State Security

The general name of the Soviet Union secret service

Although the names of Soviet secret services, officially known as ‘the bodies of state security’ were repeatedly changed, their main tasks (espionage, counterespionage, and political secret police) remained the same. The Bolshevik security bodies were formed in December 1917, when the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage (Vecheka, in Russian - Всероссийская чрезвычайная комиссия по борьбе с контрреволюцией и саботажем) was established under the leadership of Felix Dzerzhinsky. The word for security officers – chekist – derives from the name of the organisation. In 1922-1934, the secret services were called the State Political Directorate (GPU, in Russian - Государственное Политическое Управление), since 1923 led by the Unified State Political Directorate (OGPU, in Russian - Объединённое государственное политическое управление) of the government of the USSR. In 1934, the secret services were subordinated to the newly created People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the USSR (NKVD, in Russian - Народный Комиссариат Внутренних Дел) and they played the main role in carrying out the “Great Terror” in 1937-1938. In 1940, the territorial units of the NKVD were formed in the newly annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. For a short period in 1941 and again in 1943, the secret services were separated from the NKVD to form the People’s Commissariat for State Security (NKGB, in Russian - Народный комиссариат государственной безопасности) which was, starting from 1946, called the Ministry of State Security (MGB, in Russian - Министерство государственной безопасности). The Committee for State Security (KGB, in Russian - Комитет государственной безопасности), established in 1954, operated until its liquidation in 1991. From the 1940s to the 1980s, the majority of repressions for anti-Soviet activities in Estonia were carried out by the Soviet state security bodies.

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