- BBC World News
George Blake’s name will forever be linked to one of the most infamous chapters in the history of the Cold War and, in particular, of British intelligence.
Blake, whose death at age 98 was announced this Saturday by the Russian press, was a British secret service agent MI6 who became a double agent for the KGB in the middle of the Cold War.
Over 9 years, gave the Soviets valuable information revealing the identity of at least 40 MI6 agents in Eastern Europe and, as he himself said, hundreds of Western spies.
In 1960 he was discovered and imprisoned but six years later he managed to escape to Russia, where he resided until his death.
The Russian Intelligence Service described him this Saturday as someone who “had a real love for our country.”
On a note of condolence, the president Vladimir Putin he appreciated Blake’s “strenuous and strenuous efforts” in service to the Soviets.
“He made a truly invaluable contribution to ensuring strategic parity and the preservation of peace on the planet. Our hearts will always cherish the warm memory of this legendary man“, he pointed.
From the Dutch resistance to the KGB
Blake, whose original name was George Behar, was born in the Dutch city of Rotterdam on November 11, 1922.
He was the son of a Spanish Jew who fought in the ranks of the British Army during World War I and who acquired citizenship of that country.
During World War II, Blake worked for the Dutch resistance, before escaping to Gibraltar.
Later, thanks to his career and background, he was proposed to join the British secret service, MI6.
In an interview with the BBC in 1990, Blake claimed that estimated to have betrayed more than 500 Western agents but he denied that 42 of them had lost their lives as a result of his actions.
His downfall came when a Polish secret service officer, Michael Goleniewski, defected to the West, bringing with him his lover and details about a Soviet double agent in British intelligence.
So Blake was called to London and arrested. In a subsequent trial, he pleaded guilty to five counts of transmitting information to the Soviet Union.
In 1961, it was sentenced to 42 years in jail for spying for the Soviets but did not serve his sentence as he managed to escape in 1965.
Helping the KGB
Analisis de Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent
George Blake did enormous damage to British intelligence operations during the Cold War, betraying agents, revealing secret operations, and showing that the KGB could command agents within the heart of the British state.
His escape from prison added an additional source of embarrassment to authorities in the UK.
The reasons behind Blakeson’s actions remain a mystery, particularly those that led to his initial recruitment.
When I contacted him a decade ago, he told me: “It is no longer of particular importance to me whether my motivations are understood or not.”
Part of the problem for him was that He had chosen communism but lived to see its collapse and the end of the Soviet Union, living his days in Russia, where he was still viewed as a hero by the KGB’s successors.
His escape from Wormwood Scrubs Prison was brought to the theater in 1995 in the play Cell Mates (cellmates) starring actors Stephen Fry and Rik Mayall.
20 years later, in 2015, the BBC documentary Masterspy of Moscow showed what he described as “the strange life” of an “enigmatic traitor”.
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