The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Народный комиссариат внутренних дел, Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del), abbreviated NKVD (НКВД listen (help·info)), was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union.
Established in 1917 as NKVD of Russian SFSR, the agency was originally tasked with conducting regular police work and overseeing the country's prisons and labor camps. It was disbanded in 1930, with its functions being dispersed among other agencies, only to be reinstated as an all-union ministry in 1934.
The functions of the OGPU (the secret police organization) were transferred to the NKVD in 1934, giving it a monopoly over law enforcement activities that lasted until the end of World War II. During this period, the NKVD included both ordinary public order activities, as well as secret police activities. The NKVD is known for its role in political repression and for carrying out the Great Purge under Joseph Stalin. It was led by Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrentiy Beria
The NKVD undertook mass extrajudicial executions of untold numbers of citizens, and conceived, populated and administered the Gulag system of forced labour camps. Their agents were responsible for the repression of the wealthier peasantry, as well as the mass deportations of entire nationalities to uninhabited regions of the country. They oversaw the protection of Soviet borders and espionage (which included political assassinations), and enforced Soviet policy in communist movements and puppet governments in other countries, most notably the repression and massacres in Poland.
of Internal Affairs
|Народный комиссариат внутренних дел|
Naródny komissariát vnútryennikh dyél
other emergency services
|Headquarters||Lubyanka Building, Moscow, RSFSR, Soviet Union|
|Parent agency||Council of the People's Commissars|
|Chronology of Soviet|
secret police agencies
|1917–1922||Cheka under SNK of the RSFSR|
(All-Russian Extraordinary Commision)
|1922–1923||GPU under NKVD of the RSFSR|
(State Political Directorate)
|1923–1934||OGPU under SNK of the USSR|
(Joint State Political Directorate)
|1934–1941||NKVD of the USSR|
(People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
|1941||MGB of the USSR|
(Ministry of State Security)
|1941–1943||GUGB of the NKVD of the USSR|
(Main Directorate of State Security of People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
|1943–1946||NKGB of the USSR|
(People's Commissariat for State Security)
|1946–1953||MGB of the USSR|
(Ministry of State Securtiy)
|1953–1954||MVD of the USSR|
(Ministry of Internal Affairs)
|1954–1978||KGB under SM of the USSR|
(Committee for State Security)
|1978–1991||KGB of the USSR|
(Committee for State Security)
|1991||MSB of the USSR|
(Interrepublican Security Service)
|1991||TsSB of the USSR|
(Central Intelligence Service)
|1991||Committee of protection of the USSR state border|
After the Russian February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government dissolved the Tsarist police and set up the People's Militsiya. The subsequent Russian October Revolution of 1917 saw a seizure of state power led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who established a new Bolshevik regime, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). The Provisional Government's Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), formerly under Georgy Lvov (from March 1917) and then under Nikolai Avksentiev (from 6 August [O.S. 24 July] 1917) and Alexei Nikitin (from 8 October [O.S. 25 September] 1917), turned into NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) under a People's Commissar. However, the NKVD apparatus was overwhelmed by duties inherited from MVD, such as the supervision of the local governments and firefighting, and the Workers' and Peasants' Militsiya staffed by proletarians was largely inexperienced and unqualified. Realizing that it was left with no capable security force, the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR established (20 December [O.S. 7 December] 1917) a secret political police, the Cheka, led by Felix Dzerzhinsky. It gained the right to undertake quick non-judicial trials and executions, if that was deemed necessary in order to "protect the Russian Socialist-Communist revolution".
The Cheka was reorganized in 1922 as the State Political Directorate, or GPU, of the NKVD of the RSFSR. In 1922 the USSR formed, with the RSFSR as its largest member. The GPU became the OGPU (Joint State Political Directorate), under the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR. The NKVD of the RSFSR retained control of the militsiya, and various other responsibilities.
In 1934 the NKVD of the RSFSR was transformed into an all-union security force, the NKVD (which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union leaders soon came to call "the leading detachment of our party"), and the OGPU was incorporated into the NKVD as the Main Directorate for State Security (GUGB); the separate NKVD of the RSFSR was not resurrected until 1946 (as the MVD of the RSFSR). As a result, the NKVD also took over control of all detention facilities (including the forced labor camps, known as the GULag) as well as the regular police. At various times, the NKVD had the following Chief Directorates, abbreviated as "ГУ"– Главное управление, Glavnoye upravleniye.
Until the reorganization begun by Nikolai Yezhov with a purge of the regional political police in the autumn of 1936 and formalized by a May 1939 directive of the All-Union NKVD by which all appointments to the local political police were controlled from the center, there was frequent tension between centralized control of local units and the collusion of those units with local and regional party elements, frequently resulting in the thwarting of Moscow's plans.
Following its establishment in 1934, the NKVD underwent many organizational changes; between 1938 and 1939 alone, the NKVD's structure and leadership changed three times.
