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According to KGB archives, Pavel Sudoplatov directed the secretive Administration for Special Tasks. This department was responsible for kidnapping, assassination, sabotage, and guerrilla warfare during World War II, it also set up illegal networks in the United States and Western Europe, and, most crucially, carried out atomic espionage in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. Sudoplatov served the KGB for over fifty years, at one point controlling more than twenty thousand guerrillas, moles, and spies.

But his involvement with the most nefarious Soviet activities-- and the rulers who ordered them-- made Sudoplatov an unwanted witness, and he was arrested in 1953 after Beria''s fall. Despite torture and solitary confinement he refused to "confess", disavowing any criminal actions. He spent fifteen years in prison, then struggled two decades more for rehabilitation.

"Special Tasks" is an astonishing memoir and a singular historical document of a man who knew and did too much for the Soviet empire.

From Publishers Weekly

Sudoplatov, a former intelligence official during the Stalin era, presents an updated version of his controversial memoir.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

According to KGB archives, Pavel Sudoplatov directed the secretive Administration for Special Tasks. This department was responsible for kidnapping, assassination, sabotage, and guerrilla warfare during World War II, it also set up illegal networks in the United States and Western Europe, and, most crucially, carried out atomic espionage in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. Sudoplatov served the KGB for over fifty years, at one point controlling more than twenty thousand guerrillas, moles, and spies.

But his involvement with the most nefarious Soviet activities-- and the rulers who ordered them-- made Sudoplatov an unwanted witness, and he was arrested in 1953 after Beria''s fall. Despite torture and solitary confinement he refused to "confess", disavowing any criminal actions. He spent fifteen years in prison, then struggled two decades more for rehabilitation.

"Special Tasks" is an astonishing memoir and a singular historical document of a man who knew and did too much for the Soviet empire.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
70 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Visitor
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
better printed, and
Reviewed in the United States on December 24, 2016
After reading Russian copy, I ordered American edition (first American edition has been published before it was released in Russian in Moscow). I was interested in document appendix to American edition and was looking to review (for myself) if English language translation... See more
After reading Russian copy, I ordered American edition (first American edition has been published before it was released in Russian in Moscow). I was interested in document appendix to American edition and was looking to review (for myself) if English language translation is adequate. I was able to get both my questions resolved:
1. Document attachments are much more complete, better printed, and, a s the result, more readable (including photocopies of Russian originals)
2. Translation... well... reasonable (I saw much worse), but obviously stumbling on some minor elements (need to live through it to understand its missing subtlety, so no real fault there, but could be done better) and not so minor (as missing/added/different names or titles of referred individuals and changed contact circumstances - did Beria called himself or his secretary called, or alike).

Now, for the 2nd point: this is the second and expended edition that was published two years after the 1st American edition and a year after Russian edition (published in Russia). So, some things may been clarified and reviewed, but it is hard to know what is more factual. This is my grunge for it, but I can''t really hold it against the book: writing this book two years before his passing, 90+ year old Pavel Sudoplatov just put on paper what his memory kept and I would be very surprised if he referenced and archival materials (other than, may be, his well worn personal pocket phone book; even if he had some privileged access to some archival materials). And I, we all, should be grateful to him for this.

And I''m not talking about his recollections on Soviet nuclear espionage that make some people to jump in their chars in defense of Oppenheimer, Szilard, and Bohr: they don''t need our defense and there greatness and role in history already assured. I''m talking about Stalin''s hesitation and retracting order to attempt assassination of Hitler circa 1942/43 as he was concerned with potential Hitler successors to attempts achieve separate peace arrangement/cessation of hostilities with Great Britain and the United States on account of Soviet Union (in retrospect, it had some merit as US and GB ware involved in very bloody fighting with Japan in the Pacific and reversing "Europe First" policy by FDR would help US Army in the East). But one could only imagine how many human lives would be saved if Stalin would give his "do it" order and it would indeed remove Hitler from History in 1943.

From more internal Russian perspective his recollections of the removal of Beria are very valuable, even not groundbreaking. I found mention of military training of Kurds also to be of significant interest (even I already knew about this).

