cover of book

Of Spies and Spokesmen: My Life as a Cold War Correspondent
by Nicholas Daniloff
University of Missouri Press, 2008
Cloth: 978-0-8262-1793-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8262-6630-9 | Paper: 978-0-8262-1804-9
Library of Congress Classification PN4874.D353A3 2008
Dewey Decimal Classification 070.4332092


An American reporter of Russian heritage assigned to Soviet-era Moscow might seem to have an edge on his colleagues, but when he’s falsely accused of spying, any advantage quickly evaporates. . . . .           

As a young UPI correspondent in Moscow during the early 1960s, Nicholas Daniloff hoped to jump-start his career in his father’s homeland, but he soon learned that the Cold War had its own rules of engagement. In this riveting memoir, he describes the reality of journalism behind the Iron Curtain: how Western reporters banded together to thwart Soviet propagandists, how their “official sources” were almost always controlled by the KGB—and how those sources would sometimes try to turn newsmen into collaborators.

Leaving Moscow for Washington in 1965, Daniloff honed his skills at the State Department, then returned to Moscow in 1981 to find a more open society. But when the FBI nabbed a Soviet agent in 1986, Daniloff was arrested in retaliation and thrown into prison as a spy—an incident that threatened to undo the Reykjavik summit until top aides to Reagan and Gorbachev worked out a solution.

In addition to recounting a career in the thick of international intrigue, Of Spies and Spokesmen is brimming with inside information about historic events. Daniloff tells how the news media played a crucial role in resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis, recalls the emotional impact of the JFK assassination on Soviet leadership, and describes the behind-the-scenes struggles that catapulted Mikhail Gorbachev to power. He even shares facts not told to the public: how the SAC would warn Moscow that its submarines were too close to American shores, why the Soviets shot down the KAL airliner without visual identification, and how American reporters in Moscow sometimes did dangerous favors for our government that could easily have been mistaken for espionage.

Daniloff sheds light not only on prominent figures such as Nikita Khrushchev and Henry Kissinger but also on suspected spies Frederick Barghoorn, John Downey, and ABC correspondent Sam Jaffe—unfairly branded a Soviet agent by the FBI. In addition, he assesses the performance of Henry Shapiro, dean of American journalists in Moscow, whose forty years in the adversary’s capital often provoke questions about his role and reputation.

 In describing how the Western press functioned in the old Soviet Union—and how it still functions in Washington today—Daniloff shows that the Soviet Russia he came to know was far more complex than the “evil empire” painted by Ronald Reagan: a web of propaganda and manipulation, to be sure, but also a place of hospitality and friendship. And with Russia still finding its way toward a new social and political order, he reminds us that seventy years of Communist rule left a deep impression on its national psyche. As readable as it is eye-opening, Of Spies and Spokesmenprovides a new look at that country’s heritage—and at the practice of journalism in times of crisis. 

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