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Emblem of the KGB

The Committee for State Security (Russian: Комитет государственной безопасности) was the "Sword and Shield" of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. While its primary function was internal repression of people's basic rights, an external reconnaissance division as it is called, or intelligence organization, also handled spreading the gospel of Marxist international workers revolution to overthrow exiting legitimate governments worldwide, or "the bourgeois order" as Marxists refer to it.

During its existence the Committee had many names, finally adopting KGB in 1954 which was used until the dissolution of the Soviet Empire in 1992. Historians and writers have often in retrospect used the name KGB to refer to all its predecessor organizations going back to the founding of the Soviet Union.

At the July 1920 Second Congress of the Communist International Comintern, General Secretary of the Communist Party V.I. Lenin told delegates "we must everywhere build up a parallel illegal organisation".[1]


The Cheka, or VChK, (1917–22).

OGPU (1923-34)

The head of the OGPU at that time was also a member of the Supreme Court, and the Chief Prosecutor of the USSR was responsible for the legality of all acts of the OGPU. It was simply another Cheka with broader powers. These powers grew to such proportions that it became for a while the most powerful and feared government agency.

The OGPU was responsible for overseeing the Belomar (White Sea) Canal infrastructure project. Alexander Solzhenitsyn notes "Stalin simply needed a great construction project somewhere" to reduce unemployment and estimates that 100,000 workers, perhaps more, died during the first winter of work on the Canal.[2]

NKVD (1934-41, 1941-43)

Infrastructure projects

The NKVD was responsible for the construction and maintenance of highways. The labor for infrastructure projects came from the corrective labor camps, or GULAGs.[3]

KGB in the US (1921-43)

The KGB was not the only Soviet intelligence organization seeking to subvert and overthrow legitimate foreign governments. Alger Hiss for example, was actually an agent of Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU), not the KGB. This has led to some confusion even today.

Below is a table listing eight different Soviet intelligence entities operating in the United States between the period of 1921 and 1943.

  • Comintern
  • CPUSA; (although CPUSA membership was legal among certain people at certain times, membership among government employees and employees of government contractors involved in the war effort, or "defense contractors relating to National Security", to use post-1947 terminology, was clearly illegal.)
  • CPUSA secret apparatus
  • KGB "legals", i.e. KGB agents registered in the United States on valid visas, operating under a Rezident and illegally engaged in espionage. {For the purpose of discussion on this page, KGB is used to encompass all pre-1954 predecessor names conducting foreign intelligence, Cheka or VChK (1917–22), the GPU (1922-23), the OGPU (1923–34), the NKVD (1934–41, 1941–43), the NKGB (1941, 1943–46), the MGB (1946–47, 1952–53), the KI (1947-52), the MVD (1953–54), and the KGB (1954-91)}
  • KGB "Illegals"; agents operating under "deep cover", maybe native born maybe immigrant, and operating under their own separate Rezident, (or "Station Chief", to use an analogous CIA term).
  • GRU, Soviet Military Intelligence (under its own Rezident).
  • Soviet Naval GRU, had a very small operation in the U.S. during World War II
  • GRU "Illegals", again, like KBG illegals, with its own Rezident.


Illegals are parallel organizations set up independently from the two main intelligence organizations (KGB & GRU), under their own separate station chief, or Rezident, for the contingent purpose should a break in diplomatic relations occur, and all legal operatives with valid passports are expelled, a parallel espionage organization remains in place. Also, they still may be engaged in highly secret ongoing activities, and their absolute highest concern is to avoid detection. They are "sleeper cells", to use a term recently popularized by American news organizations.

Collapse of the USSR

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KGB has subsequently been re-constituted as the Federal Security Service.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. II [New York: Harper & Row, 1975], pp. 86 - 98.
  3. Joseph A. Michela, Military Attache Moscow Report 1903, "N.K.V.D. of the U.S.S.R.," 14 April 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Harry Hopkins Papers, "MID Reports--USSR--Volume V," box 190. p.4.

External links

  • V.I. Lenin, Terms of Admission into Communist International (July, 1921) "must everywhere build up a parallel illegal organisation"[2]