A fascinating travel account of Siberia during the early Soviet years, when the Politburo was attempting to develop the Siberian region and connect it to the rest of the Soviet Union through industrialization. It is an account of a lost way of life, and of the harsh conditions of the Arctic regions. The author begins his trip from Moscow and takes the Trans-Siberian railway heading towards Manchuria, and explores the polar regions and gets acquainted with various Siberian tribes. During World War 2, Smolka headed the Russian section at Britain’s Ministry of Information, and was later exposed as a Soviet agent.
About the author (from Wikipedia):
Harry Peter Smollett, OBE (1912–1980), born Hans Peter Smolka and sometimes using that name as a nom de plume even after he changed it by deed poll, was a journalist for the Daily Express and later a Central Europe correspondent for The Times. During the Second World War, Smollett became head of the Russian section at Britain’s Ministry of Information and was responsible for organising pro-Soviet propaganda. He was later identified as a Soviet agent.
Born in Vienna, he came to Britain in 1933 as an NKVD agent codenamed “ABO”. Although he changed his name to Smollett on becoming a naturalised British subject in 1938, he returned to using the surname Smolka when he returned to Vienna after the war. According to the Mitrokhin Archive, Smollett had been recruited by Kim Philby.
George Orwell included him on the list of those who “in my opinion are crypto-communists, fellow-travellers or inclined that way and should not be trusted as propagandists” that he gave to the Information Research Department in 1949 as “almost certainly agent of some kind” and “a very slimy person”. Timothy Garton Ash stated that Smollett “was ‘almost certainly’ the civil servant on whose advice the London publisher Jonathan Cape rejected Orwell’s Animal Farm as an unhealthily anti-Soviet text”.
Graham Greene’s biographer, Michael Shelden, refers to the inside joke that appears in the film The Third Man (1949), filmed in Vienna. Greene wrote the screenplay and used the name Smolka for a bar because Smolka/Smollett had given uncredited advice on the filming.