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{{Infobox Government agency
agency_name = Committee for State Security
nativename =
nativename_a = Комитет государственной безопасности
nativename_r = Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti
seal = Emblema KGB.svg
seal_width =
seal_caption = The KGB Sword-and-Shield emblem.
flag =
formed = 20 December 1917 (Cheka)
13 March 1954 (KGB)
flag =
preceding1 = MGB - Ministry for State Security
counterpart = Stasi Romanian secret police other Soviet Union police's
Warsaw pact counter part = Stasi Romanian secret police other Soviet Union police's
brother agency{s} = Stasi Romainian secret policen other Sovietmarker secret police's
dissolved = 22 October 1991 (de facto)
3 December 1991 (de jure)
(official) superseding = Federal Security Service (FSS)
jurisdiction = Council of Ministers of the USSR
headquarters = Moscowmarker, Russian SFSR, Soviet Unionmarker
latm=45 |lats=31.2 |latNS=N
longm=37 |longs=32.16 |longEW=E
region_code = RU
country of origin =
minister1_name =
minister1_pfo =
minister2_name =
minister2_pfo =(etc.)
chief1_name =
chief1_position =
chief2_name =
chief2_position -(etc.)
parent_agency =
child1_agency =
child2_agency =
child3_agency =
child4_agency =
website =
footnotes =}}

The KGB (КГБ, , Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti) was the national security agency of the USSRmarker. The Russian pronunciation of KGB is ( ). From 1954 until 1991, the Committee for State Security was the Soviet Union's premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization.

The contemporary State Security Agency of the Nation of Belarus uses the Russian name KGB. Linguistically, among the Western press, KGB denotes "secret service" in referring to the FSB. Most information remains classified, yet two on-line documentary sources are available.


KGB is the Russian abbreviation of Committee for State Security, which was the official name of the umbrella organization serving as the Soviet Union's premier security agency, secret police, and intelligence agency, from 1954 to 1991.

Modus operandi

Many experts consider the KGB to have been the world's most effective intelligence agency in its time. It operated legal and illegal espionage residencies in target countries where the legal resident spied from the Soviet embassy, and, if caught, was protected with diplomatic immunity from prosecution; at best, the compromised spy either returned to Russia or was expelled by the target country government. The illegal resident spied unprotected by diplomatic immunity and worked independently of the Soviet diplomatic and trade missions, (cf. the non-official cover CIA agent). In its early history, the KGB valued illegal spies more than legal spies, because illegals penetrated their targets more easily. The KGB residency executed four types of espionage: (i) political, (ii) economic, (iii) military-strategic, and (iv) disinformation, effected with "active measures" (PR Line), counter-intelligence and security (KR Line), and scientific–technologic intelligence (X Line); quotidian duties included SIGINT (RP Line) and illegal support (N Line).

At first, using the romantic and intellectual allure of "The First Worker–Peasant State" (1917), "The Fight Against Fascism" (1936–39), and the "Anti-Nazi Great Patriotic War" (1941–45) the Soviets recruited many idealistic, high-level Westerners as ideological agents . . . but the Russo–German Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939) and the suppressed Hungarian Uprising (1956) and Prague Spring (1968) mostly ended ideological recruitment. By the 1960s and 1970s, the Red Army's invasions and the infirm Brezhnev's corrupt, poor leadership repelled young, left-wing radicals from the Soviet Socialist cause—so, the KGB blackmailed and bribed Westerners into spying for the Soviet Union.

The KGB classed its spies as agents (intelligence providers) and controllers (intelligence relayers). The false-identity legend assumed by a Russian-born illegal spy was elaborate, the life of either a "live double" (participant to the fabrication) or a "dead double" (whose identity is tailored to the spy). The agent then substantiated his or her legend by living it in a foreign country, before emigrating to the target country; thus the sending of US-bound illegal residents via the Soviet residency in Ottawamarker, Canadamarker. Tradecraft included stealing and photographing documents, code-names, contacts, targets, and dead letter boxes, and working as "friend of the cause" agents provocateur who infiltrate the target's group to sow dissension, influence policy, and arrange kidnaps and assassinations.


