|KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti). “Committee on State Security.” Formerly the CHEKA, OGPU, then NKVD. The name was changed to KGB in 1954. It was the Soviet secret police, and the “shield and sword” of the Communist Party. Its main function was internal security; that is, repressing dissent, holding down ethnic unrest, monitoring the military and party cadres, running the GULAG, conducting the purges and show trials, and from 1949, protecting Moscow’s nuclear weapons sites and the research facilities of Minatom. It was the world’s largest security service during the Cold War, with at least 120,000 officers (excluding paramilitary and border guards, who totaled a quarter million more), and by some estimates perhaps as many as 500,000 all told, of all ranks. Such personnel reserves meant the Soviet Union was effectively run by the secret police as a distrusted state and population occupied by its own government. |
The KGB had a counterespionage and a foreign espionage function as well, and was highly successful in both areas. It was widely respected by its opponents as being among the toughest, most capable, and ruthless intelligence services in the world. Documents released starting in 1995 and testimonials by former moles or KGB senior officers confirmed that from the 1930s, through World War II and all during the Cold War, the KGB had deeply penetrated to very high levels of the governments, militaries, research institutions, and foreign ministries of all the important Western countries. In 1992, to live down its unsavory past, the KGB’s name was changed to the Federal Security Agency (SBRR), and then the Federal Security Service (FSB). See also Felix Dzerzhinsky;Klaus Fuchs; Alger Hiss; Manhattan Project; McCarthyism; Nazi-Soviet Pact; nomenklatura; Red Orchestra; Ethel and Julius Rosenberg; Josef Stalin; Yezhovshchina.
Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB (1990);
Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, with Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield (1999);
John Haynes, Venona (1999);
Alan Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev. The Haunted Wood (1999);
Nigel West, Venona (1999).