In 1968 historian Sheila Fitzpatrick was ‘outed' by the Russian newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya as all but a spy for Western intelligence. She was in Moscow at the time, working in Soviet archives for her doctoral thesis on AV Lunacharsky, the first Soviet Commissar of Enlightenment after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Despite KGB attention, and the impossibility of finding a suitable winter coat, Sheila felt more at ease in Moscow than in Britain—a feeling cemented by her friendships with Lunacharsky's daughter, Irina, and brother-in-law, Igor, a reform-minded old Bolshevik who became a surrogate father and a intellectual mentor. An affair with young Communist activist, Sasha, pulled her further into a world in which she already felt at home. For the Soviet authorities and archives, however, she would always be marked as a foreigner, and so potentially a spy.
Punctuated by letters to her mother in Melbourne and her diary entries of the time, and borne along by Fitzpatrick's wry, insightful narrative, A Spy in the Archives captures the life and times of Cold War Russia.