During Yezhov's time in office, the Great Purge reached its height from the years 1937 and 1938 alone, at least 1.3 million were arrested and 681,692 were executed for 'crimes against the state'. The Gulag population swelled by 685,201 under Yezhov, nearly tripling in size in just two years, with at least 140,000 of these prisoners (and likely many more) dying of malnutrition, exhaustion and the elements in the camps (or during transport to them).
On 3 February 1941, the 4th Department (Special Section, OO) of GUGB NKVD security service responsible for the Soviet Armed Forces military counter-intelligence, consisting of 12 Sections and one Investigation Unit, was separated from GUGB NKVD USSR.
The official liquidation of OO GUGB within NKVD was announced on 12 February by a joint order № 00151/003 of NKVD and NKGB USSR. The rest of GUGB was abolished and staff was moved to newly created People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB). Departments of former GUGB were renamed Directorates. For example, foreign intelligence unit known as Foreign Department (shortcut- INO) became Foreign Directorate (INU); GUGB political police unit represented by Secret Political Department (SPO) became Secret Political Directorate (SPU), and so on. The former GUGB 4th Department (OO) was split into three sections. One section, which handled military counter-intelligence in NKVD troops (former 11th Section of GUGB 4th Department OO) become 3rd NKVD Department or OKR (Otdel KontrRazvedki), the chief of OKR NKVD was Aleksander Belyanov. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941),the NKGB USSR was abolished and on July 20, 1941 the units that formed NKGB becomes part of NKVD USSR. The military CI was also upgraded from department to directorate and pot in NKVD organization as (Directorate of Special Departments or UOO NKVD USSR). The only section did not return to UOO NKVD till 11 of January 1942 was one responsible for counterintelligence in NKVMF (Navy). It returned to NKVD control in January 11 1942 as UOO 9th Department controlled by P. Gladkov. In April 1943 Directorate of Special Departments was transformed in to SMERSH and transferred to People's Defense and Commissariates. At the same time, the NKVD was reduced in size and duties again by creating NKGB as independent State Security Commissariate. In 1946, all Soviet Commissariats were renamed "ministries". Accordingly, the Peoples Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) of the USSR became the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), while the NKGB was renamed as the Ministry of State Security (MGB). In 1953, after the arrest of Lavrenty Beria, the MGB merged back into the MVD. The police and security services finally split in 1954 to become:
In 1935–1945 Main Directorate of State Security of NKVD had its own ranking system before it was merged in the Soviet military standardized ranking system.
|Commissioner General of State Security||Commissioner of State Security 1st Class||Commissioner of State Security 2nd Class||Commissioner of State Security 3rd Class||Senior Major of State Security||Major of State Security||Captain of State Security||Senior Lieutenant of State Security||Lieutenant of State Security||Junior Lieutenant of State Security||Sergeant of State Security|
|Commissioner General of State Security||Commissioner of State Security 1st Class||Commissioner of State Security 2nd Class||Commissioner of State Security 3rd Class||Senior Major of State Security||Major of State Security|
|Captain of State Security||Senior Lieutenant of State Security||Lieutenant of State Security||Junior Lieutenant of State Security||Sergeant of State Security|
|Commissioner General of State Security||Commissioner of State Security 1st Class||Commissioner of State Security 2nd Class||Commissioner of State Security 3rd Class||Commissioner of State Security|
1 – 1943; 2 – 1943–1945.
|Colonel of State Security||Lieutenant Colonel of
|Major of State Security||Captain of State Security||Senior Lieutenant of
|Lieutenant of State
|Junior Lieutenant of
|Master Sergeant||Senior Sergeant||Sergeant||Junior Sergeant|
The main function of the NKVD was to protect the state security of the Soviet Union. This role was accomplished through massive political repression, including authorised murders of many thousands of politicians and citizens, as well as kidnappings, assassinations and mass deportations.
In implementing Soviet internal policy towards perceived enemies of the Soviet state ("enemies of the people"), untold multitudes of people were sent to GULAG camps and hundreds of thousands were executed by the NKVD. Formally, most of these people were convicted by NKVD troikas ("triplets")– special courts martial. Evidential standards were very low: a tip-off by an anonymous informer was considered sufficient grounds for arrest. Use of "physical means of persuasion" (torture) was sanctioned by a special decree of the state, which opened the door to numerous abuses, documented in recollections of victims and members of the NKVD itself. Hundreds of mass graves resulting from such operations were later discovered throughout the country. Documented evidence exists that the NKVD committed mass extrajudicial executions, guided by secret "plans". Those plans established the number and proportion of victims (officially "public enemies") in a given region (e.g. the quotas for clergy, former nobles etc., regardless of identity). The families of the repressed, including children, were also automatically repressed according to NKVD Order no. 00486.
