The first Soviet state security organization, the Vecheka,
was created on 20 December 1917. The Vecheka (All-Russian Extraordinary
Commission for Combating Counter-revolution and Sabotage) is more
commonly known as the Cheka.
The NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) had
been formed to control the militia (police), criminal investigation
departments, fire brigades, internal troops, and prison guards.
With the end of the civil war and the resulting period of stabilization,
the Cheka was transformed, on 8 February 1922, into the GPU
(State Political Directorate) which was subordinated to the NKVD.
With the formation of the USSR in 1923 the GPU became the OGPU
(Unified State Poltical Directorate) and was upgraded to an independent
directorate of the Soviet Council of People's Commissars (i.e.
it was removed from NKVD control).
In 1934 the OGPU was transformed into the GUGB (Chief
Directorate of State Security) which was subordinated into the
new All-Union NKVD. This marked the beginning of Soviet state
security’s most powerful and autocratic period. All key aspects
of internal and state security were now subordinated into one
body under one leader – at first G.G. Yagoda, then, from
27 September 1936, N.I. Yezhov, and finally, from 25 November
1938 Lavrentii Beria.
In 1934 the NKVD was organized as follows:
- GUGB (Chief Directorate of State Security)
- GUPVO (Chief Directorate of Frontier Guards and Interior
- GULAG (Chief Directorate of Camps)
- GUM (Chief Directorate of the Militia)
- other units responsible for Fire Fighting, Local Anti-Aircraft
Defence, Highway Construction, Archives, etc. .
On 2 February 1939 the GUPVO was divided into 6 Chief Directorates:
- GUPV (Chief Directorate of Frontier Guards)
- GUKV (Chief Directorate of Convoy Troops)
- GUVOVPGO (Chief Directorate of Troops for Guarding Industry
and State Facilities)
- GUZhV (Chief Directorate of NKVD Railroad Troops)
- GUInzhV (Chief Directorate of NKVD Engineer Troops)
- GUIntV (Chief Directorate of the NKVD Intendants Service)
- GUOV (Chief Directorate of Operational Forces) since
On 3 February 1941, Decree 149 of the CPSU Politburo removed
the GUGB from the NKVD and elevated to equal People’s
Commissariat status creating the NKGB. The NKGB was led
by V.N. Merkulov, Beria’s former deputy, who remained a loyal
lackey. The new NKGB was responsible for
- external espionage,
- counter-espionage throughout the USSR3)
- operations to find and liquidate anti-Soviet parties and counter-revolutionary
formations in the USSR
- guarding the leaders of the party and state.
The NKGB organization was created at all levels (All-Union down
to Oblast, Krai and Raion).
The NKGB was divided into:
- UR (Directorate of Intelligence)
- UK (Directorate of Counter-Intelligence)
- USP (Secret-Political Directorate)
- UKMK (Directorate of the Kommendant of the Moscow Kremlin)
The NKGB’s independence was short lived. In late June
1941, after the German invasion, the NKGB was resubordinated into
the NKVD as the GUGB to ensure closer control of
the nation’s security apparatus during this chaotic time.
In April 1943, after the military situation had changed in favour
of the USSR, the GUGB was again removed from the NKVD
and became the NKGB. This time the change lasted until
the birth of the MGB in 1946.
In March 1946 the Soviet government was restructured and all
People's Commissariats (NK) were redesignated Ministries (M).
Thus the NKVD became the MVD and the NKGB became the MGB.
Merkulov was replaced as head of the new MGB by V.S.
Abakumov, S.N. Kruglov replaced Beria as head
of the MVD, and Beria became a full member of the Soviet Politburo
and a deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers exercising full
control over the MVD and MGB.
On 6 March 1953, the day after Stalin died, Beria succeeded in
uniting the MVD and MGB into one body, the MVD.
On 13 March 1954, after Beria's fall, " secret trial", and execution,
the monster unified MVD was again split up. The reformed MVD retained
its traditional policing and internal security functions while
the new KGB took on the state security functions of the
MGB. The KGB was subordinated to the USSR Council of Ministers,
the Soviet Cabinet.