NKVD

NKVD
People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs
Народный комиссариат внутренних дел
Narodnyi komissariat vnutrennikh del (NKVD)
NKVD emblem
Agency overview
Formed10 July 1934; 89 years ago (10 July 1934)
Preceding agencies
Dissolved15 March 1946; 78 years ago (15 March 1946)
Superseding agencies
Type • Law enforcement
 • Gendarmerie
 • Border guard
 • Prison authority
JurisdictionSoviet Union
Headquarters11-13 ulitsa Bol. Lubyanka,
Moscow, RSFSR, Soviet Union
Agency executives
Parent agencyCouncil of the People's Commissars
Child agencies

The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Russian: Наро́дный комиссариа́т вну́тренних дел, romanizedNaródny komissariát vnútrennih del (NKVD), pronounced [nɐˈrodnɨj kəmʲɪsərʲɪˈat ˈvnutrʲɪnʲɪɣ dʲel]), abbreviated NKVD (НКВД listen), was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union.

Established in 1917 as NKVD of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the agency was originally tasked with conducting regular police work and overseeing the country's prisons and labor camps. It was disbanded in 1930, and its functions were dispersed among other agencies. Then it was reinstated as an all-union commissariat in 1934.

The functions of the OGPU (the secret police organization) were transferred to the NKVD around the year 1930, giving it a monopoly over law enforcement that lasted until the end of World War II. During this period, the NKVD included both ordinary public order activities, and secret police activities. The NKVD is known for 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 citizens, and conceived, populated and administered the Gulag system of forced labor camps. Their agents were responsible for the repression of the wealthier peasantry. They oversaw the protection of Soviet borders and espionage (which included carrying out political assassinations).

In March 1946 all People's Commissariats were renamed to Ministries. The NKVD became the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD).

History and structure

Early NKVD leaders, Genrikh Yagoda, then (1924) 1st deputy head of SOU OGPU Vyacheslav Menzhinsky then head of SOU OGPU and deputy head OGPU, and Felix Dzerzhinsky chief of OGPU, 1924

After the Russian February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government dissolved the Tsarist police and set up the People's Militias. 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 Niketan (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' Militias 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.

Chronology of Soviet
security agencies
1917–22 Cheka under Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR
(All-Russian Extraordinary Commission)
1922–23 GPU under NKVD of the RSFSR
(State Political Directorate)
1920–91 PGU KGB or INO under Cheka (later KGB) of the USSR
(First Chief Directorate)
1923–34 OGPU under SNK of the USSR
(Joint State Political Directorate)
1934–46 NKVD of the USSR
(People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
1934–41 GUGB of the NKVD of the USSR
(Main Directorate of State Security of
People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
1941 NKGB of the USSR
(People's Commissariat of State Security)
1943–46 NKGB of the USSR
(People's Commissariat for State Security)
1946–53 MGB of the USSR
(Ministry of State Security)
1946–54 MVD of the USSR
(Ministry of Internal Affairs)
1947–51

KI MID of the USSR
(Committee of Information under Ministry
of Foreign Affairs)

1954–78 KGB under the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
(Committee for State Security)
1978–91 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 KOGG of the USSR
(Committee for the Protection of
the State Border)
ГУГБ – государственной безопасности, of State Security (GUGB, Glavnoye upravleniye gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti)
ГУРКМ – рабоче-крестьянской милиции, of Workers and Peasants Militsiya (GURKM, Glavnoye upravleniye raboče-krest'yanskoi militsyi)
ГУПВО – пограничной и внутренней охраны, of Border and Internal Guards (GUPVO, GU pograničnoi i vnytrennei okhrany)
ГУПО – пожарной охраны, of Firefighting Services (GUPO, GU polaronic okhrany)
ГУШосДор – шоссейных дорог, of Highways (GUŠD, GU šosseynykh doors)
ГУЖД – железных дорог, of Railways (GUŽD, GU železnykh dorog)
ГУЛаг– Главное управление исправительно-трудовых лагерей и колоний, (GULag, Glavnoye upravleniye lagerey i kolonii)
ГЭУ – экономическое, of Economics (GEU, Glavnoye ekonomičeskoie upravleniye)
ГТУ – транспортное, of Transport (GTU, Glavnoye transportnoie upravleniye)
ГУВПИ – военнопленных и интернированных, of POWs and interned persons (GUVPI, Glavnoye upravleniye voyennoplennikh i internirovannikh)

Yezhov era

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.

