No trip to Russia would be complete without delving into its fascinating history. From the opulent rule of its tsars to the Marxist-Leninist rule of its Soviet Union, intrigue, knowledge and mystery await you in the world’s largest nation.
On our new Remarkable Russia trip, you’ll learn about the Soviet Union and its impact on the world today. You’ll also delve into the behind the scenes world of the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti) or the Committee for State Security.
The Soviet Union existed from 1922 until 1991, with the country being the first to declare itself Socialist. The KGB, or the Soviet Union’s state security, existed from 1954 to 1991 and followed along the lines of earlier agencies such as the Cheka, NKGB and MGB. It was notorious for its surveillance techniques, which included bugging hotels such as Hotel Viru in Estonia. 60 rooms at the hotel were permanently wired, and there was a secret floor to the hotel that housed KGB agents spying on foreign guests for 20 years.
The KGB was famous for its hackers in the Cold War, with counterspies such as Robert Hanssen and CIA officer-turned-mole Aldrich Ames leading many intelligence coups. Hanssen handed over extensive information about American planning for Measurement and Signature intelligence and was known for giving the Soviets a complete list of American double agents on two occasions.
Probably the most famous hacker of all, Markus Hess hacked into military and industrial computer networks throughout the 1980s, selling the information to the KGB for $54,000. He began his mission from the university of Bremen in Germany and is believed to have attacked 400 computers used by the U.S. military and those used by the Pentagon.
From James Bond to The Good Shepherd and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the KGB has influenced many Hollywood blockbusters and novels, with its intriguing tales of spies and undercover missions throughout the years. And since no trip would be the same without a good holiday read, why not be inspired to learn more about the KGB and other notorious fictional and real-life spies with one of the books below?
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré
This classic spy novel was published in 1974 and has now been turned into a major film. Written by British author John le Carré, it follows spymaster George Smiley as he tries to uncover a Soviet mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service.
Famous quote: “It’s the oldest question of all, George. Who can spy on the spies?”
― John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Stalin’s Englishman: The lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie
Award-winning author Andrew Lownie tells the fascinating history of Guy Burgess, a British diplomat and Soviet agent. Burgess was infamously a member of the Cambridge Five spy ring that operated from the 1930s to the start of the Cold War. Along with his fellow British spy Donald Maclean, Burgess is know for causing disruption through a breach in the Anglo-United States intelligence cooperation, passing thousands of documents to Soviet Union officials.
The Night Manager by John Le Carré
Now a hit TV series, this iconic novel follows former British soldier Jonathan Pine or ‘the night manager’ as he becomes embroiled in a plot to foil an international arms dealer. A post-Cold war international thriller, The Night Manager comes with fascinating antiheroes, complex characters and of course the intrigue you can expect from any spy novel.