KGB stands for Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti (Committee for State Security (thanks to saturnine for the translation)). it was the Soviet Union's largest intelligence organization, beginning its reign in 1953 and ending in 1991 when it was dissolved. It did everything most good intelligence operations did, as well as some things others didn't.

The KGB comes into existence

The KGB came about as a result of the Soviet Union's reorganisation of its policing departments. At the time, the agency was known as the MGB(Ministry of National Security), which delt with everything from internal policing to international spying. In 1953, 1 day after Joseph Stalin died, Lavrentii Beria succeeded him and merged the MGB into the MVD(Ministry of Internal Affairs). Beria, however, was overthrown a year later, and the MVD was again split, with the new MVD having less power and a new agency known as the KGB being created.

All other departments were soon merged into the KGB, which became a centralized hub for all activities, ranging from internal policing, to international espionage. However, very little is known about how the KGB from just after its formation to when it was abolished, with all pieces of information coming from Russian defectors.

KGB Structure

The internal structure of the KGB is kept very secret (for obvious reasons), however information has come to light from various defectors and also moles working on the inside, relaying information back to their home countries. The departments of the KGB were known as Directorates. Each had its own army of personnel and its own tasks to carry out. The 5 chief directorates are listed below.

First Chief Directorate (Foreign Operations)
This directorate was (obviously from its name) responsible for all foreign activities, ranging from intelligence gathering and espionage, to any form of bribery and assassination.

Second Chief Directorate
This directorate was concerned with internal political control of all citizens currently in the Soviet Union, be it permanent residents or foreigners, including tourists and diplomats (you never know when that man in the hawaiian shirt is gonna steal state secrets). The second directorate investigated crimes such as treason, espionage, terrorism and smuggling, as well as economic crimes such as embezzlement and abuse of official position. There were rules to be followed when arrests were to be made. They were very rarely followed.

Third Chief Directorate (Armed Forces)
This directorate was split into a further 12 smaller departments, handling everything to do with the Red Army. The staff numbers were huge. Wherever army personnel were, there was someone from this directorate. They were there so enforce strict security regulations and other things, such as criminal investigations of army members. They also kept a watch to make sure no soldier defected or sold state/military secrets to the enemy. Of course, as with everything related to investigations and arrests in the KGB, strict rules applied, but were rarely followed.

Fourth Chief Directorate
This directorate was assigned to Embassy and internal security. This would have included making sure there were no leaks to outside sources, as well as no bugs and wire taps in the embassy, used to monitor and record conversations.

Fifth Chief Directorate
The fifth chief directorate was created in the late 1960's and took up some of the jobs formerly handled by the Second Chief Directorate. These tasks included the censorship of literature and religious dissent. In other words, they kept the Russian population in line with national policy and silenced anyone who spoke out against it.

There were also several smaller directorates, which were more like sub departments. They oversaw tasks that the 5 chief directorates didn't handle, such as guards for political and royal family members, communications monitoring of both internal and international networks, cryptology of all messages, surveillance and border security. Up until 1993 when the KGB was dissolved, all this was centred at KGB headquarters in Moscow. KGB also had stations right across the world, used for information gathering, as well as recruitment. These all came under the control of the First Chief Directorate

KGB Power Brokers

The KGB was ultimately controlled by a panel of men, known as the Politburo. The number of men on this panel changed a few times, depending on how the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) felt at the time. After the death of Stalin, the number was reduced to 10 men. The Politburo was actually separate to the KGB, however, all major decisions were referred to the party before they were allowed to be acted upon.

The KGB itself was controlled by 1 chairman, chosen by the Politburo, followed by one or 2 First Deputy chairmen, then a small handful (4 to 6) deputy chairmen (if anyone knows the difference between the 2 classes of chairmen, please /msg me. Any decisions were decided upon by these men, then taken by the chairman to the Politburo for final clearance. Each individual Directorate, then each sub department had individual heads, who all reported up a strict chain of command.

KGB Spies

The KGB tried extremely hard to get spies into every sort of operation conducted by the American government. If it was being researched, you can be sure the KGB tried to find out what they could about it. death-of-dreams WU above excellently lists some of the KGBs activities, along with some of the agents working in the US that helped them.

The information passed on to the KGB by their spies was sometimes insignificant, such as family information on minor politicians, to priceless information. The following is some information passed onto the KGB by its western agents:

  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, along with Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall, pass on information to the Soviets about how to construct nuclear bombs.
  • George Blake notifies the KGB of a secret tunnel constructed by British and American agents, used to tap Russian communications.
  • Aldrich Ames turned over the names and files on dozens of soviets working in Russia for the CIA.
  • 4 University students from Cambridge passed on information for almost 30 years, including documents that described the allied military movements and strategies during the second world war
  • John Walker passed on many many top secret documents relating to navy ships and subs, as well as keylists
  • Robert Hanssen passed on information such as nuclear deployment plans and satellite positions

The KGB was broken up in 1991, just before the demise of the Soviet Union, with the new FSB being created as one of the departments to replace the KGB. With the shock of Robert Hanssen being exposed as a KGB agent, it is almost certain that Russia still has spies actively relaying information along to the new Russian intelligence departments.

  • (for the new intelligence service)
  • (FSB info)
  • (Major KGB info)

Footnote: Further history will be added when i find more resources. The KGB having been a secret organistion, information has been sketchy at best. Also history before the KGB formation can be read under NKVD. The history of russian intelligence organisations will be noded soon, to 'fill in the gaps' as it were.

To Be Added: Successors and Failures