Book Review: The Aquarium


GRU is the super secret Soviet military intelligence service that most people at that time didn’t even know existed. It’s the archrival of the KGB, but unlike the KGB, they operated in shadows.

KGB is responsible for catching spies within the Soviet Union, and the GRU is responsible for sending spies into foreign countries, disguised as diplomats, to extract their secrets using methods that are almost magical.

GRU agents are the cream of the crop in intelligence gathering, each with hundreds of tricks up their sleeves and superhuman mental capabilities and reflex.

They lived in relative luxury afforded by the state, but also in constant fear – they cannot trust anyone.

The Aquarium (GRU headquarters) is always secretly testing their loyalty and ability, and their willingness to sacrifice friends and family for the glorious Soviet Union. One wrong move and they would be “evacuated”.

This book is a mostly-true account of a tank company commander who was noticed and inducted into the Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) for training, and eventually into the GRU. Eventually, after a series of tragedies, he couldn’t take it anymore, and defected to Britain, where he wrote this book (he had to change a few details to avoid being identified by the Russian government).

Very interesting read! A lot of cool tricks, flowery language, and deep emotions.

I doubt I’ll start carrying around a stack of restaurant business cards to give out to people as secret meeting places, but a lot of the psychological stuff they do may have practical applications.

Cool book and highly recommended!