On 9 November Russian television, TV Zvezda, aired a documentary on George Blake brought to you courtesy of the man indicted for the murder of Litvinenko.
Blake was notoriously the MI6 officer who has long defied credulity by claiming a Damscene conversion while a prisoner of war in the hell hole of North Korea in 1951 reading Das Kapital and State and Revolution, both in Russian. He had sent a note to the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang (and how did he do that, one wonders) saying that he wanted to spy for the Soviet Union. Somehow the logic has always escaped me. The KGB officer sent out to North Korea to handle him was Sergei Kondrashyov, actually a Germanist but with fluent English, a diehard fanatic – indeed rather off-putting to any normal soul – later deputy head of foreign intelligence, and later still all too keen to cash in on the end of Soviet rule (he even demanded money up front for access for any archive material.)
For two years Kondrashyov was responsible for Blake and then handled him in London until the new resident Boris Rodin took over in 1956; though what Blake could possibly have done as a POW in Korea it is impossible to guess. Once freed he began serious work in London, of which the fruits included first hand knowledge of a tunnel constructed under Berlin that would allow the West to feed off the telecommunication networks in East Berlin (he was secretary of the joint committee that set it all up.) Blake was then deputy head of department Y in MI6.
Knowing of the tunnel but anxious not to reveal that fact for fear of compromising Blake – Moscow’s best spy that we know of in Britain since the Cambridge 5 – the Russians could not afford to feed disinformation through the military and party networks (which the documentary falsely claims that they did; a claim refuted by other authorities in my history Near and Distant Neighbours.) The tunnel was discovered by accident while Party first secretary Nikita Khrushchev was on a visit in London in April 1956 and – in order to continue courting Prime Minister Macmillan, who never believed any Brit spied for Russia – it was decided only to mention US responsibility for the enterprise when in fact the British actually conceived the affair (this was Peter Lunn who created the Vienna tunnel in the late forties) but needed US money and logistics to make it a reality (the CIA’s false history of the tunnel notwithstanding.)
They interview one of the fools who helped Blake escape from Wormwood Scrubs after he was exposed by a Polish spy and sentenced to 42 years imprisonment. Much tuttering about the inordinate length of the sentence (the Americans would no doubt have given him a lot worse) but given that the Russian equivalents, Colonel Pen’kovskii and Major-General Polyakov, were both shot, this wreaks of the usual hypocrisy.
They interview Blake at length, dressed only as a foreigner would imagine upper middle class Englishmen dress (he even displayed photos of himself incongruously in a Sherlock Holmes outfit.) Blake was actually Dutch but had escaped occupied Holland and joined the Royal Navy from where he graduated rapidly into MI6 destined for the Northern Department. He spoke with a perfect Public School accent and was accordingly sent to study Russian under the notorious Elizabeth Hill in Cambridge. She had escaped the October Revolution and imbued all her students with a love of Russian culture but was fiercely anti-Soviet and took unusual pleasure in slandering any serious students of Soviet history. Yet Blake had a poor accent in Russian – indeed he sounds oddly robotic – and having lived in Moscow for many years seemed far from fluent. So it looks like the professor failed on more than one front.
СЕКРЕТНЫЕ МАТЕРИАЛЫ С АНДРЕЕМ ЛУГОВЫМ
Вторая жизнь офицера Ми-6 Джорджа Блейка