Richard Sorge: an incredible Soviet spy
Richard Sorge: an incredible Soviet spy

This Soviet spy was truly an incredible figure. One of the few who was well within the inner circle of Hitler and Stalin. He loved to have fun and was known as a real womanizer. It was revealed by pure chance. But he managed to do the main thing: his information helped save Moscow from occupation by the Germans in 1941, the author of the Spanish edition believes.

The book tells the story of Richard Sorge, a Soviet intelligence officer who worked in Tokyo, who informed Moscow about the impending attack by Nazi Germany. However, Stalin did not believe him.

Wars are won not only on the battlefield, but also on the slippery and dangerous path of espionage. During World War II, some spies were valued as much as whole divisions. One of these scouts was Richard Sorge, who was able to get information that was decisive for the development of the conflict - about the attack by Nazi Germany on the USSR, planned for June 1941, but Stalin did not believe this.

Sorge also found out that Japan was not going to attack the Soviet Union from Siberia, and therefore the Soviet command could throw all the forces of the Red Army to defend Moscow, which at that time was almost in the hands of the Nazis. This maneuver changed the course of the war and history in general.

British journalist, longtime Moscow correspondent and writer specializing in Russia and the USSR, Owen Matthews recently published An Impeccable Spy, a book about the life of Richard Sorge, a Soviet agent dispatched by a resident to Tokyo, where he met with people from whom it was possible to receive the most valuable information.

Sorge is one of the most famous spies of the Second World War, but the writer uses Soviet archives in his book, which until recently were classified. The significance of the figure of Sorge shows, for example, that he was the only person who was included in the immediate circles of Adolf Hitler, the Japanese Prime Minister Prince Konoe (Konoe) and Joseph Stalin himself. Sorge communicated directly with those high-ranking officials who were trusted with all the information by the mentioned leaders.

“It's hard to imagine a spy with this kind of connections,” said Owen Matthews, 49, in a video-based interview from Oxford. “I guess only Kim Philby [one of the most important double agents of the Cold War] did something like this, as he was the liaison officer between MI6 (British Secret Intelligence Service) and the US government.

However, these were professional connections. Sorge, not that he was somehow different from all the participants in the Second World War, but he constantly and directly communicated with high-ranking German officials and managed to establish relations with the [German] ambassador and other people who trusted him."

Richard Sorge was born on October 4, 1895 in Baku (then it was the territory of the Russian Empire). His father was German. When Sorge was still a child, his family returned to Germany. He fought in World War I, where he was wounded in the leg, which left him permanently lame.

For military distinction in the war, Sorge was awarded the Order of the Iron Cross. In 1919, the future spy joined the German Communist Party, since then his whole life has been devoted to serving this ideology. He became a Soviet intelligence officer and performed assignments first in Germany and then in China. In Shanghai, he began a love relationship with another famous spy Ursula Kuczynski, whose biography was described in his book Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre, the author of the famous book about the spy Kim Philby (we are talking about the book "Spy among friends. The great betrayal of Kim Philby "- approx.).

Having created for himself a reliable image of a Nazi and a journalist as a cover, in 1933 Sorge settled in Tokyo.There he befriended Eugen Ott, a military attaché at the German embassy in Japan, who later, in a decisive period for the Third Reich, when the Nazi leadership was trying in every way to make Japan enter the war, served as German ambassador.

Despite the fact that Sorge behaved absolutely recklessly, reveling and constantly having romances, he was revealed only in 1941 by pure chance, which had nothing to do with his adventures related to alcohol consumption. In 1944 he was executed.

How he did his job is well illustrated by the fact that when the Nazis commissioned the police attaché Josef Meisenger, nicknamed the "Warsaw Butcher" for his brutality, to investigate Sorge's activities, they became friends and became companions in various amusements.

“The name is based on the statement of Kim Philby, who said that Sorge's work was impeccable. However, as the plot develops, it becomes clear that such a name is irony, because in fact he was careless about completing tasks. There is no reasonable explanation why he was not revealed earlier: he was very lucky, and many considered him a German spy, not a Soviet one.

He was closely associated with Hitler's secret special services. For example, when, on the day of Germany's attack on the USSR, Sorge got drunk, climbed onto the table and, standing in front of the Nazis, shouted that Hitler would come to an end, everyone laughed, thinking it was a joke. " Richard Sorge created an extensive intelligence organization in Japan, which was revealed with him. An exhibition of Japanese photographer Tomoko Yoneda is currently underway in Madrid and will be open until May 9th. The artist specializes in photographing memorable places, and some of the images show the places where Sorge met with his spies.

It was in Tokyo that Sorge learned important information: that, despite the non-aggression pact concluded between Germany and the Soviet Union, Hitler was going to invade the USSR on June 22, 1941, starting the so-called Operation Barbarossa. However, the Soviet Supreme Commander-in-Chief, carried away by the bloody massacres, having ordered the execution of thousands of officers and intelligence officers of the Red Army, did not believe Sorge's words.

The reason for such a skeptical attitude of Stalin was also the fact that his main advisers tried to convey unpleasant information to him as optimistically as possible, fearing the anger of their boss. Nevertheless, as soon as the leadership saw that Sorge was telling the truth, they trusted Sorge and adopted another theory that was confirmed: that Japan would not declare war on the Soviet Union.

“The most interesting thing about this book is that never before has the story of Sorge been told from the Russian side,” says Owen Matthews. “There is something that can be seen in many spy stories: you can have excellent agents on the ground who get you valuable information, but it’s all pointless if you don’t know how to use it.

In 1941, such an atmosphere of suspicion reigned in Soviet espionage circles that they did not believe anyone. This is exactly what happened to Sorge: on the one hand, the Soviet leadership did not believe him, on the other hand, some of his information was still used, because they were considered very reliable.

The story of Stalin, who disbelieved neither Sorge nor the other 18 agents who also told him about Operation Barbarossa, albeit in lesser detail, is a prime example of the so-called tunnel vision - the inability to believe something that does not fit your preconceptions. This happens with all totalitarian regimes."

Sorge's story intersects with the story of the author of his biography. The grandmother of his wife Matthews (she is Russian) has a dacha in the suburbs. In November 1941, German troops, just two kilometers from this house, were preparing for the final offensive on Moscow.However, when everything seemed to be lost, thousands of Siberian soldiers came and stopped the fascist offensive. A woman who passed away in 2017 recalled how she suddenly heard a strange noise, reminiscent of the rumble of thunder: it was the snoring of the Siberian military who slept in the snow.

Those Siberians ended up there thanks to the valuable information obtained by Richard Sorge. The writer is sure: “The goal of almost all intelligence activities of the 20th century was to find other spies, some agents betrayed other agents, such as George Blake or Kim Philby.

In their intelligence, they were guided by tactics, not strategies. Sorge was an exception. General Charles de Gaulle hated spies and, when he spoke of them, called them “little spy stories.” However, Sorge's story was not “small.” He knew how to get hold of important information that ultimately changed the course of history."

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