The Lost Spy by Andrew Meier

This is the tragic story of a well-educated, left-leaning, idealistic American being seduced into serving the despotic successors of the Russian Bolsheviks.

Book cover: The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service by Andrew Meier
Book cover: The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service by Andrew Meier

British author Andrew Meier, whose book is subtitled “An American in Stalin’s Secret Service”, has exhaustively reconstructed the tragic life of Isaiah “Cy” Oggins (1898 -1947) in this carefully researched book. Oggins was a Jewish graduate of Columbia University who in his youth became attracted first to the labor movement, later to the Communist Party, and ultimately to serving as a spy for Stalin’s Russia in Europe and Asia.

Cy Oggins as young man and in mug shot taken shortly before his execution
Cy Oggins (left) as a young man and (right) shown in a mug shot taken shortly before his execution

In the hindsight of history, I suspect a lot of people like me who grew up in the Cold War and subsequently witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall find his story baffling. How could a well-educated American like Oggins and his wife Nerma (who was Russian-born but had emigrated to the U.S.) be seduced into service for the despotic successors of the Bolsheviks?

Meier meticulously describes and helps us understand the many complex events and uncertainties along the way that led a once-idealistic Russophile down a path that eventually ended in his death in a Soviet prison once he was of no further use to the regime. Meier achieves an additional depth and human quality to his narrative as he brings into the story — and shares his revelations with — Cy’s son Robin. [⇒ Excerpt]

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