Leiba Lazarevich Feldbin (he adopted the name Alexander Orlov in 1936) was born in Babruysk on 21st August, 1895 to an Orthodox Jewish family. His father, Lazer Feldbin, worked in the timber industry.
On the outbreak of the First World War the family moved to Moscow and Orlov was admitted to the Lazaresvsky Institute. He then studied law at Moscow University but in 1916 he was forced to join the Russian Army. He served as a private with the 104th Infantry Regiment. Although he was well-qualified academically, as a Jew he was unable to enter officer training.
After the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in March, 1917, George Lvov was asked to head the new Provisional Government in Russia. One of the first reforms was to allow Jews to become officers in the army. Orlov now became second lieutenant and while at military school he joined the Bolshevik Party. After the Russian Revolution he became Chief of the Information Section of the Revolutionary Finance Administration. Orlov also became a Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (Cheka) officer and was involved in the arrest of American spy, Xenophon Kalamatiano, in September 1918. Orlov later recalled in his memoirs: "Kalamatiano turned pale and lost his composure. The investigation soon discovered that the cane contained an inner tube and he extracted it. In it were hidden a secret cipher, spy reports, a coded list of thirty-two spies and money receipts from some of them."
In September 1920 he joined the Red Army and fought in the Russian Civil War. Orlov was posted to the 12th Army fighting along the Polish front. Later that year he captured a suspected spy named Senkovsky. During interrogation he confessed he was a spy but advised Orlov to contact his childhood friend, Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of Cheka, before he was executed. Orlov did this and was surprised when Dzerzhinsky ordered the man to be taken to Moscow. Senkovsky provided Dzerzhinsky with the identities of the French military attaches in Warsaw who were responsible for organising and financing Poland's guerrilla operations. Senkovsky also agreed to work as a double agent.
Dzerzhinsky was impressed with Orlov and decided to sponsor his career. In 1921 he resumed his law studies. When he completed his degree he worked under Nikolai Krylenko at the Bolshevik High Tribunal. In May 1924 he joined the Government Political Administration (GPU) under Dzerzhinsky. Orlov later recalled that "Dzerzhinsky ran the organisation with an iron fist and every member knew where he stood, yet this leader had compassion for everyone under him.
Orlov was involved in the setting up the anti-Bolshevik organization, Monarchist Union of Central Russia (also known as "The Trust") that was used to trap Boris Savinkov and MI6 contract agent Sidney Reilly. In his book, The March of Time (2004) Orlov describes the arrest of Savinkov, who was killed on 25th May, 1925. Reilly was executed on 5th November 1925.
In 1926 Orlov was transferred to the recently formed Foreign Department (INO), the branch of the NKVD responsible for overseas operations. During this period he spent time in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and London. In April 1931 he was appointed Chief of the Economic Department for Foreign Trade of the NKVD. In this position he helped to change policy concerning spies. Up until this time, most Soviet agents were usually diplomats. In this way KGB officers enjoyed the protection of diplomatic immunity. However, the opposing intelligence service had little difficulty identifying the agents and therefore could minimize their effectiveness. Orlov's idea was to employ trade officials as agents.
Orlov had the responsibility for establishing this spying network. In 1932 he entered the United States on the grounds he wanted to visit General Motors in order to negotiate for the purchase of 150 cars for various Soviet government agencies. Orlov met with James Mooney, the Vice President of General Motors, responsible overseas operations, on a regular basis. He also scouted out prospective dead-drop sites in New York City and made contact with Soviet spies in the city.
According to his biographer, Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001): "The one thing that bothered Orlov, and which he witnessed daily during the brief time he was in the US, was the great depression that had enveloped the nation. He could see the inordinate number of men on the streets who seemed to be loitering with no apparent place to go, although of an age that would indicate they should be employed; the scarcity of help-wanted advertisements in the classified section of the newspapers; the long lines of men seeking employment, perhaps for one job opening; the bleak news articles that foreshadowed a long recession; and the welfare kitchens in his own neighbourhoods in Harlem and upper Manhattan that overflowed with people seeking meagre sustenance. All this told him that there had to be a flaw in this capitalist society to generate such economic injustice. He saw from his own perspective the difference between the haves and have nots as he was able to enjoy many amenities in the US only because he had an income. Early on he had learned that under Communism there would be no class distinctions and that the means of production would be common to all. The end result would be a society where all would share and prosper. What deficits he was aware of in the new Soviet Union he attributed to the transitory period that had to be faced by an emerging nation. Also, the USSR was about to embark on another five-year plan which would eliminate all problems."
