An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent



10 thoughts on “An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent

  1. Mal Warwick Mal Warwick says:

    Who was the greatest spy of the twentieth century Was it Kim Philby 1912 88 , who served Moscow for three decades Philby s revelations led to the execution of numberless British and American agents behind the Iron Curtain, and his defection in 1963 pushed the CIA s James Jesus Angleton over the abyss into the full blown paranoia that almost destroyed the Agency.Or was it Eli Cohen 1924 65 , whose undercover work in Damascus helped Tel Aviv win the lightning Arab Israeli war in 1967 How about Who was the greatest spy of the twentieth century Was it Kim Philby 1912 88 , who served Moscow for three decades Philby s revelations led to the execution of numberless British and American agents behind the Iron Curtain, and his defection in 1963 pushed the CIA s James Jesus Angleton over the abyss into the full blown paranoia that almost destroyed the Agency.Or was it Eli Cohen 1924 65 , whose undercover work in Damascus helped Tel Aviv win the lightning Arab Israeli war in 1967 How about Aldrich Ames 1941 He compromisedhighly classified CIA assets than any other officer in historyuntil Robert Hanssen s arrest seven years later in 2001.And British nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs 1911 88 gave Josef Stalin the secret of the atomic bomb.In fact, perhaps that greatest spy was none of these men It might well have been someone, either a man or a woman, who is entirely unknown to history, someone whose work has never come to light.But in An Impeccable Spy, Owen Matthews makes a convincing case that Richard Sorge 1895 1944 , Stalin s Master Agent, merits the distinction Certainly, Ian Fleming thinks so He termed Sorge the most formidable spy in history Was this man really the greatest spy of the twentieth century So, why would Ian Fleming say that about Richard Sorge Here, from the pages of Owen Matthews s brilliantly researched biography, are a few facts Scholar, journalist, and spySorge, who was born in the Russian Empire of a Russian mother and a German father, spoke both languages flawlessly among others He held a doctorate in political science from the University of Hamburg and in the course of his life turned out turgid scholarly articles as well a torrent of analysis and commentary on Chinese and Japanese politics for Germany s most prestigious newspaper, the Frankfurter Zeitung He was so widely respected both as a journalist and as a scholar that some of those closest to him during World War II refused to believe after the war that he had been a spy.He was equally effective in spying on Nazi Germany and Imperial JapanSorge was an active Communist who began spying for the Comintern immediately after World War I and, later, for Soviet military intelligence today the GRU Nonetheless, he managed to join the Nazi Party and eventually become a close personal friend and part time employee of the German ambassador to Tokyo Through his access to top secret Nazi communications, he was able to advise his handlers in Moscow of Germany s intention to invade the Soviet Union Meanwhile, he was also running agents who were embedded at the very top of the Japanese government and was equally able to monitor Japan s on and off again plans to invade Siberia.Ironically, for years Berlin took his reports on Japanese politicsseriously than Moscow Sorge regularly got telegrams with scoldings and admonitions from his handlers Stalin was convinced he himself knew the truth about Germany and Japan s intentions No information that Sorge could provide, however solidly sourced, was capable of swaying the paranoid khozain boss of the Kremlin from his belief that Germany had been successfully contained but that Japan remained a fatal threat The truth was precisely the opposite Sorge s reports answered Moscow s 1 questionDuring the 1930s, Imperial Japan represented a far bigger threat to the Soviet Union than Germany, and Moscow s view of the two countries became evenentrenched after the Nazi Soviet Pact in 1939 Following the invasion of the USSR June 22, 1941 , the question of Japan s intentions became evenimportant Thus, as Matthews reports, The effort to avoid a two front war with Germany and Japan became the basic motive of every Russian diplomatic action from the last months of 1936 almost until the end of the Second World War If the Japanese were to invade from the east while the Germans were threatening Moscow and Leningrad from the west, Stalin s government might well fall From the perspective of his masters in Moscow, then, Sorge s main task both in Shanghai 1930 32 and in Tokyo 1933 41 was to learn whether Japan was likely to invade Siberia and, if so, to exert influence to head off the attack Through a ring of spies he recruited, Sorge kept his handlers fully apprised of the rapidly changing currents of Japanese military policy forthan a decade Amazingly, it also seems likely that, at least for a time, his agents helped to shift the objectives of the Japanese military from the north Siberia to the south Indonesia and Singapore.Sorge uncovered the biggest secret of the warThose of us in the West are prone to regard the time and place of the Normandy Invasion as the biggest secret of World War II However, at least as important, if notso, was the date and extent of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union After all, less than a year and a half before, Hitler and Stalin had pledged not to invade each other s country Any intention to break that pact would have been and certainly was earth shaking Sorge was one of several Soviet agents who predicted the invasion But he reported the news not just once but in a flurry of increasingly hysterical messages to Moscow Unfortunately, as the world now knows, Soviet intelligence discounted or played down all those reports because Stalin adamantly refused to believe them.Surprising revelations from Matthews s researchMatthews s exceptionally thorough research has turned up what at least to me were startling revelations Here are two Stalin had a plan to invade GermanyOne of the justifications Hitler used in launching Operation Barbarossa was that he feared the USSR might pre empt the attack and invade Germany first It turns out, this was not sheer fantasy Stalin did indeed have a plan in place for invading German occupied Poland and the Reich itself, if the need arose, Matthews reports, known as Operation Groza, the Russian for thunderstorm In today s Russia the very existence of this plan remains deeply controversial, as it contradicts the official historiography of an innocent Stalin double crossed by Hitler But the document can be found in a so called osobaya papka, or special file, in the Russian Defence Ministry archive Japanese diplomats in Washington were ignorant of the plan to bomb Pearl HarborIn innumerable ways, Matthews demonstrates how complex and often contradictory was the political reality in Tokyo There was, of course, a tug of war between the military and the civilian government But the Japanese navy and the army were at least equally at odds, routinely pushing for different strategies in the Pacific And, of course, there were many factions within the government as well The result could be monumentally confusing, all of which made Sorge s highly sophisticated understanding of the situation so muchvaluable For example, Even as Admiral Yamamoto s naval strategists worked on their secret plans to destroy the US Pacific Fleet, official Tokyo still held on to the hope that a peace deal with America would give them a free hand to expand in Asia Yet most American accounts of those negotiations have held to this day that the Japanese diplomats in Washington were perfectly aware of the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor.Only years later was Sorge recognized for his accomplishmentsMatthews isn t alone in thinking Sorge The greatest spy of the twentieth century Over a hundred books have been written in Japanese about the Sorge spy ring, and a thriving Tokyo based Sorge Society holds well attended annual conferences And Sorge was made a posthumous Hero of the Soviet Union in the 1960s when Nikita Khrushchev was General Secretary of the CPSU.About the authorBritish historian and journalist Owen Matthews has written five books to date, of which An Impeccable Spy is the most recent He has worked for Newsweek magazine since 1997, serving as Moscow Bureau Chief from 2006 to 2012