For those who''re saying that General Pavel Sudoplatov is a self-confessed killer and War criminal, I would say "yes, he served, served with distinction, to a very bloody dictatorship and the very bloody time". If there is Haven, he''s not likely to be admitted. But read the beginning of his book... about his childhood and teenage years... he leaved in the Time and Space of the constant non-stoppable war ware bloodshed was the norm. And how you would judge the great man and woman of SOE and OSS?.. What about CIA in South America in 1950/60?.. Rangers in Vietnam?.. Are you ready to forgive blood on the hands only of your own?.. I won''t be first who throw stone...

All this aside. This book is a great historical document that by incidentally, yes - incidentally, was published. Read it critically at your own peril, but read it, if you want some-how to get some grasp of our shared history of the last 100 years.
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TBiscuit
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent!
Reviewed in the United States on May 17, 2019
It was difficult to put this book down. Absolutely absorbing and fascinating and perhaps not for those interested in racy, exciting and novel like narrative. This book contains hard information and facts as per the author. This book touches on so many incidents, and... See more
It was difficult to put this book down. Absolutely absorbing and fascinating and perhaps not for those interested in racy, exciting and novel like narrative. This book contains hard information and facts as per the author. This book touches on so many incidents, and historical facts. The Soviet Union under Stalin felt it was "dissed", ignored and treated disrespectfully by the Allies during WWII, by not being included in nuclear planning, Japan, and plans involving the "clean up" of Europe once the Nazi''s were defeated. The Russian spread of Communism and espionage prevailed with intensity post WWII and the race for world domination continues.
Sudoplatov reveals much fascinating material including the Russian superiority with poisons as usage in assassinations (as we continue to see today). I recall as a young child decades ago, the infamous "umbrella" execution on the streets of London and this too is covered in this book.
2 people found this helpful
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Vlad Vanek
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A must read for students of modern espionage as practiced by KGB.
Reviewed in the United States on July 12, 2014
A great book written by a former enemy, yet a professional intelligence KGB ranking general. It gives a convincing proof of a treasonable behavior of scientists (Oppenheimer, Fermi, etc.) on Manhattan project giving the atomic secrets to KGB and many other KGB spies from... See more
A great book written by a former enemy, yet a professional intelligence KGB ranking general. It gives a convincing proof of a treasonable behavior of scientists (Oppenheimer, Fermi, etc.) on Manhattan project giving the atomic secrets to KGB and many other KGB spies from ~1920 to mid-fifties. It contains transcripts of Russian atomic bomb research scientists (Kurchatov, etc.) in response to KGB collected Manhattan project information going back to 1942!!! It has a very interesting description of Sudoplatov''s interactions with his bosses (Beria, Stalin, Khrushchev, Malenkov, etc.). A must read for students of modern espionage as practiced by KGB.
4 people found this helpful
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Kug
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Remarkable Book on a Dangerous Ideology
Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2017
A remarkable account of good and evil. The good is the dedication these people had to their cause, as wrong as it was. The book is very well documented and not light reading. It is a peak under the tent of an evil ideology that is alive and well and threatening America... See more
A remarkable account of good and evil. The good is the dedication these people had to their cause, as wrong as it was. The book is very well documented and not light reading. It is a peak under the tent of an evil ideology that is alive and well and threatening America today. It is disturbing to read how very intelligent people were lured away to divulge America''s atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union. This man led a remarkable life, did many unimaginable things for his country and in the end, paid the same price many of his colleagues did when he was eventually sent to jail during a purge. The activities and initiatives described in this book, the result can often be seen alive and well in America today.
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BC
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Important Primary Source Document
Reviewed in the United States on May 13, 2013
Well, the first thing I''ll say is that this is no "Inside Stalin''s Secret Service" by Walter Krivitsky. It lacks the thrilling narrative and structure of that work, but Pavel Sudoplatov''s is highly valuable on its own. Somewhat interestingly, Sudoplatov denies that... See more
Well, the first thing I''ll say is that this is no "Inside Stalin''s Secret Service" by Walter Krivitsky. It lacks the thrilling narrative and structure of that work, but Pavel Sudoplatov''s is highly valuable on its own. Somewhat interestingly, Sudoplatov denies that Krivitsky was ever assassinated. He claims that he would have heard about it had that been the case. He also casts doubt on the state sponsored murder of Lev Sedov. Many of his insights on Beria, in particular, are not ones that you''ll find elsewhere. That it was so routine for someone like Sudoplatov to end up in the Gulag remains pretty astounding to most westerners. He was a man who witnessed history so, if a huge student of Soviet history as I am, its a must read.
4 people found this helpful
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C. Trew
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Crucial Work Dealing With Soviet State Security Operations
Reviewed in the United States on September 25, 2003
Sudoplatov ran the NKVD''s Administration for Special Tasks, which carried out some of the Soviet Union''s darkest operations --- assassination, kidnapping, murder, and frequently, terrorism (the author''s own words, no less). Sudoplatov also directed undercover and partisan... See more
Sudoplatov ran the NKVD''s Administration for Special Tasks, which carried out some of the Soviet Union''s darkest operations --- assassination, kidnapping, murder, and frequently, terrorism (the author''s own words, no less). Sudoplatov also directed undercover and partisan operations behind German lines during WWII. Later he supervised all atomic espionage operations against the US and Britain after the war.
Still a Stalinist at heart, Sudoplatov offers few regrets for a career filled with death up close and personal. One of his first solo operations entailed infiltrating a Ukrainian nationalist group. After befriending one it''s leaders for the better part of a year, he dispatched him in Rotterdam with a box of chocolates loaded with explosives. Later, he went on to supervise large roving killer squads himself, such as the team that assassinated Trotsky outside Mexico City in 1940.
The book is filled with surreal scenes, such as in the "Komandatura" in the Lyubianka, where prisoners were executed. One section was outfitted more as a hotel than a prison. But as prisoners were given a "routine" medical examination, they were administered a lethal injection, then quickly cremated. Sudoplatov, himself arrested on bogus charges after Beria''a arrest, describes receiving not one, but two spinal taps while pretending to be catatonic (so as to avoid interrogation). His simple, direct language in describing these kinds of sequences is chilling.
More than a few of the author''s historical claims are either suspect or simply false based on information long available elswhere. For instance, his assertion that Stalin was not involved in the murder of Leningrad Party leader Sergei Kirov can''t be taken seriously. He also offers suspect versions concerning the demise of various defectors and other Soviet "enemies" such as Agabekov and Krivitsky. In other cases he seems to want to have it both ways. He admits Alger Hiss was a paid Soviet agent -- but before WWII, not when he was actually accused.
Regardless, these sorts of flaws can be overlooked. This work is critical for an understanding of the mentality behind of some of the Soviet Union''s most notorious policies, actions, and crimes.
12 people found this helpful
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ComRat
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Dry Spies
Reviewed in the United States on October 14, 2019
About Russian spies in the Soviet era. Somewhat interesting but kind of dry reading. A good book for historians or specialists who are interested in the subject matter.
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Hale
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
KGB from Inside
Reviewed in the United States on August 27, 2019
Written by very high retired Soviet intelligence agent. Discusses Soviet role in stealing atomic secrets from West and assassinating Stalin critic Leon Trotsky
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Top reviews from other countries

