Post-Soviet Armies Newsletter An on-line database devoted to armed forces and power ministries

Jonathan Littell, "The Security Organs of the Russian Federation. A Brief History 1991-2004". Psan Publishing House 2006.

Signaler cette page   Version imprimable
Jonathan Littell

The Security Organs of the Russian Federation (Part I)

A Brief History 1991-2005

Author?s Note

By its very nature, the security apparatus of the Russian Federation is cloaked in secrecy.  Any paper attempting to retrace its history and its structural evolution on the basis of open sources will inevitably prove to be, in places, vague, confused, uncertain, or just plain wrong.  The organigrams I have attempted to draw suffer from the same flaws: the sources available were usually incomplete, divergent and even conflicting, and rarely referred to the same period; they should thus in some cases be construed as illustrating the general outline or the broad trends of the bureaucratic structures, rather than presenting an accurate picture at a precise moment.

This paper is intended more as a compilation of available information than as an analytical work.  Consequently, it draws heavily on a number of secondary sources, whose authors have gone through the tedious but vital process of compiling and analyzing the primary sources available.  Such sources, which vary widely in quality and usefulness, include:

  • Published laws or decrees defining the functions and the structure of various security organs.  These are known to be frequently supplemented by secret documents not available to the public.

  • The web sites of the main security organs such as MVD, FSB, SVR, etc; while generally propagandistic in tone, they do present useful legal and historical material.

  • Articles published in the Russian media, often based on leaks (kompromat).

  • Speeches pronounced by security or government officials.

  • Interviews given by security or government officials.

  • Memoirs and articles written, as well as interviews given, by defectors from the Russian (or Soviet) security organs.

I would like to acknowledge my debt, primarily, to the work of Mr. Gordon Bennett of the Conflict Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst; Mr. A.A. Mukhin of the Tsentr Politicheskoï Informatsii; and the Russian website  I have also in places leaned heavily on concepts and analyses introduced by Mr. Nikolai Petrov and Mr. Vadim Volkov; and my discussion of the final years of the USSR KGB owes a great deal to the work of Ms. Yevgenia Albats.  Other sources used are listed in the bibliography.

List of Acronyms Used


Agentstvo Federalnoy Bezopasnosti

Federal Security Agency (replaced the RSFSR KGB 26.11.91, incorporated into MB 24.01.92)


Antiterroristicheskii Tsentr

Antiterrorist Center (created within FSB 07.95)


Departament Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti ChRI

Department for State Security of the Chechen Republic-Ichkeria


Federalnoye Agentstvo Pravitelstvennoy Svyazi i Informatsii

Federal Agency for Governmental

Communication and Information (created 12.91, broken up 03.03)


Federalnaya Pogranichnaya Sluzhba

Federal Border Guard Service (spun off from KGB end 1991; subordinated to FSB 03.03)


Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti

Federal Security Service (since 04.05; successor agency to the FSK)


Federalnaya Sluzhba Kontrrazvedki

Federal Counterintelligence Service (12.93-04.05; successor agency to the MB)


Federalnaya Sluzhba po Kontrolyu za Oborotom Narkotikov

Federal Service for Controlling the Narcotics Trade (created 03.03 as the GKKN)


Federalnaya Sluzhba Nalogovoy Politsiy 

Federal Tax Police Service (created 1994, abolished 03.03)


Federalnaya Sluzhba Okhrany

Federal Protection Service (since 06.96; successor agency to the GUO)


Goskomitet po Kontrolyu za Oborotom Narkoticheskikh Sredstv i Psikhotropnykh Veshchestv

State Committee for Controlling the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Trade


Glavnoye Kontrolnoe Upravleniye

Main Control Directorate (of the Presidential Administration)


Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye

Main Intelligence Directorate (2nd Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces ? military intelligence)


Glavnoye Upravleniye / Regionalnoye Upravleniye / Upravleniye / Otdel po Borbe s Ekonomicheskim Prestuplenyem

Main Directorate / Regional Directorate / Directorate / Department for the Struggle against Economic Crime (within MVD, redenomination of GUEP)


Glavnoye Upravleniye po Borbe s Khishcheniem Sotsialisticheskoi Sobstvennosti i Spekulyatsiei

Main Directorate for Combating the Theft of Socialist Property and Speculation (within the Soviet MVD)


Glavnoye Upravleniye / Regionalnoye Upravleniye / Upravleniye / Otdel po Borbe s Organizovannoy Prestupnostyu

Main Directorate / Regional Directorate / Directorate / Department for the Struggle against Organized Crime (within MVD, succeeded GUOP)


Glavnoye Upravleniye po Ekonomicheskim Prestupleniyam

Main Directorate for Economic Crimes (within MVD 1992, succeeded GUBKhSS)


Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispolneniya Nakazaniy

Main Directorate for the Enforcement of Punishments (runs Russia?s prison system, under MVD, transferred to Ministry of Justice 09.98)


