Smersh

   In April 1943 Joseph Stalin mandated a new counterintelligence service for the People’s Commissariat of Defense. Smersh, an abbreviation of Smert shpiyonam or “Death to Spies,” was created to ensure control of the military, the punishment of anti-Soviet elements in the military and the partisan movement, and as a parallel security service to contend with Lavrenty Beria, who had political oversight over the NKGB and the NKVD. Stalin may have seen Smersh as a way to coordinate counterintelligence operations with the planning of offensive military operations.
   Stalin appointed Viktor Abakumov, a young and competent security officer who had risen quickly during the purges of the 1930s, to head Smersh with the rank of colonel general. Smersh had an active presence in all military units down to the battalion level. Recent research established that Smersh had a staff of 15,000–30,000 officers, with a headquarters staff in Moscow of 225. It had five regiments with every Red Army front, as well as detachments with rear area units, partisan formations, and Axis prison camps. Smersh officers’ major responsibility was the recruitment of informants within the army, prisoner of war camps, and the civilian population to help identify Nazi agents and military deserters. So effective was this web of agents and informers that German intelligence efforts inside the Soviet Union were totally foiled.
   Smersh officers closely operated with partisan detachments within Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union as well as in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, frequently eliminating those believed to be anti-Soviet. Following the defeat of the Third Reich, Smersh’s Vetting and Screening Commissions (Proverochni-filtrovochnye kommissii) interrogated former Soviet prisoners of war, as well as Soviet citizens who had been deported to work in Nazi Germany. According to former Soviet archives, over 25 percent of those interviewed were executed or sentenced to lengthy terms in a gulag. One of the most infamous chapters of World War II history for both the Soviet Union and the Western Allies was the forcible repatriation of more than 40,000 Cossacks by the British to the Soviet Union. Smersh officers persuaded British army officers to force men, women, and children on trains bound for the Soviet zone. Worse, at least 10 percent had never been Soviet citizens or had fled Russia during the Revolution of November 1917. Smersh also received British help in arresting Cossack leaders who had fled the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. They were later hanged in the Lubyanka. Following the war, Smersh ran foreign intelligence operations in Germany and Austria, recruiting military and civilian sources. Because Smersh operations were essentially counterintelligence by nature, these efforts produced little important political intelligence. In Hungary, Smersh at Abakumov’s orders arrested the Swedish Consul, Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg was reportedly murdered two years later in Moscow.
   Smersh was folded into the new Ministry of State Security (MGB) in March 1946. Many of its responsibilities were transferred to the Third (Military Counterintelligence) Chief Directorate. Smersh’s fearsome reputation outlived its short bureaucratic life and it showed up in numerous novels about Russian intelligence, including those by Ian Fleming.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Smersh — (en russe : « СМЕРШ », prononciation : « SMIERCH ») est la transcription anglophone d un acronyme russe pour « Смерть шпионам ! » (prononciation : « Smiert chpionam ! »), qui… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • SMERSH — (en russe : « СМЕРШ », prononciation : « SMIERCH ») est la transcription anglaise d un acronyme russe pour « Смерть шпионам ! » (prononciation : « Smiert chpionam ! »), qui signifie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • SMERSH — (es la abreviación de SMERt SHpionam (СМЕРть Шпионам), o Muerte a los Espías ) fue el nombre de departamentos de contrainteligencia en la Unión Soviética formada durante la Gran Guerra Patriótica (Segunda Guerra Mundial), para proteger… …   Wikipedia Español

  • SMERSH — var en forkortelse dannet af forbogstaverne for det russiske smert shpionam (død over spionerne). Navnet var valgt af Josef Stalin og betegnede kontraspionageafdelingerne af NKVD. Op til april 1943 var organisationen kendt som den specielle… …   Danske encyklopædi

  • SMERSH — Soviet Army counter espionage organization begun during World War II, 1953, from Russian abbreviation of smert shpionam death to spies. Introduced in English by Ian Flemming …   Etymology dictionary

  • SMERSH — For James Bond s fictional nemesis based on the real Soviet department, see SMERSH (James Bond). SMERSH (Russian: СМЕРШ, acronym of SMERt SHpionam, Russian: СМЕРть Шпионам, English: Death to Spies) was the counter intelligence agency in the Red… …   Wikipedia

  • SMERSH — SMERSCH (von SMERtj SCHpionam, russisch Смерть шпионам! für „Tod den Spionen“) war ein militärischer Nachrichtendienst der Sowjetunion. Er diente vornehmlich der Spionageabwehr, um „Verräter, Deserteure, Spione und kriminelle Elemente“ dingfest… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • SMERSH — noun Counter intellience organisation attached to Russian army units during World War II …   Wiktionary

  • SMERSH — acronym Abbreviation of Russian phrase meaning Death to the spies …   United dictionary of abbreviations and acronyms

  • Smersh — [smərsh] the popular name for the Russian counterespionage organization responsible for maintaining security within the Soviet armed and intelligence services Origin: abbreviation of Russian Smert shpionam, literally ‘death to spies’ …   Useful english dictionary

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