Canadian sources often claim that Gouzenko case was a wake up call to the beginning of the Cold War. Whether it is true or not so much is to the analysts to decide. But running a spy network in your ally territory can’t be considered a friendly gesture.
The book provides very detailed description of the life of Fred Rose (born Fishel Rosenberg in Poland), Soviet intelligence operative and Canadian Member of Parliament. First part of the book focuses on the pre-WW2 labour movement in Montreal and Fred’s dynamic rise as a figure in the game. It mentions successful PR-campaign run by the Soviet Russia, built on victory over Germany but on keeping the skeletons in the closet, or rather burying them in Siberia. As a result of the campaign the Soviet State had grown the army of sympathizers in the West in form of the Communist and Labour Parties, Unions, etc. Quite naturally the next move was to turn the Communists into the spies. And that was another success. So the story of Fred Rose was just one of many. But it stands out for Canada.
The second part of the book is the one I found most interesting. It contains in my opinion the most detailed story of the defection of Igor Gouzenko, at least in regards to uncovering Fred Rose secret relationship with the USSR. Surprisingly, the Soviet intelligence tried to prevent Gouzenko defection, but after the fact they washed their hands and let their operative to sink.
The book tells us about the awkwardness of Canadian political machine, the Prime Minister Mackenzie King trying not to offence Generalissimo Stalin, about clever RCMP game, visibly putting things off, but working hard surreptitiously.
History is unpredictable indeed. As our knowledge about the events grows, as our views on the relationships between the nations develop, we tend to adjust or to change altogether our understanding of the events and personalities in the distant or not so distant history.
The Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World by Patrick J. Buchanan very much turns currently acceptable image of Sir Winston Churchill inside out, and puts the role of the British Empire in both First and then Second World Wars into a very different prospective. The author who is a former senior adviser to three US Presidents himself, after assessing new facts, letters and protocols, and re-assessing some historian cliches, paints very different picture of the role of the British Government and personally Sir Winston Churchill in the course of both wars.
He points out that Germany has not been an aggressive nation the years preceding the WWI. He makes a point of the whole mess having been in large part a consequence of the UK foreign doctrine assuming that no single country on the continent should be more capable that the Britain herself. This and Sir Winston Churchill’s personal deeds, in author’s opinion, caused entire European catastrophe resulted in the Europe losing it’s role in geopolitics and making itself dependable on American good (or otherwise) will.
Gessen’s book starts as a bio, looking into Vova’s troublesome teen years, unwinding into a piece of investigative journalism. From enrolling into KGB, moving to public service, and then to the Presidency, Masha Gessen is finding Putin’s career contaminated with disappearing cargo trains, suspicious Swiss bank accounts, poisonings of journalists and politicians, and a number of other twisted things. Symptomatically, the book has not yet been published in Russia, but Masha Gessen has already lost her job. Few reviews translated into Russian and published online although caused angry responses, don’t change much in public awareness about the book among Russians.
Few words about the audio version of the book. The Man Without a Face… has been read by Justine Eyre, so far little known Canadian-born actress. Justine Eyre finds time between working in Hollywood, studying at the University and writing a book to share her voice with us, prompting the audio-book to stand out by itself. Even her struggling with Russian names and toponyms adds to the book as if demonstrating how distant the Western readers are from Russian reality. If you have problem with that, try to read out loud “Schekotschikhin”, the name of Russian journalist and politician, Member of Russian Duma, who mysteriously died while investigating 1999 Apartment Bombing and high profile money laundering activities.