Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the…

The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the the Third World - Newly Revealed Secrets from the Mitrokhin Archive (edition 2006)

by Christopher Andrew (Author)

Series: Mitrokhin Archive (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations
400664,668 (3.71)None
Presents a history of KGB Cold War operations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America, documenting attempts by the Soviet intelligence service to discredit the United States and foster anti-Americanism in those regions.
Title:The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the the Third World - Newly Revealed Secrets from the Mitrokhin Archive
Authors:Christopher Andrew (Author)
Info:Basic Books (2006), Edition: Edition Unstated, 736 pages
Collections:Your library

Work Information

The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for The Third World by Christopher Andrew


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

English (5)  Italian (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
1 vote kala.e.kitaabi | Feb 5, 2020 |
Vasili Mitrokhin was a KGB officer who had access to some of the organization’s archives on its foreign intelligence work. From 1972 to 1984, he’d take some documents home every weekend, make notes on them or, sometimes, copy certain documents in full. He’d hide the notes under the floorboards of his dacha.

In 1992, he defected to the British government with several boxes of those notes.

Whereas the first volume of the Mitrokhin archives, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, documented KGB operations in Europe and North America and Australia, this one covers operations in the rest of the world though Japan, definitely not a Third World country, is included.

493 pages of this book are text filled with hundreds of names of agents, their codenames as well as the codenames of operations and places. The rest of the 677 pages are indexes, appendices, footnotes, and a bibliography. This book is not light read and near the hardcore end of the spectrum for those interested in espionage as well as foreign policy and modern history.

Some high-level things jump out though.

First is how much influence the KGB had on Soviet foreign policy. There are numerous instances in this book about how Marxist revolutionaries wanted to deal with their KGB contacts rather than the Soviet Foreign ministry.

Second is the baleful influence of one KGB leader, Yuri Andropov, who succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as head of the Soviet Communist party, on world history. Most spectacular was his paranoid belief that, under the Reagan Administration, that the United States was planning a nuclear first strike on the USSR. Under Operation RYAN, KGB officers throughout the world were instructed to gather evidence of this. It was only after KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky defected (an incident not covered in this book) that the United Kingdom and the United States realized this and moderated their rhetoric to de-escalate tensions. But Andropov was also instrumental in campaigning for the USSR to crush the Hungarian (though as an ambassador and not KGB member) and Czechoslovakian Revolutions. He was obsessed with “ideological subversion” in Russia and the Third World Marxist countries he enthusiastically supported. In particular, he was concerned about Jewish dissidents in the USSR. (Brezhnev thought his obsession with Zionism was “making us stupid”, but Andropov was allowed to persist.) Finally, it was Andropov whose optimistic assessments of the situation in Afghanistan that led the USSR to become involved in an nine year war there.

Third is how dysfunctional the KGB was in some ways. Until 1973, Service 1, the KGB’s analytical section for foreign intelligence, was something of a “punishment posting” and tended to tell the Party leadership what they wanted to hear. The problem of politicized intelligence persisted, to a lesser degree, until Gorbachev’s reforms. It wasn’t just in Operation RYAN that KGB officers dutifully collected what they were told to regardless of their personal misgivings as to its value. The KGB, particularly under Andropov, sycophantly produced what the Party wanted to hear about: that their efforts in the Third World were spreading the proletariat revolution in various countries. Andropov also used KGB funds to flatter Brezhnev, things like paying foreign agents to right a flattering biography of Brezhnev and then passing it off as proof of his international popularity or suggesting a revolutionary leader give a gift of an expensive foreign car to Brezhnev, a car paid for with KGB funds. The KGB also gave the population of the USSR a too rosy picture of the USSR’s popularity in the world.

Fourth is how much all this attempt to spread a revolution worldwide cost the Soviet Union. The Soviet Empire was a peculiar empire in the outflow of money from the center to the provinces of its Third World allies. More than once, in the case of Cuba and Ethiopia, the KGB allies in East Germany, the Stasi, commented on how hopelessly, even by USSR standards, these economies were managed.

Still, in 1980, “the world was going our way” according to the KGB, and America, its “main adversary”, agreed. By 1991, things were not only not going the USSR’s way. It didn’t even exist.

