Monday, 15 March 2010

What I’m Reading

Russian literature was never my forte. Sure, I read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in high school, slogged through it actually – a novel about morality and of God.

Fall of a Titan Title page2_small Many years ago I began collecting books; nothing very rare but most interesting. At a yard sale in Ottawa East I discovered a neat book and paid ten cents for the hardcover novel. It was signed and even had a rough sketch of a woman inside the front cover. At that time I didn’t recognize the author – Igor Gouzenko. I’m finally getting around to reading “The Fall of a Titan.” Gouzenko, in his book, explains the facts of Soviet life: “The Government keeps you, pays you, looks after you without end. Now you're going to pay some of it back.” Gouzenko defected September 5th, 1945.

Gouzenko was a cipher clerk at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa. He defected, actually walked out of his job and produced 109 startling documents which laid bare the Russian atomic espionage network in North America and paved the way to the conviction of British Physicists Klaus Fuchs and Allan Nunn May, the Rosenbergs and half a dozen others who stole allied atomic secrets for the Kremlin. Gouzenko_apt_Somerset Gouzenko asserted that the USSR maintained an extensive spy ring in Canada, aimed mostly at obtaining atomic secrets.  Furthermore, Gouzenko warned, the Soviets were not allies but were planning world domination. Gouzenko’s revelations shattered the innocence of the naïve Canadian populace. His defection initiated the Cold War between the Soviets and the West and led to the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.


Among those implicated by Gouzenko’s documents was Egerton Herbert Norman, an External Affairs official hotly pursued by US Red-hunters, and Lester Pearson, then secretary of state for external affairs, who ardently protected Norman. Gouzenko maintained that Pearson had Communist leanings, an allegation supported by Elizabeth Bentley, a Soviet double agent who later withdrew her testimony. Documentation regarding her testimony has since disappeared. Historians argue about the state of Pearson’s loyalty. While some regard Gouzenko as a hero to the West, others accuse him of being a mercenary or a traitor. Gouzenko’s reply would be that he “had a duty to the millions enslaved and voiceless in Russia.” At the very least, he was an opportunist who made a better life for himself and his family, though he did not enjoy the freedom we take for granted. He lived the rest of his life in Mississauga under police protection. He died in 1982.


Gouzenko’s sketch and signature in my copy of “The Fall Of A Titan.” The Gouzenkos were accomplished writers and artists.

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