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November 22, 1987|Michael Krepon

CHEKISTY: A HISTORY OF THE KGB by John J. Dziak (Lexington Books: $17.95; 217 pp.).

The Soviet state security apparatus has a wide-ranging portfolio, including internal security, foreign espionage, kidnaping, assassination, and control over nuclear weapons. Many of the sordid details are provided in John J. Dziak's short history of the KGB, "Chekisty."

Here we find Felix Dzerzhinsky, ex-seminarian and founder of the Cheka, the security and intelligence agency established during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, quickly surpassing the excesses of the czarist secret police. (The security service has had many name changes, but its operatives continue to be known as Chekisty, hence the book's title.) Josef Stalin and his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, elevate the secret police to paranoid heights, including the mass slaughter of peasants and bloody 50% cuts in the Soviet officer corps shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Beria is executed before he can assume Stalin's mantle, as the Soviet military intercedes to block succession arranged by the secret police. Yuri Andropov appears as the most successful KGB boss since Beria, benefiting from and expediting the end of the Brezhnev era.

The stories recounted by Dziak, a veteran analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, will appeal to conspiracy theorists and Soviet specialists. While there is little in the book about current events, Dziak offers a grim view of the future, suggesting that glasnost will serve the traditional ends of the police state--striking at enemies and preserving the system in its core essentials.

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