Glavnoye Upravleniye Okhrany

Main Protection Directorate


Glavnoye Upravleniye Spetsyalnykh Program

Main Directorate for Special Programs (within Presidential Administration, spun off from KGB 15th Directorate for strategic protection)



Glavnoye Upravleniye Ugolovnogo Rozyska / Ugolovniye Rozysk

Main Directorate for Criminal Investigation / Criminal Investigation (within MVD)



Glavnoye Upravleniye / Upravleniye / Otdel Vnevedomstvennoy Okhrany

Main Directorate / Directorate / Department for Extradepartmental Protection (created 08.94 within MVD)


Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti

State Security Committee


Kommunisticheskaya Partiya Sovetskogo Soyuza

Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU)


Ministerstvo Bezopasnosti

Ministry of Security (created 24.01.92, downgraded to FSK 21.12.93)


Ministerstvo Oborony

Ministry of Defense


Mezhrespublikanskaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti

Interrepublican Security Service (spun off from several KGB directorates 22.10.91, incorporated in MB 24.01.92)


Ministerstvo Vnutrennykh Del

Ministry of Internal Affairs


Obedinennaya Gruppirovka Federalnikh Sil

Joint Group of Federal Forces (united command of all MO, MVD and other organs operating in Chechnya)


Otryad Militsii Osobennogo Naznacheniya

Special Designation Police Detachment (under MVD)


Pervoye Glavnoye Upravleniye

First Main Directorate of the KGB (foreign intelligence, became TsSR 10.91, then SVR)


Rossiiskaya Federatsiya

Russian Federation


Rossiiskaya Sovetskaya Federativnaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika

Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic


Soviet Bezopasnosti

Security Council


Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Prezidenta

Presidential Security Service (independent agency 11.93, subordinated to FSO 08.96)


Sluzhba Kriminalnaya Militsii

Service of Criminal Police (created 06.01 within MVD to regroup GUUR, GUBOP and GUBEP)


Sluzhba Natsionalnoi Bezopasnosti ChRI

National Security Service of the Chechen Republic-Ichkeria (succeeded DGB 1996)


Sredstva Operativno-Razvedyvatelnykh Meropriyati

System of Operational Intelligence Measures (FSB internet surveillance system)


Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki

Foreign Intelligence Service (replaced TsRS 18.12.91)


Tsentralnaya Sluzhba Razvedki

Central Intelligence Service (spun off from PGU 22.10.91)


Upravleniye po Borbe s Terrorizmom

Directorate for the Struggle against Terrorism (within MB, then FSK and FSB)


Upravleniye FSB-a

FSB Directorate (regional branch; i.e. UFSB RD: FSB Directorate for the Republic of Daghestan)


Upravleniye KGB-a

KGB Directorate (regional branches in Autonomous Republics, Krais and Oblasts)


Upravleniye Perspektivnykh Program

Long Term Programs Directorate (created within FSB 08.96, replaced by URPO)


Upravleniye po Razrabotke Peresecheniyu Deyatelnosti Prestupnykh Obyedineniy

Directorate of Analysis and Suppression of the Activity of Criminal Organizations (disbanded 1998)


Vtoroye Glavnoye Upravleniye

Second Main Directorate of the KGB (counterintelligence, split between MSB & AFP 10-11.91, then incorporated into MB)


Vnutrennie Voïska MVD-a

Internal Troops of the MVD

1. The End of the KGB

Even as the Soviet regime was liberalizing and softening [?] the KGB was transforming itself from an instrument of state power to a state power in its own right.

