State Security

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

State Security


(protecting state security), the aggregate of measures taken to protect the existing state and social structure and the territorial integrity and independence of the state from subversive activities by the intelligence and other special services of hostile states, as well as from enemies of the existing order inside the country.

Socialist states. State security agencies are a weapon of the socialist state that is called on to defend the socialist gains made by the toiling people. In socialist countries, protecting state security includes all political, economic, military, and legal measures directed at revealing, preventing, and intercepting the activity of antisocialist forces and imperialist intelligence groups that endeavor to undermine and weaken the socialist state and social structure and to violate the territorial integrity of the socialist country in question. A system for protecting state security may also include general preventive measures against subversive activity and for guarding specially designated objectives. All socialist countries have special agencies for protecting state security.

The task of protecting the security of the Soviet state began during the first few days of its existence. In 1918. V. I. Lenin indicated that the “transition from capitalism to communism takes an entire historical epoch. Until this epoch is over, the exploiters inevitably cherish the hope of restoration, and this hope turns into attempts at restoration. After their first serious defeat, the overthrown exploiters—who had not expected their overthrow, never believed it possible, never conceded the thought of it—throw themselves with energy grown tenfold, with furious passion and battle hatred grown a hundredfold, into the battle for the recovery of the “paradise” of which they were deprived (Poln. sohr. soch., 5th ed.. vol. 37. p. 264). After the Great October Socialist Revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the internal and external counterrevolutionary forces joined in an attempt to overthrow Soviet power by means of intervention, the Civil War, economic blockade, terror, and diversionary tactics.

The first bodies for protecting the security of the Soviet state were the Military Revolutionary Committees. Under the Decree of Dec. 7 (20), 1917, of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR a special body was formed to protect the gains of the Revolution—the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (All Russian Cheka) for the Struggle Against Counterrevolution and Sabotage, with F. E. Dzer-zhinskii as its chairman. The All-Russian Cheka and its local bodies did an enormous amount of work to eliminate plots and revolts against the Soviet Republic and combat sabotage, speculation, and crimes by officials.

With the end of the foreign intervention and Civil War of 1918–20 and the rise of new conditions in the country, the work of all party and state bodies, including the All-Russian Cheka, was restructured. Lenin proposed reorganizing the All-Russian Cheka, changing its name, narrowing its jurisdiction, and depriving it of the right to take extrajudicial repressive measures. On Feb. 6, 1922, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the RSFSR abolished the All-Russian Cheka and established the State Political Directorate (GPU) under the jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) of the RSFSR. The tasks of the GPU included the struggle against espionage, counterrevolution, and banditry. After the formation of the USSR (1922), in order to unify the efforts of the Union republics in state security, the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR issued the Decree of Nov. 2, 1923, establishing the Unified State Political Directorate (OGPU) under the jurisdiction of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. The republic GPU’s were subordinate to OGPU.

The GPU and OGPU bodies did a great deal of work to eliminate anti-Soviet organizations and suppress uprisings by such groups as the kulaks and basmachi (counterrevolutionary bandits in Middle Asia). They also took part in solving urgent economic problems, including hunger, economic devastation, and interruptions in transportation operations. GPU and OGPU bodies helped to eliminate typhus epidemics and organized the preparation of fuel and food supplies. The state security bodies also did a great deal of work to solve the problem of neglected children in the USSR.

As the exploiting classes were eliminated in the USSR and the foundations of socialism were laid, the tasks confronting the state security bodies changed. Their principal activity became the struggle against the external enemy, primarily foreign intelligence agencies. The Decree of July 10, 1934, of the Central Executive Committe of the USSR established the Union-republic People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), which included OGPU, which was renamed the Central Administration of State Security. The Decree of Feb. 3, 1941, of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR divided the NKVD of the USSR into two independent bodies: the NKVD of the USSR and the People’s Commissariat for State Security of the USSR (NKGB).

