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NKVD (Russian: НКВД)
People's Ministry of Internal Affairs
Народный Комиссариат Внутренних Дел
Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del
Emblema NKVD.svg
NKVD emblem
Agency overview
Formed 1934
Preceding agencies OGPU
Dissolved 1946
Superseding agency MVD
Headquarters Lubyanka Square, Moscow
Agency executives Genrikh Yagoda (1934-1936)
Nikolai Yezhov (1938)
Lavrentiy Beria (1938-1946)
Parent agency URSSblason1er.gif
Council of the People's Commissars

The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Russian: Народный Комиссариат Внутренних Дел, Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del), abbreviated NKVD (Russian: НКВД About this sound listen ) was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Stalin.

The NKVD contained the regular, public police force of the USSR (including traffic police, firefighting, border guards and archives) but is better known for the activities of the Gulag and the Main Directorate for State Security (GUGB), which eventually became the Committee for State Security (KGB). It conducted mass extrajudicial executions, ran the Gulag system of forced labor camps, suppressed underground resistance, conducted mass deportations of entire nationalities and Kulaks to unpopulated regions of the country, guarded state borders, conducted espionage and political assassinations abroad, was responsible for influencing foreign governments, and enforced Stalinist policy within communist movements in other countries.


History and structure

After the February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government dissolved the Tsar's police and created People's Militsiya. The October Revolution established a new Bolshevik regime, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) turned into NKVD 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 proletarian workforce of now Workers' and Peasants' Militsiya was largely inexperienced. Realizing that it was left with no capable security force, the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR created 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 revolution".

The Cheka was reorganized in 1922 as the State Political Directorate or GPU of the NKVD of the RSFSR[1]. In 1923, the USSR was 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 of the USSR (which the CPSU leaders soon became 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 became responsible for all detention facilities (including the forced labor camps, known as the GULag) as well as for the regular police.[2]

Since its creation in 1934, the NKVD of the USSR underwent many organizational changes; between 1938 and 1939 alone, the NKVD's structure changed three times.[3]

On February 3, 1941, the Special Sections of the NKVD responsible for military counterintelligence (CI) became part of the Army and Navy (RKKA and RKKF, respectively). The GUGB was separated from the NKVD and renamed the "People's Commissariat for State Security" (NKGB). After the German invasion, the NKVD and NKGB were reunited on 20 July 1941. The CI sections were returned to the NKVD in January 1942. In April 1943, the CI sections were again transferred to the People's Commissariats (Narkomat) of Defense and the Navy, becoming SMERSH (from Smert' Shpionam or "Death to Spies"); at the same time, the NKVD was again separated from the NKGB.

Picture of Dzerzhinsky during a parade in 1936.
The former NKVD Headquarters on Lubyanka Square designed by Aleksey Schusev. Now serves the FSB.

In 1946, all Soviet Commissariats were renamed "ministries." Accordingly, the NKVD of the USSR was renamed as the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), while the NKGB was renamed as the Ministry of State Security (MGB). According to a 1996 radio documentary by the Russian Service of Radio Liberty, the MGB was reduced from being a ministry to a committee because Soviet leaders feared what the MGB might do if the purges were to resume.[citation needed] In 1953, after the arrest of Lavrenty Beria, the MGB was merged back into the MVD. The police and security services were finally split in 1954 to become:

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

NKVD activities

The main function of the NKVD was to protect the state security of the Soviet Union. This function was successfully accomplished through massive political repression.

Repressions and executions

See Category:Political repression in the Soviet Union for detailed articles on the issue.

In implementing Soviet internal policy with respect to perceived enemies of the state ("enemies of the people"), untold multitudes of people were sent to GULAG camps and hundreds of thousands were executed by the NKVD. Formally, most of these people were convicted by NKVD troikas ("triplets")– special courts martial. Evidential standards were very low: a tip-off by an anonymous informer was considered sufficient grounds for arrest. 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 itself. Hundreds of mass graves resulting from such operations were later discovered throughout the country. Documented evidence 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 the decisions of the Politburo of the Communist Party (e.g. the campaigns among engineers ("Shakhty Case"), party and military elite ("fascist plots"), and medical staff ("Doctors' Plot"). Distinctive and permanent purging campaigns were conducted against non-Russian nationalities (including Ukrainians, Poles, Tatars, Germans and many others, who were accused of "bourgeois nationalism", "fascism", etc.) and religious activists.