The purges were organized in a number of waves according to the decisions of the Politburo of the Communist Party. Some examples are the campaigns among engineers (Shakhty Trial), party and military elite plots (Great Purge with Order 00447), and medical staff ("Doctors' Plot"). One case of gas van usage was documented in the Soviet Union during the Great Purge
A number of mass operations of the NKVD were related to the prosecution of whole ethnic categories. For example, the Polish Operation of the NKVD in 1937–1938 resulted in the execution of 111,091 Poles. Whole populations of certain ethnicities were forcibly resettled. Foreigners living in the Soviet Union were given particular attention. When disillusioned American citizens living in the Soviet Union thronged the gates of the U.S. embassy in Moscow to plead for new U.S. passports to leave USSR (their original U.S. passports had been taken for 'registration' purposes years before), none were issued. Instead, the NKVD promptly arrested all of the Americans, who were taken to Lubyanka Prison and later shot. American factory workers at the Soviet Ford GAZ plant, suspected by Stalin of being 'poisoned' by Western influences, were dragged off with the others to Lubyanka by the NKVD in the very same Ford Model A cars they had helped build, where they were tortured; nearly all were executed or died in labor camps. Many of the slain Americans were dumped in the mass grave at Yuzhnoye Butovo District near Moscow. Even so, the people of the Soviet Republics still formed the majority of NKVD victims[*17][*18].
The NKVD also served as arm of the Russian Soviet communist government for the lethal mass persecution and destruction of ethnic minorities and religious beliefs, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Greek Catholics, Islam, Judaism and other religious organizations, an operation headed by Yevgeny Tuchkov.
During the 1930s, the NKVD was responsible for political murders of those Stalin believed to oppose him. Espionage networks headed by experienced multilingual NKVD officers such as Pavel Sudoplatov and Iskhak Akhmerov were established in nearly every major Western country, including the United States. The NKVD recruited agents for its espionage efforts from all walks of life, from unemployed intellectuals such as Mark Zborowski to aristocrats such as Martha Dodd. Besides the gathering of intelligence, these networks provided organizational assistance for so-called wet business, where enemies of the USSR either disappeared or were openly liquidated.
The NKVD's intelligence and special operations (Inostranny Otdel) unit organized overseas assassinations of political enemies of the USSR, such as leaders of nationalist movements, former Tsarist officials, and personal rivals of Joseph Stalin. Among the officially confirmed victims of such plots were:
Prominent political dissidents were also found dead under highly suspicious circumstances, including Walter Krivitsky, Lev Sedov, Ignace Reiss and former German Communist Party (KPD) member Willi Münzenberg.
The pro-Soviet leader Sheng Shicai in Xinjiang received NKVD assistance in conducting a purge to coincide with Stalin's Great Purge in 1937. Sheng and the Soviets alleged a massive Trotskyist conspiracy and a "Fascist Trotskyite plot" to destroy the Soviet Union. The Soviet Consul General Garegin Apresoff, General Ma Hushan, Ma Shaowu, Mahmud Sijan, the official leader of the Xinjiang province Huang Han-chang and Hoja-Niyaz were among the 435 alleged conspirators in the plot. Xinjiang came under virtual Soviet control. Stalin opposed the Chinese Communist Party.
During the Spanish Civil War, NKVD agents, acting in conjunction with the Communist Party of Spain, exercised substantial control over the Republican government, using Soviet military aid to help further Soviet influence. The NKVD established numerous secret prisons around the capital Madrid, which were used to detain, torture, and kill hundreds of the NKVD's enemies, at first focusing on Spanish Nationalists and Spanish Catholics, while from late 1938 increasingly anarchists and Trotskyists were the objects of persecution. In 1937 Andrés Nin, the secretary of the Trotskyist POUM and his colleagues were tortured and killed in an NKVD prison in Barcelona.
Prior to the German invasion, in order to accomplish its own goals, the NKVD was prepared to cooperate even with such organizations as the German Gestapo. In March 1940 representatives of the NKVD and the Gestapo met for one week in Zakopane, to coordinate the pacification of Poland; see Gestapo–NKVD Conferences. For its part, the Soviet Union delivered hundreds of German and Austrian Communists to the Gestapo, as unwanted foreigners, together with their documents. However, many NKVD units were later to fight the Wehrmacht, for example the 10th Rifle Division NKVD, which fought at the Battle of Stalingrad.
After the German invasion the NKVD evacuated and killed prisoners.
During World War II, NKVD Internal Troops units were used for rear area security, including preventing the retreat of Soviet Union army divisions. Though mainly intended for internal security, NKVD divisions were sometimes used at the front to stem the occurrence of desertion through Stalin's Order No. 270 and Order No. 227 decrees in 1941 and 1942, which aimed to raise troop morale via brutality and coercion. At the beginning of the war the NKVD formed 15 rifle divisions, which had expanded by 1945 to 53 divisions and 28 brigades. A list of identified NKVD Internal Troops divisions can be seen at List of Soviet Union divisions. Though mainly intended for internal security, NKVD divisions were sometimes used in the front-lines, for example during the Battle of Stalingrad and the Crimean Offensive of 1944. Unlike the Waffen-SS, the NKVD did not field any armored or mechanized units.
