Joint State Political Directorate

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Joint State Political Directorate
Объединённое государственное политическое управление при СНК СССР
Obyedinyonnoye gosudarstvennoye politicheskoye upravleniye pri SNK SSSR
Agency overview
Formed15 November 1923; 99 years ago (15 November 1923)
Preceding agency
Dissolved10 July 1934; 88 years ago (10 July 1934)
Superseding agency
TypeSecret police
Headquarters11-13 ulitsa Bol. Lubyanka,
Agency executives
Parent agencyCoat of arms of the Soviet Union (1923–1936).svg Council of People's Commissars

The Joint State Political Directorate (OGPU; Russian: Объединённое государственное политическое управление) was the intelligence and state security service and secret police of the Soviet Union from 1923 to 1934.

The OGPU was formed from the State Political Directorate of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic one year after the founding of the Soviet Union and responsible to the Council of People's Commissars. The agency operated inside and outside the Soviet Union, persecuting political criminals and opponents of the Bolsheviks such as White émigrés, Soviet dissidents, and anti-communists. The OGPU was based in the Lubyanka Building in Moscow and headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky until his death in 1926, and then by Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, until it was reincorporated as the Main Directorate of State Security (GUGB) of the NKVD in 1934.



Following the formation of the Soviet Union in December 1922, the ruling Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) saw the need for a unified intelligence service to exercise control over state security throughout the new union. At the time, the State Political Directorate (GPU) served as the secret police for the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and was successor to the Cheka. It was responsible to the Council of People's Commissars, which functioned as the highest executive body of the Soviet Union after the formation.

On 15 November 1923, the GPU was dissolved and reformed into the Joint State Political Directorate (OGPU) with its jurisdiction covering the entirety of the Soviet Union. Its official full name was the Joint State Political Directorate under the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR (Объединённое государственное политическое управление при СНК СССР, Obyedinyonnoye gosudarstvennoye politicheskoye upravleniye pri SNK SSSR), though the name is also translated as the All-Union State Political Administration and Unified State Political Directorate. Felix Dzerzhinsky, the chairman of the State Political Directorate and the Cheka, was appointed as the OGPU's first chief.


Chronology of Soviet
security agencies
GPU 5th anniversary emblem.png GPU 15th anniversary emblem.png NKVD Emblem (Solid Colors).svg Emblema KGB.svg
1917–22 Cheka under SNK of the RSFSR
(All-Russian Extraordinary Commission)
1922–23 GPU under NKVD of the RSFSR
(State Political Directorate)
1920–91 PGU KGB or INO under Cheka (later KGB) of the USSR
(First Chief Directorate)
1923–34 OGPU under SNK of the USSR
(Joint State Political Directorate)
1934–46 NKVD of the USSR
(People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
1934–41 GUGB of the NKVD of the USSR
(Main Directorate of State Security of
People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
1941 NKGB of the USSR
(People's Commissariat of State Security)
1943–46 NKGB of the USSR
(People's Commissariat for State Security)
1946–53 MGB of the USSR
(Ministry of State Security)
1946–54 MVD of the USSR
(Ministry of Internal Affairs)

KI MID of the USSR
(Committee of Information under Ministry
of Foreign Affairs)

1954–78 KGB under the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
(Committee for State Security)
1978–91 KGB of the USSR
(Committee for State Security)
1991 MSB of the USSR
(Interrepublican Security Service)
1991 TsSB of the USSR
(Central Intelligence Service)
1991 KOGG of the USSR
(Committee for the Protection of
the State Border)

The OGPU, like the GPU before it, was in theory supposed to operate with more restraint than the Cheka, which had orchestrated the Red Terror from 1918 to 1922. Unlike the Cheka, the OGPU could not shoot "counter-revolutionaries" at will, and most suspected political criminals had to be brought before a judge. The OGPU's powers increased greatly in 1926, when the Soviet criminal code [ru] was amended to include Article 58, a section on anti-state terrorism. The provisions were vaguely written and very broadly interpreted. Even before then, OGPU had set up tribunals to try the most exceptional cases of terrorism, usually without calling any witnesses.[1] In time, the OGPU's de facto powers grew even greater than those of the Cheka. The OGPU achieved perhaps its most spectacular success with the Trust Operation of 1924–1925. OGPU agents contacted White émigrés and anti-communists in Western Europe and pretended to represent a large group, known as "the Trust", working to overthrow the communist régime. Exiled Russians gave "the Trust" large sums of money and supplies, as did foreign intelligence agencies. Soviet agents finally succeeded in luring one of the leading anti-communist operators, Sidney Reilly, into Russia to meet with the Trust. Once in the Soviet Union in September 1925, Reilly was arrested and executed. The Trust was then dissolved, having become a huge propaganda success. Dzerzhinsky died in 1926 and was succeeded as chief of the OGPU by deputy chairman Vyacheslav Menzhinsky.

From 1927 to 1929, the OGPU engaged in intensive investigations of an opposition coup d'etat. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin issued a public decree that any and all opposition views should be considered dangerous and gave the OGPU the authority to seek out "hostile elements." That led in March 1928 to the Shakhty Trial, which saw the prosecution of a group of supposed industrial saboteurs allegedly involved in a hostile conspiracy. That would be the first of many trials during Stalin's rule. The OGPU planned and set up the Gulag system, and also became the Soviet government's arm for the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church, Islam and other religious organizations, in an operation headed by Yevgeny Tuchkov. The OGPU was also the principal secret police agency responsible for the detection, arrest, and liquidation of anarchists and other dissident left-wing factions in the early Soviet Union. It also enforced the Dekulakization campaigns during the First Five-Year Plan through extrajudicial special troikas of local OGPU agents, Communist Party officials, and state procurators with the authority to sentence suspects to exile or death without a formal trial in the Soviet judicial system.[2] OGPU troops took part in Soviet invasion of Xinjiang.[3]


Menzhinsky's health had deteriorated rapidly during his directorship of the OGPU and Stalin tended to deal with his first deputy, Genrikh Yagoda, who essentially took over as head in the late 1920s. Menzhinsky spent his last years as an invalid until his death in May 1934, for which Yagoda would later be blamed in the Trial of the Twenty One.

In July 1934, two months after Menzhinsky's death, the OGPU was dissolved and reincorporated into the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the newly created interior ministry of the Soviet Union, becoming its Main Directorate of State Security (GUGB) under the leadership of Yagoda. The OGPU would later be transformed into the more widely known Committee for State Security (KGB) in 1954.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Overy, Richard (2004). The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. London: W. W. Norton. ISBN 978-0393020304.
  2. ^ Snyder, Timothy (2010). Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. Basic Books. hdl:2027/heb.32352. ISBN 978-0-465-03147-4.
  3. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press Archive. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-521-25514-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.