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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(full name, Okhrannoe Otdelenie, Protection Department; prior to 1903, Department for the Protection of Public Security and Order), in tsarist Russia, a local agency of political investigation under the jurisdiction of the Police Department. The first Okhranki were established in St. Petersburg in 1866 and in Moscow and Warsaw in 1880. By 1914 there were 26 such agencies operating in provinces or oblasts. Between 1906 and 1914, there were ten regional Okhranki, each coordinating the work of Okhranki and provincial police administrations in several provinces. The Odessa regional Okhranka, for example, controlled three provinces, and the Moscow regional Okhranka, 12 provinces.

The Okhranka’s main function was to investigate revolutionary organizations and individual revolutionaries. Arrests and further investigations were carried out by the provincial police on the basis of material gathered by the Okhranki. The Okhranki had a large group of special agents—both detectives for “external observation” and secret agents “in the investigated milieu,” including informants and agents provocateurs who worked in revolutionary organizations. The main part of the Okhranka was the general office, which was subdivided into several “desks,” each having a separate function. From the late 19th century, the seven major Okhranki (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw, Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov, and Tbilisi) had secret censorship departments at post offices, called black offices, which opened and inspected correspondence. The Moscow Okhranka claimed to be the organizer of political investigation for all Russia and the “methodological” center for political investigation. The Okhranki of the two capitals had special groups of detectives (the “flying” detachment in Moscow from 1897 and the “central” detachment in St. Petersburg from 1906) which operated throughout Russia, as well as special registration bureaus to verify the loyalty of all newcomers to the capital. The Okhranki were abolished after the February Revolution of 1917.


Eroshkin, N. P. Istoriia gosudarstvennykh uchrezhdenii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Alperovitch thinks Russia gets "the true nature of the battlefield" in a way the West does not: "They've been thinking about this for a very long time--it actually goes at least as far back as the Tsarist era in the 1860s, when they created one of the first modern intelligence agencies, the Okhranka." After the 1917 revolution, when the Bolsheviks opened the Okhranka's archives, "they were shocked to discover how infiltrated they were and how much disinformation had weakened their movement," he says.
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Agafonov, Zagranichnaia okhranka: Sostavleno po sekretnym dokumentam Zagranichnoi Agentury i Departamenta Politsii, Moscow: Kniga, 1918, 121.
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