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Spymaster

It could be said that Oleg Kalugin’s tale picks up where Andrew Meier’s [The Lost Spy] leaves off, at least chronologically...

It could be said that Oleg Kalugin’s tale picks up where Andrew Meier’s [The Lost Spy] leaves off, at least chronologically: Kalugin began his spying career in the 1950s, participating in the very first exchange of students in 1958 (half the participants were spies like him, Kalugin asserts).

Kalugin masqueraded as a journalist, climbed the KGB ladder for two decades, became the youngest general in its history (in 1974) and reached its pinnacle as head of foreign counterintelligence (overseeing, among other things, the assassination of Bulgarian writer Georgy Markov), only to be railroaded by careerists and dullards (one of whom, Vladimir Kryuchkov, was a leader in the failed 1991 coup). He retired early from the KGB (in 1990) and joined the democratic movement, even getting elected to the Congress of People’s Deputies on an anti- KGB stance.

Kalugin’s book (originally published in 1994), has been reissued with a rather lackluster Epilogue (explaining his final break with the Kremlin and winning of US asylum, when, in 2002, the Putin government tried him for treason in absentia), yet the book itself is an engrossing chronicle of Soviet spycraft and intelligence gathering in the 1960s to 1980s.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Sep/Oct 2009