- The KGB—like its predecessors—was managed by a collegium composed of the organization’s most important leaders. In the 1970s the collegium was chaired by the KGB chair and included two first deputy chairs, the heads of the first and second chief directorates, and the chiefs of the Moscow and Leningrad KGB offices, as well as other officials. The KGB, like its predecessors, was an integrated intelligence community packed into one organization: it conducted foreign intelligence, domestic counterintelligence, and border security operations. It was also responsible for the security of the Red Army as well as the protection of the party’s leadership and important government installations. In 1954 the KGB was reorganized into chief directorates and directorates, which reflected responsibilities of the security police’s components dating back to the formation of the Cheka in 1917.The First Chief Directorate had responsibility for foreign intelligence. It operated hundreds of foreign rezidenturas abroad and was responsible for intelligence officers under official cover as well as illegals. The First Chief Directorate essentially was the Soviet Union’s Central Intelligence Agency.The Second Chief Directorate was responsible for domestic counterintelligence. It operated against foreign agents as well as émigré political and religious organizations seeking to penetrate the Soviet Union. It ran agents with access to foreign diplomatic and consular missions. For example, its First Department ran operations against the American embassy; the Second Department focused on the British embassy. The Second Chief Directorate also tried to recruit foreign business people and students, who could be developed into assets with access to political and commercial information. It was the Soviet Union’s Federal Bureau of Investigation but was far larger and more powerful within the country’s bureaucracy than any Western security service.The Third Chief Directorate was established to ensure the loyalty of the military during the Russian civil war. It assigned officers to military units at the battalion (1,000 members) level and above. During the Great Patriotic War, the Third Chief Directorate operated as Smersh and assumed the role of guardian of the Red Army. The Third Chief Directorate also was responsible for the security of the cadre of the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs), the police.The Fifth Directorate was created by Yuri Andropov in 1967 to monitor developments within the intelligentsia. It was responsible for monitoring dissent in religious organizations and ethnic groups throughout the country. During the Stalin years, the Secret Political Directorate had similar responsibility for surveillance of the population. The Fifth recruited informants in every church congregation and academic institute in the country. Through its connections with Glavlit, it kept its finger on the intellectual pulse of a country of 230,000,000 people. It also issued warnings to suspected dissidents. The Seventh Directorate was responsible for physical and technical surveillance operations against enemy agents and dissidents. It used a variety of tracking chemicals, such as metka, to track targets. The Eighth and 16th Chief Directorates were responsible for the security of state communications and the breaking of foreign communications, respectively. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they were folded into the FAPSI (Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information).The Ninth Directorate was responsible for the security of the party’s leadership. Along with the 15th Chief Directorate, it was responsible for the control of sensitive installations ranging from the Kremlin to nuclear weapons facilities. The Ninth was also known as the Okhrana, a nickname stemming from the tsarist Okhrana. It had many of the same responsibilities as the U.S. Secret Service. The 15th Chief Directorate’s role is more shadowed in secrecy, and it was apparently involved in the building and securing of a special subway for the evacuation of the Soviet leadership in time of war. A former Politburo member said the secret metro ran more than 20 kilometers and was one of the single most expensive projects Moscow undertook in the Cold War.The Chief Directorate of Border Guards commanded air, sea, and ground military units and was responsible for the control of the country’s frontiers. In 1991 the Chief Directorate of Border Guards commanded a force of 240,000 troops with naval patrol craft, helicopters, and armored fighting vehicles.The KGB and its predecessors had offices at the republic, oblast (state), and city levels. These provincial offices had much the same structure of the central organization. For example, the Moscow KGB had First (Foreign Intelligence) and Second (Counterintelligence) departments, as well as other parallel departments that mirrored the center’s organization. One of the great strengths of the KGB was its ability to communicate and react quickly. The Soviet services also maintained extremely complete archives of its operations, agents, and targets. Andrei Sakharov’s wife, Helen Bonner, was given over 500 KGB operational files following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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