? Ye. Albats, KGB: State Within a State


The KGB of the USSR ? ?the Monster,? as it was called ? was dismantled in the months following the failed August 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev and his attempt at reforming the Soviet Union known as perestroika.  The coup counted among its leaders many senior generals of the KGB, first and foremost Vladimir Kryuchkov, the last Chairman of the Committee.  For these men, however, the coup was but a last-ditch attempt to avert a fate they had seen coming and sought to ward off for some time.  The seeds of the breakup of the KGB were planted in the early 1980s by one of its most preeminent and effective leaders, Yuri Andropov (Chairman of the KGB 1967-82; General Secretary KPSS 1982-84).  The KGB, the only organization in the country with both access to genuine data and the ability to analyze it, had come to realize by the end of Brezhnev?s long reign that the economic and technological gap with the West was growing, and that unless the trend could be reversed the USSR was doomed to lose the Cold War.  General of the Army Filipp Bobkov, a key figure of the late KGB, put it succinctly in a 1990 interview: ?The KGB in 1985 understood very well that the Soviet Union could not develop without perestroika.?1  Andropov, during his brief tenure as General Secretary, thus began planning radical reforms intended, through a calculated policy of openness and economic restructuring, to attract foreign investment and technological know-how, while firmly maintaining the reins of political controls in the hands of the KGB and the KPSS (China, under Deng, was coming to the same conclusions at the same time; thanks however in large part to the ruthlessness shown by the Party at Tiananmen in 1989, it succeeded where the USSR failed in meeting this double objective).  But Andropov died before he was able to implement his plan.  The elite of the KPSS remained highly divided about the advisability of the radical moves proposed; a caretaker General Secretary, Konstantin Chernenko, already very ill, was nominated as a compromise figure while the two sides fought out the matter.  As Chernenko lay dying, the Andropov camp pushed forward the nomination of Mikhail Gorbachev, the young Secretary of Agriculture of the Central Committee, an Andropov protégé;2 the old guard opposed to the reforms backed Grigory Romanov, the second youngest member of the Politburo and the Secretary of the Leningrad Party Organization.  The ?reformists? won: on March 11, 1985, the day after Chernenko?s death, Gorbachev was elected General Secretary with a mandate to begin the programme of reforms devised by the KGB under Andropov.  This programme was officially launched at the 27th Congress of the KPSS in February 1986, and initially comprised three main components: glasnost, or transparency, perestroika, or restructuring (reform), and uskorenie, acceleration (of economic development).  It led within a few years to a liberalization of the economy, which the KGB both drove and took a broad advantage of.  The process was mainly managed by the KGB?s infamous Fifth Main Directorate, created in 1967 by Filipp Bobkov to monitor and repress political dissent, together with the Sixth Main Directorate, tasked in the 1960s with fighting ?economic crimes? (i.e. private trade, called ?speculation? in the USSR).3  One Western report details the ?division of labor:? by the mid-1980s the Fifth Main Directorate had ?shifted its focus from monitoring political dissidents to manipulating dissident economists and reformers to create the perestroika economy,? while the Sixth Main Directorate began to concentrate on economic counterintelligence, economic security, and monitoring the fledgling ?cooperatives? created under perestroika.4  It also, of course, kept a close watch on the joint ventures set up to attract Western capital.  But the two departments, together with the First Main Directorate (a.k.a. PGU, in charge of foreign intelligence), in fact secretly stood directly behind many of the new firms and joint ventures.  ?According to my sources,? writes Albats, ?funds from the [KGB and KPSS] were used to found nearly 80% of the new banks, stock markets and companies.?  KGB agents, she notes, had already acquired a great deal of commercial experience while setting up firms as ?covers? for illegals ?in countries with every variety of market economy imaginable.?5  Komsomol officials were also deeply involved, and it is no accident that a majority of the new ?oligarchs? of the 1990s were drawn from their ranks.  This view of events was recently confirmed by a well-known former GRU Lieutenant-Colonel, Anton Surikov, who adds: ?It was impossible to work in the black market without KGB connections and without protection from the KGB.  Without them, no shadow business was possible. ?  There was a conscious creation of a black market.  The creation of the oligarchs was a revolution engineered by the KGB, but then they lost control.?  Surikov however sees the creation of a new class of businessmen as the result of a ?battle for power? between the KGB and the Communist Party, not of their cooperation as Albats argues: ?The ? Party was heading into a dead end, and the people from the Fifth [and Sixth] Directorate saw that a new impetus was needed.  This was how perestroika was started.?6

The KGB and Gorbachev?s ambitious programme, however, unraveled within a few years.  Glasnost had allowed nationalist demands, forcefully suppressed until then, to emerge in dozens of ?hot spots? around the Union; by 1989, this led to mass demonstrations, clashes with the authorities, and inter-ethnic rioting and mass killings, probably in several cases provoked or at least encouraged by the KGB.7  By the end of the year, the USSR, having pulled out of Afghanistan, had also allowed all of East Europe to go in a wave of ?democratic revolutions.?  At the center of the Empire, Boris Yeltsin, whom Gorbachev had sacked from the Politburo in 1987 for his outspoken criticisms, had gotten elected to the Congress of People's Deputies and was preparing his forceful return to the political scene.  Yet, as the USSR came apart at the seams, Gorbachev ? unlike his Chinese counterparts ? shied from resorting to violence and repression to keep the lid on; the KGB?s brutal but half-hearted interventions, such as in Tbilissi on April 9, 1989, or in Vilnius on January 12, 1991, proved both inadequate and counter-productive, and served only to accelerate the process of disintegration.  The fall of the Berlin Wall and the overthrow of the East European communist regimes, which was accompanied in some countries by the killing of security service agents and the sacking of agency headquarters, shook the KGB leadership.  In December 1990, Vladimir Kryuchkov legalized the KGB?s commercial ventures by signing a decree forming KGB commercial structures.  As the breakdown of the USSR gained momentum, vast amounts of KPSS capital fled the country through these structures.  Albats quotes an August 1990 secret memo entitled ?Emergency Measures to Organize Commercial and Foreign Economic Activity for the Party:?

Reasonable confidentiality will be required and in some cases anonymous firms will have to be used disguising the direct ties to the KPSS.  Obviously the final goal will be to systematically create structures of an ?invisible? Party economy along with commercializing available Party property.  Only a small group of people may be involved in this work.

