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Spymaster: Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief

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From the dark days of World War II through the Cold War, Sergey A. Kondrashev was a major player in Russia’s notorious KGB espionage apparatus. Rising through its ranks through hard work and keen understanding of how the spy and political games are played, he “handled” American and British defectors, recruited Western operatives as double agents, served as a ranking office From the dark days of World War II through the Cold War, Sergey A. Kondrashev was a major player in Russia’s notorious KGB espionage apparatus. Rising through its ranks through hard work and keen understanding of how the spy and political games are played, he “handled” American and British defectors, recruited Western operatives as double agents, served as a ranking officer at the East Berlin and Vienna KGB bureaus, and tackled special assignments from the Kremlin. During a 1994 television program about former spymasters, Kondrashev met and began a close friendship with a former foe, ex–CIA officer Tennent H. “Pete” Bagley, whom the Russian asked to help write his memoirs. Because Bagley knew so about much of Kondrashev’s career (they had been on opposite sides in several operations), his penetrating questions and insights reveal slices of never-revealed espionage history that rival anything found in the pages of Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, or John le Carré: chilling tales of surviving Stalin’s purges while superiors and colleagues did not, of plotting to reveal the Berlin Tunnel, of quelling the Hungarian Revolution and “Prague Spring” independence movements, and of assisting in arranging the final disposition of the corpses of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Kondrashev also details equally fascinating KGB propaganda and disinformation efforts that shaped Western attitudes throughout the Cold War. Because publication of these memoirs was banned by Putin’s regime, Bagley promised Kondrashev to have them published in the West. They are now available to all who are fascinated by vivid tales of international intrigue.


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From the dark days of World War II through the Cold War, Sergey A. Kondrashev was a major player in Russia’s notorious KGB espionage apparatus. Rising through its ranks through hard work and keen understanding of how the spy and political games are played, he “handled” American and British defectors, recruited Western operatives as double agents, served as a ranking office From the dark days of World War II through the Cold War, Sergey A. Kondrashev was a major player in Russia’s notorious KGB espionage apparatus. Rising through its ranks through hard work and keen understanding of how the spy and political games are played, he “handled” American and British defectors, recruited Western operatives as double agents, served as a ranking officer at the East Berlin and Vienna KGB bureaus, and tackled special assignments from the Kremlin. During a 1994 television program about former spymasters, Kondrashev met and began a close friendship with a former foe, ex–CIA officer Tennent H. “Pete” Bagley, whom the Russian asked to help write his memoirs. Because Bagley knew so about much of Kondrashev’s career (they had been on opposite sides in several operations), his penetrating questions and insights reveal slices of never-revealed espionage history that rival anything found in the pages of Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, or John le Carré: chilling tales of surviving Stalin’s purges while superiors and colleagues did not, of plotting to reveal the Berlin Tunnel, of quelling the Hungarian Revolution and “Prague Spring” independence movements, and of assisting in arranging the final disposition of the corpses of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Kondrashev also details equally fascinating KGB propaganda and disinformation efforts that shaped Western attitudes throughout the Cold War. Because publication of these memoirs was banned by Putin’s regime, Bagley promised Kondrashev to have them published in the West. They are now available to all who are fascinated by vivid tales of international intrigue.

30 review for Spymaster: Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Flanagan

    I opened this book with much excitement as I was returning to one of my favourite periods of history the Cold War. The book cover promised startling revelations and I looked forward to gaining this new knowledge. What I got was far from startling it was what you would have expected both the USA and USSR to have been doing in the war of espionage. While the stories told in this book where interesting I found myself getting lost in all the names and dates that pepper the pages. I found it hard to I opened this book with much excitement as I was returning to one of my favourite periods of history the Cold War. The book cover promised startling revelations and I looked forward to gaining this new knowledge. What I got was far from startling it was what you would have expected both the USA and USSR to have been doing in the war of espionage. While the stories told in this book where interesting I found myself getting lost in all the names and dates that pepper the pages. I found it hard to keep track of who was who. The author does do a good job in covering all the different tactics that where employed in espionage war. The book never reaches the point where I was compelled to keep reading on. Overall a good read but it did not deliver in my opinion what was advertised on the cover. It did though leave for me an intriguing question, what happened to those inside sources and double agents that where never found. Do they still to this day sleep with one eye open hoping their past never sees the light of the day?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scarlet

