In Russia, an old spy story comes in from the cold

Philby, former First Secretary of the British Embassy in Washington, at a press conference in 1955.

Moscow (CNN)Modern espionage seems dominated by massive troves of data, hacking and intercepts captured by satellites, even troll farms. But in Moscow a tale of espionage from a very different era has resurfaced.

It's been more than 60 years since Kim Philby, an upper-class Englishman with legendary charm, slipped aboard a Russian freighter in Beirut and defected. He'd been a Soviet double agent for years, but the net was closing in.
Russia's foreign intelligence service has released previously unseen secret documents about his spying for the KGB (and its predecessor, the NKVD), and his life in Moscow after 1963. They form part of a new exhibition at the Russian Historical Society in an elegant 19th century mansion in Moscow.
    A decoration awarded by the KGB to Philby for his contribution to the national security of the USSR on display as part of the exhibition.
    In Britain, Philby was and is regarded as a traitor -- one of five double agents known as the Cambridge Five spy ring because of the university they all attended. Throughout the Second World War and beyond, he gave Russian agents reams of British intelligence documents, probably revealing in the process the identities of dozens of informants.
    But many Russians still regard him as a hero for passing on intelligence about the war plans of Nazi Germany and Japan -- which probably saved thousands of Russian lives.

    A key Soviet asset

    Objects from Philby's Moscow apartment on display at the exhibition, including a chair he worked in, radio, and briefcase which a Russian official said never left his side and that he used to smuggle documents.
    The exhibition includes some of those documents as well as the briefcase which Philby used to carry them nonchalantly out of the London headquarters of the foreign-intelligence service MI6. Many are marked "Top Secret -- To Be Kept Under Lock and Key."
    They include a British diplomatic cable about the visit of US Vice President Henry Wallace to Russia and China in 1944. The most interesting, perhaps, is an intercepted telegram from July 31, 1944, containing Benito Mussolini's account to Japan's ambassador in Italy of the attempt by German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler days earlier.
    Mussolini told the ambassador: "The force of the explosion was astonishing and the Fuhrer sustained minor injuries to his left hand and arm ... and some of his hair was burned."