- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (December 6, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465035906
- ISBN-13: 978-0465035908
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Man with the Poison Gun: A Cold War Spy Story 1st Edition
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Extensively researched and well documented, this fascinating true story will appeal to readers of spy fiction and nonfiction and Eastern European and Cold War history.”
[Plokhy's] gripping, well-researched account of Stashinsky's life illuminates a pivotal juncture of the Cold War.”
With gusto and verve, Plokhy details Stashinsky's intelligence work.... A thrilling, well-researched tale of espionage that has all the spycraft hallmarks of a blockbuster movie.”
Peter Finn, co-author of The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book
A gripping portrait of an assassin and his journey from recruitment to mission to defection, The Man with the Poison Gun exhumes one of the Cold War's stranger episodesthe KGB's murder of Ukrainian émigrés with a spray gun that squirted poison. Author Serhii Plokhy tells an evocative and informative tale, based on original archival research, that immerses us in the tradecraft of Soviet spies operating in Western Europe.”
About the Author
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This book is a prime example of his cleverness. To write about Stepan Bandera is academic and political suicide for a western academic scholar. (Stepan Bandera Ukrainian politician, one of the leaders, ideologue and theorists of Ukraine’s nationalist movement in the 20th Century.) There are many reasons for it; however, the cause is Bandera’s legacy of tangled truths, half-truths and myths. Prof. Plokhy’s choice of presentation is brilliant. He uses the innocuous spy assassination format to discuss Bandera. For Ukrainian citizens who consider the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 (Crimea and Donbas) an act of aggression, Bandera has acquired an iconic, heroic and mythical status. Bandera never enjoyed this universal adoration amongst Ukrainians until the Russian invasion. For the Homo Sovietius Ukrainian, he is still the ogre that you scare children with when they misbehave. Today through all of Ukraine including, Crimea and Donbas, you hear the Banderite greeting of “Glory to Ukraine” with the reply “Glory to our heroes”. Bandera was assassinated on October 15, 1959, Munich, West Germany.
Jonathan Haslam, George F. Kennan Professor, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, author of “Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence”, best characterizes this book in his critique. Quote…"This book often reads like an Ian Fleming spy novel, but it is actually about real events that occurred during the tensest phase of the Cold War in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Prof. Serhii Plokhy provides a riveting account of the exploits of a Soviet assassin who used poison gas to kill exiled opponents of the Soviet regime amid East-West preparations for all-out war. Plokhy's meticulously researched book sheds valuable light on the Soviet regime's continued use of political assassinations in foreign countries long after the death of Joseph Stalin. A wonderful read for scholars and spy novel fans alike.”…unquote.
Prof. Plokhii received his undergraduate degree in history and social sciences from the University of Dnipropetrovsk (1980), Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. His first monograph, "The Papacy and Ukraine" was among the few books published in the Soviet Union to deal with the history of the papacy as an academic subject rather than an object of atheistic propaganda. He also specialized in the cultural history of the Ukrainian Hetmanate. The Cossack Hetmanate, officially known as the Rus State or Zaporizhian Host, was a Ukrainian Cossack state in Central Ukraine between 1649 and 1782.
In 1996, he joined the University of Alberta as the Professor of Russian history and the staff of the university’s Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, where he founded the Research Program on Religion and Culture. In 2007, Plokhii was named the Mykhailo Hrushevsky professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard and since 2013 the director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.
Since joining Harvard, he has done something almost unheard of in prestigious Universities. He switched his area of studies to the 20th Century Ukraine and the Soviet Union. He very cleverly studied the primary sources by researching three books, “Yalta, The Price of Peace” (2010), “The Last Empire, The Final Days of the Soviet Union” (2014), “The Man with the Poison Gun” (2016). He wrote another book in this period, “The Gates of Europe, A history of Ukraine” (2015) but since it is a general history book without a bibliography I do not place in the same category as the above three works.
One of the best and most fascinating chapters in this book is the “Epilogue: The Cold War Redux” (pages 317-328) where Prof. Plokhii discusses the current state of political and counter insurgency assassinations by the Russian Federation and America today.
In Part 1, “Stalin’s Call”, page7, Prof. Plokhii claims 4 million victims in Ukraine during the Holodomor or as he calls it the Great Famine of 1932-33. This figure of 4 million is dated.
A conference held on October 4, 2016 in Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
The conference certified and established the number of deaths caused by the Holodomor 1932-1933:
• In the Ukrainian SSR, at least 7 million people.
• Outside the borders of UkrSSR –at least 3 million, in Kuban, the Central Black Earth region, the Volga region and Kazakhstan (my comment, the famine was in predominantly Ukrainian ethnographic territories).
This conference, “Holodomor 1932-1933: losses of the Ukrainian nation”, was organized by:
• the National museum “Holodomor Victims Memorial”,
• the Maksym Rylsky Institute of Fine Arts,
• Folklore and Ethnology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
• the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Ukrainian Institute of Archaeology and Source Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
• the Public Committee for the Commemoration of the Victims of Holodomor Genocide
1932-1933 in Ukraine,
• the Association of Famine Researchers of Ukraine,
• the Vasyl Stus All Ukrainian Society “Memorial”, and
• the Ukrainian Genocide Famine Foundation (Chicago, USA)
Other credible witnesses:
• Stalin told Churchill that 10 million starved to death in Ukraine!
• In 1934 Walter Duranty, a reporter for the New York Times, privately reported to the British embassy in Moscow that as many as 10 million people may have died, directly or indirectly, from the famine in the Soviet Union (predominantly Ukrainian ethnographic regions) in the previous year.