Orlov worked closely with Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). One of his first tasks was to remove Stalin's main rival for the leadership of the party. Sergy Kirov had been a loyal supporter of Stalin but he grew jealous of his popularity. As Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "In sharp contrast to Stalin, Kirov was a much younger man and an eloquent speaker, who was able to sway his listeners; above all, he possessed a charismatic personality. Unlike Stalin who was a Georgian, Kirov was also an ethnic Russian, which stood in his favour." According to Orlov, who had been told this by Yagoda, Stalin decided that Kirov had to die.
Genrikh Yagoda assigned the task to Vania Zaporozhets, one of his trusted lieutenants in the NKVD. He selected a young man, Leonid Nikolayev, as a possible candidate. Nikolayev had recently been expelled from the Communist Party and had vowed his revenge by claiming that he intended to assassinate a leading government figure. Zaporozhets met Nikolayev and when he discovered he was of low intelligence and appeared to be a person who could be easily manipulated, he decided that he was the ideal candidate as assassin.
Zaporozhets provided him with a pistol and gave him instructions to kill Kirov in the Smolny Institute in Leningrad. However, soon after entering the building he was arrested. Zaporozhets had to use his influence to get him released. On 1st December, 1934, Nikolayev, got past the guards and was able to shoot Kirov dead. Nikolayev was immediately arrested and after being tortured by Yagoda he signed a statement saying that Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev had been the leaders of the conspiracy to assassinate Kirov.
According to Alexander Orlov: "Stalin decided to arrange for the assassination of Kirov and to lay the crime at the door of the former leaders of the opposition and thus with one blow do away with Lenin's former comrades. Stalin came to the conclusion that, if he could prove that Zinoviev and Kamenev and other leaders of the opposition had shed the blood of Kirov". Victor Kravchenko has pointed out: "Hundreds of suspects in Leningrad were rounded up and shot summarily, without trial. Hundreds of others, dragged from prison cells where they had been confined for years, were executed in a gesture of official vengeance against the Party's enemies. The first accounts of Kirov's death said that the assassin had acted as a tool of dastardly foreigners - Estonian, Polish, German and finally British. Then came a series of official reports vaguely linking Nikolayev with present and past followers of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other dissident old Bolsheviks."
Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001), claims that Alexander Orlov later admitted: "In the months preceding the trial, the two men were subjected to every conceivable form of interrogation: subtle pressure, then periods of enormous pressure, starvation, open and veiled threats, promises, as well as physical and mental torture. Neither man would succumb to the ordeal they faced." Stalin was frustrated by Stalin's lack of success and brought in Nikolai Yezhov to carry out the interrogations.
Orlov later admitted what happened. "Towards the end of their ordeal, Zinoviev became sick and exhausted. Yezhov took advantage of the situation in a desperate attempt to get a confession. Yezhov warned that Zinoviev must affirm at a public trial that he had plotted the assassination of Stalin and other members of the Politburo. Zinoviev declined the demand. Yezhov then relayed Stalin's offer; that if he co-operated at an open trial, his life would be spared; if he did not, he would be tried in a closed military court and executed, along with all of the opposition. Zinoviev vehemently rejected Stalin's offer. Yezhov then tried the same tactics on Kamenev and again was rebuffed."
In July 1936 Yezhov told Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev that their children would be charged with being part of the conspiracy and would face execution if found guilty. The two men now agreed to co-operate at the trial if Stalin promised to spare their lives. At a meeting with Stalin, Kamenev told him that they would agree to co-operate on the condition that none of the old-line Bolsheviks who were considered the opposition and charged at the new trial would be executed, that their families would not be persecuted, and that in the future none of the former members of the opposition would be subjected to the death penalty. Stalin replied: "That goes without saying!"
