The best books on Soviet espionage

Harvey Klehr Author Of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America
By Harvey Klehr

Who am I?

For more than fifty years I have been fascinated by the relationship between the Communist Party of the United States and the Soviet Union. When Russian archives were opened to Western scholars after the collapse of the USSR, I was the first American to work in a previously closed archive where I discovered evidence that American communists had spied for the Soviets. Our understanding of twentieth-century history has been transformed by the revelations about the extent to which Soviet spies had infiltrated American institutions. Excavating long-buried secrets is a historian's dream!


I wrote...

Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America

By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, Alexander Vassiliev

Book cover of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America

What is my book about?

Based on material from the KGB archives, the most complete account of Soviet espionage in America from the 1930s to the 1960s, demonstrating that virtually all those accused of spying during the Cold War, including the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, and Lauchlin Currie were guilty - but exonerating Robert Oppenheimer. More than 500 Americans were involved with the KGB and GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence), and many of them are named for the first time in this book.

The Books I Picked & Why

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Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

By Sam Tanenhaus,

Book cover of Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

Why this book?

The Alger Hiss case riveted America in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His trial and conviction convince many Americans that Communist espionage had been a serious problem and the case made Richard Nixon a national figure. His chief accuser, Whittaker Chambers, was a fascinating, tormented, talented man and writer. Tanenhaus’s biography portrays him with all his virtues, warts, and contradictions.


A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

By Ben Macintyre,

Book cover of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

Why this book?

No British spy did more damage to the West than Kim Philby, a high-ranking MI6 official who spied for the USSR from the 1930s until his defection in 1963.  Macintyre captures his many betrayals- of his family, friends, and country, demonstrates how he was able to deceive so many people for so many years, and evaluates the damage he did and the lives he ruined.


The Rosenberg File

By Ronald Radosh, Joyce Milton,

Book cover of The Rosenberg File

Why this book?

For decades the myth that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed for atomic espionage in 1953 and the only American civilians given the death penalty for espionage, were innocent was a staple on the American left. Radosh and Milton, employing declassified government documents and digging up new evidence, conclusively demonstrated their guilt.


Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley

By Steven T. Usdin,

Book cover of Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley

Why this book?

In addition to facilitating atomic espionage, Julius Rosenberg supervised several engineers who stole vital technical secrets dealing with radar, sonar, and aviation.  Usdin tells the fascinating story of two of them, Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, who defected to the Soviet Union after the Rosenbergs were arrested and helped build the Soviet Silicon Valley.


Bombshell: The Secret Story of America's Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy

By Joseph Albright, Marcia Kunstel,

Book cover of Bombshell: The Secret Story of America's Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy

Why this book?

The story of the youngest physicist at Los Alamos, Ted Hall, who volunteered to spy for the KGB and provided vital atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Although Hall’s treachery was discovered by American counter-intelligence, he was never prosecuted to avoid alerting the Soviets that the United States had decrypted their top-secret WWII cables. Albright and Kunstel tell the story of an idealistic, naïve and arrogant spy.


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