As Albats notes, the author of this memo, the KPSS?s administrative director Nikolai Kruchin, committed suicide ?under mysterious circumstances? along with one of his trusted aides, shortly after the failed August 1991 coup, taking a great deal of information about these secret arrangements to his grave.8  It seems however that from the very start a great deal of this capital flight took place in a completely uncontrolled manner.  Rather than provide a basis for a future counterrevolutionary effort, as some may have hoped, the money was in most cases grabbed by whoever had access to it, and some of it probably served as the seed money for a few of the extraordinarily rapid fortune-buildings of the 1990s.

The late  Soviet security apparatus

The USSR KGB, in the run up to August 1991, remained a formidable organization.  At its head sat a Collegium of senior generals whose Chairman, Vladimir Kryuchkov, reported directly to the Politburo.  This Collegium controlled the central apparatus; the Republican State Committees; and the UKGBs in every Autonomous Republic, Krai and Oblast of the USSR.  The central apparatus was divided into a number of directorates and departments, of which the most important were:

  • 1. Main Directorate (PGU): foreign intelligence; Directorate ?V? a.k.a. ?Vympel?

  • 2. Main Directorate (VGU): counterintelligence; Main Directorate for the Border Troops

  • 3. Main Directorate: military counterintelligence (which controlled the osoby otdely or ?special departments? within every branch and unit of the Armed Forces)9

  • 4. Main Directorate: security of transport

  • 5. Main Directorate: ideological counterintelligence and political investigations (renamed Directorate for the Protection of the Constitution or Directorate ?Z? in 1989)

  • 6. Main Directorate: economic counterintelligence and industrial security

  • 7. Main Directorate: external surveillance & protection of diplomatic buildings (?toptuny?); Antiterrorist Group ?A? a.k.a. ?Alfa?

  • 8. Main Directorate: cryptography & communications security

  • 9. Directorate (?Guards? Directorate): guarding of superior functionaries (transformed into the KGB Protection Service by the late 1980s)

  • 12. Directorate: eavesdropping

  • 15. Directorate: building & exploitation of secure objects (bunkers for leadership)

  • 16. Directorate: communications transmission & interception (SigInt) ; Directorate OP: struggle against organized crime; Operational-Technical Directorate (OTU)

  • 10. Department: archives; Investigation Department; KGB Higher School; SIZO ?Lefortovo? (Investigative Isolator, a prison)

The central apparatus controlled, in 1991, 420,000 employees; of these, over 200,000 were soldiers serving in the Border Troops.  The KGB was the only organization in the USSR, outside of the Armed Forces, to control military units (the Interior Troops were indeed subordinated to the MVD, but remained part of the Armed Forces until 1992).  The KGB also had at its disposal two elite commando units: ?Alfa? and ?Vympel.?  Alfa, formally known as Antiterrorist Group ?A? under the 7. Main Directorate of the KGB, had been set up in 1974 by Yuri Andropov, following the killing of Israeli athletes in Munich during the Olympic Games, to give the KGB the capacity to respond to such incidents on its own territory.  The post-1991 pattern of deploying Alfa for missions far exceeding its formal scope was in evidence from the very start: it was employed for the first time in the storm of the Kabul Presidential Palace in December 1979, during which the Afghan Communist leader, Amin, was killed.  Vympel was set up in the late 1970s as a ?diversionary unit? to conduct special operations on foreign territory, and was formally known as Directorate ?V,? placed under the PGU, though only the Chairman of the KGB could authorize its operations.

On May 6, 1991, shortly before being elected President of the RSFSR, Boris Yeltsin, following a decision of the Congress of People?s Deputies, obtained the formation of a RFSFR KGB, signing a protocol with Kryuchkov.  Until then, the fourteen other Soviet Republics had each had their own Republican KGB (which remained however tightly controlled by the central KGB in Moscow; all forms of dual subordination, even to the Politburo of the Republican Party, were strictly avoided).  Only in the RFSFR were the regional KGB directorates (UKGBs) run directly out of the central KGB.  The new organism, which was placed under the leadership of Lt.-Gen. Viktor Ivanenko, had the status of a Republican State Committee like the other fourteen.  Until the failed Coup, however, it remained an empty shell: Ivanenko, at first, controlled only two deputies and twenty agents; the regional directorates, especially the powerful Moscow city and Moscow oblast UKGB, remained directly subordinated to the central KGB until fall 1991.

