The Secret World

Title:                  The Secret World

Author:                  Peter Deriabin

Deriabin, Piotr (1959) and Frank Gibney. The Secret World. Garden City, NY: Doubleday

LCCN:    59013041

HV8225 .D4


Date Updated:  September 21, 2016

Peter (Piotr) Deriabin, a former officer of the Russian secret police, and Frank Gibney, examine the Soviet system of internal espionage checks and balances, and its function in maintaining a police state. The report, while primarily a descriptive one (explaining the structure, evolution and techniques of the security forces) also analyzes the complex interaction between the party and this state machine. The authors see the executive arm of the USSR as one of concurrent controlled by the Secret Police, Party, and operative chain of command which sets the life of its members in a framework of insecurity and extra-legal operations. This analysis, however, is not a carefully worked out hypothesis; it is fortuitous, and should not therefore be regarded as a documented and authoritarian source by the serious student of Russian politics. The book reads well, and underlying the descriptive data is the adventurous biography of Deriabin himself, and the story of his eventual defection to the West. It has the advantage of having been written by a man who speaks from first-hand experience, but therein also lies its bias. As often stated, a memoirist is never wrong in his own eyes.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The Secret World grew out of a series of articles in Life magazine in 1959. Deriabin was a former KGB staff officer who defected in Vienna in 1954 while on his first foreign assignment. Gibney was later to write the introduction and the commentary for The Penkovsky Papers[2]. Early defectors such as Deriabin gave the West much of its foundation of knowledge of the KGB. Drawing from his own experience as a counterintelligence officer in the Kremlin guard and an SK (security) officer in Vienna, Deriabin contributes special insights into these roles of the KGB. His information on KGB training, tradition, methods of operation, and attitudes add considerably to the West’s understanding of the Soviet intelligence and security system; the functioning of Soviet security and military CI during World War II (including SMERSH) is also discussed. This account raises one significant matter without adequate follow-up. We are told that the Spetsburo or Special Bureau, in charge of acts of terror or violence, was “implicated in the 1941 killing of the GRU refugee Gen. Krivitsky.” The reader might also appreciate more on the report that the former head of the Soviet illegals section impersonated a German Wehrmacht staff officer for a full year-surely one of the great intelligence adventures if it occurred as Deriabin describes it. On this and the Krivitsky matter, it seems that Deriabins knowledge is second-hand and thus limited.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[3]

This important book is one of the best available expositions on KGB operations, organization, and functioning. The author was a Major of the KGB when he defected from his post in Vienna on 15 February 1954. This work and others by the author contain descriptions of his experiences during 12 years of service in the KGB. The Secret World stands as the definitive account, providing the KGB’s organizational biography as known by the author during his years of service in Soviet state security. The book is rich with important detail, and is highly recommended as the source of information for the period of the 1940s through the mid 1950s.

The following are documents relating to Deriabin

U.S. Congress. House Committee On Un-American Activities. Hearing. The Kremlin’s Espionage and Terror Organizations. Testimony of Petr S. Deriabin. Released 17 March 1959. pp. 1-16.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Internal Security Subcommittee. Hearing. Communist Controls on Religious Activity. Testimony of Petr S. Deriabin. 5 May 1959. pp. 1-34.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Internal Security Subcommittee. Hearing. Murder International Inc.: Murder and Kidnapping as an Instrument of Soviet Policy. Testimony of Petr S. Deriabin. 26 March 1965. pp. 1-176.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[4]

During the first part of his career in the KGB, Peter Deriabin was an internal security specialist. Therefore, almost half of the book is devoted to recounting his experiences in that portion of the state security organization, while the remainder details his activities in positive intelligence.

Further reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

The memoirs of a former staff officer of the Russian KGB. Both authors of this book have been under contract to the CIA. For this reason it is difficult to separate elements of disinformation and Cold War propaganda from the substratum of factual material on which it is based, although the book is cited in almost all bibliographies on the subject of Soviet espionage.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 161

[2] Penkovsky, Oleg (1965). The Penkovsky Papers: Introd. and Commentary by Frank Gibney. Foreword by Edward Crankshaw. Translated by Peter Deriabin Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

[3] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p. 20

[4] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p.

[5] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p.


This entry was posted in Defectors and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Secret World

  1. Pingback: Red Star over Prague | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: KGB: The Inside Story | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: Watchdogs of Terror | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  4. Pingback: Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources, Chapter 9 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  5. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s