The trial opened on 19th August 1936. Five of the sixteen defendants were actually NKVD plants, whose confessional testimony was expected to solidify the state's case by exposing Zinoviev, Kamenev and the other defendants as their fellow conspirators. The presiding judge was Vasily Ulrikh, a member of the secret police. The prosecutor was Andrei Vyshinsky, who was to become well-known during the Show Trials over the next few years.
Yuri Piatakov accepted the post of chief witness "with all my heart." Max Shachtman pointed out: "The official indictment charges a widespread assassination conspiracy, carried on these five years or more, directed against the head of the Communist party and the government, organized with the direct connivance of the Hitler regime, and aimed at the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship in Russia. And who are included in these stupefying charges, either as direct participants or, what would be no less reprehensible, as persons with knowledge of the conspiracy who failed to disclose it?"
The men made confessions of their guilt. Lev Kamenev said: "I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organised and guided this conspiracy. My motives? I had become convinced that the party's - Stalin's policy - was successful and victorious. We, the opposition, had banked on a split in the party; but this hope proved groundless. We could no longer count on any serious domestic difficulties to allow us to overthrow. Stalin's leadership we were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power."
Gregory Zinoviev also confessed: "I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organizer, second only to Trotsky, of that block whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organizer of Kirov's assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us; Stalin warned as scores of times; but we did not heed these warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky."
Kamenev's final words in the trial concerned the plight of his children: "I should like to say a few words to my children. I have two children, one is an army pilot, the other a Young Pioneer. Whatever my sentence may be, I consider it just... Together with the people, follow where Stalin leads." This was a reference to the promise that Stalin made about his sons.
On 24th August, 1936, Vasily Ulrikh entered the courtroom and began reading the long and dull summation leading up to the verdict. Ulrikh announced that all sixteen defendants were sentenced to death by shooting. Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "Those in attendance fully expected the customary addendum which was used in political trials that stipulated that the sentence was commuted by reason of a defendant's contribution to the Revolution. These words never came, and it was apparent that the death sentence was final when Ulrikh placed the summation on his desk and left the court-room."
The following day Soviet newspapers carried the announcement that all sixteen defendants had been put to death. This included the NKVD agents who had provided false confessions. Joseph Stalin could not afford for any witnesses to the conspiracy to remain alive. Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996), has pointed out that Stalin did not even keep his promise to Kamenev's sons and later both men were shot.
On 26th August 1936 Joseph Stalin appointed Orlov as the Soviet Politburo adviser to the Popular Front government. The following month Orlov travelled to Spain and was given considerable authority by the Republican administration during the Spanish Civil War. His official assignment was to organize intelligence and counterintelligence activities and guerrilla warfare in the territory under the control of General Francisco Franco. He later claimed that around 3,000 guerrillas had been trained for this work over the next two years.
Orlov was not very impressed with President Manuel Azaña: "Azaña was a man with an ugly face. He was an apparent weakling, deeply in love with himself and with the lofty positions he had held in Spanish public life since the abdication of the king. The events of the Spanish Civil War proved him an egotist and veritable coward, who deserted his people when the war reached a critical stage." However, he got on much better with the prime minister, Francisco Largo Caballero, who "gave the impression of a forceful and uncompromising person without the slightest shred of self-importance".
On 12th October 1936, Orlov received a message from Nikolai Yezhov. "Arrange with the head of the Spanish Government, Caballero, for shipment of gold reserves of Spain to the Soviet Union. Use a Soviet steamer. Maintain utmost secrecy. If the Spaniards demand from a receipt, refuse - I repeat, refuse to sign anything. Say that a formal receipt will be issued in Moscow by the State Bank. I hold you personally responsible for this operation."