The Internal Ministry (MVD) was a far weaker power structure than the KGB, but by the end of the 1980s was no longer a negligible force either.  In 1954, following the death of Stalin and the liquidation of Beria and his cronies, the NKVD had been broken up and the security police separated from the regular police; the diminished MVD, though an All-Union Ministry, had from the start far less clout than the Union-Republic State Committee for State Security (KGB).  The MVD was further weakened in 1960 when Khrushchev abolished the central Ministry and handed all police functions over to Republican Ministries, renaming them in 1962 Ministries for the Preservation of Public Order (Ministerstvo Okhrany Obshchestvennogo Poriadka ? MOOP) and further restricting their functions.  As crime rose, though, the regular police came under increasing criticism; starting in 1964, after Khrushchev?s overthrow, Brezhnev began rebuilding the police, raising MOOP to All-Union Ministry status in 1966 and renaming it MVD in 1968.  Strong efforts were made to upgrade the personnel, training and equipment of the police, but corruption and inefficiency remained massive.  In 1983, Andropov, as part of his anti-corruption drive, ordered the KGB to reassert control over the MVD; Nikolai Shchelokov, Brezhnev?s Interior Minister, who had been sacked as soon as Andropov took power, was arrested and tried on corruption charges, along with many other senior Brezhnev-era officials ? including Brezhnev?s son-in-law Yuri Churbanov, a First Deputy Interior Minister.  At this time, the MVD was in charge of a broad range of bodies: the ordinary police (tasked with maintaining public order and policing drunks), the criminal police, fire brigades, the traffic police, the internal passport and registration service, the Soviet prison and labor camp system (managed by GUIN, the Main Directorate for the Enforcement of Punishments, formerly GULag), and, until 1988, special psychiatric institutions (psykushki).  Nonetheless it remained mostly helpless when faced with the new challenges brought about by the corruption of the Brezhnev years and the overall degradation of the Union, ?omnipresent and powerless,? in the words of a French scholar.10  Throughout the 1980s, new branches and units were created in attempts to give the MVD more teeth.  In the late 1970s already, MVD had gained two counterterrorist units, RSN (Special Purpose Company) and OMSN (Specialized Purpose Police Detachment); company-sized at first, they grew to battalion size under Gorbachev.  In the 1980s, faced with the rise of the informal, illegal economy, the MVD set up, on the basis of a pre-existing structure, its first genuine economic police, the GUBKhSS.  As its name, Main Directorate for Combating the Theft of Socialist Property and Speculation, indicates, its conceptual and legal framework somewhat handicapped its ability to grapple with the rise of capitalistic initiatives in the USSR.  In 1988 Aleksandr Gurov, the leading Soviet specialist on organized crime, brought about the creation of the shestoi otdel (6th Department of the MVD, renamed GUOP and then GUBOP after 1992 ? see Fig. 6 below), tasked with the struggle against organized crime; again, its successes were limited, as its adversaries, both the traditional Soviet vory-v-zakone (?thieves-in-the-law? or ?thieves-under-the-code?) and the rising generation of ?violent entrepreneurs,? were evolving and adapting much faster to the changing conditions than the bureaucratic repressive apparatus of the Soviet state could follow.  As glasnost and perestroika generated massive strikes, riots, and bursts of intercommunal violence, the Internal Troops, lightly armed regiments, supposedly better trained than Army forces but nonetheless also made up of conscripts, were deployed to quell public unrest, with often disastrous results.   Finally, in 1987, the MVD created the OMON, Special Designation Police Detachment, organized somewhat like the American SWAT teams, and tasked with dealing with ?terrorist incidents, serious criminal activities and the ?maintenance of public order?;? their repressive activities in the Baltic states in the last years of the USSR, which caused civilian casualties, gained them much notoriety both within the Union and abroad.11

A last institution that should be mentioned is the General Procuratura, which not only prosecuted cases in court but had broad investigative powers that supplemented those of the MVD and KGB.  In principle, all criminal cases opened by either MVD or KGB had to be turned over to the Procuratura for prosecution; the Procuratura could also supervise other agencies? investigations, and intervene if these were being conducted illegally.  In practice however the Procuratura had no hold over the KGB, and the KGB often investigated and arrested people outside the established legal system, detaining them in its special prison at Lefortovo.  The Procuratura also had no control over the Glavnaya Voennaya Prokuratura, the Main Military Procuratura with jurisdiction over all members of the Armed Forces, which remained subordinated to the Ministry of Defense.

 After the Coup: the last four months

The failed putsch of August 1991 brought about the immediate breakup of the KGB.  As stated, a number of senior KGB officials participated directly in the attempt: besides Kryuchkov, one of the main organizers of the coup along with Interior Minister Boris Pugo, officials involved included Col.-Gen. Geni Agayev, First Deputy Chairman, Lt.-Gen. Anatoli Beda, Head of the 8. Main Directorate, who cut off all of Gorbachev?s communications in his Crimean dacha, and Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Medvedev, Gorbachev chief bodyguard.12  A great many other KGB generals did not participate actively but had advance knowledge of the attempt and approved, waiting however to see if it would succeed before declaring their loyalty: Col.-Gen. Viktor Grushko, another First Deputy Chairman, for example, participated in the planning of the attempt but then stood back when it was set in motion.  When Gorbachev returned to Moscow, on August 21, purging and reforming the KGB was his first priority.  He nominated Grushko Acting Chairman for a few hours, and then the Head of the PGU Lt.-Gen. Leonid Shebarshin, who had not taken part in the coup (though his chief deputy did).  But Boris Yeltsin, who unlike Gorbachev did not want to reform the KGB but dismantle it, bitterly opposed Shebarshin?s nomination; after two days, Gorbachev and Yeltsin were finally able to agree on Lt.-Gen. Vadim Bakatin, a career Kemerovo KPSS official who had briefly served as Interior Minister (from October 1988 to December 1990), initiating controversial reforms during his tenure.  Gorbachev and Yeltsin?s objectives strongly diverged: while Gorbachev wanted to weaken the KGB yet maintain the USSR intact, Yeltsin, already aiming to dismantle the Union as part of his strategy against Gorbachev, hoped that breaking up the USSR KGB would weaken Gorbachev?s overall control over the country, as well as reinforce his RSFSR KGB.