In the enemy-held territories, the NKVD carried out numerous missions of sabotage. After fall of Kiev, NKVD agents set fire to the Nazi headquarters and various other targets, eventually burning down much of the city center. Similar actions took place across the occupied Byelorussia and Ukraine.
The NKVD (later KGB) carried out mass arrests, deportations, and executions. The targets included both collaborators with Germany and non-Communist resistance movements such as the Polish Armia Krajowa and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army aiming to separate from the Soviet Union, among others. The NKVD also executed tens of thousands of Polish political prisoners in 1939–1941, including the Katyń massacre. NKVD units were also used to repress the prolonged partisan war in Ukraine and the Baltics, which lasted until the early 1950s.
After the death of Stalin in 1953, the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev halted the NKVD purges. From the 1950s to the 1980s, thousands of victims were legally "rehabilitated" (i.e., acquitted and had their rights restored). Many of the victims and their relatives refused to apply for rehabilitation out of fear or lack of documents. The rehabilitation was not complete: in most cases the formulation was "due to lack of evidence of the case of crime". Only a limited number of persons were rehabilitated with the formulation "cleared of all charges".
Very few NKVD agents were ever officially convicted of the particular violation of anyone's rights. Legally, those agents executed in the 1930s were also "purged" without legitimate criminal investigations and court decisions. In the 1990s and 2000s (decade) a small number of ex-NKVD agents living in the Baltic states were convicted of crimes against the local population.
The extensive system of labor exploitation in the Gulag made a notable contribution to the Soviet economy and the development of remote areas. Colonization of Siberia, the North and Far East was among the explicitly stated goals in the very first laws concerning Soviet labor camps. Mining, construction works (roads, railways, canals, dams, and factories), logging, and other functions of the labor camps were part of the Soviet planned economy, and the NKVD had its own production plans.
The most unusual part of the NKVD's achievements was its role in Soviet science and arms development. Many scientists and engineers arrested for political crimes were placed in special prisons, much more comfortable than the Gulag, colloquially known as sharashkas. These prisoners continued their work in these prisons. When later released, some of them became world leaders in science and technology. Among such sharashka members were Sergey Korolev, the head designer of the Soviet rocket program and first human space flight mission in 1961, and Andrei Tupolev, the famous airplane designer. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was also imprisoned in a sharashka, and based his novel The First Circle on his experiences there.
After World War II, the NKVD coordinated work on Soviet nuclear weaponry, under the direction of General Pavel Sudoplatov. The scientists were not prisoners, but the project was supervised by the NKVD because of its great importance and the corresponding requirement for absolute security and secrecy. Also, the project used information obtained by the NKVD from the United States.
The agency was headed by a people's commissar (minister). His first deputy was the director of State Security Service (GUGB).
Note: In the first half of 1941 Vsevolod Merkulov transformed his agency into separate commissariat (ministry), but it was merged back to the people's commissariat of Interior soon after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. In 1943 Merkulov once again split his agency this time for good.
Andrei Zhukov has singlehandedly identified every single NKVD officer involved in 1930s arrests and killings by researching a Moscow archive. There are just over 40,000 names on the list.
|url=(help). London: William Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-750374-2.
