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Soviet secret police

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Soviet secret police

There was a succession of Soviet secret police agencies over time. The first secret police after the Russian Revolution, created by Vladimir Lenin's decree on December 20, 1917, was called "Cheka" (ЧК). Officers were referred to as "chekists", a name that is still informally applied to people under the Federal Security Service of Russia, the KGB's successor in Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

For most agencies listed here secret policing operations were only part of their function; for instance, the KGB was both the secret police and the intelligence agency.



Organization Chairman Dates
Cheka–GPU–OGPU Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky 1917–26
OGPU Vyacheslav Rudolfovich Menzhinsky 1926–34
NKVD Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda 1934–36
Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov 1936–38
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria 1938–41
NKGB Vsevolod Nikolayevich Merkulov 1941 (Feb–Jul)
NKVD Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria 1941–43
NKGB–MGB Vsevolod Nikolayevich Merkulov 1943–46
MGB Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov 1946–51
Semyon Denisovich Ignatyev 1951–53
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria 1953 (Mar–Jun)
Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov 1953–54
KGB Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov 1954–58
Aleksandr Nikolayevich Shelepin 1958–61
Vladimir Yefimovich Semichastny 1961–67
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov 1967–1982 (Jan-May)
Vitali Vasilyevich Fedorchuk 1982 (May–Dec)
Viktor Mikhailovich Chebrikov 1982–88
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kryuchkov 1988–91
Vadim Viktorovich Bakatin 1991 (Aug–Nov)

Detailed chronology

  • Cheka (abbreviation of Vecheka, itself an acronym for "All-Russian Extraordinary Committee to Combat Counter-Revolution and Sabotage" of the Russian SFSR)
    • Felix Dzerzhinsky (December 20, 1917 - July 7, 1918)
    • Yakov Peters (July 7, 1918 - August 22, 1918)
    • Felix Dzerzhinsky (August 22, 1918 - February 6, 1922)

February 6, 1922: Cheka transforms into GPU, a department of the NKVD of the Russian SFSR.

November 15, 1923: GPU leaves the NKVD and becomes all-union OGPU under direct control of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR.

  • OGPU - "Joint State Political Directorate" or "All-Union State Political Board"

July 10, 1934: NKVD of the Russian SFSR ceases to exist and transforms into the all-union NKVD of the USSR; OGPU becomes GUGB ("Main Directorate for State Security") in the all-union NKVD.

  • NKVD - "People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs"

February 3, 1941: The GUGB of the NKVD was briefly separated out into the NKGB, then merged back in, and then on April 14, 1943 separated out again.

  • NKGB - "People's Commissariat for State Security"
    • Vsevolod Merkulov (February 3, 1941 - July 20, 1941) (NKGB folded back into NKVD)
  • NKVD - "People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs"
    • GUGB - "Main Directorate for State Security"
  • NKGB - "People's Commissariat for State Security"
    • Vsevolod Merkulov (April 14, 1943 - March 18, 1946) (NKGB reseparated from NKVD)

March 18, 1946: All People's Commissariats were renamed to Ministries.

  • MGB - "Ministry for State Security"
    • Viktor Abakumov (March 18, 1946–1951)
    • Semyon Ignatyev (1951 - March 5, 1953)

The East German secret police, the Stasi, took their name from this iteration.

May 30, 1947: Official decision with the expressed purpose of "upgrading coordination of different intelligence services and concentrating their efforts on major directions". In the summer of 1948 the military personnel in KI were returned to the Soviet military to reconstitute foreign military intelligence service (GRU). KI sections dealing with the new East Bloc and Soviet émigrés were returned to the MGB in late 1948. In 1951 the KI returned to the MGB.

March 5, 1953: MVD and MGB are merged into the MVD by Lavrentiy Beria.

  • MVD - "Ministry of Internal Affairs"
    • Lavrentiy Beria (March 5, 1953 - June 26, 1953)
    • Sergei Kruglov (June, 1953 - March 13, 1954)

March 13, 1954: Newly independent force became the KGB, as Beria was purged and the MVD divested itself again of the functions of secret policing. After renamings and tumults, the KGB remained stable until 1991.

In 1991, after the State Emergency Committee failed to overthrow Gorbachev and Yeltsin took over, General Vadim Bakatin was given instructions to dissolve the KGB.

In Russia today, KGB functions are performed by the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), and the Federal Protective Service (FSO). The GRU, Main Intelligence Directorate, continues to operate as well.

See also

Secret Services of Imperial Russia


External links

  • The Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) has the full text of former KGB agent Alexander Vassiliev's Notebooks with evidence of Soviet espionage in the United States during the Cold War
  • Official history of the 1986-1993 (Russian)
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