During Yezhov's time in office, the Great Purge reached its height. In 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.

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 joint order No. 00151/003 of NKVD and NKGB USSR. The rest of GUGB was abolished and staff were moved to the newly created People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB). Departments of former GUGB were renamed Directorates. For example, the foreign intelligence unit known as Foreign Department (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 the NKGB became part of the NKVD. The military CI was also upgraded from a department to a directorate and put in NKVD organization as the Directorate of Special Departments or UOO NKVD USSR). The NKVMF, however, did not return to the NKVD until January 11, 1942. It returned to NKVD control on January 11, 1942, as UOO 9th Department controlled by P. Gladkov. In April 1943, Directorate of Special Departments was transformed into SMERSH and transferred to the People's Defense and Commissariates. At the same time, the NKVD was reduced in size and duties again by converting the GUGB to an independent unit named the NKGB.

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:

  • The USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), responsible for the criminal militia and correctional facilities.
  • The USSR Committee for State Security (KGB), responsible for the political police, intelligence, counter-intelligence, personal protection (of the leadership) and confidential communications.

Main Directorates (Departments)

  • State Security
  • Workers-Peasants Militsiya
  • Border and Internal Security
  • Firefighting security
  • Correction and Labor camps
  • Other smaller departments
    • Department of Civil registration
    • Financial (FINO)
    • Administration
    • Human resources
    • Secretariat
    • Special assignment

Ranking system (State Security)

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.

Top-level commanding staff
  • Commissioner General of State Security (later in 1935)
  • Commissioner of State Security 1st Class
  • Commissioner of State Security 2nd Class
  • Commissioner of State Security 3rd Class
  • Commissioner of State Security (Senior Major of State Security, before 1943)
Senior commanding staff
  • Colonel of State Security (Major of State Security, before 1943)
  • Lieutenant Colonel of State Security (Captain of State Security, before 1943)
  • Major of State Security (Senior Lieutenant of State Security, before 1943)
Mid-level commanding staff
  • Captain of State Security (Lieutenant of State Security, before 1943)
  • Senior Lieutenant of State Security (Junior Lieutenant of State Security, before 1943)
  • Lieutenant of State Security (Sergeant of State Security, before 1942)
  • Junior Lieutenant of State Security (Sergeant of State Security, before 1942)
Junior commanding staff
  • Master Sergeant of Special Service (from 1943)
  • Senior Sergeant of Special Service (from 1943)
  • Sergeant of Special Service (from 1943)
  • Junior Sergeant of Special Service (from 1943)

NKVD activities

The main function of the NKVD was to protect the state security of the Soviet Union through massive political repression, including authorised murders of many thousands of politicians and citizens, as well as kidnappings, assassinations and mass deportations.

Domestic repressions

NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda (middle) inspecting construction of what was then called the Moskva-Volga Canal, 1935. Behind him is Nikita Khrushchev

In implemention of 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.[citation needed] Formally, most of these people were convicted by NKVD troikas ("triplets") – special courts martial. Evidence standards were very low: a tip-off by an anonymous informer was considered sufficient grounds for arrest.[citation needed] 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 themselves. Hundreds of mass graves resulting from such operations were later discovered throughout the country.[citation needed] Evidence[citation needed] 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 decisions of the Politburo of the Communist Party.[citation needed] Some examples are the campaigns among engineers (Shakhty Trial), party and military elite plots (Great Purge with Order 00447), and medical staff ("Doctors' Plot"). Gas vans were used in the Soviet Union during the Great Purge in the cities of Moscow, Ivanovo and Omsk

A number of mass operations of the NKVD related to persecution of entire 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 in the Soviet Union thronged the gates of the U.S. embassy in Moscow to plead for new U.S. passports to leave the USSR (their original U.S. passports had been taken for 'registration' purposes years before), none were issued. Instead, the NKVD promptly arrested the Americans, who were all 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. However, the people of the Soviet Republics were still the majority of NKVD victims.