  2. Paul Paul says:

    An absorbing, easy read packed with previously unknown information Sorge pronounced Zorgae, as the author told a recent talk was a fanatical Communist, a hard drinking, womaniser who took crazy risks with the network that he had built up.Matthews research has found the records from the GRU files in Podolsk that show that Sorge was largely untrusted by his Moscow handlers, due to his connection with many purged Soviet officials and the inability of his service chiefs to tell Stalin anything o An absorbing, easy read packed with previously unknown information Sorge pronounced Zorgae, as the author told a recent talk was a fanatical Communist, a hard drinking, womaniser who took crazy risks with the network that he had built up.Matthews research has found the records from the GRU files in Podolsk that show that Sorge was largely untrusted by his Moscow handlers, due to his connection with many purged Soviet officials and the inability of his service chiefs to tell Stalin anything other than reports affirming Stalin s own preconceived ideas The narrative also explains that, despite Sorge s skill in cultivating sources, he was high handed with those in his own network


  3. Oliver Oliver says:

    The first few hundred pages I found were hard reading but eventually once I got my head around the multiple names and plans I enjoyed this book It wasn t as unputdownable as a Ben Macintyre book but actually I have probably learnt quite a bitfrom this one I always wondered how Japan fitted into the WW2 and whilst I m still not 100%, I am someway to understanding One of the most confusing things about this time I think are all the non aggression pacts being signed, it s hard to underst The first few hundred pages I found were hard reading but eventually once I got my head around the multiple names and plans I enjoyed this book It wasn t as unputdownable as a Ben Macintyre book but actually I have probably learnt quite a bitfrom this one I always wondered how Japan fitted into the WW2 and whilst I m still not 100%, I am someway to understanding One of the most confusing things about this time I think are all the non aggression pacts being signed, it s hard to understand who had what agreements with who


  4. Denise Denise says:

    While I d come across Richard Sorge s name in one of the many things I ve watched and read about in famous spies, I knew very little about his actual exploits Detailed and informative, this biography sure made for an intriguing read.


