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The Haunted Wood : Soviet Espionage in America - -The Stalin Era

by Alexander Vassiliev

Buy the book: Alexander Vassiliev. The Haunted Wood : Soviet Espionage in America - -The Stalin Era

Release Date: 22 December, 1998

Edition: Hardcover


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Buy the book: Alexander Vassiliev. The Haunted Wood : Soviet Espionage in America - -The Stalin Era

A book for professional historians of espionage & Cold War

Weinstein, with the aid of Alexander Vassiliev, was able to gain access to a fairly large number of KGB records from the 1930s through the 1940s. THe evidence from the KGB archives (cross-referenced against US and VERONA documents) show a fairly extensive spy network within the US during the Depression and World War II. The presence of this network was noted and suspected by people such as J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI during the Roosevelt Administration, and it led authorities like Hoover to begin constructing the machinery of what would later be called McCarthyism (for more on this, see Ellen Schrecker's "Many Are the Crimes"). Weinstein's copious notes illustrate this network's very real existence, including such people as Alger Hiss, Whitaker Chambers, and the Rosenbergs. (Not Oppenheimer, BTW)

I stated this was for professional historians -- if you're a casual reader of Cold War or spy history, you may like this book, but I doubt it. The narrative flow is poor to say the least -- there's scarcely any "flow" here at all. I'm not sure if the book was rushed to print or if the nature of the material did not lend itself to good writing; whatever, the book is poorly written. Older ideologues of both Left and Right may be interested; a lot of bad feelings have permeated down through the years due to disagreements over the extent of Soviet spying and McCarthyism. I don't think anyone can come away claiming victory here. Conservatives were correct in insisting that the Communist spy network existed, but at the wrong time. (By the time McCarthyism came around, the spy ring had collapsed, as Weinstein shows.) Liberals who downplayed the existence of the spies were wrong, at least from about 1932-1945, but can also take solace in the fact that the numerous spies seemed to cause no serious damage of any kind. (Even the Rosenbergs, at most, hastened the Soviet's atomic achievement by only a year or two.) Most American communist spies were Jews motivated to support the U.S.S.R. in the coming struggle against Fascism -- understandable; most fell away from the Soviets following the Soviet-Nazi Pact. The extent of spying by the Soviets in no way justified the abuses of McCarthyism, although the evidence Weinstein shows certainly illuminates why that era took on the edge it did.


Second thoughts

I reviewed this book in 1999, and gave it three stars. Over time, I've decided it was better than I first thought, and came back here to up it to four...

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