With the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), in order to concentrate the efforts of the bodies of state and public security in defending the country, on July 20, 1941, the NKGB of the USSR and the NKVD of the USSR were combined into one people’s commissariat—the NKVD of the USSR. The state security bodies concentrated on combating subversive actions of fascist German intelligence agencies at the front, on exposing and eliminating enemy agents in the rear regions of the USSR, and on conducting intelligence and diversionary activities in the enemy’s rear. On Apr. 14, 1943, the independent People’s Commissariat of State Security of the USSR was re-formed. (Since 1946 it has been the Ministry of State Security.)

During the early postwar years the state security bodies of the USSR eliminated counterrevolutionary, nationalistic underground movements in the liberated regions of the Western Ukraine, Western Byelorussia, and the Baltic republics and investigated traitors to the homeland—people who had collaborated with the fascist German invaders.

During the period of the cult of personality there took place serious distortions in the activity of the state security bodies, which were expressed in violations of the principles of socialist legality. Political adventurists among the leaders of the state security agencies attempted to remove the agencies from the party’s control and isolate them from the people. The CPSU and the Soviet government carried out necessary measures to eliminate distortions in the activity of the state security bodies. In accordance with the resolutions of the July 1953 Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU and of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU (1956), measures were promulgated to restore socialist legality to the work of the state security bodies, to strengthen party and state control over their activity, and to reinforce the state security bodies.

The Decree of Mar. 13, 1954, of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR established the Committee of State Security (KGB) under the jurisdiction of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Its chief functions involved protecting the state security of the USSR. The KGB is at the head of a system of state security bodies that includes committees on state security attached to the councils of ministers of the Union and autonomous republics, as well as directorates of these committees in krais, oblasts, and major cities. The system also includes border patrol troops.

The report of the Central Committee of the CPSU to the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU (1971) noted: “Given the continuing subversive activity of imperialism, an important role is being played by the state security bodies. During the period under review they were strengthened by politically mature personnel. The party is continuously educating workers in these bodies in the spirit of Leninist principles, unwavering observance of socialist legality, and wakeful vigilance in the struggle to guard Soviet society from the actions of hostile elements and the intrigues of imperialistic intelligence agencies” {Materialy XXIV s”ezda KPSS, 1971, p. 81).

State security bodies in foreign socialist states carry out their activities on the basis of the same principles that are followed in the USSR. In certain socialist countries there are independent ministries or departments of state security (for example, the ministries of state security in the German Democratic Republic and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Council on State Security in Rumania). In other socialist countries the state security bodies are included as directorates or central directorates of state security in the ministries of internal affairs (for example, in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Cuba) or ministries of public security (in the Mongolian People’s Republic and the Korean People’s Democratic Republic). In Yugoslavia the state security bodies belong to the Union Secretariat on Internal Affairs. State security bodies include intelligence and counterintelligence agencies, and they also conduct border patrols.

Bourgeois states. All state security systems in bourgeois states characteristically endeavor to extend the concepts of external and internal state security to their utmost limits. For example, the ruling circles of the USA and a number of other imperialist states instigate subversive activity against socialist countries and national liberation movements on the level of state policy, as part of a search for threats to their own national security throughout the world. The concept of internal security is also inordinately broadened: in addition to revolutionary movements, peace movements, movements for bourgeois-democratic rights and liberties, and strikes by workers are recognized as threats to internal security. State security is protected by various agencies, primarily specialized ones that handle foreign intelligence, internal intelligence, and counterintelligence.

The foreign intelligence of bourgeois states conducts operations directed against a foreign enemy and collects information about the enemy. Subversive activities that directly weaken the enemy’s forces are important in foreign intelligence and include political provocations, planting false information, and organizing conspiracies, putsches, diversionary tactics, and terrorist acts.

Internal intelligence (political investigation) fights against the revolutionary movement within a country and against Communist and workers’ parties by checking the political reliability of citizens and ensuring a “regime of internal security.” The sphere of activity of both foreign and internal intelligence in present-day imperialist states has become excessively broad, and intelligence activities have taken on a global character.