Over the next few months Orlov organized the transfer of about 70 per cent of Spain's gold reserves to Russia for "safe-keeping". At the time Spain had the fourth largest reserves in the world (worth nearly $800 million) as a result of the trade boom during the First World War. Orlov's men were given false papers that suggested the gold was being moved by the Bank of America: "If the anarchists intercepted my men, Russians with truckloads of Spanish gold, they would kill my men, and it would be a tremendous political scandal all over the world, and it might even create an internal revolution." On its arrival in Moscow, Stalin was said to have remarked that "the Spaniards will never see their gold again, just as one cannot see one's own ears".
Orlov and his NKVD agents had the unofficial task of eliminating the supporters of Leon Trotsky fighting for the Republican Army and the International Brigades. This included the arrest and execution of leaders of the Worker's Party (POUM), National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI). Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "Stalin had a secret and extremely important aim in Spain: to eliminate the supporters of Trotsky who had gathered from all over the world to fight for the Spanish revolution. NKVD men, and Comintern agents loyal to Stalin, accused the Trotskyists of espionage and ruthlessly executed them." Orlov later claimed that "the decision to perform an execution abroad, a rather risky affair, was up to Stalin personally. If he ordered it, a so-called mobile brigade was dispatched to carry it out. It was too dangerous to operate through local agents who might deviate later and start to talk."
In 1936 Yan Berzin was chief military advisor to the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War and worked with Orlov. According to the authors of Deadly Illusions (1993) in March 1937 General Berzin had sent a confidential report to War Commissar Kliment Voroshilov "reporting resentment and protests he had received about the NKVD's repressive operations from high Republican officials. It stated that the NKVD agents were compromising Soviet authority by their excessive interference and espionage in Government quarters. They were treating Spain like a colony. The ranking Red Army General concluded his report with a demand that Orlov be recalled from Spain at once." Abram Slutsky, the head of the Foreign Department of NKVD, told Walter Krivitsky. "Berzin is absolutely right our men were behaving in Spain as if they were in a colony, treating even Spanish leaders as colonists handle natives".
Orlov was responsible for the killing of Andreu Nin, the POUM leader. Nin was tortured for several days. Jesus Hernández has explained: "Nin was not giving in. He was resisting until he fainted. His inquisitors were getting impatient. They decided to abandon the dry method. Then the blood flowed, the skin peeled off, muscles torn, physical suffering pushed to the limits of human endurance. Nin resisted the cruel pain of the most refined tortures. In a few days his face was a shapeless mass of flesh." Nin was executed on 20th June 1937.
Orlov was also involved in the rationalization of the security services into the Servicio de Investigacion Militar (SIM). NKVD agents and members of the Spanish Communist Party began to infiltrate and control the police and security services in the autumn of 1936. Anthony Beevor, the author of The Spanish Civil War (1982) has argued: "If Russian communism appeared to its critics as Tsarism with a proletarian face, then Spanish communism, with its power base in New Castile, seemed to them to be growing into a Marxist variation of Philip II's integrated state based on the army. The SIM resembled the Inquisition and the commissars the church. SIM officers included both unquestioningly loyal Party members and the ambitious. Its unchallenged power attracted opportunists of every sort to its ranks." The SIM was later described as "the Russian syphilis" by the German writer, Gustav Regler, who served in the International Brigades.
Orlov later argued that Jesus Hernandez, the Minister of Education, was the man chosen as the future leader. Orlov told Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) that Hernandez was a member of the Communist Party (PCE) and a leading member of Comintern and would therefore be expected to do the bidding of the Soviets as their puppet in power.
In December 1936, Nikolai Yezhov established a new section of the NKVD named the Administration of Special Tasks (AST). It contained about 300 of his own trusted men from the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Yezhov's intention was complete control of the NKVD by using men who could be expected to carry out sensitive assignments without any reservations. The new AST operatives would have no allegiance to any members of the old NKVD and would therefore have no reason not to carry out an assignment against any of one of them. The AST was used to remove all those who had knowledge of the conspiracy to destroy Stalin's rivals. One of the first to be arrested was Genrikh Yagoda, the former head of the NKVD.
