Death of a Russian Samurai

Those who know me personally are aware of my long-standing interest in Japan. Translating a piece on a surprising and worthwhile story that took place during the Russo-Japanese War is one way of showcasing it.

Espionage History Archive

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was to prove advantageous for Japan and its Western maritime backers Britain and the United States, while the conflict was a multifaceted disaster for Russia. Amidst the bloodshed, however, were found moments of chivalry exemplified by the warriors of each side. Here is one such account:


Hunter and scout Vasilii Timofeevich Riabov was born in 1871 and grew up in the village of Ivanovka outside Penza. Almost a century and a half has gone by, yet his memory persists through the centuries.

After his discharge from active military duty and joining the reserve, Riabov relocated to the neighboring village of Lebedevka. He was a brave and active man, he loved the theater and his wife, even though he sometimes hit her after drinking. And sometimes he used other people’s things without permission. That happened too. But he atoned for all his sins with his act…

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The Spy with the Broken Bracelet

My newest translation for the Espionage History Archive: KGB vs CIA—the story of capturing a female American spy and martial-arts expert in 1970s Moscow.

Espionage History Archive

Veteran chief of the KGB’s elite Alpha Group Maj. Gen. Gennady Nikolaevich Zaitsev recounts the 1977 operation to arrest CIA intelligence officer Martha Peterson, who worked out of the US Embassy under diplomatic cover. Peterson had been handling a valuable agent – Aleksandr Ogorodnik, code-named Trigon, a highly-placed staffer at the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Little did Peterson know at the time that Ogorodnik had already been arrested and committed suicide in custody with poison supplied from Langley. The trap carefully laid by the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate was set…


It so happened that I had the opportunity to participate in an arrest of a spy even before joining the spetsnaz Alpha Group. At that time, I served in the Seventh Directorate of the KGB of the USSR. Do you remember the film TASS is Authorized to Declare …? It told the story of how the KGB exposed Trigon, an enemy agent…

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Putin’s Path to the KGB

Espionage History Archive

Using his unique access to the Kremlin, German journalist Alexander Rahr shares the inside story on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s formative years in Leningrad and his path to the KGB. 


Putin never concealed his background. Spiridon, his grandfather on the father’s side, was a cook, but not a regular one. Initially, he prepared meals for Lenin, then—for Stalin. A person working in such a position and in such proximity to the Kremlin’s leaders could not not be a staffer at the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), KGB’s predecessor. Spiridon served the dictator daily, and it is beyond any doubt that he was being watched much more closely than any Politburo member.

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Mission to Syria

My contribution to the Espionage History Archive on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Syria upon the latter’s request. The details seem, at times, eerily reminiscent of today’s events, as these excerpts from the memoirs of a Soviet diplomat reveal. It is this kind of mix of history, diplomacy, and intelligence that I find particularly fascinating and, thus, a pleasure to translate!

Espionage History Archive

The Soviet Union’s first ambassador to Egypt, Nikolai Vasilievich Novikov, recounts his pioneering role in establishing diplomatic relations in 1944 with Syria. Novikov provides a rich context to the genesis of Russo-Syrian partnership, describing the geopolitical arena and its attendant intrigues conducted by rival great powers like Britain and France. Novikov’s passage serves as an excellent background to an alliance between Russia and Syria that has regained strategic significance in the Great Game of our own day. 


One hellishly hot day, June 15, when all the thoughts of Cairo’s residents charred from heat turned if not toward the relaxing beaches of Alexandria, then toward a cool bath or a shower, a respectable-looking stranger from Syria showed up at the Soviet Embassy. Met by advisor Daniil Solod, he introduced himself as Naim Antaki, a member of Syria’s parliament from Damascus, and the former Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Naim Antaki

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State Propaganda? Realities of the Russian Media Landscape

The trope of ‘Russian state propaganda’ in mainstream Western media is a persistent one, especially as of late. This continued focus expresses one’s own loss of control as older cable-news models are in decline, the media landscape becomes more diverse, and various web platforms allow younger savvy users to locate alternative information sources. This kind of repetitive finger-pointing is also simultaneously meant to delegitimize Russia’s foreign-language broadcasting and to explain the support for Putin domestically.

The notion in question relies on a number of related assumptions:

  • that Western countries do not have state media;
  • that corporate media is impartial;
  • that state media cannot feature opposing points of view and is thus inferior to its corporate counterpart;
  • that media consumers, the general and even the educated public, are incapable of critically analyzing the information they receive.

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Stories from Oles Buzina: Unheroic “bandera”

Much like his caustic historic text on SS Galicia, Ukrainian author Oles Buzina was not very fond of Stepan Bandera—another one of official Kiev’s current ‘heroes’. This following prophetic text, written in 2011, also demonstrates why Buzina became a political dissident in his own home and possible reasons for his assassination in the spring of 2015.

