Okhrana: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St. Petersburg Okhrana group photo. 1905.

The Department for Defense of Public Security and Order (Russian: Отделение по Охранению Общественной Безопасности и Порядка), usually called the Okhranka (a derivative from Okhrana, which means the guard) in Russia, was a secret police force of the Russian Empire and part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) in the late 1800s, aided by the Special Corps of Gendarmes. It was created in 1880 to replace the infamous Third department.

Many English sources incorrectly spell the shortened name as Okhrana or Ochrana.



It was formed to combat political terrorism and left-wing revolutionary activity.[1] The Okhrana operated offices throughout the Russian Empire and in a number of foreign satellite agencies primarily concerned with monitoring the activities of Russian revolutionaries abroad, most notably in Paris, where Pyotr Rachkovsky was based (1884–1902). Its headquarters were located in St. Petersburg, Fontanka, 16; this street address was infamously known in the Russian Empire.

The task was performed by any means, including covert operations, undercover agents, and "perlustration" — reading of private correspondence. Even the Foreign Agency served this purpose. The Okhrana is notoriously known for its agents provocateurs, including Dr. Jacob Zhitomirsky (a leading Bolshevik and close associate of Vladimir Lenin), Yevno Azef, Roman Malinovsky and Dmitry Bogrov.

The Okhrana tried to compromise labour movement by creating police-run trade unions, the practice known as zubatovshchina. Of note is the Bloody Sunday event, when imperial guards killed hundreds of unarmed protesters who were marching during a demonstration organized by Father Gapon, who collaborated with Okhrana, and Pyotr Rutenberg.

Other controversial activities included fabrication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax (many historians maintain that Matvei Golovinski, a writer and Okhranka agent, compiled the first edition on the instructions of Pyotr Rachkovsky) and fabrication of the antisemitic Beilis trial.

Suspects captured by the Okhrana were given to the normal Russian judicial system, and then either executed or sent to forced labor camps known as katorgas in extremely remote areas of northeastern Siberia.


The first special security department was Department on Protecting the Order and Public Peace under the Head of St. Petersburg, created in 1866 after a failed assassination attempt on Alexander II, with a staff of 12 investigators. After another failed attempt, on August 6, 1880 the Emperor, under proposals of Count Loris-Melikov, created the Department of State Police under Ministry of the Interior (MVD) and transferred both Special Corps of Gendarmes and Third Section of the Imperial Chancellery to the new body; the Chief of Gendarmes was merged with the Minister and Commander of the Corps was assigned Deputy of the Minister. Still, these measures did not prevent the assassination of Alexander II.

In an attempt to implement preventive security measures, Emperor Alexander III immediately created two more 'Security and Investigation (охранно-розыскные) secret police stations, supervised by Gendarme officers, in Moscow and Warsaw; they became the basis of the later Okhrana. The Gendarmes still operated as security police in the rest of the country through their Gubernial and Uyezd Directorates. The Tsar also created Special Conference under the MVD (1881), which had the right to declare a State of Emergency Security in various parts of the Empire (which was actively used in the time of 1905's Revolution), and subordinated all of the imperial police forces to the Commander of the Gendarmes (1882).

The rise of the socialist movements called for integration of security forces. Since 1898, the Special Section (Особый отдел) of the Department of Police succeeded the Gendarmes in gaining information from domestic and foreign agents and "perlustration". Following the Socialist-Revolutionary Party's assassination of MVD Minister Dmitry Sipyagin on April 2, 1902, the new Minister Vyacheslav von Plehve gradually relieved Directorates of Gendarmes of investigation power in favor of Security and Investigation Stations (Охранно-розыскное отделение) under respective Mayors and Governors (who as a matter of fact were subordinate to the MVD Minister).

Following the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution and assassination of Plehve, Pyotr Stolypin, as the new MVD Minister and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, created of nation-wide net of Security Stations. By 1908, there were 31 Stations and more than 60 by 1911. Two more Special Sections of the Department of Police were organized in 1906. The centralized Security Section of the Department of Police was created on February 9, 1907; it was located on 16, Fontanka, St. Petersburg.

The exposure of Yevno Azef (who had organized many assassinations, including that of Plehve) and Dmitri Bogrov (who assassinated Stolypin in 1911) as Okhranka double agents put the agency's methods under great suspicion; they were further compromised by the discovery of many similar double agents-provocateur. In Autumn 1913, all of the Security Stations but original Moscow, St Petersburg and Warsaw were dismissed. The start of World War I marked a shift from anti-revolutionary activities of the Department of Police to counter-intelligence; however, the efforts of the Department were poorly synchronised with counter-intelligence units of the General Staff and the Army. The organization was officially dissolved after the February Revolution of 1917, although this by no means marked an end to the role of secret police in Russian national security.

Use of torture

Some historians have claimed that despite the reforms in the early 19th century, the practice of torture was never truly abolished.[2] It has been argued that the creation of Okhrana led to increasing use of torture[3], due to the Okhrana using methods such as arbitrary arrest, detention and torture to gain information.[4] Following the revolution, communists claimed the Okhrana had operated torture chambers in places like Warsaw, Riga, Odessa and in majority of the urban centres.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Okhrana Britannica Online
  2. ^ Malcolm D. Evans, Rod Morgan (1999). Preventing Torture. Oxford University Press. pp. 13. ISBN 0198262574. 
  3. ^ Patterns of Torture
  4. ^ Russia and the Soviet Union 1917–1941: Glossary Charles Sturt University
  5. ^ The Russian Okhrana Marxists.org


  • Charles A. Ruud, Sergei A. Stepanov; Fontanka 16 — The Tsars' Secret Police; McGill-Queen's University Press (paperback, 2002) ISBN 0-7735-2484-3
  • Paris Okhrana 1885–1905 CIA historical review program (Approved for release 22 September 1993)

External links

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