Roulette wheel.


Russian Roulette

Russian roulette usually carries an implication of suicide, but the book under discussion is about espionage in Soviet Russia under Lenin, so I decided to go with the gambling, as opposed to the suicidal, aspect of the title for the picture above.

This is a history of British espionage operations in Russia during the last days of the Tsar, and the first days of the Russian Revolution, roughly the start of the NEP (New Economic Plan), about 1924. The principal characters include such notables as Sidney Reilly, an inspiration for James Bond; Rasputin, Lenin, Trotsky, Arthur Ransome, Somerset Maugham, and Robert Bruce Lockhart.

Not all of the operations were successful, and Sidney Reilly at one point seems to have deluded himself that he could overthrow the new regime and assume power himself as a successor to the Tsar. Some of them were successful though, and helped impede the exportation of Communism outside of the Soviet Union.

One notable point that is brought out is that while Prince Yusopov had a role in the assassination of Rasputin, the man who finished him off may have been Oscar Rayner, an operative for British intelligence. There is, at this distance, no conclusive evidence, but Milton does present an interesting case.

Of more relevance perhaps is the role of the USSR, through the Comintern, of supporting radical Islam as an insurgent force aimed at destroying the then dominant British Empire. Despite Lenin's open Marxism, the Soviets, through the Comintern, attempted to use Manabendra Nath Roy and his Army of God to stir up trouble in British India. This would have caused a tremendous loss to the Empire, both in material terms and in terms of prestige. The Empire would have become the "weak horse" of Bin Laden's metaphor.

British agents on the ground were able to thwart many of the plans of Lenin and the Comintern, and while some, such as Reilly, did come to a bad end, others, such as Lockhart and Ransome, led successful lives outside of espionage.

Next up, Brad Thor's Act of War.