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Definition: KGB from Philip's Encyclopedia

(Komitet Gosudarstvennoye Bezhopaznosti, Rus. Committee for State Security) Soviet secret police. In the 1980s, it employed an estimated 500,000 people and controlled all police, security, and intelligence operations in the Soviet Union. It also gathered military and political information about other countries. Opposing liberalization under Gorbachev, its chief was a leader of the attempted coup against him in 1991. After the collapse of communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union, it underwent extensive reform.

Summary Article: KGB
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Secret police of the USSR, the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (Committee of State Security), which was in control of frontier and general security and the forced-labour system. KGB officers held key appointments in all fields of daily life, reporting to administration offices in every major town. Since the demise of the USSR in 1991, the KGB has been superseded in Russia by the Federal Security Service (FSB) as the main domestic state security agency, and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the primary external intelligence agency.

The KGB had at least 220,000 border guards, with reinforcements of 80,000 volunteer militia members. Many KGB officers were also said to hold diplomatic posts in embassies abroad. Headed by General Vladimir Kryuchkov 1988–91, the KGB coordinated the military crackdown on Azerbaijan 1990 and on the Baltic states 1991. After the attempted anti-Gorbachev coup of 1991, reforms intended to curb the political activities of the KGB were introduced: its leadership was removed and KGB troops were placed under the control of the Defence Ministry; the presidential guard was removed from KGB authority; and government communications were transferred to the aegis of a state committee. Earlier names for the secret police were Okhrana under the tsars; Cheka 1918–23; GPU or OGPU (Obedinyonnoye Gosudarstvennoye Polititcheskoye Upravleniye/Unified State Political Administration) 1923–34; NKVD (Narodny Komisariat Vnutrennykh Del/People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) 1934–46; and MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) 1946–53. Smersh was a subsection.


In 1990 a KGB museum, next to the agency's headquarters in Dzerzhinsky Square, Moscow, was opened to the public. It contains such items as the British double agent Kim Philby's pipe and a poison needle (unused) that had been issued to Gary Powers, a US U-2 spy-plane pilot who was shot down over Soviet airspace in 1960.

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