Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


The KGB, short for Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (Russian: Комите́т Госуда́рственной Безопа́сности; English: Committee for State Security), was the name of the main Soviet Security Agency and intelligence agency, as well as the main secret police agency from March 13, 1954 to November 6, 1991. The KGB's domain was roughly comparable to that of the American Central Intelligence Agency combined with the counterintelligence and internal security divisions of the FBI.

In March of 1953, Lavrenty Beria united the MVD and MGB into one body, the MVD. Within a year, Beria was executed and the MVD was split up. The reformed MVD retained its internal security(police and law enforcement) functions while the new KGB took on internal and external security functions. The KGB was subordinated to the Council of Ministers. On July 5, 1978 the KGB was renamed the "KGB of the USSR" with the KGB Chairman given a seat on the council.

The KGB was dissolved due to the participation of its chief, Colonel General Vladimir Kryuchkov, in the August 1991 coup attempt designed to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev. He used many of the KGB's resources to aid the coup attempt. Kryuchkov was arrested, and General Vadim Bakatin was appointed Chairman on August 23, 1991 with a mandate to dismantle the KGB. On November 6, 1991 the Russian KGB officially ceased to exist, though its successor organization, the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, or FSB, is functionally extremely similar to the KGB. Belarus is the only post-Soviet society where the successor organization continues to be called the KGB. Belarus is also where one of the founders of the KGB, Felix Dzerzhinsky—who was born in a town now within Belarusian territory—remains a national hero.

Some members of the KGB referred to it as "The committee" while other employees called it the Kontora Grubykh Banditov, that is, the "association of crude bandits."

Table of contents
1 Tasks and Organization
2 Notable KGB Operations
3 Organization
4 Heads of the KGB or equivalent
5 See also

Tasks and Organization

Its tasks were external espionage, counter-espionage, liquidation of anti-Soviet and counter-revolutionary formations within the USSR, guarding the Borders, and guarding the leaders of the party and state and critical state property. It also investigated and prosecuted those who stole state or socialist property and white collar crimes. Unlike Western intelligence agencies, the KGB was (theoretically) not interested in learning enemy intentions, only their capabilities. Intentions were political decisions based on Marxist theory and the personal whims of the leadership.

In its espionage role, the KGB was mostly reliant on human intelligence, unlike their western counterparts, who relied far more on imagery intelligence (IMINT) and signals intelligence. Using ideological attraction, the Soviets were successful in recruiting a number of high level spies. Most notable are the KGB successes in gathering US atomic secrets, and the Cambridge Five, especially Kim Philby in the UK. This ideological method of conversion failed after the 1956 crushing of the Hungarian uprising. Instead, the KGB was forced to rely on blackmail and bribery for most of its defectors. This still achieved notable succeses, such as CIA mole Aldrich Ames and FBI mole Robert Hanssen, but far fewer than earlier.

Notable KGB Operations

James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counter-intelligence, reportedly lived in deathly fear that the KGB had moles in two key places: CIA counter-intelligence and FBI counter-intelligence. With those two moles in place, the KGB would have control or awareness of all U.S. efforts to catch KGB spies, and could protect their assets by safely redirecting any investigation that came close, or at least provide sufficient warning; also, counter-intelligence had the job of vetting foreign sources of intelligence, so moles in that area were in a position to give a stamp of approval to double agents against the CIA. With the capture of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, it appears that Angleton's fears, deemed paranoid at the time, were well-grounded.

The KGB occasionally conducted assassinations, mainly of defectors. It also often helped the security services of other countries with assassinations; one famous example is the killing of Georgi Markov, in which Bulgarian agents used a KGB-designed umbrella.


Heads of the KGB or equivalent

See also