The NKVD also served as an arm of the Russian Soviet communist government for 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 kTuchkov.[citation needed]

International operations

Lavrentiy Beria with Stalin (in background) and Stalin's daughter Svetlana

During the 1930s, the NKVD was responsible for political murders of those Stalin believed opposed 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.

Pro-Soviet leader Sheng Shicai in Xinjiang received NKVD assistance to conduct a purge coinciding 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. Soviet Consul General Garegin Apresoff, General Ma Hushan, Ma Shaowu, Mahmud Sijan, the official leader of Xinjiang province, Huang Han-chang, and Hoja-Niyaz were among the 435 alleged conspirators in the plot. Xinjiang came under Soviet influence.

Spanish Civil War

In the Spanish Civil War, the NKVD ran Section X coordinating the Soviet intervention on behalf of the Spanish Republicans. NKVD agents acting in conjunction with the Communist Party of Spain exercised substantial control over the Republican government, using Soviet military aid to further Soviet influence. The NKVD established numerous secret prisons around Madrid, used to detain, torture, and kill hundreds of the NKVD's enemies, first focusing on Spanish Nationalists and Spanish Catholics, then after late 1938 increasingly anarchists and Trotskyists as 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 Alcalá de Henares.

World War II operations

Before the German invasion, 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 a week in Zakopane to coordinate the pacification of Poland. The Soviet Union allegedly deported hundreds of German and Austrian Communists to Nazi territories as unwanted foreigners. According to the work of Wilhelm Mensing, no evidence exists that the Soviets specifically targeted German and Austrian Communists or others who perceived themselves as "anti-fascists" for deportations. Furthermore, many NKVD units later fought the Wehrmacht, for example the 10th NKVD Rifle Division, which fought at the Battle of Stalingrad.

After the German invasion, the NKVD evacuated and killed prisoners. During World War II, NKVD Internal Troops were used for rear area security, including preventing the retreat of Soviet army divisions. Though mainly intended for internal security, NKVD divisions were sometimes used at the front, for example during the Battle of Stalingrad and the Crimean offensive. to stem desertions under Stalin's Order No. 270 and Order No. 227 decrees of 1941 and 1942, which aimed to raise troop morale through brutality and coercion. At the beginning of the war the NKVD formed 15 rifle divisions, which grew by 1945 to 53 divisions and 28 brigades. Unlike the Waffen-SS, the NKVD did not field any armored or mechanized units.

In enemy-held territories, the NKVD carried out numerous missions of sabotage. After the 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 the KGB) carried out mass arrests, deportations, and executions. The targets included both collaborators with Germany and members of non-communist resistance movements such as the Polish Home Army and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which were trying to separate from the Soviet Union, among others. The NKVD also executed tens of thousands of Polish political prisoners in 1940–1941, including at the Katyń massacre. On 26 November 2010, the State Duma issued a declaration acknowledging Stalin's responsibility for the Katyn massacre and the execution of intellectual leaders and 22,000 Polish POWs by Stalin's NKVD. The declaration stated that archival material "not only unveils the scale of his horrific tragedy but also provides evidence that the Katyn crime was committed on direct orders from Stalin and other Soviet leaders."

NKVD units were also used to repress the prolonged partisan war in Ukraine and the Baltics, which lasted until the early 1950s. NKVD also faced strong opposition in Poland from the Polish resistance movement known as the Armia Krajowa.

Postwar operations

After the death of Stalin in 1953, the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev halted NKVD purges. From the 1950s to the 1980s, thousands of victims were legally "rehabilitated", i.e. acquitted with their rights restored. Many of victims and their relatives refused to apply for rehabilitation, either from 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 a particular violation of anyone's rights. Legally, those agents executed in the 1930s were also "purged" without legitimate a criminal investigation or court decision. In the 1990s and 2000s, a small number of ex-NKVD agents in the Baltic states were convicted of crimes against the local population.

Intelligence activities

These included:

Soviet economy

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 Far North, and the Far East were 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.[citation needed]

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, and were later released. Some of them became world leaders in science and technology. Among the sharashka were Sergey Korolev, 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. The project also used information obtained by the NKVD from the United States.

People's Commissars

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.

Officers

Andrei Zhukov 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.

See also

55°45′38″N 37°37′41″E / 55.7606°N 37.6281°E / 55.7606; 37.6281


This page was last updated at 2024-04-07 03:47 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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