A Dark Path to Freedom

Ruzi Nazar, from the Red Army to the CIA

April 2017 9781849046978 328pp


A Dark Path to Freedom tells one of the most exciting life stories of the 20th century. Born on the eve of the Russian Revolution, Ruzi Nazar was charming, brilliant and passionately committed to Central Asia’s liberation from Soviet rule. He was a Red Army officer during World War II, then a fugitive in postwar Germanyʼs underworld, and finally emigrated to the US, mixing with the powerful and famous and rising high in the CIA. He became a US diplomat in Ankara and Bonn, and an undercover agent in Iran.

Nazar’s foresight was as impressive as his story. He predicted that Communism would collapse from within, briefing Reagan before the Gorbachev talks. A moderate Muslim, his warnings about Islamist radicalism fell on deaf ears. This remarkable biography casts unique light on the lives of those caught up in World War II and the Cold War, and the independence struggles of nationalities oppressed by Communism.


‘Ruzi Nazar led a truly remarkable life, and in A Dark Path To Freedom, Enver Altayli, one of Turkey’s leading specialists on Central Asia and a friend of Nazar for more than half a century, has turned it into a breathtaking book.’ — The Scotsman

A Dark Path to Freedom is one of the most amazing spy stories of recent times. It follows a fascinating journey from Stalin’s Russia to Nazi Germany and onwards through the clandestine Cold War to the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This is essential reading for anyone interested in secret service in the Middle East and Central Asia.’ — Richard Aldrich, Leverhulme Major Research Fellow in Politics & International Relations, University of Warwick

‘It is rare for individuals to have had such a varied life and to have played as important a role against a range of intelligence adversaries as did Ruzi Nazar. This is a thrilling story of one man’s struggle against Nazism, Soviet communism, and radical Islam.’ — Michael Goodman, Professor in Intelligence and International Affairs, King’s College London Department of War Studies

‘What an extraordinary life! If one wrote this survival story as fiction it would be hard to believe. A Dark Path to Freedom is especially useful in its first-hand details of often reviled movements, from the Nazis to Turkey’s far-right—though for Nazar himself, the decolonisation of Central Asia was paramount.’ — Hugh Poulton, author of Top-Hat, the Grey Wolf and the Crescent: Turkish Nationalism and the Turkish Republic 

‘In A Dark Path to Freedom, Enver Altayli captures the sweep of history through the remarkable life of Ruzi Nazar, taking the reader on a lively journey from Central Asia on the eve of World War II, to the horror of that conflict, the intrigue of the ensuing Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.’ — Benjamin Fortna, Director of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, University of Arizona


Enver Altayli is one of Turkey’s leading specialists on Central Asia and a former intelligence officer. A close friend of Ruzi Nazar for over half a century, his biography is based on many weeks of recorded interviews, scholarship on Turkestan and the history of espionage during the Cold War.

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