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Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America Hardcover – May 26, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"So outstandingly authoritative and convincing is this material that it will take an honored place alongside the basic sources on Soviet espionage in the United States. Here, the heart of the KGB is laid out as never before."—Tennent Bagley, author of Spy Wars

(Tennent Bagley)

“This work should serve as the final salvo in the long battle between those who are still in denial regarding KGB espionage in America in the 1930s and 40s and those who assert that this story must be told.”—David Murphy, author of What Stalin Knew
(David Murphy)

“An original and important book based on scholarship of the highest standards.”—Hayden B. Peake, former Army and CIA intelligence officer
(Hayden B. Peake)

"Using now available Soviet sources, this valuable book tells the sobering and frightening story of the extent to which ideology will blind clever people and lead them to betray their country, democracy and freedom."—Paul Johnson, author of A History of the American People
(Paul Johnson)

“This is an important book for students of history and espionage.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
(Philadelphia Inquirer 2009-06-14)

"[The book] succeeds as an indictment of an entire era in which some of the nation's best and brightest sold their souls to a foreign master—and as a stinging, definitive rebuttal to those who have defended Alger Hiss all of these years."—Justin Raimondo, The American Conservative
(Justin Raimondo American Conservative 2009-08-01)

"[Spies] shows how the Soviets went about the business of spying, its failures and successes, and, most interestingly, the names of the Americans from whom the KGB received information."—Alex Kingsbury, US News & World Report

(Alex Kingsbury US News & World Report)

“John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev present persuasive evidence.”--Commonweal

Finalist for the 2009 Book of the Year Award, presented by ForeWord magazine
(Book of the Year Award ForeWord Magazine 2010-01-01)

 “This magisterial book transcends the old debates and paradigms, and provides the most complete and thorough account of what Soviet espionage agents actually did in the United States.”--Ronald Radosh, The Weekly Standard
(Ronald Radosh The Weekly Standard)

About the Author

John Earl Haynes is a modern political historian in the Manuscript Division, the Library of Congress. He lives in Kensington, MD. Harvey Klehr is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Politics and History, Emory University. He lives in Atlanta, GA. Haynes and Klehr are coauthors of Venona. Alexander Vassiliev, journalist, novelist, and coauthor with Allen Weinstein of The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America, now lives in the UK.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300123906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300123906
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #734,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like Hugo's fictional Inspector Javert, historians Haynes and Klehr are dogged in the pursuit of their quarry--American communists who betrayed their country through covert relationships with the KGB in the 1930s and 40s. Nevermind the fact that the Statute of Limitations has long since expired on these crimes, or that the characters themselves were long ago swept into the dust bin of history, the historians have devoted their careers to exposing the perfidy of secret communists, and to hauling their corpses, time and again, before the court of public opinion. It is the historians' investigative spadework and their constrained sense of justice at long last being served which provides the narrative drive to "Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America."

Much of the evidence presented in the book is drawn from the notebooks of the Russian journalist Alexander Vassiliev. In 1993 Vassiliev was granted limited access to the KGB's operational files for the 1930s and 1940s. His transcripts of pages from these files would eventually fill 8 notebooks comprising more than 1000 pages. Summaries of the documents were used in writing the book "The Haunted Wood (1998)," which Vassiliev co-authored with Allen Weinstein. In a lengthy introduction to "Spies," Vassiliev tells the story of his notebooks and his defamation suit against the publisher Frank Cass. He also paints a sympathetic portrait of the American spies, whom he views as heroes, which helps to counterbalance the more severe portrait painted by Haynes and Klehr.

The authors open the book by revisiting the Hiss case in a chapter subtitled "Case Closed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After the fall of the Iron Curtain,serious historians have started to incorporate in their research about the Cold War era the various aspects about intelligence and espionage activities perpetrated by the sides involved in this ideological conflict.It is already a well- established and known fact that the Cold War was also a war of shadows which has had a significant impact on the relations between the East and the West.
The current book gives us a fascinating tale about the different activities,plots and machinations woven by the Russian spymasters during the thirties and forties of the previous century. Based on the documents transcribed by Alexander Vassiliev, who was a former KGB employee,the authors describe to what extent the USA was penetrated by and riddled with spies who came in all varieties and from all corners of the United States.Those spies were "men and women, Jews and gentiles,old-stock Americans, etc.While some spies grew up in poverty ,others basked in luxury from their childhoods.Some,like Alger Hiss,were graduates of Ivy Leagues colleges;others were born in Russia and retained a visceral national loyalty."
Many of them feared the rise of Fascism;others were disappointed by capitalism, or had strong ideological beliefs in a Communist utopia ,believing they were serving a higher cause.
The book has chapters on Alger Hiss, confirming he was a Russian spy.Many famous journallists were employed in this big game, including I.B STONE and Ernest Hemingway(although the last one was a dilettante spy).Some were caught and confessed,(like Klaus Fuchs) and some testified against their comrades(like David Greenglass),but most agents simply lied or took the Fifth Amendment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Much like Haynes and Klehr's earlier work, this is a fascinating and meticulously well documented look at Soviet espionage from the 30's and 40's. This book is also short on polemic tirades (refreshingly so) and the authors stick to a "facts only" approach, not making statements that cannot be well supported and documented.

There are lengthy sections on the big fish like IF Stone whose covert work for the KGV/NKVD is now documented beyond any doubt and "philosopher" Corliss Lamont (who damn near became a US senator) whose work for the KGB/NKVD while mainly circumstantial is damning. Tepidly unreliable agents like Ernest Hemingway who the KGB eventually gave up on and Robert Oppenheimer the one that despite the Soviet's best efforts, got away are also extensively covered in the book.

Unlike their earlier work though, this book contains many pages on some of the lesser well know, but numerous everydayers that the Soviets had in their employment.

Overall, a great read for anyone interested in espionage, leftist politics or McCarthyism.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Spies - The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America", by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev represents an almost definitive account of Soviet espionage in the 1930s and 1940s. Its new information is mostly based on the notebooks of Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB officer, who in the Yeltsin years was allowed to peruse the NKVD/MGB/KGB files on this eventful period, which ranges from the thirties to WW II and the sternest years of the Cold War, for a joint project with Crown Publishers. The project was abandoned because of the publisher's demise and Vassiliev flew to the UK, with his notebooks. To anyone who still had doubts on Alger Hiss's culpability, as well as on Laurence Duggan's and Harry Dexter White's, this book should constitute an eye-opener. Among the revelations, notable is that of Congressman Samuel Dickstein's venal but ineffective spying for Soviet intelligence. One can only regret that GRU (military intelligence) files have remained out of bounds, since these would shed a fuller light on Alger Hiss's espionage activities: Hiss had indeed been for several years a GRU source, before being turned over to Soviet civilian intelligence.
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