An Open Letter to Authors who Write Spy Novels Involving Russia

Subject: An Open Letter to Authors who Write Spy Novels Involving Russia
From: Natalie
Date: 1 Apr 2015

Dear authors,

I love a good spy novel. In my mind, spy novels are a sub-genre (or at a related genre) of thrillers, another type of book I love. I also love Russia and anything Russia-related. So, as you can imagine, a spy/thriller involving Russia just about makes me swoon with delight. What makes it even more amazing is the occasional Russian word or phrase inserted here and there, but don’t worry, this certainly isn’t required.

However, one thing that really, really cuts into my enjoyment of a good solid spy novel is factual inaccuracies. I specifically speak of those relating to Russia. One factual inaccuracy I often encounter is reference to the KGB in a modern (that is, post 1990s) context.

Look, I get it. The KGB was big and bad, and you think the modern Russian intelligence services are also big and bad. I don’t dispute that fact. However, it is inaccurate to make reference to a character currently serving in the KGB. The successors to the KGB are the FSB and SVR, so all those dreaded Russian spies roaming around now are either FSB or SVR employees. (The FSB handles internal affairs and the SVR external affairs.) Just for reference, there is also an agency called the GRU that handles military intelligence, too (and it, unlike the aforementioned FSB and SVR, has retained its name from the days of the Soviet Union).

I know that it’s hard to do research and have each and every fact be correct. Nevertheless, I feel that such an important issue as this really needs to be resolved once and for all.

If you have any questions about Russia, I would be happy to help.

Natalie, your friendly neighborhood Russia expert