Handbook of Intelligence And Guerrilla Warfare

Title:                      Handbook of Intelligence And Guerrilla Warfare

Author:                  Alexander Orlov

Orlov, Alexander (1963). Handbook of Intelligence And Guerrilla Warfare. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press

LCCN:    63009900

UB271.R9 O7


Date Updated:  September 17, 2015

The following review is posted on the CIA website. Intriguing. The book published more than 20 years before the collapse of the Soviet Union by a defector from the USSR still evidences the enigma of the Russian mind.

Any observant layman who follows the details of Soviet intelligence operations in the press soon finds that they all have one common factor. Each Soviet operation, wherever mounted and whatever its target, has a single goal—obtaining classified documents from the files of other governments.

The Soviet Government wants documents. It has little interest in opinion, although it will accept the considered judgment of experts who are its agents. It does collect overt information in great quantity also. But its principal interest remains the classified files of other governments. The Soviet regime puts first things first.

Alexander Orlov, a ranking officer of Soviet State Security who commanded the NKVD in Spain until his defection in 1938, drives this point home. It is the principal theme of his book. It is a fact that the American intelligence officer should never forget.

Orlov declares that the purpose of his book is to recreate an espionage handbook that he composed for the Soviets back in 1936. Fortunately for us, however, he has done no such thing. Instead, he has made a survey of Soviet intelligence practice, especially as it relates to the role of the “illegal” or deep-cover agent, using his wide past experience to analyze current Soviet techniques. Could his understanding of the illegal’s fears and difficulties in foreign parts derive from his own personal experience? The result is in any case of the greatest value to the layman and quite useful to the intelligence expert. The central theme of Soviet preoccupation with documents, however, remains Orlov’s most significant contribution.

This Soviet preoccupation must be impressed on the American intelligence officer, who, in all likelihood, has been overtrained in the relative insignificance of covert information. American students of intelligence work—usually they are scholars and therefore committed to research—take pleasure in stressing that clandestine collection of information plays a rather minor role in the aggregate activity. The finished intelligence product, they say, usually contains not more than ten per cent of clandestine data. Then they try to smooth the clandestine operator’s ruffled feelings by admitting that it is an “important ten per cent” just the same.

In Orlov’s opinion, this Western reliance on overt information often leads to unprovable hypotheses and at the worst to wild leaps into the unknown. In contrast to the ten per cent maximum of clandestine intelligence in the American end product, he declares that the Soviet military intelligence service, which does use some overt materials, puts 80 per cent of its effort into secret operations, while Soviet State Security relies entirely on clandestine techniques. Orlov clearly does not approve of American intelligence practices.

Although the book is a contribution to our literature, the intelligence officer will read it with some regret. Few officers who have left the Soviet service can match Orlov’s knowledge of its operations, techniques, and personalities. His knowledge of its history and development up to the late thirties is unsurpassed. Because of Stalin’s purges and of losses in the war, few men like him who grew up with Soviet intelligence remain. It is unfortunate, therefore, that he avoids giving his American audience any insight into the service during the campaign against Trotskiy and the great purges. His detailed comments on it and its leading personalities during these fateful years would be invaluable. Sensational accounts such as his own History of Stalin’s Secret Crimes cannot meet this need. The reader will put down the book with the hope that some day Orlov will tell his own experiences and give us the story of Soviet intelligence as he knows it.

The weakest section of this book is the final chapter on guerrilla warfare; here the dated quality of Orlov’s information is most clearly shown. His elementary generalizations on guerrilla activity are drawn from personal experience limited to the Russian and Spanish Civil Wars. Soviet guerrilla experience in World War II, which importantly influenced present-day guerrilla doctrine, is covered in only a page or two. Postwar guerrilla activities are not mentioned.