The book is organized by geographic areas: Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Each section constructs a general history from public documents – histories, biographies, government reports – and inserts the unique information of the Mitrokhin archive at the relevant points. We hear of KGB boobytrapped arms caches, forgeries, agent recruitment, the information supplied, embassy break-ins, and assassinations (many more planned than carried out). The legacies of some these “active measures” are still with us in the persistent rumor than Americans kidnap Latin America children for organ parts or that HIV was created in an American bacteriological warfare lab. A lot of KGB work, though, was just planting newspaper stories and paying various political parties.

Mitrokhin didn’t have access to all the KGB’s archives and sometimes his notes left out some information, and these instances are noted.

In Latin America, what most surprises is that how much Fidel Castro annoyed the Soviets at times, particularly in his interference in African politics and egomaniacal desire to be seen as a leader of communist world revolution. Signifying how much the Castro regime was propped up by the Soviets is Castro’s lament at how disastrous the end of the USSR was for Cuba.

In the Middle East, Yasser Arafat was also not regarded as an asset, but we do hear about the KGB’s involvement in Middle Eastern terrorism. The Asad regime in Syria and Sadaam Hussein were not the most reliable of allies. Saddam Hussein, despite his admiration for Joseph Stalin, which the KGB cultivated, made it hard for the KGB to operate in Iraq and suppressed Iraqi communists. Syria and Iraq wanted Soviet money and arms but didn’t always take direction from Moscow. The Iranian revolution caught the KGB by surprise.

In Asia, things seemed to be going well until Mao split with the Soviet Union. Then China and thwarting Maoist thought worldwide became a major KGB goal with China being deemed the next adversary after America. China, after the split, became a “denied area” to the KGB, very hard to operate in – especially since, under the earlier alliance, the KGB had turned over a list of its agents in China to Mao’s government. Incidentally, Mao’s head of intelligence, Kang Sheng, was a student in Russia during the Red Terror. He took notes and launched his own version in China. His enthusiasm for terror would be replicated under the Marxist governments of Ethiopia and Afghanistan. (A common phrase throughout the book is revolutionary leaders, after coming to power, launching terrors to root out plots, “real or imagined” against them.)

KGB operations in Afghanistan get two chapters, one before the invasion and one during the Afghan war. Mitrokhin, in fact, wrote a whole paper about the subject for the Cold War International History Project.

The corrupt political systems of India, Pakistan, and Japan resulted in several KGB assets in those countries. Some were agents, taking direct orders from the KGB. Others were “confidential contacts” who covertly supplied information to the KGB but didn’t directly take orders from them. Japan proved a very lucrative source of technological and scientific information, particularly on American weapons since some of their parts were manufactured in Japan. However, the great deficiencies of the Soviet economy prevented the data from being used in much of meaningful way. If there was area of KGB operations in the Third World that could have justified the expense, it was Japan.

KGB efforts against Muslims in the Soviet Union gets its own chapter. What strikes one is the massive corruption of KGB and Muslim party officials in the future “stans” of Asia. This corruption was known and largely tolerated. Again Andropov played a key role in this.

As to Africa … well, Africa with Soviet aid was as pathetic as Africa with Western aid. The numerous revolutions the KGB was involved with end in bloodshed, corruption, and tribal and ideological disputes among party members. (There is an interesting, revealing snippet, of a KGB officer meeting with Somalians and wondering why one persists in wearing a military jacket with one sleeve ten inches longer than the other.) One interesting revelation is the collusion of the USSR with apartheid South Africa in maintaining their virtual duopoly on diamonds, gold, and platinum all the while the KGB waged a propaganda campaign against the regime and aided the African National Congress.

Since this book is from 2005, Andrews (Mitrokhin died in 2004) had the typical sanguinity about South Africa’s future. However, it seems on its way to sanguinity of a different sort as the disaster unfashionably predicted by some seems occurring if at a slower rate.

Revealing anecdotes of exasperated KGB officers show up every now and then, usually with KGB officers charged with carrying out some order they knew to be pointless or stupid from the KGB Center. One has a KGB officer tasked with asking a British ambassador how a KGB defector exfiltrated from Iran with a British passport. As if the ambassador would tell him.