The principal task of counterintelligence is the struggle against the intelligence agencies of foreign states. Counterintelligence also helps carry out the punitive functions of an imperialist state within the country by ensuring that the administrative-police, judicial, and investigative bodies receive information. The organizational structure of intelligence and counterintelligence bodies in various imperialist states is different, but their political essence is the same. They ensure the state’s foreign policy, protect its capitalist structure and bourgeois system, and combat the revolutionary movement.

In the USA intelligence is directed by the president, who has at his disposal a high consultative body—the National Security Council, which makes recommendations on questions of foreign and domestic policy. The members of the council include the vice-president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and the director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness. Also participating as advisers in the council’s work are the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which is the chief intelligence body, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The directors of a number of departments and agencies whose activities are related to the council’s work participate in its meetings as observers. The operational activity of all intelligence bodies is coordinated by the Intelligence Board, whose chairman is the director of the CIA.

In addition to the CIA the USA has a number of foreign intelligence agencies, including military intelligence bodies (directed by the Intelligence Agency of the Department of Defense), the National Security Agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State, and the Division of Intelligence of the federal Atomic Energy Commission. There is also a branched system of counterintelligence, whose activities are coordinated by an interdepartmental conference under the jurisdiction of the National Security Council and which includes representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and military counterintelligence bodies. (The chairman of the conference is the director of the FBI.)

In Great Britain intelligence activity is directed by the prime minister. There are a number of government bodies that are responsible for coordinating the activities of all intelligence and counterintelligence services. The principal foreign intelligence bodies are the Secret Intelligence Service and the intelligence agencies of the Ministry of Defense. As an independent government department the Secret Intelligence Service is subordinate to the prime minister. (It is sometimes called MI-6—that is, the sixth division of military intelligence.) The counterintelligence agency— the Security Service—is also a system of domestic intelligence bodies and consists of the so-called MP-5 Service, a special division of Scotland Yard (the London Police), and the security divisions of ministries and departments. The military counterintelligence service includes the counterintelligence subdivisions of the army, air force, and navy.

In addition to coordinating agencies the French intelligence and counterintelligence service includes the Service de Documentation Exteriérieure et de Contre-Espionage (SDECE), the intelligence department of the staff of the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the intelligence bureaus of the staff of each branch of the armed forces, the Central Administration for National Security of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (the Sûreté Nationale), the Administration of Military Security of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the security service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Prefecture of the Paris Police. The principal intelligence body is the SDECE, which is subordinate to the Minister of the Armed Forces, and the principal counterintelligence (and police) agency is the Sûreté Nationale.

In the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) the principal intelligence body is the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), which has numerous subdivisions. The military intelligence of the FRG is handled by the intelligence divisions attached to the Staff of the Ministry of Defense of the FRG and by the corresponding divisions attached to the staffs of the army, air force, and navy. Intelligence work is also done by various other organizations in the FRG (for example, the VEST Information Bureau). The principal counterintelligence body is the Department for Protection of the Constitution, whose tasks include the counterintelligence activity proper, surveillance of all democratic organizations, investigation of employees of state institutions, and checking on the loyalty of state employees. The Department for Protection of the Constitution is theoretically subordinate to the minister of internal affairs, but in fact it is controlled by the chancellor of the FRG. All Länder of the FRG have departments for the protection of the constitution. The military counterintelligence of the FRG consists of the Security Department of the Bundeswehr and its peripheral organs. Counterintelligence operations are also conducted by the political police (an agency of counterintelligence and political investigation), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The activities of all intelligence, counterintelligence, and police agencies of the FRG are coordinated by the Department of the Federal Chancellor through the Committee of State Secretaries.

The work of the intelligence agencies of imperialist states is coordinated within the framework of the united intelligence organs of aggressive blocs such as NATO and SEATO, as well as on the basis of bilateral agreements.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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