Regrettably the Handbook has neither index nor bibliography.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Sherman Kent in the preface to the 1966 edition of his Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy[2] called Orlov’s book remarkable and one that should be read. DIS’s Bibliography [see below] used the term “authoritative.” Orlov defected from the NKVD while serving in Spain during the civil war. He had been a lecturer on intelligence and counterintelligence at the Central Military School in Moscow. This is a recreation of the approved textbook he wrote for use in Soviet intelligence training. He brought the work up to date by using examples from the period when he was with Soviet intelligence and also others of a later date It is primarily on how illegals operate-how Soviet intelligence creates, organizes, and runs illegal networks that operate parallel to and supplement the legal residentura and replace the latter when diplomatic relations are broken. It is a valuable, needed, and rare insight into an intelligence practice of which the Soviets have been masters and on which they have traditionally relied. Technical collection is not discussed, and the discussion of guerrilla warfare is based on experience in Spain and is only a fraction of the total work. In addition to the value of its material on operating methods of illegals, the book is important for its emphasis on Soviet reliance on espionage as a means of acquiring needed information, compared to the Western preference for and emphasis on open sources.

Bailey in The Conspirators[3] gives Orlov’s true name as Aleksandr Nikolsky; Bailey says that Nikolsky seems to have acquired an unsavory reputation in Spain, causing the two top men of Soviet intelligence there to ask for his recall, and that Nikolsky was responsible for the murder of Spanish Trotskyites. Bailey points out that Orlov defected at the time of the great purges in his service. Krivitsky also wrote that resentment against Orlov and his service led to a demand by the chief of Soviet military intelligence in Spain that he be recalled. Orlov always denied the accusations made against him by Krivitsky. Brook-Shepherd’ s The Storm Petrels[4] only scratches the surface in its treatment of Orlov.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[5]

An authoritative book on the techniques (many still applicable) of clandestine intelligence and clandestine warfare as practiced by the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s, by a former Lt. Gen. of the NKVD Security Services. The author defected in 1938 while serving as the NKVD rezident in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

See also the following for Orlov’s testimonies:

U.S. CONGRESS. SENATE. INTERNAL SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE. Hearing. (in Executive Session: released in 1962). Testimony of Alexander Orlov. 28 September 1955. pp. 1-20.

U.S. CONGRESS. SENATE. INTERNAL SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE. Hearings. Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States, Part 51. Testimony of Alexander Orlov. 14-15 February 1957. pp. 3421-3439, 3441-3471.

Much of this testimony also appears in the Internal Security Subcommittee Report entitled The Legacy of Alexander Orlov, published in August 1973.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[6]

The author, a Soviet defector, writes: “Before World War II, when I was one of the chiefs of the Soviet intelligence, I lectured at the Central Military School in Moscow on the tactics and strategy of intelligence and counterintelligence. In 1936 I wrote dawn the basic rules and principles of Soviet intelligence in the form of a manual which was approved as the only textbook for the newly created NKVD schools for undercover intelligence officers and for the Central Military School in Moscow.”

This book is the American equivalent of the manual. Orlov argues that Soviet intelligence relies heavily on classical espionage as o means of collecting strategic intelligence, in contrast to the emphasis placed by Western powers on research and analysis of information from open sources.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 352-353

[2] Kent, Sherman (1966). Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy. Hamden, CT: Archon Books

[3] Bailey, Geoffrey (1960). The Conspirators. New York: Harper and Bros.

[4] Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1978). The Storm Petrels: The Flight of The First Soviet Defectors. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

[5] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence School, p. 48

[6] 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. 23



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6 Responses to Handbook of Intelligence And Guerrilla Warfare

  1. Pingback: Merchants of Treason | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. haddush says:

    I wants to write about guerrilla warfare and intelligence based on my life history during the past armed struggle in Tigray Ethiopia so I need this reference can I have softcopy of this

    • fredslibrary says:

      The printed pages run about 1200 pages which is too much to print off and supply. I regret I cannot supply it in soft copy. The advantage to the online version is that you can search for key words.

  3. Pingback: Storm Birds | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  4. Pingback: The Storm Petrels | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  5. Pingback: Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage And Covert Operations | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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