“Books have been written about him and films have been made. He was highly respected and valued in the secret service,” said a spokesman for the Russian foreign secret service SVR on December 26th.
“He was highly regarded and valued in the secret service. He himself jokingly said, ‘I am a foreign car that has adapted to Russian roads,'” the statement added.
Blake was a double agent who used his position as an officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6, to spy on the Soviet Union.
He was the last in a line of British spies whose clandestine work for the Soviet Union humiliated the country’s intelligence establishment when it was discovered at the height of the Cold War.
Blake was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1922, moved to England in 1942 and moved to the Dutch department of the SIS in August 1944.
“Blake returned from captivity to work for both Soviet and British intelligence and betrayed many agents who were later executed, including a network in East Germany,” said an entry about his life on the website the British government.
The British authorities arrested Blake in April 1961, and he admitted to being a double agent for the Soviet Union.
The spy was sentenced to 42 years in prison, but escaped with the help of other inmates and two peace activists in 1966 after climbing the prison wall with a ladder made of knitting needles.
Blake was smuggled out of Great Britain in a motorhome and passed undetected through Western Europe over the Iron Curtain to East Berlin.
He spent the rest of his life in the Soviet Union and then in Russia, where he was hailed as a hero.
Blake reflected on his life in a 1991 interview with Reuters in Moscow and said he believed the world was on the eve of communism.
“It was an ideal that, if it had been achieved, would have been worth it,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the country’s Order of Friendship to the double agent in 2007. Putin issued a letter of condolence after Blake’s death, which was posted on the Kremlin website.
“Colonel Blake was a brilliant professional of particular vitality and courage,” said Putin.
“Over the years of hard and arduous work he has made a truly invaluable contribution to maintaining strategic parity and keeping the planet peaceful,” the statement added.
UK authorities believe the spy betrayed around 42 British agents, although Blake claimed the real number was 600.