The threat from Russia’s spies has only increased since the fall of Communism
Britannia and the Bear by Victor Madeira
‘Stalin’ was also an alias. The Soviet dictator’s real name was Ioseb Vissarionovich Jugashvili, born into the family of a Georgian cobbler. His education, which he never finished, was limited to a theological seminary. Those were two leaders who successfully stood their ground against such personalities as David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Stanley Baldwin and Clement Attlee.
Extraordinary political decisions and secret intelligence wars fought between Russia and Britain between the two world wars comprise the general subject matter of Victor Madeira’s excellent Britannia and the Bear, published in the ‘History of British Intelligence’ series with a foreword by Christopher Andrew. The book covers the period between 1917 and 1929 — that is, from the Bolshevik revolution masterminded by Lenin to the five years following his demise, when Stalin established himself as the unchallenged master of the country. And for all those decades from Lenin and Stalin to the three-time Russian president Vladimir Putin, the largest country in the world has continued to be unpredictable, as the recent events in Ukraine show.
Madeira’s pioneering work, which in the words of Professor Andrew is ‘the first to integrate successfully the early history of British counter-subversion with the development of the British intelligence services’, will certainly be of interest to students and historians of intelligence. But it should also appeal to anyone interested in modern politics, international relations and, as strange as it may sound, in Russia’s present-day secret intelligence operations in Britain.
Decades before the Berlin Wall went up, a Cold War had already begun raging. But for Bolshevik Russia, Great Britain - not America - was the enemy.
Now, for the first time, Victor Madeira tells a story that has been hidden away for nearly a century. Drawing on over sixty Russian, British and French archival collections, Britannia and the Bear offers a compelling new narrative about how two great powers of the time did battle, both openly and in the shadows.
By exploring British and Russian mind-sets of the time this book traces the links between wartime social unrest, growing trade unionism in the police and the military, and Moscow's subsequent infiltration of Whitehall.
As early as 1920, Cabinet ministers were told that Bolshevik intelligence wanted to recruit university students from prominent families destined for government, professional and intellectual circles.
Yet despite these early warnings, men such as the Cambridge Five slipped the security net fifteen years after the alarm was first raised.
Britannia and the Bear tells the story of Russian espionage in Britain in these critical interwar years and reveals how British Government identified crucial lessons but failed to learn many of them.
The book underscores the importance of the first Cold War in understanding the second, as well as the need for historical perspective in interpreting the mind-sets of rival powers.
Victor Madeira has a decade's experience in international security affairs, and his work has appeared in leading publications such as Intelligence and National Security and The Historical Journal. He completed his doctorate in Modern International History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.