Krasilnikov was born in the family of a senior intelligence officer. His first name was taken from the Russian phrase Revolutsia mirovaya (''Революция мировая" -"World Revolution"). His wife's name was Ninel (Lenin spelled backwards).
During the 1980s, he was Chief of the First (American) Department within the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, which placed him in charge of investigating and disrupting the operations of the Central Intelligence Agency in Moscow. Prior to that he headed up the Second Department of the SCD, which targeted the intelligence operations of the United Kingdom.
- Milt Bearden and James Risen, "The Main Enemy: The inside story of the CIA's final showdown with the KGB", Ballantine, 2003, ISBN 0-345-47250-0
- "Rem Krasilnikov". The Economist. 3 April 2003.
- James Risen (24 March 2003). "Rem Krassilnikov, Russian Bane of C.I.A., Dies at 76". The New York Times.