Within the administration of the ADT, a clandestine unit called the Mobile Group had been created to deal with the ever increasing problem of possible NKVD defectors, as officers serving abroad were beginning to see that the arrest of people like Yagoda, their former chief, would mean that they might be next in line. The head of the Mobile Group was Mikhail Shpiegelglass. By the summer of 1937, over forty intelligence agents serving abroad were summoned back to the Soviet Union.
In July 1937, Orlov heard that his cousin, Zinovy Borisovich Katsnelson, a high-ranking NKVD officer, had been executed. Later that month he had a meeting with Theodore Maly in Paris, who had just been recalled to the Soviet Union. He explained his concern as he had heard stories of other senior NKVD officers who had been recalled and then seemed to have disappeared. He feared being executed but after discussing the matter he decided to return and take up this offer of a post in the Foreign Department in Moscow. Another friend, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, was recalled in August. Maly and Antonov-Ovseenko were both executed.
Ignaz Reiss was an NKVD agent serving in Paris when he was summoned back to the Soviet Union. Reiss had the advantage of having his wife and daughter with him when he decided to defect to France. In July 1937 he sent a letter to the Soviet Embassy in Paris explaining his decision to break with the Soviet Union because he no longer supported the views of Stalin's counter-revolution and wanted to return to the freedom and teachings of Lenin. Orlov learnt of this letter from a close contact in France.
According to Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001): "On learning that Reiss had disobeyed the order to return and intended to defect, an enraged Stalin ordered that an example be made of his case so as to warn other KGB officers against taking steps in the same direction. Stalin reasoned that any betrayal by KGB officers would not only expose the entire operation, but would succeed in placing the most dangerous secrets of the KGB's spy networks in the hands of the enemy's intelligence services. Stalin ordered Yezhov to dispatch a Mobile Group to find and assassinate Reiss and his family in a manner that would be sure to send an unmistakable message to any KGB officer considering Reiss's route."
Reiss was found hiding in a village near Lausanne, Switzerland. It was claimed by Alexander Orlov that a trusted Reiss family friend, Gertrude Schildback, lured Reiss to a rendezvous, where the Mobile Group killed Reiss with machine-gun fire on the evening of 4th September 1937. Schildback was arrested by the local police and at the hotel was a box of chocolates containing strychnine. It is believed these were intended for Reiss's wife and daughter.
Abram Slutsky, the head of the Foreign Department (INO), warned Orlov that he was in danger of being kidnapped by German intelligence. Slutsky said he was sending to Spain twelve NKVD bodyguards to protect Orlov. He rejected the offer as he feared they would kill him. Orlov decided to recruit ten bodyguards from the Thaelmann Battalion that had been fighting for the Republican Army.
Orlov was ordered back to the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin in July 1938. Aware of the Great Purge that was going on and that several of his friends had been executed, Orlov fled to France with his wife and daughter before making his way to the Canada. Orlov was concerned that his mother and mother-in-law, were still living in the Soviet Union. He sent a letter to Joseph Stalin (a copy was sent to Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the NKVD). He warned that an account of Stalin's crimes were lodged with his attorney and should he, or any member of his immediate family, be kidnapped or murdered by the NKVD, his attorney was under instruction to have the record of Stalin's crimes published immediately.
After spending a short time in Montreal the family arrived in New York City on 13th August 1938. He made contact with the lawyer, John Frederick Finerty, who was working for John Dewey, who was carrying out an investigation into the truth of the testimony that had been presented at the Show Trials. Finerty became Orlov's attorney and probably looked after his account of Stalin's crimes. Orlov also sent a letter to Leon Trotsky warning him of a possible assassination attempt. It was later discovered that Trotsky believed Orlov's letter was a hoax perpetrated by the NKVD.
Orlov and his family went to live in Los Angeles. He changed his name to Leon Berg. It was considered too dangerous to send Vera to school, and she was educated at home by her parents. Both the Orlovs were university educated. Maria taught her English, French, German and history and Alexander dealt with the rest of the subjects. Vera's health was poor as she had never fully recovered from developing an uncommon form of rheumatic fever several years earlier. The illness had caused permanent damage to her heart valves.