A number of mass operations of the NKVD were related to the prosecution of whole ethnic categories. Whole populations of certain ethnicities were forcibly resettled. Despite this, ethnic Russians still formed the majority of NKVD victims.

It also served as the Soviet government's arm for the lethal persecution of Judaism, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Catholics, the Latin Catholics, Islam and other religious organizations, an operation headed by Yevgeny Tuchkov.

NKVD agents became not only executioners, but also one of the largest groups of victims. Most 1930s agency staff (hundreds of thousands), including all commanders, were executed.

During the Spanish Civil War, NKVD agents, acting in conjunction with the Communist Party of Spain, exercised substantial control over the Republican government, using Soviet military aid to help further Soviet influence. The NKVD established numerous secret prisons around Madrid, which were used to detain, torture, and kill hundreds of the NKVD's enemies, at first focusing on Spanish Nationalists and Spanish Catholics, while from late 1938 increasingly anarchists and Trotskyists were the objects of persecution. In June, 1937 Andres Nin, the secretary of the anti-Stalinist Marxist POUM, was tortured and killed in an NKVD prison.

Cooperation between the NKVD and the Gestapo: In March, 1940 representatives of the NKVD and the Gestapo met for one week in Zakopane, to coordinate the pacification of Poland; see Gestapo–NKVD Conferences. The Soviet Union delivered hundreds of German and Austrian Communists to the Gestapo, as unwanted foreigners, together with their documents.

During World War II, NKVD units were used for rear area security, including stopping desertion. In liberated territory the NKVD and (later) NKGB carried out mass arrests, deportations, and executions. The targets included both collaborators with Germany and non-Communist resistance movements such as the Polish Armia Krajowa. The NKVD also executed tens of thousands of Polish political prisoners in 1939-1941, inter alia committing Katyń massacre.

The NKVD's intelligence and special operations (Inostranny Otdel) unit organized overseas assassinations of ex-Soviet citizens and foreigners who were regarded as enemies of the USSR by Josef Stalin. Among the officially confirmed victims of such plots were:

After the death of Stalin in 1953, the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev halted the NKVD purges. From the 1950s to the 1980s, thousands of victims were legally "rehabilitated" (i.e. acquitted and had their rights restored). Many of the victims and their relatives refused to apply for rehabilitation out of 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", a Soviet legal jargon that effectively said "there was a crime, but unfortunately we cannot prove it". Only a limited number of persons were rehabilitated with the formulation "cleared of all charges".

Very few NKVD agents were ever officially convicted of the particular violation of anyone's rights. Legally, those agents executed in the 1930s were also "purged" without legitimate criminal investigations and court decisions. In the 1990s and 2000s a small number of ex-NKVD agents living in the Baltic states were convicted of crimes against the local population.

At present, living former agents retain generous pensions and privileges established by the USSR and later confirmed by all of the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. They have not been prosecuted in any way, although some have been identified by their victims.

Intelligence activities

These included:

  • Establishment of a widespread spy network through the Comintern.
  • Operations of Richard Sorge, the "Red Orchestra", Willi Lehmann, and other agents who provided valuable intelligence during World War II.
  • Recruitment of important U.K. officials as agents in the 1940s.
  • Penetration of British intelligence (MI6) and counter-intelligence (MI5) services.
  • Collection of detailed nuclear weapons design information from the U.S. and Britain.
  • Disruption of several confirmed plots to assassinate Stalin.
  • Estabilishment of later People's Republic of Poland communist parties and training activists, during and after World War II. First President of Poland, after war, was Bolesław Bierut, an NKVD agent.

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 North and Far East was 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. When later released, some of them became world leaders in science and technology. Among such sharashka members were Sergey Korolev, the 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. Also, the project used information obtained by the NKVD from the United States.

See also

Katyn massacre 1943 exhumation. Photo made by Polish Red Cross delegation.


