Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Actually, there is no such German name, the closest being Stieglitz.
The lead character Standartenführer Otto von Stirlitz was in fact KGB secret agent Colonel Maksim Isaev, operating under deep cover in Nazi Germany, Paris, Shanghai and elsewhere. The popularity of Stirlitz gave rise to a series of jokes in both Russia and Germany which continue to this day, see Russian joke: Standartenführer Stirlitz. One of these jokes (a variant):
- (SS Officer) Muller says to Stirlitz:
- "I think I know who you really are - you are Jewish!"
- "No, I am Russian" - said Stirlitz and then thought
- "Have I said too much?"
Like Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, the books were loosely based on actual scenarios. For example, Stirlitz was able to stymie a fictional Churchill plan to make peace with Nazi Germany and attack the Soviet Union. Years later when Stirlitz returned to Russia he was arrested by forces sympathetic to Beria. Stalin's death saved Stirlitz from the gulag.
Some speculate that the author Semyonov was a KGB agent himself, given the high quality of his insights into the agency and its methods of operating. When Semyonov was first published the Soviet regime was attempting to restore the tarnished reputation of the KGB which had suffered as it implemented the worst of Stalin's excesses. The popularity of Stirlitz is regarded to have helped the KGB's image within Russia to some extent and certainly glamorized its overseas service.
Stirlitz was regarded as the ideal KGB agent. He was a renaissance man who knew how to complete missions but was also familiar with high culture. He spoke all European languages except Irish and Albanian. He favored the intellectual approach over violence and is believed to have killed only one time in his fifty year career as an agent. Like James Bond, he had a favorite drink, cognac. He drove a Horch car and was not as taken by women as Bond, declining the offer of some attractive prositutes with the rejoinder "I'd rather drink some coffee." During his constant travels, Stirlitz missed Russia and longed to return.
- Captain Kloss
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