The Cheka was established to defend the October Revolution and the nascent Bolshevik state from its enemies—principally the monarchist White Army. To ensure the Bolshevik régime's survival, it suppressed counter-revolution with domestic terror and international deception. The scope of foreign intelligence operations prompted Lenin to authorise the Cheka's creation of the INO (Innostranyi Otdel – Foreign-intelligence Department)—the precursor to the First Chief Directorate (FCD) of the KGB. In 1922, Lenin's régime re-named the Cheka as the State Political Directorate (OGPU).

The OGPU expanded Soviet espionage nationally and internationally, and provided to Stalin the head personal bodyguard Nikolai Vlasik. The vagaries of Stalin's paranoia influenced the OGPU's performance and direction in the 1930s, i.e. fantastic Trotskyist conspiracies, etc. Acting as his own analyst, Stalin unwisely subordinated intelligence analysis to collecting it; eventually, reports pandered to his conspiracy fantasies. The middle history of the KGB culminates in the Great Purge (1936–38) killings of civil, military, and government people deemed politically unreliable—among them, chairmen Genrikh Yagoda (1938) and Nikolai Yezhov (1940); later, Lavrentiy Beria (1953) followed suit. Ironically, Yezhov denounced Yagoda for executing the Great Terror, which from 1937 to 1938 is called Yezhovshchina, the especially cruel "Yezhov era".

In 1941, under Chairman Lavrentiy Beria, the OGPU became the NKGB (People's Commissariat for State Security, integral to the NKVD) and recovered from the Great Purge of the thirties. Yet, the NKGB unwisely continued pandering to Stalin's conspiracy fantasies—whilst simultaneously achieving its deepest penetrations of the West. Next, Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov centralised the intelligence agencies, re-organising the NKGB as the KI (Komitet Informatsii – Committee of Information), composed (1947–51) of the MGB (Ministry for State Security) and the GRU (Foreign military Intelligence Directorate). In practice making an ambassador head of the MGB and GRU legal residencies in his embassy; intelligence operations are under political control; the KI ended when Molotov incurred Stalin's disfavor.Despite its political end, the KI's contribution to Soviet Intelligence was reliant upon illegal residents- spies able to establish a more secure base of operations in the target country.

Moreover, expecting to succeed Stalin as leader of the USSR, the ambitious head of the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs), Lavrentiy Beria merged the MGB and the MVD on Stalin's death in 1953. Anticipating a coup d'etat, the Presidium swiftly eliminated Beria with treasonous charges of "criminal anti-Party and anti-state activities" and executed him. In the event, the MGB was renamed KGB and detached from the MVD.

Mindful of ambitious spy chiefs—and after deposing Premier Nikita Krushchev—Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and the CPSU knew to manage the next over-ambitious KGB Chairman, Aleksandr Shelepin (1958–61), who facilitated Brezhnev's Stalinist palace coup d'état against Khrushchev in 1964—despite Shelepin not then being in KGB. With political reassignments, Shelepin protégé Vladimir Semichastny (1961–67) was sacked as KGB Chairman, and Shelepin, himself, was demoted from chairman of the Committee of Party and State Control to Trade Union Council chairman.

In the 1980s, the glasnost liberalisation of Soviet society provoked KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov (1988–91) to lead the August 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt to depose President Mikhail Gorbachev. By then, however, Soviet society's disrespect for the KGB had (among other reasons) exhausted popular support for the régime of the CPSU. The thwarted coup d'état ended the KGB on 6 November 1991. The KGB's successors are the secret police agency FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) and the espionage agency SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service).

KGB in the US

The world war interregnum

That responsibility fell to the GRU (military intelligence), who recruited the ideological agents Julian Wadleigh and Alger Hiss, who became State Department diplomats in 1936. The NKVD's first US operation was establishing the legal residency of Boris Bazarov and the illegal residency of Iskhak Akhmerov in 1934. Throughout, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and its Gen.-Sec'y Earl Browder, helped NKVD recruit Americans working in government, business, and industry.

Other important, high-level ideological agents were the diplomats Laurence Duggan and Michael Whitney Straight in the State Department, the statistician Harry Dexter White in the Treasury Departmentmarker, the economist Lauchlin Currie (an FDR advisor), and the "Silvermaster Group", headed by statistician Greg Silvermaster, in the Farm Security Administration and the Board of Economic Warfare. Moreover, when Whittaker Chambers, formerly Alger Hiss's courier, approached the Roosevelt Government—to identify the Soviet spies Duggan, White, and others—he was ignored. Hence, during the Second World War (1939–45)—at the Teheran (1943), Yaltamarker (1945), and Potsdam (1945) conferences—Big Three Ally Uncle Joe Stalin of the USSR, was better-informed about the war affairs of his US and UK allies, than they about his.