  5. Liviu Liviu says:

    An excellent biography of the famous soviet spy read quite a few of them from the hagiographic but still entertaining Russian ones almost four decades ago torecent western ones and this one is entertaining and well written with the special touch the author brings from his Russian side of the family as his grandmother was a neighbor of one of Sorge s handlers in the Soviet intelligence for example highly recommended whether one is new to the life and deeds of the arguably greatest s An excellent biography of the famous soviet spy read quite a few of them from the hagiographic but still entertaining Russian ones almost four decades ago torecent western ones and this one is entertaining and well written with the special touch the author brings from his Russian side of the family as his grandmother was a neighbor of one of Sorge s handlers in the Soviet intelligence for example highly recommended whether one is new to the life and deeds of the arguably greatest spy of all times or one has read bunch of books about him before


  6. Roger Mattson Roger Mattson says:

    Excellent book, unique character, we ll written It is good to have the truth told lest Sorge be lost to history I have great empathy for Matthews s multilingual research I share the same struggle in the case of Eric Krebs alias Jan Valtin.


  7. Arthur Arthur says:

    Brilliantly narrated book the author is tied with Robert Massie for best historical non fiction prose that I have readThe book zooms in and out easily between the day to day of Sorge s dramatic life and the world stage on which it unfolded.Very entertaining read and gives a lot of insight into how espionage can work, into how international politics are structured, and into the people who lived their lives through the interwar period and moved the world into WWII


