Shelepin, Aleksandr Nikolaevich

(1918–1994)
   Shelepin joined the Komsomol (Young Communist League) in 1939 and rose very quickly in the organization during the Great Patriotic War. From 1952 to 1958 he was the Komsomol first secretary, and he was a minor ally of Nikita Khrushchev in Khrushchev’s power struggle with conservatives. On 25 December 1958, Khrushchev appointed Shelepin to head the KGB as part of his move to solidify Communist Party control of the security service. During his three years as KGB chair, Shelepin had a reputation as a hardliner on domestic and foreign policy issues. He clashed with Aleksandr Korotkov, the rezident in Berlin, over the recruitment of agents, and he pushed hard for policies that would guarantee the security of East Berlin. His advice was significant in Khrushchev’s decision to build the Berlin Wall. Shelepin also played a key role in the modernization of the KGB’s active measures. He ordered the creation of Service D within the First Chief Directorate to coordinate active measures suggested by KGB overseas components. Shelepin ordered the chief of Service D, Ivan Agayants, to target West German and American politicians in an effort to damage the NATO alliance.
   As KGB boss, Shelepin apparently did far more harm than good. He appointed young Komsomol activists to management-level positions in the KGB, replacing experienced Chekists. He fought with senior managers in foreign intelligence over tradecraft issues, which created problems for the KGB in Germany. Most of all, Shelepin was disliked for using the KGB as part of his ambitious scheme to rise to the top of the Communist Party.
   In January 1961 Shelepin left the KGB to work in the Central Committee Secretariat, and he convinced Khrushchev to appoint his protégé and successor in the Komsomol, Vladimir Semichastniy, to succeed him as head of the KGB. Shelepin played a key role in the coup that brought Leonid Brezhnev to power in October 1964. His efforts to contend with Brezhnev for supreme political power in 1964–1970 failed, however, and he retired in semidisgrace in the mid-1960s. He is remembered as an Iago, a man with an infinite capacity for conspiracy.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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