The 8th Motorized Rifle Division of the NKVD Internal Troops (Russian: 8-я мотострелковая дивизия внутренних войск НКВД СССР 8-y motostrelkovaya diviziya vnutrenikh voisk NKVD SSSR) was formed in accordance with NKVD Order Number 0021 from January 5, 1942, during execution GKO decree number 1099- ss on January 4, 1942. It was based on the 23rd Motorized Rifle Division NKVD Internal Troops.David Glantz writes that in early December, the Southwestern Front combined the remnants of the 91st, 92nd, 94th, and 98th Border Guards Detachments with the 6th, 16th and 28th NKVD MRRs to form the division.(Colossus Reborn, 165)
The 8th Infantry Division of the NKVD Internal Troops was part of the troops of the South-Western Front and included the:
4th Red Banner Motor Rifle Regiment ;
6th Motorized Rifle Regiment ;
16th Motorized Rifle Regiment ;
28th Motorized Rifle Regiment ;
266th Motorized Rifle Regiment ;
274th Motorized Rifle Regiment ;
10th Artillery Regiment ;On May 9, 1942, from the 8th Motorized Rifle Division of Internal Troops stand
4th Red Banner Motor Rifle Regiment,
266th Motorized Rifle Regiment,
274th Motorized Rifle Regiment.On the basis of these parts of the 8th Motorized Rifle Division of the NKVD the 13th Rifle Division NKVD was formed. The 287th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division NKVD internal troops also joined the division.Colonel Gorishnii Vasily Akimovich was appointed the Divisional commander, while military Political commissar Division Senior Battalion Commissar Ilya Arkhipovich Vlasenko.Gas van
A gas van or gas wagon (Russian: душегубка (dushegubka); German: Gaswagen) was a vehicle reequipped as a mobile gas chamber. The vehicle had an air-tight compartment for the murdered victims, into which exhaust fumes were transmitted while the engine was running. The murdered victims were gassed with carbon monoxide, resulting in death by carbon monoxide poisoning and suffocation. The gas van was used by the Soviet secret police in 1930s. During World War II Nazi Germany used gas vans on a large scale as an extermination method to murder inmates of asylums, Romani people, Jews, and prisoners in occupied Poland, Belarus, and Yugoslavia.Genrikh Yagoda
Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda (7 November 1891 – 15 March 1938), born Yenokh Gershevich Iyeguda was a secret police official who served as director of the NKVD, the Soviet Union's security and intelligence agency, from 1934 to 1936. Appointed by Joseph Stalin, Yagoda supervised the arrest, show trial, and execution of the Old Bolsheviks Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev, climactic events of the Great Purge. Yagoda supervised the construction of the White Sea–Baltic Canal with Naftaly Frenkel, using penal labor from the GULAG system, during which 12,000–25,000 laborers died. He commanded the forced collectivization and is one of the main responsible people for the great hunger in Ukraine, responsible for the deaths of up to 10 million people and the deportation of 5 million Russian and Ukrainian peasants.
Like many Soviet NKVD officers who conducted political repression, Yagoda himself became ultimately a victim of the Purge. He was demoted from the directorship of the NKVD in favor of Nikolai Yezhov in 1936 and arrested in 1937. Charged with the crimes of wrecking, espionage, Trotskyism and conspiracy, Yagoda was a defendant at the Trial of the Twenty-One, the last of the major Soviet show trials of the 1930s. Following his confession at the trial, Yagoda was found guilty and shot.Gestapo–NKVD conferences
The Gestapo–NKVD conferences were a series of security police meetings organized in late 1939 and early 1940 by Germany and the Soviet Union, following the invasion of Poland in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The meetings enabled both parties to pursue specific goals and aims. The conferences were held by the Gestapo and the NKVD officials in several Polish cities. In spite of their differences on other issues, both Heinrich Himmler and Lavrentiy Beria had similar objectives as far as the fate of the prewar Poland was concerned.The attack on Poland ended with the Nazi–Soviet victory parade in Brześć, which was held on 22 September 1939. Brześć was the location of the first Nazi-Soviet meeting organized on 27 September 1939, prior to the signing of mutual agreements in Moscow a day later. They met again in occupied Przemyśl at the end of November, because Przemyśl was a border crossing between the two powers. The next series of meetings began in December 1939. The conferences were held in occupied Kraków in the General Government on 6–7 December 1939; and continued for the next two days in the resort town of Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains of southern Poland (100 km from Kraków) on 8–9 December 1939. The Zakopane Conference is the most remembered. From the Soviet side, several higher officers of the NKVD secret police participated in the meetings, while the German hosts provided a group of experts from the Gestapo.Great Purge
The Great Purge or the Great Terror was a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union which occurred from 1936 to 1938. It involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and government officials, repression of wealthy landlords and the Red Army leadership, widespread police surveillance, suspicion of saboteurs, counter-revolutionaries, imprisonment, and arbitrary executions. In Russian historiography, the period of the most intense purge, 1937–1938, is called Yezhovshchina (literally, "Yezhov phenomenon", commonly translated as "times of Yezhov" or "doings of Yezhov"), after Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, who was executed a year after the purge. Modern historical studies estimate the total number of deaths due to Stalinist repression in 1937–38 to be between 681,692-1,200,000.In the Western world, Robert Conquest's 1968 book The Great Terror popularized that phrase. Conquest's title was in turn an allusion to the period called the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution (French: la Terreur, and, from June to July 1794, la Grande Terreur, the Great Terror).Gulag
The Gulag (, UK also ; Russian: ГУЛаг [ɡʊˈlak] (listen), acronym of Main Administration of Camps) was the government agency in charge of the Soviet forced-labor camp-system that was set up under Vladimir Lenin and reached its peak during Joseph Stalin's rule from the 1930s to the early 1950s. English-language speakers also use the word gulag to refer to any forced-labor camp in the Soviet Union, including camps which existed in post-Stalin times. The camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners. Large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as by NKVD troikas or by other instruments of extrajudicial punishment. The Gulag is recognized as a major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union.