• Nikita Khrushchev in his memoirs “Khrushchev Remembers” writes, quote “…I can't give an exact figure because no one was keeping count. All we knew was that people were dying in enormous numbers. ”. Khrushchev knows the numbers. He had intimate dealings with Lazar Kaganovich, the Project Manager of the Holodomor Project; they must have discussed it over horilka and salo (vodka and fatback). Khrushchev met Lazar Kaganovich as early as 1917 and when in 1925, Kaganovich became Party head in Ukraine, Khrushchev, fell under his patronage and thereafter rose rapidly through the Party ranks. That is why having close links to Kaganovich, Khrushchev as well as Stalin had reliable Holodomor Famine figures. Kaganovich survived on a excellent state pension to the good old age of 97. He died in Moscow in 1991.
In Part 4, “Parachutist”, page 29, Prof. Plokhy does not answer the question of whether General Vasyl Kuk the new commander in chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or UPA (Українська Повстанська Армія) and head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist, was turned and recruited by the MGB. For many Ukrainians, to this day, this question persists. Soviet forces captured Kuk in 1954 and kept him in isolation cells of the MGB/KGB prisons in Kyiv and Moscow during his interrogation. He was granted amnesty in 1960 and allowed to live in Kyiv. Therefore, the reader may presume that in 1951 when Kuk was to meet up with Myron Matviyeyko in Ukraine he was not an agent of the МGB. Matviyeyko was chief of Stepan Bandera’s security service and a British agent.
In Part 13, “Upswing”, page 86, citation 3,…Quote “But the Jews were not at the top of the Ukrainian nationalists’ hierarchy of foes”… Plokhy cites two historians, Timothy Snyder and John-Paul Himka. They are not credible when writing about Jewish Ukrainian historical events and relationships.
For example Timothy Snyder wrote in the " The New York Book Review of Books" October 24, 2013 see page 61, quote..."Jews were killed in the USSR for political reason...because they were standing in the way of some larger policy: for example the deliberate famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1933"...Unquote. This is not true, it was only the massive liquidation by Stalin in the 1937-1939 purges (Great Terror) that a great number of Soviet citizens were liquidated , amongst them a significant number of Jews, unlike what Snyder wants us to believe. This despite the fact that Kaganovich, a Jew, participated with the All-Ukrainian Party Conference of 1930 and was given the task of leading the collectivization that caused, in 1932-33 the Holodomor. He also personally oversaw grain confiscations during this period.
Former president of the Ukrainian World Congress, Askold S. Lozynskyj writing in ePoshta, February 16, 2010, “Rewriting History: An evidentiary perspective”, wrote that on November 2009, …“John Himka a historian from the University of Alberta submitted a paper to the forty first national convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in Boston on “The Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Holocaust”. Mr. Himka organized his paper with a discussion of his sources and material about the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s (UPA) involvement in the murder of Jews. To his credit, Prof. Himka did acknowledge that his paper was paid for with a fellowship from the Holocaust Memorial Museum. This goes to motive. Simply put, Mr. Himka for his remuneration had to produce one or more demons.”…
The Nationalists were preoccupied in building a state and the predominant Jewish community was indifferent or hostile to this effort.
In 1930, Nicholas Stsiborskyi was a Ukrainian nationalist politician who served on the Provid, or central leadership council of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), and its chief theorist. He was married to a Jewish woman (a not uncommon reality in Western Ukraine). He opposed antisemitism. He published a programmatic article that called on Ukrainians and Jews for understanding. He argued that the objective of future Ukrainian authorities "will give the Jews equal status and the ability to realize themselves in all areas of social, public, and cultural activity and in other spheres of interests.” The author wanted Jewish rights to be respected and that the OUN was to convince the Jews that their organization was no threat to them. That Ukrainians were to maintain close contacts with Jews nationally and internationally and he believed that this would facilitate the development in the Jewish masses in Ukraine a statist patriotism towards Ukraine. However, Stsiborskyi’s call remained unanswered. Neither the OUN nor Jewish political organizations made any real steps towards mutual understanding.
Moreover, very soon, especially in 1933 after the Holodomor, the Jews in the strategy of the OUN were placed among "hostile nations", alongside the Russians and Poles. One must recall that in the 1930’s a significant percentage of Jews in the Bolshevik Party and especially punitive organs of the Soviet Union gave rise to the conviction of the vital role of Jews in the crimes of the Bolshevik regime.
My father Eng. Petro “Pik” Piaseckyj, in 1939 was incarcerated in the Stalinist dungeons in Peremyshliany, Western Ukraine. He told me that 50% of the NKVD were Jews, 25 % Latvians and 25% Russians and Ukrainians.
It is no small matter that Prof. Plokhy’s writing always gets good reviews from some of the most respected and prestigious members of his community. He is, after all, the best English writing historian on topics Ukrainian. His admirers, based on the book jacket include:
• Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag: A History and Iron Curtain
• Peter Finn, coauthor of The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book Order
• Kirkus Reviews, “With Gusto and verve, Plokhy details Stashinsky’s intelligence work…A thrilling, well researched tale of espionage that has all the spy craft hallmark of a blockbuster movie.”
• Mark Kramer, director, Cold War Studies, Harvard University, author of Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence
• Mark Riebling, author of Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler
• Mary Elise Sarotte, author of The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall
The knowledgeable Professor Plokhy writes in a "Joe Friday" style as he brings the reader through the complexities of how two people were assassinated in West Germany, by whom, and why.
With the current dust-up caused by Mr. Putin's various aggressive actions not only towards Ukraine but with our recent presidential election, this book provides a useful reminder that Russia, under this name or that the USSR, has a long history of improper probing beyond its own borders.
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