Throughout the years most country’s governments have established some sort of secret police. No matter what the government called it, whether it is the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or her Majesty’s secret service (MI6), whatever name the government used, the international term of “secret police” could always be applied. Many agencies of secret police have had their success and failures, some more than others. The KGB, which in English means “the Committee of Public Safety,” has had their share of both successes and failures. Most secret police agencies have been used primarily to obtain information from other countries. This was also a primary goal for the KGB, but one of their other goals, which was just as important, was to keep unwanted outside information from the Russian people. This was only one out of many the KGB’s objectives. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to prove that the actions of the KGB were, all in all, a success.
The currently named KGB was founded by Feliks Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky in 1917 under the name of the “Cheka.” This Cheka was the name of Russia’s first secret police after the rule of the Tsar’s. The full name of these secret police was “All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution, Sabotage and Speculation” (Deriabin, KGB: Masters of the Soviet Union XI). The Cheka would eventually evolve into the KGB in 1954. However, between the years of 1917 and 1954 the KGB was given a variety of different names. Next in line, after the Cheka, was the OGPU. This lasted from 1926 to 1934 and was headed by Vyacheslav Rudolfovich Menzhinsky. In 1934 it became the NKVD which lasted until 1941 when it was named the NKGB. The NKGB only lasted seven months until it was renamed has the NKVD and it kept that name for another two years. Through the years of 1943 and 1954 it was called the MGB until it finally adopted its final name, the KGB, which has laster to this day since 1954. No matter what the name given to it, or the year the name was given, the KGB was still the same thing once one got down to the hardcore facts.
The Cheka came to be in 1917 after the “Glorious October Revolution.” In April of 1918 it was positive made certain that the power seized from the Tsar was to be kept by Lenin. So then Lenin laid out “real” objectives on paper. He titled the paper, “Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.” This paper purpose was to convince people to support the Bolshevik (Communist) program, to suppress resistance, and to organize the administration. Lenin then proceeded to accomplish what he had written in his paper. To convince people that his ideas and communism would work, he started spreading spectacular propaganda about himself. While spreading this idea to the people, he hid all contrary information which may have revealed his true intentions. However, by the time the peasants discovered what was happening it was too late.
The next thing on his list was to suppress resistance. The KGB was used extensively in this task. Lenin attacked any part of society that was not under his direct command. That included ethnic nationalists, clergy, farmers, and socialist rivals. The KGB was used to interrogate these people. After interrogation they would then go on to shoot them, they sent the ones who were not shot to prison camps. Lenin did not want anything or anyone to stand in his way.
Lenin’s third objective was to “organize the administration,” this was by far the hardest objective to complete. Members of the KGB were sent into all branches of Soviet Government to ensure control. Lenins coup d’etat was now complete, due to precise planning and a swift execution. Now the people will begin to see what this great man, Lenin, was all about.
During the execution of Lenin’s plans, the KGB was used to suppress uprisings. These uprisings were led by rebel towns and cities in which the citizens became very strong. So strong that not even armed Soviet forces and tanks could control them. Because of this the KGB made the decision to arm a large group of their members and make them into a special troops force. This group of KGB special forces were called the VV. The VV was sent into these towns and “drowned the cities in their own blood” (Deriabin 10). In one case the citizens of a city called Kuybyshev were complaining about overcrowding, economic problems, and poor living conditions. The citizens, after having their complaints ignored, began to loot the KGB officer’s houses and threw stones at the city’s political headquarters and other political buildings. Soviet army forces could not be trusted to fight them (11). Therefore, KGB special forces were deployed. They chased the citizens out of the city until they were forced to retreat into a housing settlement. It was here that the VV bombarded the houses with mortars and gun fire. Any survivors from the massacre ran to the hills where the KGB special forces pursued and annihilated almost every citizen left. The people who were not killed were sent to concentration camps. As this situation demonstrates, the KGB had no tolerance for uprising, and this has become one of their strongest attributes.
These Secret forces (the VV) were started by the KGB almost immediately after they were started. They were a group of special forces separate from the Soviet army. The Soviet army was used in external affairs while the VV was used extensively for internal affairs. The VV did not try to hide their members, they wore their elite uniforms in public. The only thing that was secret about the VV was their work and their numbers. They were used to disband protests, defame kulaks, religious fanatics, and fascist collaborators. Their “official” mission was said to be to, “secure Soviet power inside the country.” However Russian citizens recognize them as their enemies and would stay as far away as possible from them.
As of now it seems that the KGB has done well and has been successful in their missions. The way they handle the situations may not have been right, but they handled it nonetheless. The KGB got the job done, no matter what the task was that lay before them. Given such a broad mission, they did just about everything. The KGB would help govern the country. They would help to create and execute both domestic and foreign policy. They basically controlled which political parties came into power and which did not. They would do this by deciding who got security clearances and who did not. In fact, “to help govern”, would be an understatement, the KGB was practically was the government. Another thing that was already mentioned in this paper was the elimination of internal resistance. The KGB never stopped harassing and destroying any groups outside of the direct control of their party. The KGB would also protect their leaders. They would accomplish this task by taking care of their food and health. The KGB also made sure that armed forces’ weapons could not be used against them and they also handled their communications, internationally and with other leaders.
The KGB would also help make the economy run. They would make sure that sufficient people were hired for offices which controlled the money. They also made use of their elite VV. They were used in putting an end on attempts to destroy Russia’s economic system. Using their internal troops to put down strikes. They would then send the people who striked to corrective labor camps. This was harsh, yet a successful completion of a mission.