The agency was first administered by the GPU, later by the NKVD and in the final years by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). The Solovki prison camp, the first corrective labor camp constructed after the revolution, was established in 1918 and legalized by a decree "On the creation of the forced-labor camps" on April 15, 1919. The internment system grew rapidly, reaching a population of 100,000 in the 1920s. According to Nicolas Werth, author of The Black Book of Communism, the yearly mortality rate in the Soviet concentration camps strongly varied, reaching 5% (1933) and 20% (1942–1943) while dropping considerably in the post-war years (about 1 to 3% per year at the beginning of the 1950s). The emergent consensus among scholars who utilize official archival data is that of the 18 million who were sent to the Gulag from 1930 to 1953, roughly 1.5 to 1.7 million perished there or as a result of their detention. However, some historians who question the reliability of such data and instead rely heavily on literary sources come to higher estimations. Archival researchers have found "no plan of destruction" of the gulag population and no statement of official intent to kill them, and prisoner releases vastly exceeded the number of deaths in the Gulag.Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, who survived eight years of Gulag incarceration, gave the term its international repute with the publication of The Gulag Archipelago in 1973. The author likened the scattered camps to "a chain of islands", and as an eyewitness he described the Gulag as a system where people were worked to death.
In March 1940, there were 53 Gulag camp directorates (colloquially referred to as simply "camps") and 423 labor colonies in the Soviet Union. Many mining and industrial towns and cities in northern and eastern Russia and in Kazakhstan such as Karaganda, Norilsk, Vorkuta and Magadan, were originally blocks of camps built by prisoners and subsequently run by ex-prisoners.Internal Troops
The Internal Troops, full name Internal Troops of the Ministry for Internal Affairs (MVD) (Russian: Внутренние войска Министерства внутренних дел, Vnutrenniye Voiska Ministerstva Vnutrennikh Del; abbreviated ВВ, VV), alternatively translated as "Interior (Troops or Forces)", is a paramilitary gendarmerie-like force in the now-defunct Soviet Union and in some of its successor countries, including in Russia (until 2016), Ukraine (until 2014), Georgia (until 2004), Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan (until 2014) and Tajikistan. Internal Troops are subordinated to the interior ministries of the respective countries.
They were designed to be used to support and reinforce the Militsiya, deal with large-scale crowd control, internal armed conflicts, prison security (except in Russia) and safeguarding of highly-important facilities (like nuclear power plants). As such, the force was and is involved in the various conflicts and violent disturbances in the history of the Soviet Union and modern Russia, including the Russian Civil War, World War II, mass repressions of Stalinist era, and the Chechen Wars. During wartime, the Internal Troops falls under armed forces military command and fulfill the missions of local defence and rear area security.Katyn massacre
The Katyn massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, "Katyń crime"; Russian: Катынская резня Katynskaya reznya, "Katyn massacre", or Russian: Катынский расстрел, "Katyn execution by shooting") was a series of mass executions of Polish officers and intelligentsia carried out by the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD ("People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs", aka the Soviet secret police) in April and May 1940. Though the killings took place at several places, the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest, where some of the mass graves were first discovered.
The massacre was prompted by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute all captive members of the Polish officer corps, dated 5 March 1940, approved by the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000. The victims were executed in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the rest were Polish intelligentsia the Soviets deemed to be "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests". As the Polish Army officer class was representative of the multi-ethnic Polish state, the killed also included Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Polish Jews including the Chief Rabbi of the Polish Army, Baruch Steinberg.
The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest in April 1943. When the London-based Polish government-in-exile asked for an investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Stalin immediately severed diplomatic relations with it. The USSR claimed the Nazis had murdered the victims in 1941 and it continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the perpetration of the killings by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up by the Soviet government.An investigation conducted by the office of the Prosecutors General of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004) confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres but refused to classify this action as a war crime or an act of genocide. The investigation was closed on the grounds the perpetrators were dead, and since the Russian government would not classify the dead as victims of the Great Purge, formal posthumous rehabilitation was deemed inapplicable.In November 2010, the Russian State Duma approved a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for ordering the massacre.Lavrentiy Beria
Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria (; Russian: Лавре́нтий Па́влович Бе́рия, IPA: [ˈbʲerʲiə]; Georgian: ლავრენტი პავლეს ძე ბერია, translit.: lavrent'i p'avles dze beria, IPA: [bɛriɑ]; 29 March [17 March old style] 1899 – 23 December 1953) was a Soviet politician, Marshal of the Soviet Union and state security administrator, chief of the Soviet security and secret police apparatus (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 the Katyn massacre. 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 vast expansion of the Gulag labor camps and was primarily responsible for overseeing the secret detention facilities for scientists and engineers known as sharashkas.
