Kim Philby


Kim Philby : biography

1 January 1912 – 11 May 1988

On the evening of 23 January 1963, Philby vanished from Beirut, failing to meet his wife for a dinner party at the home of Glen Balfour-Paul, First Secretary at the British Embassy.Boyle, 438 The Dolmatova, a Soviet freighter bound for Odessa, had left Beirut that morning so abruptly that cargo was left scattered over the docks. Philby claimed that he left Beirut on board this ship.Boyle, 471 However, others maintain that he escaped through Syria, overland to Soviet Armenia and thence to Russia.Morris Riley Philby: The Hidden Years, 1990, Penzance: United Writers’ Publications.

It was not until 1 July 1963 that Philby’s flight to Moscow was officially confirmed. On 30 July Soviet officials announced that they had granted him political asylum in the USSR, along with Soviet citizenship.Boyle, 441


Upon his arrival in Moscow, Philby discovered that he was not a colonel in the KGB, as he had been led to believe. He was paid 500 rubles a month, and his family was not immediately able to join him in exile.Rufina Philby, Mikhail Lyubimov and Hayden Peake. The private life of Kim Philby, the Moscow years. London: St Ermin’s: 1999. It was ten years before he walked through the doors of KGB headquarters, and he was given little real work. Philby was under virtual house arrest, guarded, with all visitors screened by the KGB. Mikhail Lyubimov, his closest KGB contact, explained that this was to guard his safety, but later admitted that the real reason was the KGB’s fear that Philby would return to London.

Philby occupied himself by writing his memoirs, published in England in 1968 under the title My Silent War; it was not published in the Soviet Union until 1980.David Pryce-Jones: October 2004: The New Criterion published by The Foundation for Cultural Review, New York, a nonprofit public foundation as described in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, He continued to read the Times, which was not generally available in the USSR, listened to the BBC World Service, and was an avid follower of cricket.

Though Philby claimed publicly in January 1988 that he did not regret his decisions, and that he missed nothing about England except some friends, Colman’s mustard, and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, his wife Rufina later described Philby as "disappointed in many ways" by what he found in Moscow. "He saw people suffering too much," but he consoled himself by arguing that "the ideals were right but the way they were carried out was wrong. The fault lay with the people in charge." Philby drank heavily and suffered from loneliness and depression; according to Rufina, he had attempted suicide by slashing his wrists in the 1960s.

Philby died of heart failure in Moscow in 1988. Only posthumously did he receive the praise and appreciation which had escaped him in life: he was awarded a hero’s funeral and numerous medals by the USSR, including the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest distinction awarded for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.

Philby in film and television

  • Cambridge Spies, a 2003 four-part BBC drama, recounts the lives of Philby, Burgess, Blunt, and Maclean from their Cambridge days in the 1930s through the defection of Burgess and Maclean in 1951. Philby is played by Toby Stephens.
  • Philby, Burgess and MacLean – Spy Scandal of the Century, a BBC drama produced for TV in 1977, covers the period of the late 1940s, when British intelligence investigated Kim Philby’s colleague Donald Maclean until 1955 when the British government cleared Philby because it did not have enough evidence to convict him.
  • Philby was the inspiration for the character of British intelligence officer Archibald "Arch" Cummings in the 2005 film The Good Shepherd. Cummings is played by Billy Crudup.
  • The 2005 film A Different Loyalty is an unattributed account taken from Eleanor Philby’s book, Kim Philby: The Spy I Loved. The film recounts Philby’s love affair and marriage to Eleanor Brewer during his time in Beirut, and his eventual defection to the Soviet Union in late January 1963.
  • In the 1987 adaptation of the above mentioned Frederick Forsyth novel The Fourth Protocol, Kim Philby is portrayed by Michael Bilton. In contradiction of historical fact, he is murdered by the KGB in the opening scene.
  • In the 2007 (TNT) television three-part series The Company, produced by Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, and John Calley, Philby is portrayed by Tom Hollander.
  • Graham Greene, Kim Philby’s close friend, wrote the screenplay for The Third Man using Philby as a model for Harry Lime, one of the characters.

Philby in music

  • In the song "Philby", from the Top Priority album (1979), Rory Gallagher draws parallels between his life on the road and a spy’s in a foreign country. Sample lyrics : "Now ain’t it strange that I feel like Philby / There’s a stranger in my soul / I’m lost in transit in a lonesome city / I can’t come in from the cold."
  • The Philby affair is mentioned in the Simple Minds song "Up On The Catwalk" from their sixth studio album Sparkle in the Rain. The lyric goes "Up on the catwalk, and you dress in waistcoats / And got brillantino, and friends of Kim Philby."