Book Reviews
Zheliazko Stoyanov (1999). A HISTORY OF ESPIONAGE
(Volume 1, Number 2, Summer 2000.)
19 srp 2000 01:51:00

Sofia: Albatros Publishers. pp. 264.
ISBN 954-8555-56-5

The author of this book is a professor at the Faculty of History, Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" and a senior lecturer at the Higher Institute for Training of Cadres of the Ministry of the Interior. He is the author of several monographs ("History and Society"; "Notions on History"; "Clio - Known and Unknown"; "History and Art"), and dozens of studies and papers. For several years he has lectured on the history of intelligence and secret services at the Free University of Varna.

The "History of Espionage" was designed and realized by Dr. Stoyanov as a reference book; this approach determined to a great extent both its chronological scope and the manner in which the material was presented and delivered.

Preuzmite članak u PDF formatu

The author sets himself several tasks. The narrative follows a chronological principle, which is logical for an historical reading. The object is to provide answers to several questions: When and why did the need arise for the social activity of intelligence? When and how were its highest achievements realized thus far in world history? This gave Dr. Stoyanov the basis needed to begin his book with a paragraph on espionage, "the stuff of legends", envisaging the history of intelligence from the most ancient times, and ending the book with a passage dedicated to the "mole" Aldrich Ames, and the CIA's troubles in the 1990s.

Even a cursory look at the individual chapters and sections of this work shows that the author's attention was drawn first of all to the European history of intelligence and secret services, but also to the development of the US secret services during the 19th and 20th centuries. Such an undisguised "Eurocentrism" (the author relates mainly the history of intelligence in England, France, and Russia) can be justified in several ways: first, Dr. Stoyanov is obviously better acquainted with the history of the European intelligence and secret services. This explains to a considerable extent the fact that this section of the secret services' history has been best elucidated in regard to source-criticism and historiography. Second, an overall history of espionage (as its global history) is not possible, due to the lack of knowledge about these activities - which can be attributed to its cognitive intricacy - and to its fairly specific groundings in terms of source-criticism and factography.

As pointed out by the author, the approach he uses does not allow an overview of the complete historical wealth of intelligence and secret services, but provides a possibility for revealing those assets that have been and will be of great significance for their further development. Such circumstances justify the approach implemented by Dr. Stoyanov; nevertheless, in his book there is a clear omission: it lacks special sections on the Bulgarian intelligence and secret services. The author himself addresses this evident omission with the promise to prepare and publish "a special study on this important and extremely intriguing topic".

It is important to mention that this author has endeavored to show, and when possible to reveal, the close commitment of intelligence to the political objectives and actions of the respective states and statesmen. This aspect becomes quite clear in the sections dealing with the development of the English (Wallsingham) and the French (Richelieu and Mazzarini) secret services in the 16th and the 17th century. A similar approach is demonstrated in some of the "games" between the CIA and the KGB, a part of which is an important component of the establishment and development of a number of particular political situations during the second half of the 20th century, some of them assuming global political importance.

Until recently there was a shortage of such books on the Bulgarian book market. In this case, it is to Dr. Stoyanov's credit that he has included in his book several undisputed events in the world's intelligence and secret services history. It should also be mentioned that the language and style of his historical descriptions make the book extremely "reader-friendly". Nevertheless, on some occasions the author goes too far in providing certain "spicier" moments of intelligence history, which freshens the text but creates the danger of a superficial treatment of the subject matter.

On the occasion of this book's presentation to the world intelligence community, I would like to take the liberty of addressing a few requests to Dr. Stoyanov and to the other authors of such books. First, we need to consistently and systematically explain not only the European but also the non-European history of intelligence and secret services. Second, efforts must be undertaken to achieve a more successful transition from the strictly chronological (linear historical) approach used in the "History of Espionage" by Dr. Stoyanov, to the chronological-of-principle approach, which strengthens the presence also of theoretical/analytical aspects in such readings. In the third place, every author should address in similar studies the history and the practical experience of the respective national services.

Gen. T. Boyadjiev

Gallery / Galerija slika
Nema galerije slika / No image Gallery