Chronology of Soviet secret police agencies

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Chronology of the Soviet

"State security organs"
(Russian:  organov Gos(ugarstvennoy)bezopasnosti)

Emblema KGB.svg
1917–1922 Cheka under SNK RSFSR
1922–1923 GPU under NKVD RSFSR
1923–1934 OGPU under SNK USSR
1934–1946 NKVD USSR
1934–1941 GUGB NKVD USSR
/ 1941 NKGB USSR
1943–1946 NKGB USSR
1946–1953 MGB USSR
1946–1954 MVD USSR
1954–1978 KGB under SM USSR
1978–1991 KGB USSR
1991 MSB (Inter republican security service) of the USSR
1991 TsSB (Central intelligence service) of the USSR
1991 Committee of protection of the USSR state border

There were a succession of Soviet secret police agencies over time. The first secret police after the October 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.

History of the Soviet state security organs[edit]

Detailed chronology[edit]

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

  • NKVD – "People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs"
    • GPU – State Political Directorate
      • Dzerzhinsky (February 6, 1922 – November 15, 1923)

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"
  • 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.

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)
The 1954 ukase establishing the KGB.

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 Counterintelligence Service which later became the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) in 1995, and the Federal Protective Service (FSO). The GRU continues to operate as well.


Organization Chairman Dates
Znak5 GPU.GIF Cheka
Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky 1917[2]–1922
Coat of arms of the Soviet Union (1923–1936).svg GPU
Coat of arms of the Soviet Union (1923–1936).svg OGPU
Vyacheslav Rudolfovich Menzhinsky 1926–1934
Emblema NKVD.svg NKVD
Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda 1934–1936
Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov 1936–1938
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria 1938–1941
State Emblem of the Soviet Union (1936–1946).png NKGB
Vsevolod Nikolayevich Merkulov Feb–Jul 1941
Emblema NKVD.svg NKVD
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria 1941–1943
State Emblem of the Soviet Union (1936–1946).png NKGB
Vsevolod Nikolayevich Merkulov 1943–1946
Coat of arms of the Soviet Union (1946-1956).svg MGB
Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov 1946–1951
Semyon Denisovich Ignatyev 1951–1953
Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria Mar–Jun 1953
Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov 1953–1954
Emblema KGB.svg KGB
Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov 1954–1958
Aleksandr Nikolayevich Shelepin 1958–1961
Vladimir Yefimovich Semichastny 1961–1967
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov 1967–1982
Vitali Vasilyevich Fedorchuk May–Dec 1982
Viktor Mikhailovich Chebrikov 1982–1988
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kryuchkov 1988–1991
Vadim Viktorovich Bakatin August 1991 –

January 1992

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Svetlana Chervonnaya, KI briefing from the Russian side, H-HOAC Discussion, March 17, 2005. [1] Archived November 8, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  2. ^ Communist Secret Police: Cheka, referencing the quote by David Shub about the starting date of the Cheka, Retrieved November 24, 2016

External links[edit]