How the KGB Silenced Dissent Across the Soviet Union

As the Soviet Union’s main secret intelligence agency during the Cold War, the KGB gained notoriety for its widespread global espionage. But the organization – and its Communist-era predecessors – also played a key role inside the Soviet Union: stifling political dissent.

Protecting the homeland from internal enemies has preoccupied Russian leaders for centuries, spawning a long line of repressive secret police agencies. During the Imperial era of Russia, the Okhrana worked to identify and destroy the enemies of the Tsars. After the communist revolution of 1917, the Cheka played the same role for the Bolsheviks. An alphabetical soup of agencies (OGPU, NKVD, GRU, MVD) followed until 1954, when the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti) was created. Satellite states of the Soviet bloc, such as Hungary, Poland and East Germany, supported their own version of these agencies.

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