Bakatin immediately plunged into his task: three days after his nomination, he produced five separate reform plans for the KGB.  But implementing them proved difficult.  Bakatin was able to rapidly transfer KGB military units to the Armed Forces, which had overall played a positive role during the coup; but purging the leadership proved a far more complex task: so many senior cadres had, if not actively participated, at least sympathized with the coup, that firing all of them would have gutted the organization.  In the end Bakatin only purged those who had openly participated in the August events; the fence-sitters were retained, as there was no one to replace them.  Already, pieces were coming off the KGB: on August 29, the 8th, 12th and 16th Directorates were separated to form the KPS USSR, the Government Communications Committee under the leadership of General of the Army Aleksandr Starovoytov, Beda?s deputy at the 8. Main Directorate.  Yeltsin also began getting pieces of the KGB under his control: on September 3, part of the 9. ?Guards? Directorate was broken off to form the SBP RSFSR, the Security Service of the President of the RSFSR.  Yeltsin entrusted its leadership to his personal bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, who as a 9. Directorate officer had protected him since 1985, and who had left the KGB to continue working for him without pay when he was sacked from the Politburo in 1988; during the putsch, Korzhakov had faithfully stood by Yeltsin, organizing the defense of the White House and holding up an armored suitcase in front of his boss during the famous ?tank speech.?  On September 26, Yeltsin finally gained control of the Moscow city and oblast UKGB, which passed under the control of the RSFSR KGB.  Numerous USSR KGB officers also transferred to the RSFSR KGB.  By December, Ivanenko?s organization controlled 20.000 officers in the regional directorates, including the crucial Leningrad UKGB, and 22.000 officers in Moscow.

The USSR KGB was abolished on October 24, 1991, by a decision of the USSR State Council (signed into law by Gorbachev on December 3).  Four agencies were formed in its place (see Fig. 1 below).  The KPS, in charge of all special communications, signal intelligence (SigInt), and electronic intelligence (ElInt) already existed since August 29.  The PGU (without Vympel) broke off to become the TsRS USSR, the Central Intelligence Service; its new leader was the respected KPSS stalwart, Academician and Arab world specialist Yevgeny Primakov, who had replaced Shebarshin a month earlier when this later resigned in disgust at Bakatin?s management and sharing of secrets with the USA.  The Border Guards also became an independent agency named the KPO, the Border Guards Committee.  Finally, some of the most important KGB Directorates, in whole or in part, were amalgamated to form the MSB USSR, the Interrepublican Security Service, of which Bakatin retained the leadership.  The feared and despised 5. Main Directorate (now Directorate ?Z?) was disbanded and its staff scattered, though many remained in the MSB?s Anti-terrorism department.13

The ongoing conflict between Gorbachev and Yeltsin was mirrored in the conflict between the various services being formed.  Viktor Ivanenko, the Chairman of the RSFSR KGB, had supported Yeltsin during the coup; now, he did everything he could to accelerate the breakup of the KGB, constantly sniping at Bakatin.  Viktor Barannikov, who was briefly named Interior Minister to replace the disgraced Boris Pugo, also sided with Yeltsin; together with his deputy and close colleague Viktor Yerin, a career police investigator from Tatarstan who had served as Interior Minister in Armenia while Barannikov held the same position in Azerbaidjan, he conducted the investigations and arrests of several senior putschists (including his former boss Pugo, who managed to commit suicide before being taken in) before being replaced, a month later, by Andrei Dunaev.  Yerin, who as one of the first senior MVD officials to leave the Communist Party (in May 1991) had been a leader of the ?de-partization? movement within the state organs, remained First Deputy Interior Minister; in the fall, he came into violent conflict over a number of issues with Aleksandr Gurov, the organized crime specialist, causing this latter?s departure from MVD.  Bakatin and his MSB, on their side, were finding it extremely difficult to regulate their relations with the Republican Committees, most of whom, isolated and directionless, soon found themselves either in open conflict with the republican leadership (especially in the Baltic states), or at least strongly dependent on them.  Yeltsin?s camp did not help matters with its aggressive language: at the end of August, already, Ivanenko was declaring ?that ?the use of special services, including espionage services? could not be entirely excluded if the relations between Russia and some of the republics reached a high ?state of virulence.??14  As Gorbachev tried to work out a new Union treaty over the fall, the MSB drew up elaborate plans for cooperation with the Republican KGBs, which included plans to transfer over 6,500 officials to the republics.  None of these plans were ever implemented as the breakup of the USSR accelerated.

