Reilly, Sidney George

(Rosenblum, Shlomo Abramovich)
(1873–1925)
   One of the most mythical enemies of the early Bolshevik regime, Reilly was never the “ace of spies” portrayed in books and films; rather, he was one of the world’s greatest con artists, an arms dealer, a murderer, and a three-time bigamist. As an arms dealer, Reilly engineered deals for a variety of German and then Russian companies. In 1918 he was recruited by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) to mount a coup against Vladimir Lenin’s government. The coup, which was amateurishly managed, failed and helped generate a massive Red Terror that claimed thousands of lives. Following the failure of the plot, Reilly fled Russia and was awarded the Military Cross by the British government.
   Reilly was involved in exile Russian politics in the early 1920s and became a close friend of exile politician Boris Savinkov. Both Reilly and Savinkov became pawns in a counterintelligence game that was part of the maskirovka tactics used by the Soviets. The OGPU had created a fictitious émigré organization, the Trust, which purportedly was ready to launch a counterrevolution inside Russia and topple the communist regime. First Savinkov and then Reilly were lured back into the Soviet Union to meet representatives of the Trust. Reilly was captured by the OGPU on entering Russia, interrogated, and then shot. The Soviet intelligence service did not formally acknowledge Reilly’s capture and execution for decades, keeping alive the myth that he had been a Bolshevik agent from the start. Reilly’s legend as a super spy was kept alive by his former friends in SIS. Ian Fleming, when he sought a model for James Bond, chose Reilly. In reality, Reilly was a far better con man than he was a spy.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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