Earlier this year, I read A Spy Among Friends, the story of KGB mole Kim Philby and his espionage against his native Britain and the MI6. As a Westerner, I approached Philby’s betrayal with a great sense of indignation.
Reading Macintyre’s latest book, I met the man Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB Colonel who did the same, only he spied for Britain. I found myself liking the man, and admiring his courage. He hated the Soviet Union because he saw it for what it was: a massive prison that enforced a cultural ghetto upon its people.
I see my own double standard, but, alas, I am for freedom.
Macintyre’s writing style continues to impress me, with another historical figure’s story being told in the mold of a thriller. Sometimes the truth is the most exciting story.
Oleg was born into a KGB family, living in a KGB neighborhood. He followed his brother into the service, being posted abroad after his brother’s untimely death. While serving at the Soviet embassy/KGB station in Copenhagen, Oleg’s eyes were opened to the riches of Western culture, forbidden within the borders of the Soviet Union. He watched with horror as the Soviet government put down popular uprisings in the Soviet bloc.
Inspired to join the fight for freedom, Oleg signs on as an agent for MI6. His case is a closely guarded secret, and over the next several years, he uses his KGB training to pass intelligence and analysis to the Brits. The analysis aspect was unique in the world of spying, which usually trades in raw data.
Oleg is returned to the Soviet Union at the end of his tour and his career takes a hit when he divorces and remarries. The case goes dormant until he’s posted to the KGB station in London. There he works his way up to be promoted to station chief, when he falls under suspicion after being betrayed by Aldrich Ames.
Of all of the spies that have been disclosed to the public, Oleg holds the distinction of being the most valuable MI6 agent and the only known agent who was able to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union.
From start to finish, Macintyre delivers another great story, bringing to light the stories of people who have had a profound impact on the last century. Oleg Gordivesky is one of those men, and this book does not disappoint.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★