An Impeccable Spy
Stalin’s Master Agent
By Owen Matthews
Published by Bloomsbury; Dist. by Allen & Unwin
RRP $29.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781408857793
Richard Sorge was a man with two homelands. Born of a German father and a Russian mother in Baku in 1895, he moved in a world of shifting alliances and infinite possibility.
A member of the angry and deluded generation who found new, radical faiths after their experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, Sorge became a fanatical communist – and the Soviet Union’s most formidable spy.
It was Sorge’s success as a foreign correspondent, cover for his spying activities, that enabled him to infiltrate and influence the highest echelons of German, Chinese and Japanese society in the years leading up to and including the Second World War.
In Japan he counted among his good friends the German ambassador to Japan Colonel Eugen Ott.
Like many spies, both fictional and real, Sorge was an effortless charmer capable of ruthless manipulation. He was trusted to such an extent that closely guarded state secrets were easy to obtain – his victims willingly shared them.
His intelligence regarding Operation Barbarossa and Japanese intentions not to invade Siberia in 1941 proved pivotal to the Soviet counteroffensive in the Battle of Moscow, which in turn determined the ultimate outcome of the war.
He had warned his Soviet masters of the threat of a German build up on its eastern front only for his reports to be distrusted.
Owen Matthews has drawn on a wealth of declassified Soviet archives – along with testimonies from those who knew and worked with Sorge – to give us this absorbing story of the man described by Ian Fleming as ‘the most formidable spy in history’.