Isaac Folkoff

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Isaac Folkoff
Born 1881
Died 1975 (?)
Spouse(s) Minni
Spying career
Allegiance Soviet Union
Codename(s) Uncle
  Isaac Volkov
Other work helped found the California Communist Party

Isaac "Pop" Folkoff also known as "Volkov,"[1] "Folconoff,"[2] and "Uncle"[3] (1881[4] -1975), was a senior founding member of the California Communist Party and West Coast liaison between Soviet intelligence and the Communist Party USA (CPUSA).[5]


In 1904, a 24-year-old Folkoff arrived San Francisco, where he ran an embroidery business.[4]

He helped found the California Communist Party and had gone as a delegate for the founding of the Communist International ("Comintern") in Moscow in 1919.[4]

A former garment presser and self-taught Marxist philosopher, Folkoff specialized in fund-raising for party causes.

He was in charge of West Coast operations. He worked as a courier passing information to and from Soviet sources, and as a talent spotter and vetter of potential espionage recruits. He also worked as a Case Officer. His code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona files was "Uncle".

Notes taken in 1939 by Adolph Berle show that Whittaker Chambers told him:

West Coast-Head : "The Old Man"-Volkov is his real name - daughter a Comintern courier. He knows the West Coast underground-Residence: San Francisco or Oakland[1]

When Grigory Markovich Kheifitz, formerly personal secretary to Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, came to San Francisco in 1941, he began meeting with Folkoff to develop information and recruit intelligence workers among American Communists.[4]


According to the National Security Agency, Folkoff appears in several Venona descripts as "Uncle":

  • April 18, 1945: "Uncle told us..."[6]
  • May 18, 1945: "According to information from Uncle..."[7]


Folkoff married Minni. 1930 census data shows that their niece Minnie Folkoff and nephew Robert Folkoff lived with them at the time. Robert Folkoff was a veteran of World War I.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. p. 468. LCCN 52005149. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. 
  2. ^ Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities. Government Printing Office. 20 July 1949 [6 May 1949]. p. 209. Retrieved 15 June 2016. 
  3. ^ "Agent Isaac Folkoff reports about local Communist Party personalities". National Security Agency. 9 April 1979. Retrieved 15 June 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d Schwartz, Stephen (26 July 1996). "Soviet Spies Cast a Wide Net in S.F.: Decoded messages reveal activities of KGB in the '40s". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  5. ^ John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), ISBN 0300077718, p. 357
  6. ^ "18 April Isaac Folkoff" (PDF). National Security Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "18 May Isaac Folkoff" (PDF). National Security Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 


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