The Spy Who Changed History — Archives By-Fellow Svetlana Lokhova on the impact of Soviet infiltration in US universities

1st August 2018 in Archives Centre, Our Collections

A new book by Archives By-Fellow, Svetlana Lokhova — The Spy Who Changed History, explores the Soviet penetration of US universities, revealing the untold story of "Stalin’s most audacious intelligence operation.” 

Based on considerable new archival research from documents and papers held at The Churchill Archives Centre, Svetlana's book concentrates on a period of systematic academic espionage by the USSR dating back to before the ‘Magnificent Five’ Cambridge spy ring.

The Spy Who Changed History, published by Harper Collins, reveals details of Stalin's very successful, but lesser-known plan to close the USSR’s technology gap by sending spies into top US universities to acquire vital secrets from its academics.

The book focuses on the life and character of Stanislav Shumovsky, code-named Agent Blériot, who enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in September 1931, “in search of rather more than a good education”. Shumovsky's espionage was so successful that the USSR acquired every US aviation secret from his network of agents in factories and top-secret military research institutes. 

Svetlana's research has unveiled the scale and impact that Soviet spies operating in MIT had during the Cold War period: 

"The Tech was both the unwitting nursery of Soviet scientific and technological espionage and the “finishing school” of the KGB spies who acquired the atomic bomb secrets. Even “The Cambridge Five” traitors from our own Cambridge University cannot come close to the significance of the espionage activity at MIT."
— Svetlana Lokhova

Speaking about the importance of the collections held in the Churchill Archives Centre had on research for the book, Svetlana said: 

'The Churchill Archive Centre contains a unique collection of KGB documents, the Mitrokhin Archive. In researching my new book I was able to draw on the existing material held at Churchill to tell the previously unknown story of Soviet scientific and technology espionage at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.'

Svetlana is just one of many academics researching espionage history and the Cold War era, who are using the unique and invaluable resources of the Archives Centre. The Mitrokhin Archive, containing top-secret KGB files gives unprecedented insight into the KGB’s activities throughout much of the Cold War. Opened to the public in 2014, the collection has been described by the FBI as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source". 


Svetlana Lokhova

Svetlana LokhovaSvetlana Lokhova is a By-Fellow of Churchill College, the University of Cambridge (commencing April 2018). She holds an MPhil and BA (Hons) in History from University of Cambridge.

Svetlana’s interest in espionage history began whilst studying History at Cambridge University. Her groundbreaking Master's dissertation remains the definitive account of the founder of the Soviet intelligence service, Felix Dzerzhinsky.

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