On November 26, Yeltsin signed a decree transforming the RSFSR KGB into the AFB RSFSR, the Federal Security Agency; Viktor Ivanenko remained its General Director.  Gorbachev?s December 3 law ?On the Reorganization of the State Security Organs? did nothing to slow down the implosion of the Union: five days later, on December 8, 1991, at a secret meeting in the Belovezha forest in Byelorussia, Boris Yeltsin and the Presidents of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian SSRs, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislau Shushkevich, unilaterally decided the dissolution of the USSR.  The fifteen Union Republics, whether they wished to or not, became independent states, most of whom soon formed a loose association baptized the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS or SNG in Russian); their local KGBs and power ministries also thus found themselves on their own.

Yeltsin, who for the past months had been calling in the name of democratic values for the dismantling of the KGB, reversed course as soon as he reached his objective and found himself the leader of an independent, sovereign state: on December 19 he decreed the merger of the MSB USSR, AFB RSFSR and the MVD USSR into a ?super-ministry? to be called the MBVD RSFSR, the Ministry of Security and Internal Affairs, and appointed as its minister Viktor Barannikov.15  Uniting the security and the police apparatus into one ministry was a recurrent temptation in the history of the USSR, but such a behemoth had proved disastrous in the past, not just from the point of view of civil liberties but also in terms of basic functional efficiency; by Stalin?s death, the various components of the NKVD in effect functioned as autonomous organizations, with little or no oversight; as discussed, the post-Stalin leadership hastened to break it up after the fall of Beria and Abakumov.  Barannikov himself, who along with Yerin had strongly promoted the MBVD concept over the previous months, was anything but a democratic-minded reformer.  Thankfully, the MBVD never came into being: on January 15, 1992, at the request of the Russian Federation Supreme Soviet, the RF Constitutional Court declared its creation illegal and invalid.  Ten days later, on January 24, Yeltsin set up a separate MVD RF, under Viktor Yerin, and an MB RF (Ministry of Security) incorporating the AFB and most of the MSB, which he entrusted to Barannikov.

By this point, numerous other departments of the KGB had also undergone reorganization (see Fig. 1).  At the end of 1991, parts of the 9. Directorate and the 15. Directorate were amalgamated into GUO RF (Main Protection Directorate), under Mikhail Barsukov, a veteran 9. Directorate official; both Vympel and Alfa, as well as Korzhakov?s SBP, were subordinated to the new agency.  The bulk of the 15. Directorate, which controlled the numerous anti-nuclear bunkers scattered throughout Russia as well as the notorious special government metro system in Moscow (?Metro-2?), was formed into a new, ultra-secret service directly subordinated to the Presidential Administration and baptized GUSP (Main Directorate for Special Programmes).  On December 12, 1991, the TsRS received some departments of the MSB and was renamed SVR RF (Foreign Intelligence Service); Primakov remained as Director.  On December 24, the KPS USSR became FAPSI RF (Federal Agency for Governmental Communication and Information), still under Starovoytov.  Around the same period the KPO USSR briefly became the KOGG RF (Committee for the Protection of the State Borders of the RF), though the Border Guards were soon placed back under the control of Barannikov?s MB.  The Military Procuratura was subordinated to the civilian General Procurator, though effective control remained tenuous.  

The Russian security organs born out of these reorganizations, fall into two categories: federal or samostoyatelnye (?self-standing? i.e. autonomous) agencies, such as GUO or FAPSI, and departmental (vedomstvennye) agencies which are subordinated to a ministry or an agency, such as GRU or the Border Guards before 1994 and after 2003.  Under the 1993 Constitution, all the so-called ?power ministries? (Defense, Interior, Exceptional Situations (MChS), Justice as well as Foreign Affairs), their departmental security branches, and the samostoyatelnye federal services or agencies (FSK/FSB, which replaced the MB, SVR, FAPSI, GUO, GUSP, etc.) report directly to the President, who alone appoints their ministers or directors, and exercises control over them with very little oversight, whether governmental or parliamentarian.  The Government and the Prime Minister remain in effect only responsible for economic and social questions, and only supervise the corresponding ?civilian? ministries or services.

