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The Moscow life of Kim Philby

31.01.2004
 
Pages: 12

Former CIA director Allen Dulles once said that the notorious Cambridge Five, in which Kim Philby was a central figure, had been the most powerful intelligence group during the WWII. Dozens of books have been written about the group, but its numerous deeds will still be hidden under the veil of secrecy for a long time to come. Nevertheless, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service has managed to shed some light on Philby's life after his mysterious disappearance in Beirut on a winter evening in 1963.

Yury Modin, who handled the Cambridge Five and is now a member of the Association of Russian Foreign Intelligence Veterans, recalls how Philby, faced with the obvious threat of being exposed, was secretly taken to the Soviet Union. He reached Moscow safely on January 28, 1963. "I came home at last," he would admit later. He celebrated this date from that moment as the day of his first encounter with the USSR.

Little is known, however, about the last third of his life (between 1963 and 1988) as his intelligence activities were kept secret. And Philby himself never encouraged interest in himself. This allowed journalists to use their imagination when writing their stories about him. One claimed that Philby lived in dire poverty. Another story alleged that every day a car took him to the Lubyanka KGB headquarters where he held a senior post and had his own office. However, in reality, Philby went to the KGB only once, as late as 1977, 14 years after his arrival in Moscow. He was then a guest and, speaking to his colleagues, joked that he had official passes to seven leading intelligence centres - four in Britain (the Secret Intelligence Service, the Special Operations Executive, MI-5 and the Code and Cipher School) - and three in the USA - the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency. "Now I can say that today there are eight intelligence organisations that I have penetrated."

The lack of accessible information about the super-spy led to all kinds of conjectures about his role in anti-British plotting pursued by Moscow. They culminated in the book "The Fourth Protocol" by Frederick Forsyth, in which Philby was involved in a devilish plan to organise a nuclear explosion in Britain. When the book came out, Philby asked for a copy and used to read it now and again with a wry smile.

In reality, his life was more ordinary. While living in Moscow, he held the post of a KGB consultant on the activities of Western intelligence services. During his trips around the Soviet Union, he readily spoke to officers at local security bodies, recalling his work in the intelligence services in Britain. He had a great deal to share with his Soviet colleagues. As former intelligence officer and acclaimed author Graham Greene said that any Western intelligence initiative had been compromised when Philby was at the height of his career.

 

In his first years in the Soviet capital, Philby was given a passport in the fictitious name of Andrei Fyodorov, while his true name was written in his Soviet residence permit. Later, he chose a different surname, which looked more suitable and neutral - Martins. He received a new passport in the name of "Andrei Fyodorovich Martins, a Lett born in New York."

He encountered some difficulties in getting used to his new life. To make up the lack of English speaking people around him and his usual comrades, a subscription was taken out for him to The Times and Herald Tribune, which he collected at the Main Post Office. He had his library brought to him from London without difficulty, while "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," works by Herodotus and Plutarch and books written by British novelists appeared in his Moscow flat. He regularly listened to BBC and Voice of America broadcasts and read John Le Carre novels.

Philby's memoirs, published in Russia and abroad, were entitled "My Silent War". And in 1967 Izvestia, the most authoritative paper in Russia at that time published the first article about the legendary intelligence officer. It was called "Hello, Comrade Philby."

In the 1970s, he frequently met professionals studying Britain. Young officers waited for the legendary super-spy in a secret KGB apartment in the centre of Moscow. After a few introductory words, he would relieve the tension and "tune in" to a confiding, professional talk. Intelligence officer Mikhail Bogdanov, who knew Philby, recalls such meetings.

"Philby's Seminars were held with small gaps from 1976 almost up to his death. About 15 young people specialising in British studies attended the seminars. Two or three hours would pass in no time at all. After a brief introduction, Philby (who insisted that his students call him by his first name - Kim, or at least Comrade Kim) was followed by a lively discussion. Naturally they spoke English. Then the most interesting thing began. Philby offered various intelligence situations that were followed by detailed analysis. In one situation, a British counterintelligence agent was trying to get out of a Soviet diplomat who had just arrived from the USSR what his other job really was. In another situation, the teacher became an official communications agent, who during a talk would randomly throw up a precious piece of information, which an intelligence agent had to notice and develop. At the end of each session, the students were dripping with sweat. It is hard

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