Leadership Protection

   A major role of the Soviet security service from the 1920s to 1991 was the protection of the party leadership. While Vladimir Lenin dismissed the need for a large security detail, Joseph Stalin saw two reasons for a new and enhanced component to ensure his personal security. Stalin believed that he was in mortal danger from opponents, and he saw the use of a security detail to collect information and gossip about his colleagues and their families. Stalin’s chief bodyguards became his close colleagues. Karl Pauker was a family friend who frequently dined with Stalin, while Nikolai Vlasik was a close associate for two decades. Stalin had both men arrested: Pauker was shot, and Vlassik would have been had Stalin not suffered a fatal stroke in 1953. Under Stalin, the Guard Service had responsibility for every aspect of the leader’s personal and professional life.
   In the KGB, the Ninth Directorate had responsibility for protecting the party and state leadership, similar to the American Secret Service. The KGB’s 15th Chief Directorate had responsibility for important buildings, such as the Kremlin, as well as sensitive military installations. The security of the leadership—and the capital—was further guaranteed by the Dzerzhinsky Division, a well-armed and well-trained MVD unit stationed inside Moscow. The division was reportedly under the direct control of the KGB chair.
   The KGB’s guards were also a danger to the leadership. In 1964 the Guards Directorate failed to protect Nikita Khrushchev from those planning a coup. At the beginning of the 1991 August putsch, the chief of the Ninth Directorate informed Mikhail Gorbachev that an emergency commission had taken power and took his “suitcase” with the codes needed to launch a nuclear attack. On becoming president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin relied heavily on his chief bodyguard, Aleksandr Korzhakov, who reestablished leadership protection in the Presidential Security Service (PSB). From 1991 to his dismissal in 1996, Korzhakov was one of the most powerful people in Moscow. Since his fall, the PSB has faded into the background, playing the same role the Ninth Directorate did for decades.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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