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“The Portland Spy Ring” by Stephen Dalziel – Thursday, 11 February, 19:00

Thursday 11 February, 2021, 19:00 - 20:30

Morris Cohen – an American Communist who worked for the USSR

Espionage, spies and secrets are words which excite great curiosity, even fear. Is it the world of James Bond? Or was John le Carré closer to the mark? The Portland Spy Ring of the late 1950s and early 1960s showed how espionage can involve people who live apparently ordinary lives. But serious damage was done to British interests.






WHEN: Thursday, 11 February 2021, 19:00 (GMT)

Please register in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


About the speaker

Stephen Dalziel

Stephen Dalziel has been involved with the Soviet Union and Russia from an early age. After studying Russian in school he gained a degree in Russian Studies from the University of Leeds, which included spending a year in the USSR. He spent six years as a Soviet military analyst at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, before moving to the BBC World Service as Russian Affairs Analyst. During 16 years at the BBC, Stephen reported on the collapse of the USSR, the chaos of the 1990s and the rise of Vladimir Putin, interviewing many of those who helped bring about the changes, notably Mikhail Gorbachev. After leaving the BBC, Stephen ran the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce for five years, and for nearly a decade has worked independently on a number of projects, in recent years translating political and history books from Russian to English.

For more information about Stephen Dalziel’s work, please visit his website www.sdwriting.org 


Stephen’s comments on some of the participants’ questions:

To Susan Dennehy: No, Yevgeny Ivanov (who was involved with Christine Keeler in the Profumo Affair) wasn’t involved with the Portland Spy Ring. Even though he was at the Soviet Embassy in London from March 1960 – January 1963, by this time (indeed, from July 1959) Houghton was being handled entirely by Molody (Lonsdale) and his connection with the Embassy had been terminated.

To Jane Milton and her sister, Sarah Thomson: Thank you SO much for adding your experience to the story. It was fascinating having you in the audience, able to bring in your father’s memories of the case. A fantastic addition. Thank you very much!

To Robin Spratt: It seems that, despite the lack of an ideology (as you rightly point out) the KGB is not having a problem recruiting – although what may be questionable is the quality of candidates. Putin has raised up the security services, so there is a certain prestige in working for them. But this doesn’t always bring in the best people, and the kind of mistakes made by e.g. the GRU agents who went to Salisbury to kill Sergei Skipal or those who failed to kill Navalny shows a level of incompetence which (I am guessing) would annoy Putin! For more on the security services, I recommend the various books by Andrei Soldatov, an excellent investigative journalist.


Stephen mentioned the book “Dead Doubles” by Trevor Barnes during his talk. You can find it on Weidenfeld & Nicolson publisher website and on Amazon.


Thursday 11 February, 2021
19:00 - 20:30
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