus the opening of the Soviet archives, I'm sure some of the information is also fit for revision. That being said, it seems to me that the historiography of the subject is still rather thin so this would still be considered valuable.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Randall Ward on November 12, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Like most US citizens I know little of the real history of the USSR, because of the effort of the press and colleges in the US to paint the USSR with whitewash.
This easy to read and short book will "reset" your mind to a more accurate picture of what Russia and the USSR was all about.
It is a history of what we know as the KGB, but was actually many different organizations, starting with the Royal Russian Empire.
One of the big surprises of the book, for me, is that the "KGB" actually was the ruling "organ" of the dictators of the USSR.
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