KGB: The Sword and the Shield episode 2: By August 1949, at least five years earlier than expected, the USSR became the world’s second superpower, thanks to its spies who had stolen America’s atomic secrets. But by March 1953, Stalin is dead and KGB chief, Beria, is executed later the same year. Nikita Kruschev tries to reduce the power of the security service, splitting it into several sections…but it doesn’t last and, soon, the KGB is back.
In 1954 the Soviet secret service got its own ministry. Domestic and foreign intelligence operated under the acronym KGB. It remains synonymous with Russian espionage to this day, although the ministry was dissolved with the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the USSR, countless KGB operatives spied on opponents of the regime at home, guarded the state and party leadership, and abroad tried to find out as much as possible about the intentions of the NATO countries and, if possible, to sabotage them. Abroad, it has pulled off its greatest-ever recruitment coup – a mole at the very top of the CIA.
KGB: The Sword and the Shield episode 2
Russia, the largest country on earth. Misunderstood by many and feared by even more. For the past century, Russian history has also been the history of its security services. They were used by the Soviet state to crush dissent. Millions suffered at their hands. Mass executions, secret wars, spies capable of stealing the atomic bomb from America, hacking and poisoning scandals all add up to the most extraordinary and dangerous security network the world has ever known. But while many things have changed in today’s Russia, that security network is arguably stronger than ever. And the reason behind this is the rise of a lowly lieutenant colonel to President of this vast country, Vladimir Putin.
The KGB has influenced world events on numerous occasions before. Assassinations, coup d’etats, theft of nuclear secrets and sexpionage are just standard trademarks for an organisation that still sends shivers down the spines of politicians and military figures the world over. It may have changed its name on various occasions, from Cheka to SPD to OGPU to NKVD to MGB to KGB to an array of different names after the collapse of the Soviet Union to FSB and SVR today, but it will forever be known, internally and externally, as the KGB.
Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was a Georgian Bolshevik and Soviet politician, Marshal of the Soviet Union and state security administrator, chief of the Soviet security, and chief of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) under Joseph Stalin during World War II, and promoted to deputy premier under Stalin from 1941. He later officially joined the Politburo in 1946.
Beria was the longest-lived and most influential of Stalin’s secret police chiefs, wielding his most substantial influence during and after World War II. Following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, he was responsible for organizing purges such as the Katyn massacre of 22,000 Polish officers and officials. Beria would later also orchestrate the forced upheaval of minorities from the Caucasus as head of NKVD, an act that was declared as genocidal by various scholars and, as concerning Chechens, in 2004 by the European parliament. He simultaneously administered vast sections of the Soviet state, and acted as the de facto Marshal of the Soviet Union in command of NKVD field units responsible for barrier troops and Soviet partisan intelligence and sabotage operations on the Eastern Front during World War II. Beria administered the expansion of the Gulag labour camps, and was primarily responsible for overseeing the secret detention facilities for scientists and engineers known as sharashkas.