The changing name of the Russian State Security service: An evolution of terror!


Cheka – GPU – OGPU – NKVD – MGB – KGB – FSB

Russia and the Soviet Union have always employed a State Security Service. We have all heard of and are familiar with at least one of the many acronyms that have been used. All, without exception, have struck fear to those coming into contact with them.

release doc - frontIt seems that once the old name became discredited, it was re-branded and relaunched. For me, growing up in the post war era, the KGB is the name I am most familiar with, but since the Bolsheviks came to power several names have been used. In the late 1930’s and throughout the Second World War the Soviet secret police service was the NKVD, a name to this day synonymous with hatred and terror. It was the NKVD that arrested my father and exiled him to Siberia at the start of WW2.


1917 – 1922 Cheka (ЧК)

chekaчрезвычайная комиссия. The full name of the agency was The All Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation, and Sabotage (Всероссийская чрезвычайная комиссия по борьбе с контрреволюцией и саботажем), was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations that became notorious for large-scale human rights abuses, including torture, mass, and summary executions and civilian repression. It was founded by Lenin in 1917 and created by Polish Communist revolutionary Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky (Polish – Feliks Dzierżyński, Russian- Феликс Эдмундович Дзержинский). Born in the Polish town of Kojdanava, now in Belarus, and not only home to the Belarusian State Archives of Films, Photographs and Sound Recordings, but the highest point in low lying Belarus at 346m above sea level. He was one of the few high-ranking Soviet officials to escape persecution by his own organisation, dying of a heart attack in 1926.


1922 – 1923 GPU (ГПУ)

Государственное Политическое Управление. State Political Directorate – Gosudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravlenie. Secret police of the Soviet Union. Formed from the Cheka in 1922.


1923 – 1934     OGPU (ОГПУ)    

OGPU_10_years,_1927Объединённое государственное политическое управление. Joint State Political Directorate – Ob’edinennoe Gosudarstvennoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie. Created in 1923 from the GPU. Responsible for the creation of the GULag system and persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious organizations.



1934 – 1946     NKVD (НКВД)

nkvdНародный комиссариат внутренних дел. People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs – Narodny Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del was the leading secret police organization of the Soviet Union. Created in 1934 from the OGPU. Often referred to as ‘Organy’ or ‘The Organ’.



1946 – 1953     MGB (МГБ)

Министерство государственной безопасности. The Ministry of State Security and Soviet secret police agency (Ministerstvo Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti). Created from the NKVD in 1946.


1953 – 1991     KGB (КГБ)   

kgbКомите́т Госуда́рственной Безопа́сности. Committee for State Security. Formed from the MGB in 1953 and generally regarded as the supreme Soviet State Security organization.




1991 – present ФСБ    (FSB)

FSBФедера́льная слу́жба безопа́сности. Federal Security Service – Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti domestic state security agency of the Russian Federation created from the KGB on the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and still in place today.



(Several modern-day ex-Soviet state security services are still known as the KGB).


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