Soviet espionage succeeded most in collecting scientific and technologic intelligence about advances in jet propulsion, radar, and encryption, which impressed Moscow, but stealing atomic secrets was the capstone of NKVD espionage against Anglo–American science and technology. To wit, British Manhattan Project team physicist Klaus Fuchs (GRU 1941) was the main agent of the Rosenberg spy ring. In 1944, the New York City residency infiltrated the top secret Los Alamos National Laboratorymarker in New Mexico, by recruiting Theodore Hall, a nineteen-year-old Harvard physicist.

During the Cold War

The KGB failed to rebuild most of its US illegal resident networks. The aftermath of the Second Red Scare (1947–57), McCarthyism, and the destruction of the CPUSA hampered recruitment. The last, major illegal resident, Rudolf Abel ("Willie" Vilyam Fisher) was betrayed by his assistant, Reino Häyhänen, in 1957.

Recruitment then emphasised mercenary agents, an approach especially successful in scientific and technical espionage—because private industry practiced lax internal security, unlike the US Government. In late 1967, the notable KGB success was the walk-in recruitment of US Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Anthony Walker who individually and via the Walker Spy Ring for eighteen years enabled Soviet Intelligence to decipher some one million US Navy messages, and track the US Navy.

In the late Cold War, the KGB was lucky with intelligence coups with the cases of the mercenary walk-in recruits, FBI man Robert Hanssen (1979–2001) and CIA Soviet Division officer Aldrich Ames (1985).

KGB in the Soviet Bloc

KGB prison doors displayed in the Museum of Occupations, Tallinn, Estonia.

It was Cold War policy for the KGB of the Soviet Union and the satellite-state KGBs to extensively monitor public and private opinion, internal subversion, and possible revolutionary plots in the Soviet Bloc. In supporting those Communist governments, the KGB was instrumental in crushing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the Prague Spring of "Socialism with a Human Face", in 1968 Czechoslovakia.

During the Hungarian revolt, KGB chairman Ivan Serov, personally supervised the post-invasion "normalization" of the country. In consequence, KGB monitored the satellite-state populations for occurrences of "harmful attitudes" and "hostile acts"; yet, stopping the Prague Spring, deposing a nationalist Communist government, was its greatest achievement.

The KGB prepared the Red Army's route by infiltrating to Czechoslovakiamarker many illegal residents disguised as Western tourists. They were to gain the trust of and spy upon the most outspoken proponents of Alexander Dubček's new government. They were to plant subversive evidence, justifying the USSR's invasion, that right-wing groups—aided by Western intelligence agencies—were going to depose the Communist government of Czechoslovakia. Finally, the KGB prepared hardline, pro-USSR members of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC), such as Alois Indra and Vasil Biľak, to assume power after the Red Army's invasion. The courage of the betrayed Prague Spring leaders did not escape KGB notice; the defector Oleg Gordievsky later remarked, "It was that dreadful event, that awful day, which determined the course of my own life" (The Sword and the Shield, p. 261).

The KGB's Czech success in the 1960s was matched with the failed suppression of the Solidarity labour movement in 1980s Poland. The KGB had forecast political instability consequent to the election of the priest Karol Wojtyla, as the first Polish Pope, John Paul II, whom they had categorised as "subversive", because of his anti-Communist sermons against the one-party PUWP régime. Despite its accurate forecast of crisis, the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP) hindered the KGB's destroying the nascent Solidarity-backed political movement, fearing explosive civil violence if they imposed the KGB-recommended martial law. Aided by their Polish counterpart, the Służba Bezpieczeństwa (SB), the KGB successfully infiltrated spies to Solidarity and the Catholic Church, and in Operation X co-ordinated the declaration of martial law with Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and the Polish Communist Party; however, the vacillating, conciliatory Polish approach blunted KGB effectiveness—and Solidarity then fatally weakened the Communist Polish government in 1989.

Suppressing ideological subversion

During the Cold War, the KGB actively suppressed "ideological subversion"—unorthodox political and religious ideas and the espousing dissidents. In 1967, the suppression increased under new KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov, who said all dissent threatened the Soviet state—including anti-Communist religious movements. Most arrested dissidents were sentenced to indefinite terms in Gulag-administered forced labour camps—where their dissension lacked the strength it might have had in public. Moreover, Yale University archive documents record that suppressing "ideological subversion" was the principal preoccupation of Yuri Andropov and Vitali Fedorchuk when each was KGB Chairman.

