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Special Tasks Paperback – June 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sudoplatov, a former intelligence official during the Stalin era, presents an updated version of his controversial memoir.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This secret policeman's memoir contains explosive material. The atomic bomb secrets were betrayed not by the Rosenbergs but by none other than Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi. The motivations of octogenarian Sudoplatov, who managed the Soviet nuclear intelligence effort, in choosing to divulge this information now are less important than the news about the services he performed for Stalin and the damage he inflicted on the West. A skilled operative and admitted murderer--whose assassination in 1938 of a Ukrainian nationalist was rewarded by Stalin with his personal summons and then his direct order to liquidate Trotsky--Sudoplatov coldly records killing as a method of rule. The Kremlin intrigues he details will inspire major historical revision, damning, particularly, Khrushchev (here fingered on a few homicides) and, yet again, Beria. Sudoplatov's insights into the Kremlin's intrigues of the 1940s and 1950s, combined with the inevitable reappraisal of the Oppenheimer cause c{‚}el{Š}ebre (when the physicist was branded a security risk), are astonishing evidence of secret influences in the domestic politics of both the U.S. and the USSR. Espionage buffs and historians mulling recent NKVD/KGB disclosures (e.g., Tsarev and Costello's Deadly Illusions ) here have their most sensational allegations to date. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Updated edition (June 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316821152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316821155
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. St Onge on April 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
4/28/99 Pavel Sudoplatov joined the secret police as a boy, and rose to be one of Beria's most trusted assistants, in charge of sabotage, assassinations, and atomic bomb espionage. Though Sudoplatov sometimes gets things wrong (not suprising when working from memory fifty years later), he has a wealth of information on how Stalin's secret police worked, and presents a chilling picture of the kind of people who thought they were building a better world through mass murder. After reading this, you'll have better understanding of how so many Westerners could betray their countries to the USSR, and why so many are still trying to pretend it didn't happen. This new edition has some interesting material that answers criticisms made of the first edition, especially his claim that Los Alamos director J. Robert Oppenheimer passed on information about the atomic bomb (I seem to be the only serious student of the Oppenheimer case who believes Sudoplatov on this). Recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read the first edition and bought the second edition just to read the reactions which are printed in the book. Predictably, many still cling to their version of sugar-coated history. Fortunately, historians like Robert Conquest know the real truth. And Conquest said "This is the most sensational, the most devastating, and in many ways the most informative autobiography ever to emerge from the Stalinist milieu". In the updated foreword he again defends the overall veracity of this document. He has good reason to do this.
You won't believe the documentation in the back of the book. Atomic espionage documents, Katyn Forest Massacre, and more.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "lawrence_98" on August 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is ESSENTIAL to understand Power in the former Soviet Union. It's almost the history of the first decades of the soviet intelligence services written in a reasonably detailled manner. It's revealing on the nature of Power under Stalin rule. I also recommend the Portuguese translation (if you happen to speak Portuguese) since it was very carefully done. If you study this subject in particular get every translation you are able to read! Great book!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Trew on September 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sudoplatov ran the NKVD's Administration for Special Tasks, which carried out some of the Soviet Union's darkest operations --- assassination, kidnapping, murder, and frequently, terrorism (the author's own words, no less). Sudoplatov also directed undercover and partisan operations behind German lines during WWII. Later he supervised all atomic espionage operations against the US and Britain after the war.
Still a Stalinist at heart, Sudoplatov offers few regrets for a career filled with death up close and personal. One of his first solo operations entailed infiltrating a Ukrainian nationalist group. After befriending one it's leaders for the better part of a year, he dispatched him in Rotterdam with a box of chocolates loaded with explosives. Later, he went on to supervise large roving killer squads himself, such as the team that assassinated Trotsky outside Mexico City in 1940.
The book is filled with surreal scenes, such as in the "Komandatura" in the Lyubianka, where prisoners were executed. One section was outfitted more as a hotel than a prison. But as prisoners were given a "routine" medical examination, they were administered a lethal injection, then quickly cremated. Sudoplatov, himself arrested on bogus charges after Beria'a arrest, describes receiving not one, but two spinal taps while pretending to be catatonic (so as to avoid interrogation). His simple, direct language in describing these kinds of sequences is chilling.
More than a few of the author's historical claims are either suspect or simply false based on information long available elswhere. For instance, his assertion that Stalin was not involved in the murder of Leningrad Party leader Sergei Kirov can't be taken seriously.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By MWales1996@aol.com on May 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Sudoplatov has written a book which, in its simplistic style and throroughness, compels the reader to see through the haze that has surrounded the turbulent years of Stalins rule. Too often here in the West, our narratives describing this period have been tainted by the prejudicial judgement of our authors, the lack of availability of proper documentation, and the almost universal unwillingness to rewrite past assertions. The timeframe of his book being published, in my opinion, hopefully shall spur renewed interest by researchers from all countries to begin anew the quest to find answers to questions long thought unanswerable. This is an excellent book!!!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on April 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was an interesting look at the KGB during the first part of the cold war. I think we all have a view of the KGB, which was formed during the years of the cold war, a large, well run organization that many times was one step ahead of the U.S. This author does not go against that view. The author is relating his experiences in the arm of the KGB that was responsible for information gathering, primarily against the U.S. and NATO. There are some interesting bits and you get a good look that this authors insight to "the game". This book details what actually happened in the KGB during this time with an inside account of the methods of the KGB and a run down of some of the missions they took part in.
The author does a good job in providing the reader with many of the interesting tradecraft bit about the KGB. Overall this is an interesting book that gives the espionage junky an another look into the KGB. The book is well written and does not drag or stumble. It keeps the readers interest through out. If you are an armchair expert on the topic then this is another of the titles you will undoubtedly already have or will need to pick up. If you are the general reader then this is a good broad description of the KGB that is interesting, but not the definitive one volume work.
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