Soviet Intelligence Agents and Suspected Agents

Soviet Intelligence Agents and Suspected Agents

(KV 2/1391-1409)

Rose Cohen and David Petrovskiy

(KV 2/1395-1397) and (KV 2/1433)

Rose Cohen (1894-?) initially came to MI5's attention during investigation of Suffragette activists, but became known principally as a British Communist activist and journalist. She was close friends with many leading British Communists in the 1920s and '30s, including Eva Reckitt (see KV 2/1369-1375) and Harry Pollitt (whose lover she is supposed to have been). She travelled frequently abroad and worked in Berlin and eventually Moscow, where she married David Petrovskiy. Petrovskiy was executed in the Stalinist purges in 1937, at which time Cohen was sentenced to internal exile in the far east of Russia. Her eventual fate is not known.

KV 2/1395, covering 1916-1928, dates from the initial MI5 interest in Cohen, but really only gathers pace in 1922, when the first Home Office warrant against Cohen was issued. The reconstituted file includes the product of telephone and correspondence watches on her, as well as information culled from her expired passport. There is some confusion noticeable on file between her and other suspects also called Rose. The file includes a 1925 period passport photograph.

This correspondence continues in KV 2/1396, covering 1929-1938, by which time Cohen was working in Russia, but continuing a lengthy correspondence with colleagues in Britain, especially Reckitt. The file ends with press reports of Cohen's arrest, and actions taken by the Foreign Office to act on her behalf to the Soviet authorities. A note sent by the Security Service to the Foreign Office giving details of her past history is included.

The last file, KV 2/1397 (1938-1952), concludes with reports carried in the press about Cohen's exile to the Ussuri River region of Siberia, but there is little further action on file, except for later (1952) confusion between David Petrovskiy and another subject of a personal file. The file contains a series of burnt history sheets detailing the history of the case, and including a later (1935) passport photograph of Cohen.

The reconstituted file on David Petrovskiy (KV 2/1433) covers 1921 to 1938, and is mainly concerned with trying to ascertain his true identity. Petrovskiy held official Comintern positions, but also operated under various pseudonyms including, for his dealings in the United States and Britain, Alfred John Bennett. There was another British communist, David Bennett, and to further confuse matters the pseudonym Bennett was taken over by Petrovskiy's successor, Yablinski, when Petrovskiy lost his position in Comintern. The file includes comparisons of the various 'A J Bennett' signatures and a passport application from 1925 in the name of Bennett. The main interest in Petrovskiy was in his connection to Cohen, and this file should be read in conjunction with her files. The file includes newspaper reports of his trial and execution.

KV 2/1428-1429 contain, respectively, copies of the RCMP report of November 1945 into espionage in Canada, and the royal commission report of June 1946.