Russian roulette How British spies thwarted Lenin's plot for global revolution

Giles Milton

Book - 2014

"In 1917, a band of communist revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace of Tsar Nicholas II, a dramatic and explosive act marking that Vladimir Lenin's communist revolution was now underway. But Lenin would not be satisfied with overthrowing the Tsar. His goal was a global revolt that would topple all Western capitalist regimes starting with the British Empire. This book tells the story of the British spies in revolutionary Russia and their mission to stop Lenin's red tide from wa...shing across the free world. They were an eccentric cast of characters, led by Mansfield Cumming, a one-legged, monocle-wearing former sea captain, and included novelist W. Somerset Maugham, beloved children's author Arthur Ransome, and the dashing, ice-cool Sidney Reilly, the legendary Ace of Spies and a model for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Cumming's network would pioneer the field of covert action and would one day become Britain's Military Intelligence 6 (MI -6) -- book jacket.

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Bloomsbury Press 2014.
Edition
First U.S. edition
Language
English
Item Description
Originally published: London, England : Sceptre, 2013.
Physical Description
xiv, 378 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 343-364) and index.
ISBN
9781620405680
1620405687
Main Author
Giles Milton (author)
  • The villain
  • Shooting in the Dark. Murder in the dark ; The Chief ; The perfect spy ; Know thy enemy.
  • Masters of Disguise. The man with three names ; A double life ; Mission to Tashkent ; Going underground ; Vanishing trick ; The plot thickens ; A deadly game ; Toxic threat .
  • The Professional Spy. Master of disguise ; The lethal M device ; Agent in danger ; Dirty tricks ; Army of God ; Winner takes all.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Replete with cloak-and-dagger details, this account of British espionage against the Bolshevik government centers on agents sent to Russia by MI6 spymaster Mansfield Cummings. Including the most famous of them in spy history, Sidney Reilly, Milton traces their aliases and activities in revolutionary Russia in the years 1917–21. While their objectives—procuring political and military information about the radical regime—frame Milton's narrative, its substance revels in the world of the undercover operative. Milton depicts them undergoing Cummings' peculiar recruitment techniques, learning about ciphers and invisible inks, and devising cover names and disguises. Once in place, their adroit evasions of capture by the Bolshevik's secret police propel Milton's lively accounts. Much of the action occurs in Petrograd, Moscow, and Tashkent, in Central Asia, from where the Communists attempted to foment a revolution in India. Its detection underlies the subtitle's claim that these spies stopped Lenin's global revolution (in reality, he pulled back in 1921 for several reasons, including the Red Army's defeat in Poland). Whatever the actual impact the espionage had on political events, Milton's vivid presentation of them will entertain aficionados of intelligence. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In 1918, Lenin announced that the Bolshevik victory in Russia heralded the beginning of worldwide revolution. so why did his claim fail to bear fruit? Prolific historian Milton (The Boy Who Went to War) credits British spies in this impressive account of skullduggery carried out by colorful figures amid the chaos of revolutionary Russia. Well before the revolution, British intelligence was operating in Petrograd, tasked with keeping the crumbling Russian army in the war against Germany. A British agent probably fired the fatal shot in the 1916 murder of Rasputin, the charismatic monk who exerted a baleful influence over the Czar's family and was widely accused of sabotaging the war effort. After the revolution, British spies successfully gathered information, engaged in sabotage, encouraged and financed the regime's opponents, and plotted an unsuccessful coup. Those who survived often wrote self-serving memoirs, and one who didn't inspired a BBC TV series: Reilly, Ace of Spies. While brilliant spycraft frustrated a Soviet-led invasion of India, Morton fails to make his case that it thwarted world revolution, but readers will not regret picking up this entertaining history of spectacular, often nasty derring-do by real-life secret agents. Maps, 8p. b&w insert. Agent: Georgia Garrett; Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (May) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Recounts the extraordinary and thrilling story of the British spies in revolutionary Russia, led by Mansfield Cumming, who would one day pioneer the field of covert action and become MI6, and their mission to foil Lenin's plot for global revolution. 40,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"In 1917, a band of communist revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace of Tsar Nicholas II, a dramatic and explosive act marking that Vladimir Lenin's communist revolution was now underway. But Lenin would not be satisfied with overthrowing the Tsar. His goal was a global revolt that would topple all Western capitalist regimes starting with the British Empire. This book tells the story of the British spies in revolutionary Russia and their mission to stop Lenin's red tide from washing across the free world. They were an eccentric cast of characters, led by Mansfield Cumming, a one-legged, monocle-wearing former sea captain, and included novelist W. Somerset Maugham, beloved children's author Arthur Ransome, and the dashing, ice-cool Sidney Reilly, the legendary Ace of Spies and a model for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Cumming's network would pioneer the field of covert action and would one day become Britain's Military Intelligence 6 (MI -6) -- book jacket.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Recounts the story of the British spies in revolutionary Russia, led by Mansfield Cumming, who would one day pioneer the field of covert action and become MI6, and their mission to foil Lenin's plot for global revolution.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

In 1917, a band of communist revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace of Tsar Nicholas II-a dramatic and explosive act marking that Vladimir Lenin's communist revolution was now underway. But Lenin would not be satisfied with overthrowing the Tsar. His goal was a global revolt that would topple all Western capitalist regimes-starting with the British Empire. Russian Roulette tells the spectacular and harrowing story of the British spies in revolutionary Russia and their mission to stop Lenin's red tide from washing across the free world. They were an eccentric cast of characters, led by Mansfield Cumming, a one-legged, monocle-wearing former sea captain, and included novelist W. Somerset Maugham, beloved children's author Arthur Ransome, and the dashing, ice-cool Sidney Reilly, the legendary Ace of Spies and a model for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Cumming's network would pioneer the field of covert action and would one day become MI6. Living in disguise, constantly switching identities, they infiltrated Soviet commissariats, the Red Army, and Cheka (the feared secret police), and would come within a whisker of assassinating Lenin. In a sequence of bold exploits that stretched from Moscow to the central Asian city of Tashkent, this unlikely band of agents succeeded in foiling Lenin's plot for global revolution.