  8. Steven Z. Steven Z. says:

    As early as April 1941 British intelligence informed Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin of German intentions to discard the Nazi Soviet Pact of August 1939 and invade Russia Stalin seemed to ignore those warnings and others as he would do on June 21, 1941 when London once again warned him of the impending German attack Unbeknownst to many in Europe Stalin did take certain precautions, for example, relocating Soviet industry east of the Ural Mountains and certain military accommodations as he had re As early as April 1941 British intelligence informed Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin of German intentions to discard the Nazi Soviet Pact of August 1939 and invade Russia Stalin seemed to ignore those warnings and others as he would do on June 21, 1941 when London once again warned him of the impending German attack Unbeknownst to many in Europe Stalin did take certain precautions, for example, relocating Soviet industry east of the Ural Mountains and certain military accommodations as he had read MEIN KAMPF and believed eventually war with Germany was inevitable By November 1941, the German onslaught would be stymied outside of Moscow as Owen Matthews relates in his superb biography, AN IMPECCABLE SPY RICHARD SORGE STALIN S MASTER SPY Richard Sorge was a fascinating character and had the personality traits, the skills of a chameleon, and intellect to ingratiate himself with diverse types of people, manipulate them, and gather and cull intelligence In fact, at one time he was spying for the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany simultaneously He eventually became embedded with German and Japanese officials, military types, and others which allowed him to gather intelligence to play a crucial role in saving the Soviet Union from a disaster in 1941 and enabled Stalin and his countrymen to defeat the Nazis is 1945 Sorge survived for nine years as a spy in Tokyo He was able to steal the most closely kept military and political secrets of both Germany and Japan while hiding in plain sight Matthews main thesis revolves around Stalin s need to know whether Japan would attack the Soviet Union Once Sorge provided the answer he moved Soviet troops from the east to block the Nazis in the west Without that knowledge and troop movements the course of the war would have been quite different What is fascinating despite the value of his intelligence he turned over to his handler s Soviet intelligence chiefs did not trust him and as a result were very wary of the information he sent until after the Nazi invasion It must always be kept in mind that during the Stalinist period that was dominated by Stalin s paranoia with show trials and purges leading to the execution of thousands Sorge was able to navigate the intelligence minefield to survive until arrested by the Japanese in 1941 and executed in 1943.If Matthews were a novelist, it would be difficult to create a character like Richard Sorge His personality and lifestyle make it difficult for any biographer Sorge lived most of his life in the shadow world where his survival depended upon secrecy Despite this need he was an extrovert and in many ways an exhibitionist who manipulated people, was a womanizer, and at times could be considered an alcoholic who saw himself as an intellectual who believed he should be an academic One of the best sources for Sorge must be taken with a grain of salt Once arrested by the Japanese he admitted to an idealized version of his life to interrogators He left an extensive correspondence with Moscow and numerous letters to his wife Katya, along with his journalistic and academic writings left quite a record Matthews summarizes Sorge well describing him as a man with three faces One face was that of a social lion, the outrageously indiscreet life of the party, adored by women and friends His second, secret, face was turned to his masters in Moscow And the third, the private man of high principles and base appetites living in a world of lies, he kept mostly to himself Matthews traces Sorge s life growing up mostly in Berlin, his experiences in World War I that turned him into a socialist because of what he experienced and eventually a true believer in communism Matthews explains in a clear fashion how he grewandconvinced in his own radicalization and how he was recruited by the Comintern which was developed by Lenin to help spread world revolution However, after Lenin died in 1924 and Stalin seized power it became a vehicle to protect the Soviet Union Matthews carefully lays out Sorges evolution intellectually from WWI to his move to Moscow in 1924.Matthews is highly effective in relating numerous tidbits about Sorge personally and events in Germany, Russia, and Japan during his subject s intelligence career, i.e., sharing lodgings during his training as a spy with Chou En Lai and Josip Broz Tito, providing details about the internal competition between military and civilian elements in Japan, the thought processes of different historical figures, and other examples Sorge s cover was as a journalist and commentator throughout his career This afforded him exposure to important decision makers and helped develop sources for his spy networks.Matthews offers a wonderful description of Shanghai in the early 1930s, a city that consisted of bordellos, drugs, banking, trade the pleasurable city Shanghai was nicknamed the whore of the orient where gangsters and warlords mixed with bankers and journalists With no residence permit for foreigners it was Asia s espionage capitol The city was used as a hiding place for members of the Chinese Communist Party CCP to escape persecution from Chiang Kai Shek s Kuomintang Sorge used his base in Shanghai to ingratiate himself with German military officers who trained the Kuomintang Eventually Sorge s best sources as he built his network were Nazis and military types He assumed the role of a debauched bourgeoisie expatriate, a role he played well.The author discusses many of the important figures in Sorge s life and intelligence work Agnes Smedley, an American socialist and journalist who had access to the CCP was recruited by Sorge and plays a prominent role in the creation of the Shanghai network Max Christiane Clausen became Sorge s radio operator when he moved on to Tokyo was invaluable as was Hotsumi Ozaki who had excellent contacts in the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai and eventually joined Sorge in Tokyo, along with businessmen and officials in the Kuomintang Yotoku Miyagi, a young artist from Okinawa developed into an excellent member of the Tokyo network Later Eugen Ott, a senior member of the German embassy in Tokyo as a senior military attach and eventually replaced Herbert Dirksen as German ambassador to Japan was an exceptional source.For Stalin, Sorge was able to provide information on Japanese expansionism particularly his fear of an attack against Russia Matthews follows developments within the Kwantung Army and Japanese civilians and how it impacted Sorge s work Stalin feared the anti Comintern pact of Japan, Germany, and Italy and his paranoia would lead to the purges In an important chapter, Bloodbath in Moscow Matthews lays out the impact of the show trials that led to the executions of Lev Kamenev and Grogiry Zinoviev, 1.6 million arrests, and 700,000 executions, the gutting of the Soviet officer corps, the intelligence community, and other officials It is fascinating how Sorge navigating the atmosphere in Moscow in the late 1930s was able to survive Later, Sorge concluded he was trapped in Tokyo as war became obvious and worked to meet Moscow s needs which centered on the fear of a German Japanese alliance which would surround the Soviet Union and making sure Hitler attacked anyone except Russia.Matthews is correct when he argues that Hitler did not believe Japan would make a good ally because of his own racial proclivities seeing them as inferior This became the impetus for the August 1939 Nazi Soviet Pact In addition, fighting broke out on the Soviet Mongolian border between Japanese and Russian forces called the Nomohan incident which would have a profound impact on the Second World War Tokyo kept the fighting localized as it did not want to fight Russia and the ongoing war in China at the same time The Kwantung armies influence would be strengthened as they pushed for expansion against their Asian neighbors and leave Russia alone This would lead to trying to remove the British and American fleets as a threat as they engaged in trying to create a Greater East Asian Co Prosperity Sphere Matthews does a good job describing the planning and machinations emanating from Berlin, Tokyo, and Moscow as the date of the Nazi invasion approached throughout the Spring 1941 culminating in the German onslaught on June 22, 1941 along with the reaction of the major principals involved Stalin s attitude during the entire period was one of distrust believing that what he was received was misinformation designed to weaken the Soviet Union Information contrary to his beliefs like what he received from Sorge can be summed up in his comment that you can send your source from headquarters of German aviation to his fucking mother This is not a source but a dezinformator a dis informer By June 1941, the powers that be in the Kremlin had turned a deaf ear to Sorge s reports warnings Sorge grew depressed asandhe was ignored.Jonathan Steele in his The Guardian review of May 16, 2019 agrees with Matthews that Sorge recognized that Hitler s invasion of the USSR was a major blunder for the Nazis, and he came close to revealing his true loyalties by shouting in front of his German colleagues that the idiot had lost the war He had greater success in signaling the inevitability of war between the US and Japan three months before it happened He did not predict the assault on Pearl Harbor but his report on Japan s decisive shift of focus to conquests in the south allowed Stalin not to move troops to Siberia but make them available to block the Germans from moving further east into Russia Steele concludes that in the Brezhnev and Andropov eras in the 1970s and 80s, Sorge became a Soviet hero with a flood of books about him, even though he had been totally abandoned in 1941 when he was arrested in Tokyo He had hoped the Soviet authorities would press the Japanese to let him go back to Moscow, but the Kremlin betrayed the man who had done so much for it No effort was made to save him Overall Matthews book is a spy thriller that doubles as an enthralling history of revolutionary Germany in the 1920s, Tokyo during the country s prewar militarization, and Moscow in the 1930s, where Stalin s mass terror consumed, among others, seven of Sorge s military intelligence bosses, and Sorge s ability to accumulate and transmit important intelligence through a series of networks he and his cohorts created Matthews provides many insights into Sorge s work and his impact on events and if you are a general reader or a spy aficionado this book should prove very satisfying


