The Russian KGB

The Russian KGB was an umbrella organization of USSR up till November 6, 1991. Russia’s main intelligence agency, its security agency and the secret police, all came under the KGB.

Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) is a Russian language abbreviation. In English it means ‘State Security Committee’. This agency evolved from the soviet secret police and had many name and organizational changes before it was named KGB. Its first name was ‘cheka’ created on December 10, 1917. Feliks Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky was the first head of Cheka.

KGB Headquarters - Picture by Lindsay Fincher

Lubyanka - the former headquarters of the Russian KGB - Picture by Lindsay Fincher.


KGB consisted of a number of organizations and it was given many powers and had a wide ranging operational domain: The organization was given charge of

  • conducting foreign intelligence activities
  • counter intelligence
  • protecting national boundaries
  • the elimination of anti USSR organizations from the country
  • protection of important national facilities, and
  • guarding leaders of the communist party.

The hierarchy of KGB consisted of a chairman who headed the agency, up to two first deputy chairmen and 4 to 6 deputy chairmen. KGB was a very centralized organization and had its headquarters in Moscow. It was controlled directly by the ‘Politburo’ which selected the chairman of KGB. The central administration in Moscow watched over its branches. Regional branches of the agency were subordinate to the higher hierarchy. A collection of chairman, deputy chairmen, republic KGB chairmen and chiefs of KGB directorates made up the KGB Collegium which made key decisions.

It kept departments in all Russian defense establishments. KGB also had wide ranging networks in every important Russian institution. A KGB department with few of its representatives was important in every major organization. These agents monitored political sentiments and ensured that security arrangements were up to standard.

Because of KGB’s secretive nature the exact number of people remains unknown. One estimate puts the number of 490,000 people working for KGB in 1973. This figure was revised to 700,000 in 1986. The organizations exact budget size is also not known.

More on the Russian KGB

History of the KGB

KGB Recuitment Successes

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