Roman Kim: The Ninja from the Lubianka

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2018

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



On 14 May 1967, Roman Nikolaevich Kim died in Moscow. Kim was a writer whose books were published in the Soviet Union in a print‐run of more than one million copies and which continue to be issued in contemporary Russia. He was a scholar‐orientalist (vostokoved), author of several scholarly works, a literary translator who had introduced Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892–1927) to the Russian reader, and an interpreter who had worked with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971). Almost twenty years later an article by the journalist Hiroshi Kimura (b. 1936) was published with the title “The Life of a Man Who Had Three Motherlands and Became a Toy in the Hands of Fate.”2 Japanese readers learned from it that the Soviet author of detective stories was concomitantly a Korean prince and a most dangerous ace of counterespionage, who had worked all his life against Japan. In 2016 in Moscow, as part of the prestigious biographical book series The Life of Remarkable People (Zhizn' zamechatel'nykh liudei), my book titled Roman Kim saw the light, while an international conference was staged that was dedicated to the research of his biography and creative legacy.3 Now much, much more became clear about the life of this writer and master of counterespionage. Nevertheless, like before, in some ways it almost seems that the only thing that we exactly know about him is that he died in 1967. This is how it is with dragons in fairy tales, nobody knows from where they come, and they are only encountered at the climax of the story…


This article has been translated from the original Russian by Kees Boterbloem.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Historian, v. 80, issue 1, p. 9-33