Yes, the KGB was operating in America back in the 30s and 40s. Hot off the press – and taking up lots of space on Rentschler Library’s New Book shelves – is the book “Spies: the Rise and Fall of the KGB in America” by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.
The book details KGB operations in the U.S. back in the 30s and 40s and is based on the notebooks of Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB officer who spent 2 years combing through part of that Russian spy organization’s archives. The Vassiliev notebooks, as they came to be called, “offer the most complete look at Soviet espionage in America” says the co-authors Haynes and Klehr (Library of Congress Manuscript Division, and Emory University respectively).
Among the revelations in this book: Robert Oppenheimer (he of the Manhattan Project) was not recruited by Soviet intelligence; Alger Hiss DID cooperate with Soviet Intelligence; and American journalist I.F. Stone at one time worked for the KGB. As a reviewer in Library Journal says “This work does more than just finger KGB operatives; it offers insight into the spies’ personalities and motives.”
Historian David Murphy, author of What Stalin Knew said “This work should serve as the final salvo in the long battle between those who are still in denial regarding KGB espionage in America in the 1930s and 40s, and those who assert that this story must be told.”
Many of Vassiliev’s notebooks have been digitized and are available at website for the The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.
Another title on this same topic in Rentschler Library is How the Cold War Began: the Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies, by Amy Knight New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2007.