Vera Orlov died at the age of sixteen on 14th July 1940. Alexander Orlov later recalled: "Care for our daughter was the supreme goal of our life. She was only 15 (when we defected), too young to fathom the nightmare which we had left behind and the crisis we were entering upon. She picked up the English language quickly and came to love and admire this beautiful country. Because of her knowledge of several languages, she dreamed of becoming a foreign journalist and taking care of us. This thought kept her very happy. But this periodic recurrence of rheumatic fever wore her heart out until one fateful morning, in July 1940, after several days of uncontrollable violent palpitations, it stopped beating."
On 10th February, 1941, Orlov read that his friend, and fellow defector from the Soviet Union, Walter Krivitsky, had found dead in the Bellevue Hotel in Washington on 10th February, 1941. At first it was claimed that Krivitsky had committed suicide. However, others claimed his hiding place had been disclosed by a Soviet mole working for MI5 and had been murdered by Soviet agents. Whittaker Chambers definitely believed that he had been killed by the NKVD: "He had left a letter in which he gave his wife and children the unlikely advice that the Soviet Government and people were their best friends. Previously he had warned them that, if he were found dead, never under any circumstances to believe that he had committed suicide." Krivitsky once told Chambers: "Any fool can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to commit a good natural death."
Orlov was worried that the NKVD would discover where he was living. He therefore decided to keep moving. He left Los Angeles and moved to Boston. In December 1943 Alexander and Maria settled in Cleveland. Orlov became a student at Dyke College and graduated on 15th June 1945 with a degree in Business Administration. His main objective was to speak and write English accurately. His friend, Edward P. Gazur, an FBI agent, commented: "I was trained to be alert to traces of a foreign accent and speech patterns of a questionable nature, but as to Orlov I was only able to detect the presence of a minimal foreign accent and a speech pattern that was almost flawless."
Orlov now began work on the book that was to be published after the death of Joseph Stalin. When it was completed he was introduced to Max Eastman, who became his literary agent. Eastman had been the editor of the left-wing The Masses and had been a long-term friend of Leon Trotsky. However, he had become disillusioned with the rule of Joseph Stalin and was now employed by the right-wing Reader's Digest. Eastman arranged for Orlov to meet Eugene Lyons, another former Marxist who was now a staunch anti-Communist. This led to a meeting with John S. Billings, the editor of Life Magazine.
Joseph Stalin died on 5th March, 1953. He submitted his manuscript to Life Magazine and the first of the four articles, The Ghastly Secrets of Stalin's Power, appeared on 6th April. The article created great controversy and was discussed in great depth in the American media. With each successive installment, the circulation of the magazine reached new heights. Orlov's book, The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes, was published by Random House in the autumn of 1953.
Orlov continued to publish articles on the Soviet Union. On 23rd April 1956, he published an article in Life Magazine entitled The Sensational Secret behind the Damnation of Stalin. Orlov commented on Nikita Khrushchev denouncation of Stalin: "It has been argued that Khrushchev and his associates wanted personal revenge on Stalin who had so long humiliated them. Whoever believes this does not know the men who spent twenty years as Stalin's apprentices; he taught them always to put political expediency ahead of personal feelings. Stalin personally hated Lenin, who had disowned him in his last testament; he hounded Lenin's widow; he destroyed all of Lenin's personal friends. But Stalin the politician knew what was good for him. Year after year he built Lenin up as a deity and established himself as Lenin's true prophet. Why didn't Khrushchev and his colleagues do as Stalin did? They had been Stalin's closest aides for many years. As such, they had inherited his power. Why did they not perpetuate Stalin's cult and profit from it?"
