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FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

KGB-designed tooth embedded with potassium cyanide, ca. 1975.

LIKE SEX AND TORTURE MUSEUMS, institutions dedicated to the history of the KGB, the infamous Russian intelligence service that was active between 1954 and 1991, are increasingly common in the former Eastern Bloc. Since the mid-1990s, such institutions have popped up in Riga, Prague, and Vilnius, acting as grim reminders of the Soviet Union’s elaborate efforts to maintain its empire. In Leipzig, a local iteration focusing on the East German secret police highlights the disguises that transformed spies into unwitting members of the Village People; in Tallinn, Estonia, visitors can walk through a former surveillance office in a luxury hotel, which was abandoned in a hurry when the USSR collapsed.

And as of this past December, there is a KGB museum in New York.

It’s not exactly clear why the museum’s anonymous American benefactors chose to pursue this project. After all, KGB museums

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