All About History

SMERSH: STALIN’S SPY HUNTERS

‘NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME, BOND FELT HIS SPINE CRAWL AT THE COLD, BRILLIANT EFFICIENCY OF THE SOVIET MACHINE, AND AT THE FEAR OF DEATH AND TORTURE WHICH MADE IT WORK AND OF WHICH THE SUPREME ENGINE WAS SMERSH - SMERSH THE VERY WHISPER OF DEATH’
Ian Fleming, Live And Let Die (1954)

I an Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale introduced the world to suave super-spy James Bond. As has been noted by academics in the decades following the book’s publication and even by Fleming himself, he drew much from his own wartime experiences as a naval intelligence officer. Yet despite this, Fleming was keen to keep his books as up-to-date and contemporary as possible. The result was that the Soviet Union, whose uneasy alliance with Britain and America had collapsed in the years following the end of the war, was selected as James Bond’s primary antagonist for Fleming’s novels, in particular the shadowy intelligence organisation SMERSH. However, while James Bond may be fictional, SMERSH were terrifyingly real.

Despite not being the villains in any of the films (although it’s framed as such in From and , usually replaced with the criminal organisation SPECTRE) SMERSH appears in several of the 14 James Bond books. Fleming’s version is of course vicious, violent and not entirely accurate to the actions and objectives of the real, equally shady organisation. To begin with, Fleming states that the

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