George Blake is 93, a former MI6 agent and convicted KGB mole now living in Russia. Last year his story was told in a BBC documentary, George Blake: Masterspy of Moscow, by George Carey. Yesterday we examined Blake’s colorful early years and his conversion to Communism, an ideology that he regarded as “an attempt to create the kingdom of God in this world.” Taken custody by the North Koreans after the outbreak of the Korean War, Blake was “freed” after three years in their custody and returned along with other captured Brits to the U.K., where he was hailed by the Fleet Street press – and by his colleagues in MI6 – as a hero.
But Blake was no hero – not for the West, anyway. He was now a counterspy. Based in London, and later in Berlin and Lebanon, Blake proved to be a highly reliable Soviet asset, photographing classified British and American documents that crossed his desk and handing them over to KGB contacts on a regular basis. This went on for several years, and ended only after a Polish intelligence officer – who was himself a double agent, working for the Brits – turned over information to MI6 showing what Blake was up to.
Summoned to London, Blake was interrogated for two days, during which he repeatedly denied being a KGB mole. On the morning of the third day, however, when his questioners suggested that he’d switched sides as a result of torture or blackmail while in Korea, he insisted defiantly that he’d never had any such motive: he’d offered his services to the KGB, he said, “of my own free will.”
His case made headlines. Sentenced to 42 years in prison, he was incarcerated at Wormwood Scrubs in London. In 1966, with the help of friends on both the inside and outside, he escaped, and managed to make his way to Russia, where the KGB were “good to him.” “Showered with medals,” he was given a nice apartment in central Moscow and a prestigious job in a think tank. He’d left behind a wife and children in Britain, but he found a new wife in the USSR and had more children.
“George has never had any regrets,” a cousin of his said on the BBC documentary. This, even though the information he supplied to the KGB resulted in the arrest of about 100 Soviet officials who were secretly working for the West. Six MI6 agents he fingered for the KGB “were imprisoned for up to 17 years inside East Germany, serving time in jails notorious for torture and psychological intimidation of inmates,” reported the Telegraph. One is now believed to have been taken to Moscow and executed.”
“I’m still a Communist,” Blake said in the late 1980s. Not long afterwards, the USSR collapsed. One wonders whether he was surprised to find out just how few of his fellow Soviet residents actually believed in the ideology that was their government’s excuse for controlling their lives.
The irony is rich: the Iron Curtain came down, and Russia and its satellites joined the family of nations, their people finally able to speak their minds, run their own lives, travel the world. But Blake, a convicted spy, had no choice but to stay in Russia, a living relic of another era. To avoid re-imprisonment in Britain, he lived in Russia, in a prison of his own making. Anecdotal evidence suggests that he’s less than delighted by this fate; according to an old friend, Blake, somehow unable to grasp that his past couldn’t be “forgiven and forgotten” as easily as he would like, has actually looked into the possibility of returning to the Netherlands.
And so he remains in Russia, a nonagenarian who’d “believed that his fate was to do God’s work on earth” – but whose destiny, it turned out, was to spend his old age as a living reminder of his own dead, twisted dream, a dream, as Carey’s documentary pointed out, “for which he’d done so much damage to Britain.”