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Introduction of the Agencies

In this section we will examine the major intelligence agencies of the Cold War. On the Soviet side, there was an all-famous KGB - the Secret Government Service. On the American side, there was a number of agencies - the task of spying was more split between the American bureaucracy. There were also other intelligence agencies, which played a large role in the spying of the Cold War - an excellent example being MI5 British Intelligence Service.

We will introduce you and give a brief description of the intelligence agencies of all sides, so you will have a better understanding of spying and intelligence services on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Soviet Intelligence - KGB


The KGB's origins date to December 1917, when the first Soviet political police agency, the VeCheka was created under the leadership of Feliks Dzerzhinsky. After a series of reforms and name changes throughout Lenin's and Stalin's rule in Soviet Russia, KGB was formed in 1954 to take over state security functions.

KGB Former Headquarters Lubyanka Square in downtown Moscow is the site of the site of the Lubyanka head-quarters of the KGB. KGB directors from Lavrentiya Beriya to Yuriy Andropov had their office on the third floor of the building. The center of the square was dominated centre by a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the first communist secret police The Lubyanka actually consists of three buildings. The main yellow building, which is often shown on television, predates the Revolution and was taken over by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Containing the Lubyanka prison, this building is now the headquarters of the Border Troops, and it also contains a single Federal Security Service (FSB) Directorate.

KGB, in full, Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (State Security Committee), the government agency of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in charge of the Soviet political police from 1954 to 1991. The KGB, the last in a series of Soviet security agencies dating from 1917, was officially disbanded when the USSR collapsed. During its years of operation the agency's main directive was to protect the Soviet regime from internal and external threats by means of a vast police and spy network.


The Soviet leadership needed an extensive KGB Logo security and intelligence (information) system in order to ensure the political loyalty of the population at home and to promote its goals as a superpower abroad. The KGB's domestic functions included closely monitoring the Soviet people and suppressing expressions of political discontent. The KGB also was responsible for guarding Soviet borders, protecting party and government leaders, and enforcing security in the Soviet armed forces.

The KGB had the largest and most active foreign intelligence apparatus in the world. Its primary mission was to further Soviet foreign policy goals by gathering secret political, military, and technological information abroad and by conducting propaganda and disinformation campaigns, directed mainly against the West. In carrying out its operations the KGB relied heavily on the intelligence services of Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe.

The KGB had branches duplicating many of these functions in the 14 non-Russian republics of the USSR. It also had offices in every district, region, and city, as well as special departments in all government institutions, factories, and enterprises.


The Soviet regime never released figures on the total number of KGB employees, but Western estimates ranged from 400,000 to 700,000 full-time employees, exclusive of agents and informers, during the KGB's peak in the 1970s and 1980s.

Organizational Structure

The KGB was originally designated as a "state committee attached to the Council of Ministers." The basic organizational structure of the KGB was created in 1954, when the reorganization of the police apparatus was carried out. In the late 1980s, the KGB remained a highly centralized institution, with controls implemented by the Politburo through the KGB headquarters in Moscow.


The situation was similar with the Supreme Soviet, which had formal authority over the Council of Ministers and its agencies. In 1989 the actual powers of the Supreme Soviet, however, gave it little if any power over KGB operations.

The KGB was a union-republic state committee, controlling corresponding state committees of the same name in the fourteen non-Russian republics. The Russian Embassy in Washington - allegedly used as a spy ground in the United States

The KGB also had a broad network of special departments in all major government institutions, enterprises, and factories. They generally consisted of one or more KGB representatives, whose purpose was to ensure the observance of security regulations and to monitor political sentiments among employees. The special departments recruited informers to help them in their tasks. A separate and very extensive network of special departments existed within the armed forces and defense-related institutions.

Although a union-republic agency, the KGB was highly centralized and was controlled rigidly from the top. The KGB central staff kept a close watch over the operations of its branches, leaving the latter minimal autonomous authority over policy or cadre selection. Moreover, local government organs had little involvement in local KGB activities.

The KGB was directed by a chairman--who was formally appointed by the Supreme Soviet but actually was selected by the Politburo-- one or two first deputy chairmen, and several (usually four to six) deputy chairmen.

Post-Soviet Developments

KGB Spetsnaz forces were assigned to storm the Russian Parliament building early on 21 August 1991 and seize key leadership personnel, including Boris Yeltsin. However, the commanders on the scene decided not to execute the plan, and some Alpha subgroup commanders and personnel refused to take part in the action, which contributed to the failure of the coup against Gorbachev, and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On 24 October 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev signed a decree abolishing the KGB. FSB replaced KGB in the Post-Soviet Era

The Soviet Union's Committee for State Security dissolved along with the USSR in late 1991. However, most of its assets and activities have continued through several separate organizations.

The Foreign Intelligence Service [SVR] was the first element of the KGB to establish a separate identity incorporating most of the foreign operations, intelligence-gathering and intelligence analysis activities. The Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information [FAPSI], the Russian counterpart to the US National Security Agency. Some 8,000-10,000 troops, which guarded the Kremlin and key offices, joined the Federal Protective Service with responsibilities similar to the American Secret Service.

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