The film covers the beginning and the ending of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. You may like or hate the film, but this is not the point of the review.
The point is the figure of Mikhail Koltsov, the Soviet operative in Spain during the Civil War. There is little known about the war, referred to as The Spanish War in Russia. The significance of it was overshadowed by the following wars: the ones against Finland and Japan, and later by the big war against Germany.
Koltsov was known to the Soviet readers as a journalist and a founding editor of the Pravda. But there are some accounts of his presence in Spain as of Stalin’s man. Not only he dispatched reports back to Pravda, but mainly coordinated the Soviet help to the Republicans. The Koltsov’s character is presented in the film as such, and not as a journalist. In Hemingway’s To Whom The Bell Tolls he was supposedly a prototype to Karkov.
The collision between Germany and the USSR aiding the opposite sides in the war has never been accounted for as part of the WW2 and surprisingly so. Both countries were active in providing the fighting sides with ammunition, war machinery and most importantly, with people, particularly with the Soviets recruiting volunteers to join Republicans. The Republicans lost at war, and so did the Soviets. Mikhail Koltsov returned to Moscow, was seen at the party function with Joseph Stalin and then disappeared. His disappearance could mean one thing – arrest followed by execution or death in the GULAG.
Just to add to the Hemingway’s book background – there are accounts suggesting the name of Robert Jordan’s prototype. Apparently that was Khadji-Umar Mamsurov. Having been an ethnic Ossetian, he passed for a Spanish peasant and served at first as a military consultant, and later as a combat leader during the fight for Madrid.
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.