Highly recommended for those interested in espionage and also as a look at Third World history in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | May 6, 2019 |
This is Christopher Andrew’s follow up to “The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB,” which, despite its needlessly sensational subtitle, is a serious work of history describing Cold War KGB operations against the United States and its Western allies. Both works rely heavily (almost exclusively) on the materials and revelations provided by the 1992 defector to Britain, Vasili Mitrokhin, a KGB archivist with unique access to virtually the entirety of the KGB’s archives for decades. This volume concentrates on KGB operations in the Third World, devoting chapters to every region of the world as well as the most important countries where the KGB operated (e.g., India, Afghanistan).

Despite the fact that we don’t have a great deal of corroborating sources for many of Mitrokhin’s revelations, I tend to trust him and would assess him as a highly credible source. Sadly, the British government, through which Andrew gained access to Mitrokhin and his materials, hasn’t permitted him to provide information on all of the KGB’s activities. For example, many of the assassination operations in which the KGB was involved are not discussed here. Likewise, Andrew has been forced to censor some of the names of the KGB’s agents of influence – a case in point: the KGB had significant influence over almost all the major Indian print media outlets for decades, but Andrew isn’t permitted to name the specific newspapers and magazines for, he says, “legal reasons.” I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this, as there is certainly plenty of new, important, fascinating information here, and the Brits’ reservations are understandable in many cases, but it’s an aspect of which readers should be aware.

I won’t meticulously go through and present all of Andrew and Mitrokhin’s arguments in each area of the world, but will highlight a few key points. First, and perhaps most obviously, active and significant KGB operations were omnipresent in most areas of the world throughout the duration of the Soviet Union. Soviet intelligence operations in the Third World both reflected the Soviet obsession with fomenting international revolution and their own brand of Marxism-Leninism and drove Soviet foreign policy. Second, while the USSR was primarily focused on the Main Adversary (the United States) and its allies, it also conducted significant, long-term operations against fellow travelers, most particularly the “heretical” Communist Chinese, Albanians, and Yugoslavs. And third, perhaps not surprisingly, KGB operations reflected a series of paranoid and unrealistic misperceptions about the world and the USSR’s place in it (e.g., its mistaken belief that Reagan was preparing to launch a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union) as well as extremely skewed priorities (e.g., significant planning went into revenge operations against defecting ballerinas). While the KGB had a number of major successes, its findings that were reported back to Soviet leaders only served to reinforce the “party line,” doing nothing to halt or reverse the USSR’s precipitous decline.

If there is a weakness in this book (and it is far from perfect, in my estimation), it is in the work’s single-mindedness. I am always hesitant to criticize works for what they don’t do (or don’t set out to achieve), but what we really need is a transnational history of Soviet and US intelligence operations, since their goals, policies, and operations were so intertwined and interconnected that to treat either side in isolation seems to provide only half the story. We certainly don’t get that transnational or comparative study here. The US and its allies are treated only very briefly and superficially here. There was real competition for influence and control in the Third World, and much of that understanding is lost here. One of the few US sources ever used by Andrew here is Robert Gates’ memoir. That’s a fine (if limited) source, but we need much more. The definitive work on Soviet-US competition in Cold War intelligence operations has yet to be written. But when that history is written, the two Andrew/Mitrokhin volumes will be valuable sources for that author.

KGB operations are a vastly under-studied facet of Soviet foreign and military policies that most historians of the Cold War have long neglected. Andrew and Mitrokhin’s two volumes go a long way to address that deficiency. With the material presented here, there is no longer an excuse for future historians of Soviet foreign policy to neglect the importance of intelligence operations.
I give it 4 stars out of 5. It’s not as engaging as The Sword and the Shield, and can, admittedly be tedious at times, but it’s nevertheless an important work for those interested in the history of Cold War-era KGB global operations.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers ( )
1 vote bibliorex | Nov 10, 2010 |
A follow up to (wait for it) Mitrokhin Archive I, this time focusing on the KGB activities in the third world. An educational look at shadowy activities, but one perhaps lacking in some of the drama of stories about the 'Main Adversary' covered in the first volume. An enjoyable read. ( )
  Meggo | May 25, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christopher Andrewprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mitrokhin, Vasilimain authorall editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Series

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
Presents a history of KGB Cold War operations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America, documenting attempts by the Soviet intelligence service to discredit the United States and foster anti-Americanism in those regions.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Current Discussions


Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (3.71)
2 1
3 9
3.5 4
4 17
5 3

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 208,779,137 books! | Top bar: Always visible