MGB

MGB [Министерство государственной безопасности; Ministerstvo gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti; Ukrainian: МДБ; MDB, or Міністерство державної безпеки; Ministerstvo derzhavnoi bezpeky (Ministry of State Security)]. A Soviet political police agency formed in February 1941 from parts of the NKVD and known first as the People’s Commissariat of State Security. It was reintegrated into the NKVD in July 1941 and separated from it again from April 1943 to March 1953. In March 1946 it was renamed the MGB. After being merged with the MVD by Lavrentii Beria (March 1953 to March 1954) it was set up as a distinct agency under the name KGB.

The separation of the state security service from the internal affairs ministry marked a return to earlier Soviet practice, when the GPU and the Cheka were distinct organizations. As a Union-republic institution, the MGB was subordinated to both the all-Union and the Ukrainian governments. This meant that in practice Moscow controlled state security in Ukraine. During the Second World War the MGB organized civil defense, enforced the rationing system, rooted out spies, prevented soldiers from deserting, deported the Volga Germans and the Crimean Tatars, and gathered intelligence on anti-Soviet resistance movements in the Baltics and Western Ukraine. After the war its foreign department oversaw security in the Soviet puppet states in Eastern Europe, supervised Soviet trade missions and representatives abroad, and monitored the activities of Soviet émigrés. The operations department was responsible for all internal security and the espionage and anti-espionage department took over most of the functions of the wartime Smersh. Its Secret Political Office kept watch over the entire civilian population, and special departments oversaw industrial establishments, universities, schools, and religious affairs. In Ukraine the operations department co-operated with the NKVD and the Soviet Army in destroying the Ukrainian partisan and nationalist movement after the war. Besides secret police units the MGB maintained large military forces and border troops in Ukraine. Specially trained MGB agents infiltrated the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and similar partisan outfits in Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, and Estonia. The ministers for state security were V. Merkulov (February–July 1941, April 1943 to October 1946), V. Abakumov (October 1946 to the beginning of 1952), and S. Ignatiev (1952 to March 1953).

Boris Balan, Oleksander Yurchenko

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]




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