The KGB also used to investigate crimes. They dominated the police and other administrations of justice. The procurators offices were in charge of smaller criminal cases, while the KGB handled more important crimes. Such as ones involving foreigners or anti-soviet propaganda. Even after the criminals were sentenced they did not leave the hands of the KGB, they would oversee their punishment. KGB officers controlled prison camps and correctional facilities. They were not just in charge of prison like punishments. The KGB also delivered threats and assaults to people who they felt needed to be punished. In extreme cases they would give the person an illness or even death. If they wanted information from the criminal then they tortured him, it was as simple as that.
The KGB is also in charge of performing tasks of extreme secrecy. For example, they would discredit political opponents with propaganda and they would possibly try to frame them for a crime. In one case the KGB was assigned to keep an underground tunnel project low profile. These tunnels were being built for protection during times of war, and a project as big as this was especially hard to keep a secret because of the vast expansion of it. Some other tasks that were completed by the KGB were that of those necessary for keeping Soviet rule in power in Russia. However, that was quite easy for the KGB. They almost had to do nothing, the shear fear that radiated from the initials KGB was all that was needed to keep people in line. Their history was a constant reminder of what they could do. One person wrote, “I feel a vague anxiety, uncertainty, and even fear whenever I pass by the building that houses the KGB.” (144). The citizens almost had no choice but to abide by Soviet rule, some tortures that were executed by mostly younger officers, in their teens, had leaked out to the public.
“In some cases the skin was peeled off of the victims’ hands to produce gloves made of human skin; in Voronezh naked prisoners were rolled around in wooden barrels studded with nails; in Polava priests were impaled; in Odessa, captured White officers were tied to planks and slowly fed into furnaces; in Kiev cages of rats were fixed to prisoners’bodies and heated until the rats gnawed their way into the victims’ intestines” (Andrew.
The Sword and the Shield. 29).
These acts of sadism, which means to experience sexual gratitude from anothers suffering, were very inhumane, even for the KGB. It is also said that Lenin even did not approve of such tortures and asked for it to be stopped immediately.
During this internal war, the KGB saw it necessary to identify the enemy. They sought out not to exterminate mere individuals, they wanted to destroy their entire class. As soon as the KGB found a certain man that they recognized as a threat they would collect all of his background information. They would classify him by his origins, his education, profession, and whatever other questions about him that they thought necessary to have the answer to. Some of the classes that they labeled people with terms such as bourgeois, Kulak, bourgeois nationalist, and religious fanatic. The Soviets called this system “social prophylaxis.”; it was described as “a system to forestall the occurrence of particularly dangerous crimes against the state as well as politically harmful antisocial acts of Soviet citizens.”(Deriabin. KGB: Masters of the Soviet Union. 202). They would label citizens who fought back against party police violence “terrorists”, individuals who had committed a number of sins were labeled “hooligans” or “parasites.” Basically anyone who was not complying completely with Soviet rule was labeled as an “anti-soviet.” This system of labeling enemies was extremely efficient and greatly increased the KGB’s success in eliminating and threats, both domestic and foreign. In fact this system was so successful that they annihilated the bourgeoise and the Kulaks. However, a new bourgeoise and new group of peasants rose in their place soon after the original groups were destroyed. These groups were also systematically destroyed as their fore fathers were, they were sent to death camps and prison camps, mostly for the rest of their lives. Those who the KGB did not kill or send to prison camps were constantly harassed and threatened. Some were denied education and travel to foreign countries, and they were not allowed to be promoted to higher offices.
Another technique that the KGB excelled at was the art of blackmailing. This was especially helpful in “recruiting” high ranking people within other government agencies. In some cases all it took was money to persuade the person to become an agent for the KGB, in other cases it took much more than money. For example, the FBI was headed by J. Edgar Hoover who was, in fact, a homosexual. In some cases, Hoover would place men who performed certain sexual favors for him in high positions. The KGB, as smart as they were, could have known about these things taking place and would then most likely be able to place hidden cameras in the rooms where these favors were being performed. They would then be able to show these pictures to the man who engaged in sexual actions with Hoover. They would then have the ability to blackmail the man for certain information they needed. This may have been a sick and twisted approach for the KGB, but it was successful nonetheless. In one real life case a homosexual clerk from the British embassy in Moscow was lured to a party by the KGB. There he was caught on camera enjoying sexual intercourse with a variety of men. After being shown the pictures he was blackmailed for information for the next seven years handing over thousands of classified documents to the KGB. The clerk eventually transferred to another department and was never bothered by the KGB again. This type of blackmail was used many times in recruiting agents and were extraordinarily helpful in collecting a variety of top secret information from many government agencies.
The purpose of this paper was to prove that the actions of the KGB were, all in all, a success. The way the KGB dealt with many of their problems would be considered extremely harsh by most peoples standards. The KGB officers may have also been immoral, but they accomplished their goal. The KGB also used mechanisms of control, some of these mechanisms were “self-censorship and keeping information out” (Deriabin. 274 and 280). These mechanisms the less violent methods of preserving Soviet rule in Russia. However, the KGB felt that more was needed to make sure that Soviet rule would ultimately prevail. This is where the KGB thought that violence would make their point clear. The KGB was right, they made their point more than understood with their violent, cruel, and inhumane methods. It eventually came to the point where the KGB did not have to do much to keep the citizens under control. Their history of extreme methods was all too well known, and it became common knowledge to every Soviet citizen that it would be most unwise to go against the KGB. Any citizen that was even suspected of being an anti-soviet was at the least interrogated. In most cases the lives of the convicted and their family was threatened. If any evidence of anti-soviet propaganda was found on a person or in their home then they could be sent to a prison camps. The KGB no matter what the mission was that lay before them or what great task they were assigned to complete, they got the job done. They would go to any lengths to accomplish the task at hand, no matter how immoral and cruel it might have seemed. This is what made the KGB such a successful agency and is also why they seldom failed.
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