He attended the Yalta Conference with Stalin, who introduced him to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as "our Himmler". After the war, he organized the Communist takeover of the state institutions in Central Europe and Eastern Europe and political repressions in these countries. Beria's uncompromising ruthlessness in his duties and skill at producing results culminated in his success in overseeing the Soviet atomic bomb project. Stalin gave it absolute priority and the project was completed in under five years, having been accelerated by Soviet espionage against the West.After Stalin's death in March 1953, Lavrentiy Beria became First Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union and head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In this dual capacity, he formed a troika alongside Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov that briefly led the country in Stalin’s place. However, in a coup d'état launched by Nikita Khrushchev on June 1953, Beria was ultimately removed from power and subsequently arrested on charges of treason. He was sentenced to death and was executed by Pavel Batitsky on December 23, 1953.List of Soviet divisions 1917–45
The Soviet Union's Red Army raised divisions during the Russian Civil War, and again during the interwar period from 1926. Few of the Civil War divisions were retained into this period, and even fewer survived the reorganization of the Red Army during the 1937–1941 period. During the Second World War 400 'line' rifle divisions (infantry), 129 Soviet Guards rifle divisions, and over 50 cavalry divisions as well as many divisions of other combat support arms were raised in addition to the hundreds of divisions that existed in the Red Army before Operation Barbarossa. Almost all the pre-war mechanized and tank divisions were disbanded during the war. There were also Red Air Force aviation divisions, and the NKVD divisions which also took part in fighting. However, in contrast to Wikipedia's reasonably complete descriptions of U.S., British, and German divisions, only a few Soviet divisions have articles here, mostly because the detailed histories have either not been translated from Russian or have not been fully released from the official archives. (See Wikipedia:WikiProject Countering systemic bias).
The territorial principle of manning the Red Army was introduced in the mid-1920s. In each region able-bodied men were called up for a limited period of active duty in a territorial unit, which comprised about half the Army's strength, each year, for five years. The first call-up period was for three months, with one month a year thereafter. A regular cadre provided a stable nucleus. By 1925 this system provided 46 of the 77 infantry divisions and one of the eleven cavalry divisions. The remainder consisted of regular officers and enlisted personnel serving two-year stints. The territorial system was finally abolished, with all remaining formations converted to the other 'cadre' divisions, in 1937 and 1938.The Red Army formed at least 42 divisions during the Second World War which had substantial ethnic majorities in their composition derived from location of initial formation rather than intentional "nationalization" of the divisions, including four Azeri, five Armenian, and eight Georgian rifle divisions and a large number of cavalry divisions in the eastern Ukraine, Cuban region, and Central Asia, including five Uzbek cavalry divisions. See ru:Национальные воинские подразделения РККА.NKVD prisoner massacres
The NKVD prisoner massacres were a series of mass executions of political prisoners carried out by the NKVD, the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union, across Eastern Europe, primarily Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Bessarabia. At the outbreak of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the NKVD troops were supposed to evacuate political prisoners into the interior of Russia. However, hasty retreat of the Red Army, lack of transportation and other supplies, and general disregard for legal procedures often meant that the prisoners were executed.
Estimates of the death toll vary between locations; nearly 9,000 in the Ukrainian SSR, 20,000–30,000 in eastern Poland (now part of Western Ukraine), with the total number reaching approximately 100,000 victims of extrajudicial executions in the span of a few weeks.NKVD special camps in Germany 1945–49
NKVD special camps (German: Speziallager) were NKVD-run late and post–World War II internment camps in the Soviet-occupied parts of Germany from May 1945 to January 6, 1950. They were set up by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) and run by the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs MVD On 8 August 1948, the camps were made subordinate to the Gulag. Because the camp inmates were permitted no contact with the outside world, the special camps were also known as silence camps (German: Schweigelager).The Soviet occupation authorities did not admit to the existence of the camps until the Western press led the Soviet Union to respond with a moderate propaganda campaign of their own admitting and defending the camps' existence. No inmates were released before 1948. On January 6, 1950 the camps were handed over to the East German government, who tried the remaining detainees. About 123,000 Germans and 35,000 citizens of other nations were detained, at least 43,000 of whom did not survive.Nikolai Yezhov
Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov, IPA: [nʲɪkɐˈɫaj jɪˈʐof]; May 1, 1895 – February 4, 1940) was a Soviet secret police official under Joseph Stalin who was head of the NKVD from 1936 to 1938, during the most active period of the Great Purge.
