1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Cold War double agent George Blake dies

December 26, 2020

George Blake, a British spy who passed secrets to the Soviet KGB during the Cold War, has died at the age of 98. He was considered a hero in Russia after exposing hundreds of Western agents.

George Blake at a news conference in Moscow in 1992
George Blake lived out the rest of his life in RussiaImage: Boris Yurchenko/AP Photo/picture alliance

George Blake, a British spy who worked as a double agent for the Soviet Union, has died at the age of 98, Russian news agencies reported on Saturday.

An agent for the British foreign intelligence service MI6, Blake named hundreds of Western agents to the Soviet KGB in the 1950s. His case was among the most notorious of the Cold War.

Born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1922, Blake joined the Dutch resistance in World War II before escaping to Britain in January 1943. After serving in the British Navy, he joined MI6 in 1944. 

He served three years in Hamburg before he was sent to Korea to gather intelligence on Communist North Korea, Communist China and the Soviet Far East. He was captured and imprisoned in 1950 when North Korean soldiers took Seoul during the Korean War.

He returned to Britain in 1953 after his release and was sent to East Berlin two years later. There, he collected information on Soviet spies, but also passed secrets to Moscow about British and US operations.

Exposed in the 1960s

Blake was exposed as a double agent in 1961 and was sentenced to 42 years in prison. He broke out of prison five years later using a rope ladder with the help of three cellmates and fled across the Iron Curtain to the Soviet Union, where he would live out his remaining days.

Blake, who went by the Russian name Georgy Ivanovich, was awarded the rank of colonel by the Russian intelligence service, from which he received a pension. Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent himself, awarded Blake a medal in 2007.

On Saturday, Putin expressed his "deep condolences" to Blake's family and friends. "The memory of this legendary person will be preserved forever in our hearts," the Russian leader wrote in a condolence message on the Kremlin website.

dv/aw (AFP, Reuters)