Kim Philby Biography

(Intelligence Agent)
Kim Philby

Birthday: January 1, 1912 (Capricorn)

Born In: Ambala, Punjab, British India

Kim Philby was a British intelligence officer, who became notorious in Great Britain for his role as a Soviet double agent. Indoctrinated into communist ideology while studying in Cambridge, he was recruited into the Soviet intelligence at the age of twenty-two. At the age of twenty-eight, he joined British Secret Intelligence Service and quickly rose in ranks, concurrently continuing to provide vital information to the Soviets not only during the Second World War, but also in the early stages of the Cold War.  Eventually at the age of thirty-nine, he was forced to resign from his post when the disappearance of two of his colleagues put him under suspicion. But soon acquitted from all charges, he moved to Beirut, where he started working as a journalist. Finally, at the age of fifty-one, he defected to USSR, where he lived until his death, posthumously earning many medals for his services.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Harold Adrian Russell Philby

Died At Age: 76


Spouse/Ex-: Rufina Pukhova (m. 1971), Aileen Furse, Eleanor Brewer, Litzi Friedmann

father: St John Philby

mother: Dora Johnston

children: Dudley Thomas Philby, Harry George Philby, John David Philby, Josephine F. Philby, Josephine Philby, Miranda Philby, Tommy Philby

Born Country: India

Spies British Men

Died on: May 11, 1988

place of death: Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

More Facts

education: Trinity College, Westminster School

awards: Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the Red Banner
Order of Lenin

Order of the Patriotic War 1st class
Order of Friendship of Peoples

Childhood & Early Years

Kim Philby was born as Harold Adrian Russell Philby on 1 January 1912, in Ambala, a town located in the Indian state of Punjab. Nicknamed “Kim” after the eponymous hero of the popular Rudyard Kipling novel, he was raised as a child by his Punjabi nanny and spoke broken Punjabi.

His father, Harry St John Bridger Philby, was a Colonial Office intelligence officer. Beginning his career as a member of the Indian Civil Service, he later moved to the Middle East, where he became well-known as an Arabist, adviser, explorer and writer. His mother, Dora nee Johnston, was his father’s first wife.

Born eldest of his parents’ four children, Kim Philby had three younger sisters called Diana, Helena and Patricia. Later his father converted to Islam and married Rozy al-Abdul Aziz, fathering four more sons, Fahad, Sultan, Faris and Khaled, with her.

After completing his education at Aldro preparatory school in Surrey, England, Kim followed his father’s footsteps to join Westminster School, London and graduated from there in 1928. Thereafter, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, on a scholarship, studying history and economics until his graduation in 1933.

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Becoming Indoctrinated

Kim Philby was first introduced to communism while studying at Cambridge. In 1933, he moved to Vienna, where he started helping refugees from Nazi Germany, delivering clothes and money to them, acting as a courier between Vienna and Prague. His British passport helped him to evade suspicion.

In April 1934, he returned to London and in June he was recruited into the Soviet intelligence services by Arnold Deutsch. In return, Philby recommended names of some of his Cambridge contemporaries like Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess to Deutsch. Soon he began his career as a journalist.


In February 1937, Kim Philby moved to Spain, where from May, he started operating as a first-hand correspondent for The Times, covering the Spanish Civil War and the Battle of France. Concurrently, he started working for the British and Soviet intelligence, returning to The Times office in London in July 1939.

In early 1940, Kim Philby joined MI6's Section D on the recommendation of Guy Burgess, by then established as a British secret agent and a Soviet double agent. By September 1941, he was shifted to Section Five, which was responsible for offensive counter-intelligence, becoming its deputy head by 1941-42.

In 1945, he became head of counterespionage operations for MI-6, entrusted with combating Soviet subversion in Western Europe. All along, he continued to work for the Soviets. However, it was not an easy job.

In August 1945, NKVD agent, Konstantin Volkov, requested asylum in Britain, offering names of three Soviet agents inside Britain. Given the task of dealing with Volkov, Philby secretly warned the Soviets and traveled personally to Istanbul to neutralize him. However, Volkov was removed to Moscow before he could reach Turkey.

In February 1947, Philby was posted as the First Secretary at the British Consulate at Istanbul. In reality, he was the head of British intelligence for Turkey, entrusted with the job of supervising British agents in collaboration with the Turkish security services.

In September 1949, he was sent to Washington DC, officially as the First Secretary at the British Embassy, while his actual position was that of chief British intelligence representative. It was a tricky post because it had already discovered that somebody from the British Embassy was leaking messages to the Russians.

In April 1950, his Cambridge contemporary Donald MacLean became prime suspect in the Embassy leak. Despite that, Philby continued with his mission, alerting USSR in 1950 of an Allied plan to send armed anticommunist bands into Albania, leading to their defeat.

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In 1951, he warned Guy Burgess, now rather unstable from alcoholism, that MacLean must leave the country and became anxious when he learned that SIS was planning to interrogate Maclean on 28 May. He again sent them coded message.

On 26 May, 1951, Burges and MacLean left UK, eventually surfacing in Moscow. Their disappearance as well as Philby’s intimacy with Burgess put him under the scanner. Called back to London, he had to go through thorough interrogation, constantly denying that he was the third man in MacLean’s ring.

After MI6

In July 1951, Kim Philby resigned from his position and in August 1954 accepted a position with a diplomatic newsletter called the ‘Fleet Street Letter’. Eventually on 7 November 1955, he was officially cleared of his charges by Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan.

In August 1956 he moved to Beirut as a Middle East correspondent for The Observer and The Economist, living there until he learned that his case had come up once again and he was to be interrogated by the end of January 1963

He disappeared from Beirut on the evening of 23 January, 1963, eventually landing in Moscow. In the early 1970s, he found employment with the KGB's Active Measures Department, where he churned out fabricated documents, which were later stamped “Top Secret” and then circulated.

Awards & Achuevements

For his services to the USSR, he had been posthumously awarded with several medals, which include Hero of the Soviet Union, Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Friendship of Peoples, Order of the Great Patriotic War, Lenin Medal, Jubilee Medal "Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945".

He was also awarded ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’ (OBE) for his services during World War II; but was stripped of this title in 1965.

Family & Personal Life

On 24 February 1934, while in Vienna, he married his first wife, Litzi Friedmann, a committed revolutionary for whom his British passport was a way to safety. They separated soon after moving to London, formally divorcing in 1946.

In 1940, he began living with Aileen Furse; eventually marrying her on 25 September 1946. The couple had five children, Josephine, John, Tommy, Miranda and Harry George, who were born between 1941 and 1950. Aileen died of influenza in December 1957.

In 1956, Kim Philby began an affair with Eleanor Brewer and married her in January 1959. The couple divorced in 1965, two years after he defected to USSR.

1971, he married Rufina Ivanovna Pukhova, a Russo-Polish woman twenty years younger to him, living with her until his death in 1988

He died of heart failure in Moscow on May 11, 1988 and was given a hero’s funeral.

In November 2018, a square in Moscow was named after Philby.

See the events in life of Kim Philby in Chronological Order

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