Protecting the remains

The leadership of the KGB, after the failure of the coup, understood that measures would have to be taken to prevent the dissolution of the KGB from placing at risk what they considered the state security of whatever political entity would succeed the Soviet Union; though not all of these officials were ?Great-Russian patriots,? their allegiance, once the USSR was gone, in most cases remained with Russia rather than any of the other now-independent republics.  For these officials, institutional survival was the key to weathering the transition set into motion by the failed putsch.  The flight abroad of KPSS funds, through the network of KGB shell companies, has already been discussed.  A further key issue was the security of the KGB archives: the looting of the STASI archives, after the fall of the Berlin wall, and the subsequent arrest and trial of numerous STASI officials, had shown what could happen if ?reforms? and ?popular revolutions? were taken too far.  The Republican KGB archives were as important as the central ones: in the months after August, MSB officials successfully negotiated the transfer of most of these archives from the republics to Moscow, though many confidential files remained in the hands of local bosses, who squirreled them away for future use against their political opponents.  Preserving the overall operational capacity of the services was also a vital concern.  When Yeltsin?s RSFSR KGB gained control of the Moscow and Leningrad UKGBs, he appointed two men to head them who proved key to the survival of the KGB.  The Moscow city and oblast Directorate was entrusted to Lt.-Gen. Yevgeny Savostyanov, a career KGB counterintelligence official; the Leningrad city and oblast Directorate was placed under the control of Lt.-Gen. Sergei Stepashin, an MVD political officer, VV officer, and since 1990 a RSFSR Supreme Soviet deputy, named Chairman of the Defense & Security Committee in 1991.16  Both men were presented at the time as committed democrats, chosen to reform and control the KGB; Stepashin had been named by both Gorbachev and Yeltsin to head the Commission to Investigate the Activities of the KGB during the Coup; Savostyanov, it was pointed out, had worked alongside Sakharov during perestroika.  Some observers however paint a different picture.  Aleksandr Litvinenko, a well-known FSB defector who was granted asylum in Great Britain in 2000, alleges in a book he co-wrote that

in fact ? both Savostyanov and Stepashin were first infiltrated into the democratic movement by the state security agencies, and only later appointed to management positions in the new special services, in order to prevent the destruction of the KGB by the democrats.  Although, as the years went by, many full-time and free-lance officers of the KGB left to go into business and politics, Savostyanov and Stepashin did succeed in preserving the overall structure [albeit in decentralized form].17

Litvinenko?s claim appears validated by Stepashin?s subsequent career as one of Russia?s most prominent siloviki.  We will see below that though Savostyanov fell from grace in 1994 (for picking the wrong side in a fight between Korzhakov and the businessman Vladimir Gusinsky), Stepashin consistently, until 1999, appears as the key figure in virtually all the efforts deployed to reform, strengthen or rebuild the FSB and the MVD.  By the time Stepashin?s rival Vladimir Putin gained power, the ground had been laid for the rebirth of the Russian security empire.


Footnotes :

1 Cited in Albats? groundbreaking KGB: State Within a State, p. 198.  This discussion draws mainly from her book (cf. in particular Chap. 4: ?Who was behind Perestroika??, pp. 168-203). The notion that the KGB had ?stage-managed? perestroika was put forward in the West by Andrew & Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story.
2 Some authors believe that Gorbachev was little more than a ?front man? for the KGB; cf. Albats, op.cit., p. 199-200.  The notion was first advanced by Avtorkhanov in his 1986 Ot Andropova k Gorbachëvu.
3 See Albats, op.cit., pp. 246-51.
4 Stratfor, ?Russia in 2000? (no author named).  Stratfor is a US-based company that describes itself as ?the world's leading private intelligence provider.? The report cites no sources but certainly relies on the authors mentioned above. Cf.
5 Albats, op.cit., p. 247.
6 Cited in Belton, Catherine, ?Khodorkovsky?s High Stakes Gamble,? The Moscow Times, 16.05.05.
7 See Albats, op.cit., pp. 243-46.
8 Ibid., pp. 332-3.  Albats gives precise examples in the pages following.
9 Some sources assert that only the 1st, 2nd, 8th and Border Guards were ?Main Directorates? (Glavnoye Upravleniye), and that all others were simple ?Directorates? (Upravleniye).  See Albats, op.cit., p. 27.
10 Favarel-Garrigues, ?La transformation policière en Russie post-soviétique.?
11 Information mainly drawn from Bennett and
12 Albats extensively discusses the role of the KGB in the coup.  Cf. op.cit., Chap. 6: ?The Coup,? pp. 268-93.
13 Cf. Bennett, ?The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation,? and Mukhin, Putevoditel po Spetssluzhbam Rossii.
14 Cited in Bennett, ?The FSB,? p. 6.
15 Ivanenko and Bakatin were summarily sacked.  See Albats, op.cit., pp. 305-6.
16 Both positions ? Heads of the Moscow and Leningrad/St.-Petersburg Directorates ? also held the rank of Deputy Director of AFB, and subsequently of Deputy Security Minister.
17 Felshtinsky & Litvinenko, Blowing up Russia, p. 8.

To quote this document :

Jonathan Littell, "The Security Organs of the Russian Federation (Part I)", 
Post-Soviet Armies Newsletter,