After denouncing Stalinism in his secret speech On the Personality Cult and its Consequences (1956), Nikita Khrushchev lessened suppression of "ideological subversion". Resultantly, critical literature re-emerged, notably the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; however, after Khrushchev's deposition in 1964, Leonid Brezhnev reverted the State and KGB to actively harsh suppression—routine house searches to seize documents and the continual monitoring of dissidents. To wit, in 1965, such a search-and-seizure operation yielded Solzhenitsyn (code-name PAUK, "spider") manuscripts of "slanderous fabrications", and the subversion trial of the novelists Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel; Sinyavsky (alias "Abram Tertz"), and Daniel (alias "Nikolai Arzhak"), were captured after a Moscow literary-world informant told KGB when to find them at home.

After suppressing the Prague Spring, KGB Chairman Andropov established the Fifth Directorate to monitor dissension and eliminate dissenters. He was especially concerned with the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov, "Public Enemy Number One". Andropov failed to expel Solzhenitsyn before 1974; but did internally-exile Sakharov to Gorky city [Nizhny Novgorod] in 1980. KGB failed to prevent Sakharov's collecting his Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, but did prevent Yuri Orlov collecting his Nobel Prize in 1978; Chairman Andropov supervised both operations.

KGB dissident-group infiltration featured agents provocateur pretending "sympathy to the cause", smear campaigns against prominent dissidents, and show trials; once imprisoned, the dissident endured KGB interrogators and sympathetic informant-cell mates. In the event, Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost policies lessened persecution of dissidents; he was effecting some of the policy changes they had been demanding since the 1970s.

Notable operations

  • With the Trust Operation, the OGPU successfully deceived some leaders of the right-wing, counter-revolutionary White Guards back to the USSR for execution.
  • NKVD infiltrated and destroyed Trotskyist groups; in 1940, the Spanish agent Ramón Mercader assassinated Trotsky in Mexico City.
  • KGB favoured active measures (e.g. disinformation), in discrediting the USSR's enemies.
  • For war-time, KGB had ready sabotage operations arms caches in target countries.

In the 1960s, acting upon the information of KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn, the CIA counter-intelligence chief, James Jesus Angleton, believed KGB had moles in two key places—the counter-intelligence section of CIA and the FBI's counter-intelligence department—through whom they would know of, and control, US counter-espionage to protect the moles and hamper the detection and capture of other Communist spies. Moreover, KGB counter-intelligence vetted foreign intelligence sources, so that the moles might "officially" approve an anti-CIA double agent as trustworthy. In retrospect, the captures of the moles Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, proved Angleton—ignored as over-cautious—was correct, despite costing him his job at CIA, which he left in 1975.

Occasionally, the KGB assassinated the enemies of the USSR—principally Soviet Bloc defectors, either directly or by aiding Communist country secret services—the (alleged) air-crash assassination of Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961; the surreptitious ricin poisoning of the Bulgarian émigré Georgi Markov, shot with an umbrella-gun of KGB design, in 1978; and the (alleged) attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981.

The highest-ranking Communist intelligence officer to defect, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, said the Romanian Communist party leader Nicolae Ceauşescu told him about the "ten international leaders the Kremlin killed, or tried to kill": Laszlo Rajk and Imre Nagy of Hungary; Lucretiu Patrascanu and Gheorghiu-Dej of Romania; Rudolf Slansky, the head of Czechoslovakia, and chief diplomat Jan Masaryk; Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran; Palmiro Togliatti of Italy; US President John F. Kennedy; and Mao Zedong of China via Lin Biao; and noted that "among the leaders of Moscow's satellite intelligence services, there was unanimous agreement that the KGB had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy."

Organisation of the KGB

Senior staff

The Chairman of the KGBmarker, First Deputy Chairmen (1–2), Deputy Chairmen (4–6). Its policy Collegium comprised a chairman, deputy chairmen, directorate chiefs, and republican KGB chairmen.

The Directorates

  • Second Chief Directorate – counter-intelligence, internal political control.

  • Third Chief Directorate (Armed Forces) – military counter-intelligence and armed forces political surveillance.