  9. David Wasley David Wasley says:

    How a charming, ruthless risk taker hoodwinked the intelligence services of Germany, China and Japan and obtained stupendous confidential information This book is packed with names and details I didn t find it an easy read but am glad I perservered.


  10. Peter Grimbeek Peter Grimbeek says:

    It is a wonder that Richard Sorge survived working as a Soviet spy, both in Germany and Japan, as long as he did The book makes the case that one would have to be mad in the way that he was to have done so.


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An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent [Reading] ➾ An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent ➵ Owen Matthews – Thomashillier.co.uk The thrilling true story of Richard Sorge the man John le Carr called the spy to end spies , and whose actions turned the tide of the Second World WarRichard Sorge was a man with two homelands Born of The thrilling true Spy: Richard PDF/EPUB å story of Richard Sorge the man John le Carr called the spy to end spies , and whose actions turned the tide of the Second World WarRichard Sorge was a man with two homelands Born of a German father and a Russian mother in Baku An Impeccable Epub / in , he moved in a world of shifting alliances and infinite possibility A member of the angry and deluded generation who found new, radical faiths after their experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, Sorge became a fanatical communist and the Soviet Union s most formidable Impeccable Spy: Richard PDF ☆ spyLike many great spies, Sorge was an effortless seducer, combining charm with ruthless manipulation He did not have to go undercover to find out closely guarded state secrets his victims willingly shared them As a foreign correspondent, he infiltrated and influenced the highest echelons of German, Chinese and Japanese society in the years leading up to and including the Second World War His intelligence regarding Operation Barbarossa and Japanese intentions not to invade Siberia inproved pivotal to the Soviet counteroffensive in the Battle of Moscow, which in turn determined the outcome of the warNever before has Sorge s story been told from the Russian side as well as the German and Japanese Owen Matthews takes a sweeping historical perspective and draws on a wealth of declassified Soviet archives along with testimonies from those who knew and worked with Sorge to rescue the riveting story of the man described by Ian Fleming as the most formidable spy in history.