The Mitrokhin Archive Non-Fiction Review : 2009/03/15
The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and The West
by Christopher Andrew & Vasili Mitrokhin
London: Penguin Press, 1999, 996 pp., hardcover.
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This book took me so many years to finish, I don't recall when I started. It was roughly 2000 or 2001, as I recall. Of course, when a book weighs in at just under 1,000 pages if you include appendices and you use it as a bathroom reader, it's going to take some serious time. Why am I reviewing a KGB book on a website that focuses on theological topics? Because the KGB expended great effort in both persecuting and infiltrating Soviet churches, as well as in seeking to influence Western churches. That story is recounted here.
Vasili Mitrokhin spent three decades working with the KGB's foreign intelligence archives, and when he defected in 1992, he took with him several trunks full of copied documents that provide the source material for this tome.
It was fascinating, although not surprising, to read of the KGB infiltration of the United Nations, Canadian universities, and more. Humorously, some of the spy attempts failed miserably as national spies rebelled against their handlers, or Soviet nationals infiltrating a country discovered the truth about the West's wealth and defected or simply attempted to utilize their expense accounts to live a better lifestyle than they could dream of in the U.S.S.R.
The Soviets found Lee Harvey Oswald to be a nuisance when he was in Russia. They were happy to see him return to the United States, but horrified that they would be blamed for Kennedy's assassination, so they forged a letter from Oswald to Howard Hunt, making it look like Oswald was operating under orders from the Watergate conspirator, and forever delighting conspiracy theorists (298).
Sadly, many Russian Orthodox priests were compromised by the KGB, especially the church in North America. The KGB selected the Russian Orthodox delegates to the World Council of Churches in the 1960s, so it's no surprise that they denied reports of persecution. The leader, Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad had the agent name of ADAMANT, while others carried the more religious-sounding agent names ALTAR and MAGISTER. They managed to place agents in high WCC posts, such as the central committee which drafted policy statements on international affairs, criticizing the West but never the Soviet Union (637).
Granted, few people would find this book as fascinating as I did, but if you have an interest in Soviet history, it's a treasure trove of information about the interaction with the West.