Orlov's claimed that Khrushchev was taking a dangerous risk by attacking Stalin: "It is obvious that Khrushchev and the others must have realised that by indicting Stalin they would gravely endanger themselves. They had been closest to him. They had condoned and abetted many of his crimes. Their sudden attack on Stalin was bound to rouse in the minds of the Russian people angry recollections of how Khrushchev, Bulganin, Kaganovich, Miloyan and Malenkov had glorified Stalin and his policies before huge audiences of Communist Party activists, how they had justified Stalin's bloody Moscow trials and how they had hailed the shooting of the Red Army Generals... The bosses of the Kremlin no doubt knew that in the minds of the Russian people pertinent questions were bound to arise as to their complicity in Stalin's crimes and their fitness for continuing as leaders of the Soviet Union and world Communism. But in spite of that, Khrushchev and the rest found it necessary to bring into the open the story of Stalin's crimes. Why did they take such a risk? Why did they do it now, at this time?" Orlov answered the question by claiming that NKVD agents had discovered papers in the Tsarist archives which proved Stalin had once been an Okhrana agent. He also added that although Khrushchev and the other new leaders, had distanced themselves from Stalin the person, they had not truly broken with the Stalin legacy.
In September 1962, Orlov became a Senior Research Fellow at the Law School of the University of Michigan. It later emerged that the post had been funded by the CIA. According to Professor Whitmore Gray: "You have to remember that it was a different time. There might have been a hundred members of the University of Michigan faculty receiving CIA funds for research. Back then it was the patriotic thing to do. I can assure you no eyebrows were raised about a former NKVD general being here. No one thought it was unusual." Orlov's book, A Handbook of Intelligence and Guerrilla Warfare, was published by the university in 1963.
Edward P. Gazur met Alexander and Maria Orlov for the first time in 1971. "Orlov came across in the true meaning of what one thinks a military general should be. He had a military bearing and a presence, a quality of confidence and self assurance. He also struck me as an extremely intelligent person. Maria came across as an intelligent and very strong-willed person, who was also uncommonly compassionate and loyal to her husband. I detected in her a degree of sophistication that I had not expected and a manner that was more official than friendly."
Maria Orlov died on 16th November 1971. Gazur used to see Orlov at least once a week. "My personal observations of Orlov were all positive. Although he was lean and short in stature, probably no more than 5 feet 7 inches tall, he had cast an enormously large historical shadow. Like a general, he carried himself in an erect military manner, which commanded attention and exuded that elusive condition known as presence. He had the flair for saying the right thing at the right time and what he had to say was organised and concise. His suave manner and dapper appearance reminded one of a European aristocrat and suggested that he was a man of the world, which he was. He was an immaculate dresser and I never saw him without a formal shirt and tie. When he again became financially solvent, his lifestyle dictated the very best; all his purchases, such as clothing and personal items, were from the very best stores, which I suspect was a result of his days in the top echelons of the KGB. Despite his sophistication, he was self-effacing and humble, a combination that few people possess. He never spoke down to anyone and had the ability to listen patiently to the other side. He was an extremely intelligent man of immense character and integrity. I never knew him to lie to me and I had plenty of opportunity to discover if he had. Perhaps he didn't tell me everything about himself during his life as Orlov the KGB general, but then again I never asked."
Alexander Orlov died in Cleveland, Ohio, on 25th March 1973. In his book, Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001), Gazur claims that Orlov told him that MI6 agent, Ernest Boyce, was a double agent and was responsible for betraying Sidney Reilly, Xenophon Kalamatiano and Boris Savinkov.
Orlov's The March of Time Reminiscences, was published in 2004. Gordon Brook-Shepherd, the author of Iron Maze: The Western Secret Services and the Bolsheviks (1998) has pointed out: "Entitled The March of Time, Reminiscences by Alexander Orlov, it is 655 pages long and deals in twenty-nine chapters with episodes in his career as a soldier and Soviet secret service man, from those first years of Bolshevik rule down to his own break with Stalin in 1939 and his adventurous flight from his final post in Spain to North America. Much of that Spanish story and his escape from Stalin's clutches had already appeared in print. This account of the earlier period had never been published or even circulated. It covered half the book, much of it on that first decade of Bolshevik power with which I was concerned. (The whole of Chapter Five, for example, gives the real story, over seventy-six pages, of the entrapment of Boris Savinkov, the 'great conspirator', and the most dangerous of all the Bolsheviks' Russian foes.) I have quoted extensively from both of these sections, not only because of the fascinating human detail they provide, but because I came to regard them, after frequent counter-checks, as totally reliable."