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Red Files Hardcover – June 20, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: TV Books; First Edition edition (June 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1575000814
  • ISBN-13: 978-1575000817
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,469,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An old Muscovite joke has it that when a parrot flew from its owner's apartment, the owner immediately reported the escape to the KGB. When a bemused officer asked him why, the owner replied, "Because in case the little devil shows up, I want you to know I don't share his political opinions."

George Feifer, a longtime student of Soviet and Russian society, relates this joke as an example of dissident humor--but also as an indicator of how deeply entrenched the KGB was in daily life in the former Soviet Union. In this companion volume to the PBS television series, Feifer recounts the secret police agency's early days as an instrument of counterrevolutionary terror and its evolution into an organ of political action around the world. Feifer's book, which draws heavily on recently declassified KGB documents, has its share of surprises--for one, evidence that the spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg contributed almost nothing to the Soviet effort to develop atomic weaponry. Feifer carefully documents the KGB's role in keeping the subject peoples of the Soviet Union in line, at least for a time, while pointing to some notable failures, particularly the agency's inability to control star athletes and coaches such as Olga Korbut and Anatoly Tarasov. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Based on the PBS Red Files documentary series, Feifer's fresh reassessment of the former Soviet Union and the Cold War turns up some original and provocative material. Feifer (Moscow Farewell and Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb) organizes his inquiry around four topics: espionage, the space race, Soviet sports and the massive communist propaganda machine. His overarching theme--that post-Stalinist Soviet society was much more diversified and chaotic, its people more rebellious and individualistic, than is generally assumed in the West--is borne out by his sharp reporting. According to the Red Files research team, which had access to the Russian Republic's vast collection of films, photographs and documents, no fewer than 29 Soviet agents penetrated the Manhattan Project by recruiting Allied scientists who passed along atomic secrets to the Russians. Feifer maintains that newly declassified information, plus admissions of KGB agents (including Alexander Feklisov, Julius Rosenberg's handler), prove that the Rosenbergs were guilty of passing secrets about advanced U.S. radar and sonar to the Soviets--but these secrets were of little or no strategic value, he insists, adding that the Rosenbergs' capital punishment was grossly disproportionate to the crime. Much more than a TV rehash, this informal, lively survey gracefully synthesizes recent scholarship, and all the book's photographs are from the Russian State Film and Photo Archives. Feifer closes with a disturbing look at contemporary Russia, a place of near-chaos, despair and poverty whose ill-informed, disillusioned people, susceptible to demagoguery, are led by die-hard rulers with scant interest in building a civil society. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on November 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A student of Russian life since 1959 when he was first posted there as a US tour guide, George Fifer endeavers in this volume to take readers inside the Soviet intelligence machine.

As one may expect from a person who'd been there so long, the book is filled with many personal anecdotes and stories that sometimes support and sometimes distract where a more disciplined historian may have more consistently concentrated on larger themes.

But for what it is -- a book that's supposed to accompany a filmed documentary -- it's actually pretty good. In this volume, Fifer discusses Soviet intelligence as it relates to espionage, sports, the space race, propganda and of course the aftermath of Communism itself.

As for espionage, the book reminds readers of a time when most of the western world was still unaware of just how autocratic the Soviet system was. Many unthinking but well intentioned people didn't realize just what they were doing when they (all too often) rendered unpaid assistance to Soviets in providing them with information regarding American technological developments like the Manhattan project.

As for sports, Fifer did a fairly respectable job of tellling the story of 20th century Olympics from the Soviet perspective where the country didn't make any serious efforts until 1952 and only then in an effort to show the rest of the world just how much better they were and their system was.

In terms of the space race, Fifer was particulary interesting in showing just how short sighted Soviet leadership was in recognizing the potential of space exploration for its own sake.
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