  1. ^ ="Malcher0>Blank Pages by G.C.Malcher ISBN 1 897984 00 6 Page 7
  2. ^ At various times, the NKVD had the following Chief Directorates, abbreviated as "ГУ"– Главное Управление, glavnoye upravleniye.
    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 Fire Guards (GUPO, GU požarnoi okhrany)
    ГУШосДор– ШОСсейных ДОРог, of HighWays (GUŠD, GU šosseynykh dorog)
    ГУЖД– Железных Дорог, of RailWays (GUŽD, GU železnykh dorog)
    ГУЛаг– Главное Управление исправительно-трудовых ЛАГерей и колоний, (GULag, glavnoye upravleniye ispravitelno-trudovykh 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)
  3. ^ NKVD Organization in 1939
    NKVD management
    • for NKVD troops– Ivan Maslenikov
    • for Militsiya– Vasyli Chernyshov
    • for Staff– Sergei Kruglov
    • NKVD Secretariat– Stepan Mamulov
    • Secretariat of Special Council of the NKVD– Vladimir Ivanov
    • Special Technical Bureau– Valentin Kravchenko
    • Special Bureau– Pyotr Scharia
    • NKVD Inspection Group– Nikolai Pavlov
    • Special Plenipotentiary– Aleksei Stefanov
    • Secretariat of the First Deputy for GUGB Task– Vsevolod Merkulov
    • Inspection Group– Vsevolod Merkulov
    • Special Secretariat– Vasyli Chernyshov
    • Section for Organization of Labor Force– Vsevolod Merkulov
    • Permanent Technical Committee– ?
    • Section for Repair Work– Pyotr Vainschtein
    • Supply Section– M. Mituschyn
    • Department of Railroad Transportation and Water– ?
    Directorates and departments
    • Main Directorate of State Security (GUGB)– Vsevolod Merkulov
    • 1st Special Department– Leonid Baschtakov
    • 2nd Special Department– Evgeny Lapishin
    • 3rd Special Department– Dmitry Shadrin
    • 4th Special Department– Mikhail Filimonov
    • 5th Special Department– Vladimir Vladimirov
    • Department of Mobilization– Ivan Scherediega
    • Department of Staff– Sergei Kruglov
    • The Chief Directorate of Economics (GEU)– Bogdan Kobulov
    • The Chief Directorate of Transportation (GTU)– Solomon Milshtein
    • The Chief Directorate of Prison (GTU)– Aleksandr Galkin
    • The Chief Directorate of Administration (AČU)– J.Schumbatov
    • The Chief Directorate of Archive (GAU)– Yosif Nikitynsky
    • The Chief Directorate of fire guards (GUPO)– Nikolay Istomin
    • The Chief Directorate of Militsiya (GURKM)– Pavel Zujev
    • The Chief Directorate [or Administration] of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies (GULAG)– Vasyli Chernyshov
    • The Chief Directorate of Highways (GUŠOSDOR)– Vsevolod Fedotov
    • Directorate of Kremlin Commander– Nikolai Spyrydonov
    • The Chief Directorate of Border Troops (GUPW)– Grigori Sokolov
    • The Chief Directorate of NKVD Troops for Railroad Protection– Aleksandr Guliev
    • The Chief Directorate of NKVD Troops for Escort– Vladimir Sharapov
    • The Chief Directorate of NKVD Troops for Protection of Industrial Enterprise– I. Kozik
    • The Chief Directorate of NKVD Operative Troops– P. Ariemyev
    • The Chief Directorate of Military Provision– Aleksandr Wurgaft
    • The Chief Directorate of Military Construction– Ivan Luby
    • Directorate for Prisoners of War– Pyotr Soprunienko
    • Directorate for Construction in the Far East– Ivan Nikishev
    • Main Fanacial Department– Lazar Bierienzon
    • Main Department for Civil Status– Fyedor Sokolov

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From the Russian НКВД, through phonetic spelling of Naródnyi Komissariát Vnútrennikh Del and acronymizing.

Proper noun




  1. НКВД (Naródnyi Komissariát Vnútrennikh Del) — the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs — the Soviet secret police, forerunner of the KGB


See also

Simple English

The NKVD (Narodny komissariat vnutrennikh del  listen (info • help)) or People's Commisariat for Internal Affairs) was a government department which handled a number of the Soviet Union's affairs of state.

The NKVD is best known for the Main Directorate for State Security (GUGB), which came after the OGPU and the Cheka as the secret police agency of the Soviet Union, and which became KGB. Many think of the NKVD as a criminal group. This is mostly because of the activities of GUGB officers and investigators. The NKVD was also in charge of Stalin's foreign intelligence service and overseas 'special operations'. These NKVD sub-branches hired spies and gathered of political, military, and economic information from other countries. They also got rid of political enemies who lived outside of the Soviet Union and enforced Stalin's policies within Communist Party movements in other countries.

In addition to its state security and police functions, some of its departments handled other matters, such as transportation, fire guards, border guards (NKVD Border Troops), etc. These jobs were usually assigned to the Ministry of the Interior (MVD).

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