Rezident

Title:                      Rezident

Author:                 Robert K. Baker

Baker, Robert K. (2015). Rezident: The Espionage Odyssey f Soviet General Vasily Zarubin. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse

LCCN:    2014914199

JN6529

Date Posted:      March 27, 2017

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

If the era of the whistleblower didn’t begin on 7 August 1943, it was certainly presaged by an anonymous letter addressed to “Mr. Hoover” that arrived that day atFBI headquarters. Among other revelations, it named all the KGB (NKVD) of ficers serving in the Washington rezidency, including Vasily Zubilin (true name Zarubin), the Rezident responsible for KGB operations in America during World WarII.

FBI counterintelligence specialist and Russian linguist Robert Baker had been aware of the letter, and when it became public in 1995 it came to mind after he interviewed Zarubin’s daughter Zoya—herself a former KGB of ficer—in 1996 as part of his FBI duties. After his retirement in 1999, and with Zoya’s and her brother Peter’s cooperation, Baker began the research that resulted in Rezident.

Zarubin is well-known to enthusiasts of intelligence history for his frequently mentioned wartime service in the United States, where he coordinated the work of the Soviet Union’s spies. Baker tells the rest of Zarubin’s fascinating story. Born in 1894, he served in both the czar’s[2] army and the Red Army, from whence in 1919 he was recruited into the Cheka and rose to the rank of major general. In between, he was stationed in China, Finland, Demark (his first assignment and as an illegal), France, Germany, and his first duty in the United States (also as an illegal).

Zarubin managed to survive the Red Terror purges in the late 1930s. In 1940 he was assigned to a Polish prisoner of war camp near Katyn, where a mass execution of Polish of ficers took place. Baker found no evidence that Zarubin participated in the so-called Katyn massacre ordered by Stalin, as some have charged. (p. 351)

In July 1941, after the expulsion of the Soviet rezident in the United States—an interesting story in itself Zarubin arrived to replace him. For the next four years, accompanied by his third wife, Liza—also an

experienced NKVD officer, whose story Baker includes in some detail— the Zarubins worked diligently to run some of the most famous agents ever to serve the Soviet Union under the noses of the FBI.

Baker goes over Zarubin’s cases at length. The Moscow investigation that followed the receipt of the anonymous letter absolved Zarubin of malpractice but turned up an administrative problem that led to his recall in 1944. After a later investigation ended well, Zarubin was given awards and made deputy chief of the first chief directorate, where he served until retirement in 1948. Baker suggests retirement was not Zarubin’s choice but the result of one of Stalin’s anti-Jewish campaigns. (p. 552) After Stalin’s death, Zarubin periodically was called back to train new officers. He died in 1972 of a heart attack.

Rezident is thoroughly documented with Western and Russian sources—VENONA, books, and interviews—and supplemented with what Baker calls “administrative sections” that consider attributes of the Zarubin story that add background but can’t be firmly attributed. Baker also adds detailed historical descriptions of events surrounding Zarubin’s career that add helpful context. Baker has done a fine job showing how the KGB/NKVD functioned against its “imperialist” enemies through the life of one of its most effective officers.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, pp.  123-124).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at  www.cia.gov.

[2] I prefer “Tsar”.

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