Andrew Meier, a former Moscow correspondent for Time magazine is the author of Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall and Chechnya: To the Heart of A Conflict, has compiled a remarkable and unknown history of Isaiah Oggins, an American who was murdered on Stalin’s orders in 1947. His case remained unkown to the world aside from a brief mention in 1992 until Meier began searching for clues to Oggins’ story in 2000.
Oggins, born in 1898, was recruited by Stalin’s secret service in 1928 and travelled extensively through Europe and Asia on behalf of the Soviet state. Meier’s research uncovers a man who moved carefuly in the shadows until his arrest and sentence to the gulag in 1940. So much so, that Oggins was relatively unknown by the United States until the post World War II period. Meier’s discussion how diplomats from both countries found it difficult to handle the situation his emergence from the gulag presented was especially interesting to me.
The Lost Spy is a non-fiction book that reads like a modern day spy thriller (a genre I read often for recreation). Having lived in Europe and traveled in Russia, I enjoy understanding the historical foundations of modern culture. This book provided insight for me into Americans who became enamored with the promises of revolution and communism at the beginning of the last century, much like Tim Tzouliadis did in The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia . I also enjoyed the photos and archival documents which Meier discovered in his research.
If you enjoy historical biographies of forgotten people, Cold War Era espionage, diplomacy or similar genres, you will likely enjoy learning of Oggins’ story in The Lost Spy. As for me, I'll be seeking out Meier's Black Earth: A Journey through Russia After the Fall before long.
Arrest1. “The American Professor”
2. Thread City
The Lubyanka: 19394. Revolution
5. Into the Night
6. A Change of Sky
Gulag: 19407. The Red and the White
Butyrka: 19428. Journey to a War
9. The Stamp Market
10. Truth Will Win
Execution11. The Note to Stalin
Bibliography: Meier, A. (2008). The Lost Spy : An American in Stalin's Secret Service (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.