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Alexander Orlov Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS432

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Alexander Orlov Papers contain selected correspondence and printed materials of Alexander Orlov, the highest-ranking Soviet intelligence officer to ever defect to the West. The correspondence in the collection is devoted entirely to the release of Orlov's first book, "The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes" (1954), including signed letters from former President Herbert Hoover, Ambassador William Bullitt, and the editors of the "Saturday Evening Post" and "Reader's Digest".

Comprising the second part of the collection are copies of Orlov's published books and articles, as well as a report about Orlov compiled by a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security. The Senate report provides a detailed biography of General Orlov, compiles his testimony on Joseph Stalin to the Senate committee, and reprints articles penned by Orlov for "LIFE Magazine". The printed materials by, or relating to, Alexander Orlov provide first-hand accounts of Stalinist Russia, as well as primary documents for the study of Cold War America.

The collection includes both of Orlov's book-length works. The first is "The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes" (1954), which began as a series of articles for "LIFE Magazine". In the book, Orlov details the crimes Stalin committed to secure power, the judicial fraud he organized against the leaders of the revolution, instructions he gave on interrogation methods, and the liquidation of thousands of NKVD officers in the Great Purge. As a result of his literary effort, Orlov received a grant from Congress granting his family permanent asylum in the United States.

Orlov's second book in the collection is "The Handbook of Intelligence and Guerrilla Warfare" (1965), based on an operational text he wrote for the Central Military School in Moscow to train NKVD officers. The final version of the "Handbook" published in America compares and contrasts Western and Soviet intelligence-gathering and warfare techniques in an attempt to reveal weaknesses in Soviet methods. Other printed materials include articles written by Alexander Orlov and the Senate Committee report of Orlov's life, work, and Senate testimony.

[Sources: Alexander Orlov, "The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes" (London: Jarrold Publishers, 1954); Alexander Orlov, "The Handbook of Intelligence and Guerrilla Warfare" (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1965)]


  • 1953 - 1980
  • Majority of material found within 1953 - 1954

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Alexander Orlov (1895-1973) was a high-ranking KGB officer who served as economic director and foreign diplomat for Joseph Stalin's secret police (the NKVD) before he broke with Stalin in 1938 and moved his family to the United States. Born to Jewish parents on August 21, 1895 near Minsk, Orlov was drafted into the Russian Army in 1916. The Stalinist government first took notice of Orlov after he completed a series of successful operations in guerrilla warfare and counterintelligence on the Polish front in World War I. He married Maria Rozentskiy, a native of Kiev in 1921, and their only child, Vera, was born in September of 1923. Back in Moscow, General Orlov secured the assistant prosecutor position at the Soviet Supreme Court, but was soon transferred to supervise several departments in the Economic Directorate. During this time he graduated from Moscow University's Law School, and took over the government's Foreign Department as Chief of Economic Intelligence and State Control.

Orlov traveled frequently as Stalin's representative (and spy) during the 1930s, staying in Berlin, Paris, New York, Prague, and Vienna. Finally, Orlov was sent to Spain in 1936 as the Soviet liaison to the civil war Republican Government for matters of intelligence, counterintelligence, and guerrilla warfare. It was there that Orlov aided Stalin in a multitude of crimes, including the theft of over $600 million in gold from the fledgling Spanish republic.

Orlov's growing moral revulsion to Stalin's terror tactics, summary executions, and secret trials, however, provoked a break with the Soviet government in July of 1938. Living on stolen Soviet operational funds, General Orlov and his family fled to Canada, and from there, entered the United States. Thanks to a lengthy blackmail letter to Stalin and a series of kindnesses from U.S. officials, the Orlovs were able to stay safely hidden--with only a few run-ins with the KGB--until General Orlov died on April 7, 1973.

(Source: Edward Gazur, "Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General" (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2001); "The Legacy of Alexander Orlov," prepared by the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 93rd Congress, 1st Session, August 1973, Box 1 Folder 12).


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

Gift of the Alexander Orlov Charitable Trust, 3/27/2007.

Alexander Orlov Papers
Erin C. Stewart. Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
July 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057