Authors Deborah McDonald and Jeremy Dronfield
Q: Who was Baroness Moura Budberg, and how did you first learn about her amazing life?
A: Moura was born Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya in Ukraine in 1892. She was always known as Moura and came from a family of aristocrats. Moura was a singular person in history – she begins at “intriguing” and keeps getting better. In some ways Moura was the Anna Karenina of the Bolshevik era – selfish and sympathetic, tragic and heroic – a survivor who nearly destroyed herself for love, a love that was both eternal and hopeless.
Q: What new information does the book reveal?
A: This is the first biography of Moura to make use of the 400 pages of newly declassified British government intelligence documentation about her during three decades (1921 – 1952) which illustrates the extent of her spying activities. We’ve also uncovered a series of interviews conducted with Moura’s friends in the 1980s by the author Andrew Boyle, which he undertook when he was planning to write a biography of Moura.
Putting together information from her government surveillance file and the Boyle interviews, we have discovered that Moura worked as a double agent as early as 1918, spying for Bolshevik Russia and the German-backed aristocratic Ukrainian government during the war between them. New material from Russian sources has also cast new light on the so-called “Lockhart Plot” – the British plan to overthrow Lenin in which Moura was deeply involved. Although she was only 26 years old, she was capable of playing men off against each other for her own ends – elder statesmen, spies, diplomats and hardened agents.
Q: All evidence points to the fact that Moura was not just a Russian spy, but also a double agent for the English and possibly even the Germans. Can you explain why her information was so in demand by these world powers?
A: In the world of espionage, much of the most important information comes from gossip, and the most successful spies tend to be those who can gain access to powerful political circles and coax indiscretion from people. Moura’s social circle cut across many areas. One night her salon would be filled with actors and directors, another evening with gay young men, and on another with grey-bearded statesmen. They were all rich sources of gossip.
Q: What is your favorite story from Moura's life?
A: There are many stories from Moura’s life that could be chosen, but it would have to be the central theme to the book, which is Moura’s engaging and enduring love for the British agent Robert Bruce Lockhart. Their love story – and the terrifying political turmoil that surrounded it – is the heart of the book, and of Moura’s life. Especially the period when Moura, pregnant with Lockhart’s child, made the arduous journey to German-occupied Estonia to spend time with her husband (and thereby legitimize her pregnancy). Her time away coincided with the Bolshevik net closing in on Lockhart and his colleagues, and he half-died of anxiety, believing that Moura might not make it back to Russia before he was forced to leave. It’s such a tense period, and is emblematic of just how powerful the love between Moura and Lockhart was.
EXCLUSIVE INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM MEMBERS GIVEAWAY FOR A VERY DANGEROUS WOMAN
To celebrate the publication of A VERY DANGEROUS WOMAN, the publisher, Oneworld Publications, is giving away 5 copies of the hardcover biography. To win a copy, please send an email including your mailing address and the subject line "VERY DANGEROUS WOMAN Spy Museum Giveaway" to email@example.com. The first 5 emails received will win a free finished copy of the book. US & Canadian entries only, please.