  • Fourth Directorate (Transportation security)

  • Fifth Chief Directorate – censorship and internal security against artistic, political, and religious dissension; renamed "Directorate Z", protecting the Constitutional order, in 1989.

  • Sixth Directorate (Economic Counter-intelligence, industrial security)

  • Seventh Directorate (Surveillance) – of Soviet nationals and foreigners.

  • Eighth Chief Directorate – monitored-managed national, foreign, and overseas communications, cryptologic equipment, and research and development.

  • Ninth Directorate (Guards and KGB Protection Service) 40,000-man uniformed bodyguard for the CPSU leaders and families, guarded government installations (nuclear weapons, etc.), operated the Moscow VIP subway, and secure Government–Party telephony. Pres. Yeltsin transformed it to the Federal Protective Service .

  • Fifteenth Directorate (Security of Government Installations)

  • Sixteenth Directorate (SIGINT and communications interception) operated the national and government telephone and telegraph systems.

  • Operations and Technology Directorate – research laboratories for recording devices and Laboratory 12 for poisons and drugs.

Other units

  • KGB Personnel Department

  • Secretariat of the KGB

  • KGB Technical Support Staff

  • KGB Finance Department

  • KGB Archives

  • KGB Irregulars

  • Administration Department of the KGB, and

  • The CPSU Committee.

*The Alpha Group

*The Vympel, etc.

The KGB's evolution

See also


  1. Safe as houses: the KGB-proof mansion - Times Online
  2. archive of documents about KPSS and KGB, collected by Vladimir Bukovsky.
  3. Eyes of the Kremlin
  4. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 38
  5. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 28
  6. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 23
  7. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 146
  8. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 104
  9. The Sword and the Shield (1999) pp. 104–5
  10. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 111
  11. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 205
  12. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 435
  13., The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov, Joshua Rubenstein and Alexander Gribanov eds., in Russian and English.
  14. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 325
  15. The Sword and the Shield (1999) p. 561
  16. Italian Panel: Soviets Behind Pope Attack
  17. The Kremlin's Killing Ways, by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, 28 November 2006


  • Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000) ISBN 0-14-028487-7; Basic Books (1999) ISBN 0-465-00310-9; trade (2000) ISBN 0-465-00312-5
  • Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, Basic Books (2005) ISBN 0465003117
  • John Barron, KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, Reader's Digest Press (1974) ISBN 0-88349-009-9
  • Amy Knight, The KGB: Police and Politics in the Soviet Union, Unwin Hyman (1990) ISBN 0044457189

Further reading

  • Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia — Past, Present, and Future Farrar Straus Giroux (1994) ISBN 0-374-52738-5.
  • John Barron, KGB: The Secret Works of Soviet Secret Agents Bantam Books (1981) ISBN 0-553-23275-4
  • Vadim J. Birstein. The Perversion Of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science. Westview Press (2004) ISBN 0-8133-4280-5
  • John Dziak Chekisty: A History of the KGB, Lexington Books (1988) ISBN 978-0669102581
  • Бережков, Василий Иванович (2004). Руководители Ленинградского управления КГБ : 1954-1991. Санкт-Петербург: Выбор, 2004. ISBN 5-93518-035-9 (in Russian)
  • Кротков, Юрий (1973). «КГБ в действии». Published in «Новый журнал» №111, 1973 (in Russian)

External links

December 1917
February 1922
Incorporated to NKVD (as GPU)
July 1923
July 1934
Re-incorporated to NKVD (as GUGB)
February 1941
July 1941
Re-incorporated to NKVD (as GUGB)
April 1943
March 1946
October 1947–November 1951
Foreign Intelligence to the KI
March 1953
Merged to and enlarged MVD
March 1954
November 1991
Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky
Vyacheslav Rudolfovich Menzhinsky
Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda
Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria
Vsevolod Nikolayevich Merkulov
1941 (Feb–Jul)
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria
Vsevolod Nikolayevich Merkulov
Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov
Semyon Denisovich Ignatyev
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria
1953 (Mar–Jun)
Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov
Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov
Aleksandr Nikolayevich Shelepin
Vladimir Yefimovich Semichastny
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov
Vitali Vasilyevich Fedorchuk
1982 (May–Dec)
Viktor Mikhailovich Chebrikov
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kryuchkov
Vadim Viktorovich Bakatin
1991 (Aug–Nov)

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