Having presided over mass arrests and executions during the Great Purge, Yezhov eventually fell from Stalin's favour and power. He was arrested, confessed to a range of anti-Soviet activity, later claiming he was tortured into making these confessions, and was executed in 1940.Polish Operation of the NKVD
The Polish Operation of the Soviet security service in 1937–1938 was a mass operation of the NKVD carried out in the Soviet Union against Poles (labeled by the Soviets as "agents") during the period of the Great Purge. It was ordered by the Politburo against the so-called "Polish spies" and customarily interpreted by the NKVD officials as relating to 'absolutely all Poles'. It resulted in the sentencing of 139,835 people, and summary executions of 111,091 Poles. The operation was implemented according to NKVD Order № 00485 signed by Nikolai Yezhov. The majority of the shooting victims were ethnically Polish, but not all, wrote Timothy Snyder. The remainder were 'suspected' of being Polish, without further inquiry, or classed as possibly having pro-Polish sympathies. In order to speed up the process the NKVD personnel reviewed local telephone books and arrested persons with Polish-sounding names.The Polish Operation was the largest ethnic shooting and deportation action during the Great Terror campaign of political murders in the Soviet Union, orchestrated by Nikolai Yezhov. It is also the largest killing of Poles in history outside any armed conflict.SMERSH
SMERSH (Russian: СМЕРШ) was an umbrella organization for three independent counter-intelligence agencies in the Red Army formed in late 1942 or even earlier, but officially announced only on 14 April 1943. The name SMERSH was coined by Joseph Stalin. The main reason for its creation was to subvert the attempts by German forces to infiltrate the Red Army on the Eastern Front.The official statute of SMERSH listed the following tasks to be performed by the organisation: counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism, preventing any other activity of foreign intelligence in the Red Army; fighting "anti-Soviet elements" in the Red Army; protection of the front lines against penetration by spies and "anti-Soviet elements"; investigating traitors, deserters and self-harm in the Red Army; and checking military and civil personnel returning from captivity.
The organisation was officially in existence until 4 May 1946, when its duties were transferred back to the MGB. The head of the agency throughout its existence was Viktor Abakumov, who rose to become Minister of State Security in the postwar years.Separate Operational Purpose Division
The Separate Operational Purpose Division or ODON, formerly called OMSDON (a.k.a. Dzerzhinsky Division) is a rapid deployment internal security division of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR and then the Russian Federation, today of the National Guard Forces Command of the Russian Federation. ODON (Russian: ОДОН) is an initialism for Отдельная дивизия оперативного назначения (Otdel'naya diviziya operativnogo naznacheniya, English: Separate Operational Purpose Division).Sergey Kirov
Sergei Mironovich Kirov (born Kostrikov; 27 March [O.S. 15 March] 1886 – 1 December 1934) was a close, personal friend to Joseph Stalin, and a prominent early Bolshevik leader in the Soviet Union. Kirov rose through the Communist Party ranks to become head of the party organization in Leningrad.
On 1 December 1934, Kirov was shot and killed by a gunman at his offices in the Smolny Institute. There is a widespread belief that Joseph Stalin and elements of the NKVD were behind Kirov's assassination, but evidence for this claim remains lacking. Kirov's death was later used as a pretext for Stalin's escalation of repression against dissident elements of the Party, and disarming of the Party (every Party member was issued a revolver up to that time, when Stalin had them all taken away), culminating in the Great Purge of the late 1930s in which many of the Old Bolsheviks were arrested, expelled from the party, and executed. Complicity in Kirov's assassination was a common charge to which the accused confessed in the show trials of the period.
The cities of Kirov, Kirovohrad, Kirovakan, and Kirovabad, as well as a few Kirovsks, were renamed in Kirov's honor after his assassination. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kirovakan and Kirovabad returned to their original names: Vanadzor and Ganja, respectively. In order to comply with decommunization laws, Kirovohrad was renamed in July 2016 by the Ukrainian parliament to Kropyvnytskyi.Soviet Border Troops
Soviet Border Troops (Russian: Пограничные войска СССР, Pograníchnyye Voiská SSSR) were the militarized border guard of the Soviet Union, subordinated to its subsequently reorganized state security agency: first to Cheka/OGPU, then to NKVD/MGB and, finally, to KGB. Accordingly, they were known as NKVD Border Troops and KGB Border Troops (with Russian abbreviations – НКВД СССР/- КГБ СССР added on the end of official names). Unlike border guards of many other countries, Soviet Border Troops also included the maritime border guarding units (i.e., a coast guard).
The mission of the Border Troops included repulsing armed incursions into Soviet territory; preventing illegal crossings of the border or the transport of weapons, explosives, contraband or subversive literature across the border; monitoring the observance of established procedures at border crossing points; monitoring the observance by Soviet and foreign ships of navigation procedures in Soviet territorial waters; and assisting state agencies in the preservation of natural resources and the protection of the environment from pollution. Border guards were authorized to examine documents and possessions of persons crossing the borders and to confiscate articles; to conduct inquiries in cases of violations of the state border; and to take such actions as arrest, search and interrogation of individuals suspected of border violations.
They became the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation on December 30, 1993.State Political Directorate
The State Political Directorate (also translated as the State Political Administration) (GPU) was the intelligence service and secret police of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) from February 6, 1922 to December 29, 1922 and the Soviet Union from December 29, 1922 until November 15, 1923.