Richard Sorge was born in Baku in Azerbaijan, then part of Czarist Russia. His father was German and his mother was Russian. Sorge became a German citizen.
Shortly after World War I Sorge became a marxist and a member of the German Communist Party (KPD). He was recruited as a Soviet spy in the 1920s. Sorge had studied economics and taught at university, but his communist politics (and the premature death of his teacher) destroyed his academic career. Sorge worked as a journalist, when he was the head of a Soviet spy ring in Japan. Hitler's Germany was Japan's ally and Sorge went to Japan officially attached to the German Embassy. He was an accredited correspondent of the leading German journal Frankfurter Zeitung.