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STORIES FROM OLES BUZINA: UNHEROIC “BANDERA” (2011)

(“Stories from Oles Buzina” was a regular column for Segodnya newspaper, covering historic subjects. In the Russian language, “story” and “history” (istoriia) are the same word, which plays an important role in this context.)

Demoted! On January 12th, 2011, the website of the president of Ukraine reported that Stepan Bandera lost his official title of Hero.

Translated by Nina Kouprianova

The views of the original author do not necessarily reflect those of the translator.

It is not by accident that I wrote the word “bandera” in the feminine and in lower-case letters, despite the fact that this article will discuss that very same Bandera, who was a man and whose proper name, according to grammar, naturally began with a title-case letter.

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The Walking Dead: Russia’s Immortal Regiment as Ancestor Veneration

“You are but millions. We are hordes and hordes and hordes.” (“Scythians,” Alexander Blok, 1918)

On May 9, 2015, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, was on an official visit to Moscow in order to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Upon seeing countless people marching in the streets, he assumed that what he was witnessing was an anti-Putin protest. This kind of ‘misunderstanding’ was not a surprise. After all, European and North American mainstream media is fond of exaggerating anti-government protests—by a handful of affluent pro-Western ideological Liberals—that are limited to large urban centers. Yet that day, foreign journalists were forced to cover something unprecedented, though underestimating the numbers: half a million Muscovites marched through the city carrying mounted photographs of their family members, who participated in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945).

But then I saw that, on the contrary, the marchers hailed your government. I saw that they did it with pride, I saw it in their faces. They waved to us as the UN delegation passed by, which was very pleasant. And so I really think you deserve all this love of the people.

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Stories from Oles Buzina: SS Galicia Division against Ukraine

Foreword to the Translation

With the onset of the Ukrainian crisis, I realized that I often looked forward to the work of certain journalists, who were both eloquent and informative. Oles Buzina was one of them. In addition to reading his columns, I, like millions of other Russians, watched his frequent appearances on political talk shows. I often found myself in disagreement, but had to admit that his points were well-argued and factually justified—a true sign of a charismatic erudite.

Thus, the news of his brazen murder on April 16 of this year, in broad daylight and outside his home, was particularly distressing. Later, I found out that Oles—a well-known author and historian, in addition to his journalistic career—had been receiving threats for quite some time. Yet he consistently turned down offers to relocate to Russia. Like a true patriot of a country in peril, he continued to love Ukraine. But Ukraine—today’s Ukraine—did not return that sentiment.

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Purging the Purged: Solzhenitsyn, Ukraine, and the West

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of the best-known Soviet dissidents, so much so that he earned the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. His Gulag Archipelago, written in the 1950s-60s, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich from 1962—both about the Stalin-era labor-camp system—are his most famous works outside of Russia. Yet after the collapse of the USSR, it became increasingly clear that much of his foreign support was not inspired by the Western ideal of ‘human rights’ or concern for average Russians, but served as a tool of geopolitics instead.

His statements about resurgent Russia, particularly in the last years before his death in 2008–well into the era of Putin’s leadership–did not suit those that would rather have the country in the permanently weak state of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ of the 1990s, so that its resources could continue being plundered by domestic oligarchs and foreigners alike, while its culture–transformed into the soft authoritarianism of neo-Liberal Postmodernity. In contrast, one of the most attractive aspects of Putin’s Russia for Solzhenitsyn was the revival that Orthodox Christianity continues to experience.

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Igor Strelkov: the Name of the Russian Myth

Alexander Dugin

Translated by Nina Kouprianova

The views of the original author do not necessarily reflect those of the translator.

We must understand that the role of Igor Strelkov is fundamental. This is a type of Russian idealist, conservative, and true patriot that destroyed the abyss between principles and actions; this abyss is the paralyzing scourge of our patriotism. When Russians realize acutely that their values are being ridiculed, their interests are being sold, and their government is being appropriated not by the best, but by the most ignoble, what do they do? They yearn, whine, blame the intellectual elites (as per Augustin Cochin), drink, of course, and form minor movements that the System quickly breaks apart. The most passionate ones plunge into fights, aggression, along with meaningless violence and sacrifice. Some are bribed for the opposition’s technical purposes, others are curated by the police and secret service. This is a vicious circle. No one strikes the actual enemy, no one asserts one’s purpose, no one goes all the way to the end, firmly and with one’s head held high. After all, it is young guys that sacrifice themselves, Russian nationalists, National Bolsheviks, or “Far Eastern partisans,” dying in fights or ending up in prison without rhyme or reason. This affects no one. Russians continue their dreams of the everyday. Others spend decades on meaningless chatter and flaunting. A pathetic sight.

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