    great stuff

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A good book, but a little overwhelming for someone who isn't in the business. I think it would be more enjoyable if you knew all the people and events being described.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    I arrived onto Tennent 'Pete' Bagley's publications from, of all topics, the JFK assassination. After an on-line conversation with author and researcher Professor John Newman, regarding Lee Harvey Oswald's so called defection to the Soviet Union in 1959. Was he part of CIA's false defector programme run by Jim Angleton's Counter Intelligence section, to uncover a 'mole' inside the agency? Newman pointed me in the direction of both 'Spy Wars' and 'Spymaster' when I questioned his belief in a Sovie I arrived onto Tennent 'Pete' Bagley's publications from, of all topics, the JFK assassination. After an on-line conversation with author and researcher Professor John Newman, regarding Lee Harvey Oswald's so called defection to the Soviet Union in 1959. Was he part of CIA's false defector programme run by Jim Angleton's Counter Intelligence section, to uncover a 'mole' inside the agency? Newman pointed me in the direction of both 'Spy Wars' and 'Spymaster' when I questioned his belief in a Soviet spy ensconced at Langley. Of the two books I found 'Spy Wars' the more intriguing read. However, 'Spymaster' documents many memoirs of KGB agent Sergey Kondrashev which, among other topics, does indicate the reality of Soviet penetration of CIA. It also confirms both Bagley's and Angleton's disbelief in Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko, who the spymaster confirms was a false defector. Regarding Oswald, my jury is still out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary Licking

    Terrific account of a Soviet spy's 50 years of working against the West. Contains a great forensic dentistry revelation. The tales show the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet's KGB organization, a big and effective outfit. The effectiveness part is amazing because the members of the organization were well acquainted of the comforts available in the West, but still took great risks to complete their tasks, knowing that none of those comforts would ever be available to them or their families.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jose M. Adams

    Absolutely fascinating read. If you want to understand Russian disinformation tactics still used by the FSB today, you must read this book. Putin kept this book from release in Russia. Only after Sergey's death did Bagley publish this masterpiece. It's a man that wrote to come to terms with the corruption rampant in USSR, and many of these players' disciples are in power today.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hapkap

    Very interesting book that everybody should read. Life is a game.

  8. 4 out of 5

    J.A.

    fascinating look inside soviet Russian intelligence apparatus.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    So, non-fiction isn't exactly completely in my book blog's wheelhouse, but sometimes I get on a non-fiction kick, and this is what comes off of the bookshelf. I picked this one up when I was at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. recently, although I'd also seen it around on the internet when googling for "books about spies during the Cold War", as a person such as myself may be likely to do. That said, this book is a fascinating look behind the curtain at how the KGB worked, and jus So, non-fiction isn't exactly completely in my book blog's wheelhouse, but sometimes I get on a non-fiction kick, and this is what comes off of the bookshelf. I picked this one up when I was at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. recently, although I'd also seen it around on the internet when googling for "books about spies during the Cold War", as a person such as myself may be likely to do. That said, this book is a fascinating look behind the curtain at how the KGB worked, and just what lengths they went to in order to fulfill their mission. The very way that this book came to be written is amazing. Bagley and Kondrashev struck up the most unlikely of friendships after the Cold War was over, which turned into Bagley helping Kondrashev write his memoirs -- which were, of course, quashed by the present-day Russian government as revealing too much. Some of my favorite moments in the book were ones where Bagley finds out the flip side to a case that he'd worked for the CIA. I can only imagine being in this position, years later, to find out from someone very close to the top that maybe you were right, or maybe you were on the right track, or that maybe there was more to the story than you'd ever imagined. This isn't the type of book you can just go in and read cold -- it presumes you have some knowledge of the major events of the Cold War, so if you're not a history buff, you might be a bit lost. But if you're into this kind of stuff -- A) we should totally be friends, and B) you will probably dig this book. There are plenty of references and footnotes to other books, too, if you're interested in continuing to broaden your horizons.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This book was not what you might be thinking. If you're looking at a behind the scenes book about spycraft, this isn't it. The author goes into almost no detail about anything. Rather, it reads more like a long essay, throwing out names and events that I personally had little to no prior knowledge about for the most part. This feels like a book written for insiders, people who might already be intimately familiar with the machinations between the CIA and the KGB, and is simply the account of one This book was not what you might be thinking. If you're looking at a behind the scenes book about spycraft, this isn't it. The author goes into almost no detail about anything. Rather, it reads more like a long essay, throwing out names and events that I personally had little to no prior knowledge about for the most part. This feels like a book written for insiders, people who might already be intimately familiar with the machinations between the CIA and the KGB, and is simply the account of one or two men's personal knowledge about certain aspects of certain cases. But I'm afraid the lay listener is going to feel mostly lost and disinterested. With almost no actual details about any of the book's myriad characters, I found myself not really caring and just waiting for the book to end.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    This is an OK book written by a former CIA agent about the life of a high ranking KGB agent. Originally written while the KGB agent was alive, it’s publishing was delayed until after he died due to objections by the current Russian Government. It details a lot of the Soviets operations against the West and also details some of the most famous turncoats, George Blake, Oleg Penovsky etc and some of the major moments beyond the Iron Curtain, the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the Prague Spring in 1968 This is an OK book written by a former CIA agent about the life of a high ranking KGB agent. Originally written while the KGB agent was alive, it’s publishing was delayed until after he died due to objections by the current Russian Government. It details a lot of the Soviets operations against the West and also details some of the most famous turncoats, George Blake, Oleg Penovsky etc and some of the major moments beyond the Iron Curtain, the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the Prague Spring in 1968.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Aylott

