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The MVD, which encompassed the regular, or nonpolitical, police, had a long history in the Soviet Union. It was first established as the NKVD on November 18, 1917. It has undergone several organizational and name changes since then. Since the dissolution of the OGPU in July 1934, the Soviet secret police has been repeatedly reorganized and renamed. This constant reorganization complicates any discussion of secret police agencies after 1934. Whereas the old Cheka and OGPU were separate Soviet government agencies solely assigned to "secret police" or "state security" work, starting in 1934 such work was periodically assigned to a subdivision of a larger governmental apparatus dealing with Soviet "internal affairs" in general.

Thus, after the OGPU was dissolved in July 1934, its tasks were assigned to "GUGBEZ", a section of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). The NKVD was a ministry which included, in addition to a secret police section, many other departments dealing with routine police work (e.g., crime investigations), as well as fire protection, and the recording of birth and death certificates. Although from 1934 until February 3, 1941, secret police tasks were assigned only to the GUGBEZ section of the NKVD, Westerners commonly used the term "NKVD" to apply to the Soviet secret police apparatus.

From 1941 until March 1954, the secret police functions in the Soviet Union alternated between a separate agency solely devoted to security work and a sub-division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. On February 3, 1941, the GUGBEZ section of the NKVD became a separate agency under the new name: NKGB (Narodnyi Komissariat Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti — People's Commissariat for State Security). On July 20, 1941, it reverted to a department of the NKVD but in April 1943, it once more emerged as a separate organization — the NKGB.

The independent NKGB was renamed MGB (Ministerstvo Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti — Ministry of State Security) in March 1946. At the same time, the NKVD was renamed MVD (Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del — Ministry of Internal Affairs). On March 15, 1953, the MGB reverted to a subordinate position as a department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). Westerners, however, now popularly applied the term "MVD" to the activities of one of its branches assigned to security work.

On March 13, 1954, the MGB once more became independent of the MVD, leaving the latter ministry with only routine internal affairs duties. The secret police agency, MGB, was at the same time renamed KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezo pasnosti — Committee for State Security). This was the status of the secret police agency in the Soviet Union.

After Beria's arrest the MVD was assigned to his former close associate S.N.Kruglov, with I.A.Serov as Deputy Minister. Beria's fall gave new impetus to the policy of announcing apparent curbs on the power of the secret police. In March 1954 a new title was devised for this body [MGB], that of "Committee for State Security" (KGB) under the Council of Ministers f the USSR I.A.Serov, Kruglov's former deputy, an old associate of Khrushchev and a participant in some of the secret police's most brutal actions, was named to head the KGB. By law the chairman of the KGB is a member of the Council of Ministers.

Ryumin's execution was announced in July 1954, that of Abakumov and associates in December. A year later the trial and execution were re- ported of a number of Georgian secret police officials, and in April 1956 M. D. Bagirov, former Party boss and secret police chief in Azerbaidzhan, was executed along with a number of associates. As the powers and privileges of the secret police were being curbed, the reforms found symbolic expression in another renaming of the police agency; MGB (Ministry of State Security) now became KGB (Committee for State Security).

When the MVD was established in 1954, the security police was separated from the regular police. The MVD was originally established as a union-republic ministry with headquarters in Moscow, but in 1960 the Khrushchev leadership, as part of its general downgrading of the police, abolished the central MVD, whose functions were assumed by republic ministries of internal affairs.

Then, in 1962 the MVD was redesignated the Ministry for the Preservation of Public Order (Ministerstvo okhrany obshchestvennogo poriadka--MOOP). This name change implied a break with the all-powerful MVD created by Beria, as well as a narrower range of functions. The changes were accompanied by increasing criticism of the regular police in the Soviet press for its shortcomings in combating crime.

Following Khrushchev's ouster, Brezhnev did much to raise the status of the regular police. In 1966, after placing one of his protégés, Nikolai A. Shchelokov, in the post of chief, Brezhnev reinstated MOOP as a union-republic ministry. Two years later, MOOP was renamed the MVD, an apparent symbol of its increased authority. Efforts were made to raise the effectiveness of the MVD by recruiting better-qualified personnel and upgrading equipment and training. Brezhnev's death, however, left the MVD vulnerable to his opponents, Andropov in particular. Just a month after Brezhnev died, Shchelokov was ousted as its chief and replaced by the former MVD chairman, Vitalii Fedorchuk. Shchelokov was later tried on corruption charges. A similar fate befell Brezhnev's son-in-law, Iurii Churbanov, who was removed from the post of first deputy chief in 1984 and later arrested on criminal charges. After bringing several officials from the MVD and from the party apparatus into the MVD, Andropov sought to make it an effective organization for rooting out widespread corruption; Gorbachev continued these efforts.

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Page last modified: 19-05-2016 20:25:03 ZULU