Communist Party of the Soviet Union

(CPSU)
   The Soviet security services had a symbiotic relationship with the ruling Communist Party. The Cheka styled itself as the “sword and shield of the party,” and the successive services maintained this relationship. Indeed, the identification cards of KGB officers had embossed on them a sword and shield. When Joseph Stalin served as party leader from 1924 to 1953, he managed the service through a Special Department. Stalin paid close attention to the assignment of senior officers and often communicated with them through telegrams and personal letters. He encouraged Chekisty to bring their concerns to him, and he became the prime consumer of gossip and denunciations from officials in the field. Stalin also stayed close to the leaders of the service: both Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrenty Beria were frequent guests at his apartment and vacation homes.
   After Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev reduced the authority of the KGB vis-à-vis the Communist Party. KGB officers could not arrest senior party officials without the permission of the Central Committee. The party’s Administrative Organs Department vetted all senior police appointments. For Khrushchev, the KGB was the servant of the party—as well as its avenging sword and shield. Under Khrushchev’s successor Leonid Brezhnev, the KGB was even further restricted from reporting on developments in the party. The years of Brezhnev’s rule were often referred to as “stagnation,” as the party leadership in Moscow and the provinces became more entrenched and corrupt. KGB officers reported on gross economic malfeasance to chair Yuri Andropov but were well aware that their reports would rarely be acted on. In the years of stagnation, in the provinces and in the center, KGB generals were co-opted by the party. By the 1970s, senior KGB officials were appointed to the Communist Party’s Central Committee. At the local level, senior KGB officers were appointed to the Communist Party’s leadership bodies. This interlocking directorate of party and police gradually eroded the effectiveness of the KGB as a guarantee of political and social cohesion, and it corrupted the KGB at the local level.
   The Communist Party that Mikhail Gorbachev inherited in 1985 was a very dull tool for change. Efforts to raise political consciousness by his twin programs of glasnost and perestroika were opposed by both the party and the police, which saw it as endangering their prerogatives. In a major speech in 1987, KGB Chair Viktor Chebrikov attacked reform efforts as undercutting party authority. The Communist Party elite sourly accepted changes in the late 1980s, predicting as they did that any reduction of party authority would lead to chaos. KGB officers watching history unfold before them in the last years of the Gorbachev administration knew they were witnessing the loss of the Soviet empire that Stalin had created. The August putsch in 1991 was the last desperate act of these traditionalists to change history.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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