    This is inside baseball for spies, and I found myself getting lost in the parade of Russian names and long-ago operations. It's interesting to see a Soviet spy's view of the Cold War, though. I'm not sure how much the CIA and the KGB accomplished, especially since they spent so much of their time chasing each others' tails, but if they didn't take over the world it certainly wasn't through lack of trying.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    A very interesting but very dry book. I did find the subject matter to be fascinating, but also found my attention drifting quite a bit. It was a bit hard to keep track of who was who and how they all connected to one another. Bronson Pinchot does a very good job reading, but I think this may be one of those books that is just better in print than on audio. A very interesting but very dry book. I did find the subject matter to be fascinating, but also found my attention drifting quite a bit. It was a bit hard to keep track of who was who and how they all connected to one another. Bronson Pinchot does a very good job reading, but I think this may be one of those books that is just better in print than on audio.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Give this one a pass. I expected thrilling details about cold war era spies. Instead this reads like a roster of names in Russian. Even tales that should be exciting or interesting are told devoid of emotion. If you were hoping for exciting tales of near discovery or information about then state of the art spy tools, forget it. One third through I'm giving up. There are too many books worthy of my time and attention out there.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brad Lucht

    3 1/2 stars. Bagley picks out the highlights of a biography he helped write with one of the Soviet Union's top spy chiefs. Nothing of great importance jumped out at me, but clearly the information meant a great deal to Bagley, a former CIA operative. Recommended only for those with a deep knowledge of counterespionage.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark Dhas

    It was certainly interesting but I found myself going back and forth so often to remember who was who that I found it tedious. In addtition all the information provided is annecdotal, which I suppose is in keeping with an autobiography but it would be nice if other evidence was included. I find myself wondering if there really was a A. Kondrashev.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ben Sutton

    An insightful portrait of Cold War intelligence operations and practices Frankly the book is most significant due to its insider's perspective of the political and bureaucratic practices of Soviet intelligence agencies. As that sort of stuff fascinates me, I found the book both interesting and informative.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Thomas

    Insider's tales of USSR spy episodes and security decisions. Juicy stuff not revealed, but the perspective from the other side is compelling. The book focuses on senior KGB Soviet spymaster Sergey Kondrashev, who told his story to Mr. Bagley, a CIA counterintelligence chief. Since both author and subject were rivals in the cold war, their knowledge of events is in-depth and true.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Superlative account of intelligence operations during the Cold War and the twists and turns, the betrayals and the deceptions, double and triple. Also provides invaluable accounts of the Soviet reactions in the 1956 Hungarian revolution and the 1968 Prague Spring, as well as the eventual fate of one of Nazi Germany's notorious figures who went missing after the war... A most thrilling read

  20. 4 out of 5

    Roger Charles

    This book is for a select few. If you want to read about instances of the cold war, select topics on spycraft or how the Soviets managed people you might enjoy this book. I found the book to be too minute without more information chapter in and chapter out. There were strong boundaries within which the book was written so don't expect a good fast tale.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gary Gray

    If you don't have an interest in cold was era stuff it will be very boring, as it is it is written very dryly and is almost like a list of dates, times and places. Not written as a story of a mans life. A few tidbits are to be found but not worth reading the book for.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John

    A very disappointing book - more hype and promise than delivered history. While Sergey Kondrashev was an interesting player and prime mover in the duplicitous East-West spy games of the Cold War, there are few "revelations" in this book. Give it a pass.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    The book was interesting if not particularly revolutionary. One of my favorite details was the use of Nazis post-WWII against the Soviet Union's former western allies.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    A fascinating insight into the KGB, but the way it jumps around a lot is confusing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    stuart b

    300 pages of, "Remember this...well, yeah, that was me." Mildly interesting cold war history, but otherwise forgettable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    WTL

    (audiobook)

  27. 4 out of 5

    SR

    Interesting, although Bagley's organization of the book was not intuitive and the writing was sometimes sloppy. Extensive bibliography that I'm excited to dig through.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Suzie

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Jelinek

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ivanov

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