R. Klemens
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating insight into Stalinist skulduggery
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 14, 2013
I found this book engrossing. Sudoplatov writes in a style that somehow brought to mind the style of the ancient Classical authors-- historians like Suetonius. The style is clear and direct. He doesnt let personal feelings enter into his narrative. Dr Christopher Andrews...See more
I found this book engrossing. Sudoplatov writes in a style that somehow brought to mind the style of the ancient Classical authors-- historians like Suetonius. The style is clear and direct. He doesnt let personal feelings enter into his narrative. Dr Christopher Andrews was shocked at Sudoplatov''s "shamlessness", as for instance, when Sudoplatov assasinated a Ukranian nationalist leader with a box of chocolates with an explosive device in it. He says after the presentation, he walked away quickly. He heard the explosion, and immediatley went into a Gentleman''s outfitters, and purchased a hat and a raincoat!!Shameless? Perhaps, or maybe just being impersonal!! Thats what my history teacher always told me to be with history. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Stalinist period, and Cold war history. This guy will open your eyes!!
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Miketang
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Gripping, although you sometimes get lost in the detail ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 28, 2015
Gripping, although you sometimes get lost in the detail and are more likely to get more out of it if you know some of the background history of the Soviet era.
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robbie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 9, 2018
great thanks
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Greybeard
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not sure that Comrade Sudoplatov was altogether truthful in some ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 19, 2015
Not sure that Comrade Sudoplatov was altogether truthful in some of his assessments, but am willing to be disabused of this notion. An engaging read nonetheless.
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Gabriel Cristea
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 16, 2015
Brilliant
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