State Political Directorate

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State Political Directorate
Honorary Cheka-GPU agent badge
(15th Anniversary of the Cheka foundation)
Agency overview
FormedFebruary 6, 1922; 102 years ago (February 6, 1922)
Preceding agency
DissolvedNovember 15, 1923; 100 years ago (November 15, 1923)
Superseding agency
TypeSecret police
HeadquartersLubyanka Square, Moscow
Agency executive
Parent agencyCouncil of the People's Commissars

The State Political Directorate (also translated as the State Political Administration) (GPU) was the intelligence service and secret police of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) from February 6, 1922, to December 29, 1922, and the Soviet Union from December 29, 1922, until November 15, 1923.


The official designation in line to the native reference is:

  • Русский: = Государственное политическое управление (ГПУ) при Народном комиссариaте внутренних дел (НКВД) РСФСР
  • tr =Gosudarstvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie (GPU) pri narodnom komissariate vnutrennikh del (NKVD) RSFSR – (GPU pri NKVD RSFSR)
  • English: = State Political Directorate (also State Political Administration) under the People's Commissariat of interior affairs of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR)


Formed from the Cheka, the original Russian state security organization, on February 6, 1922, it was initially known under the Russian abbreviation GPU—short for "State Political Directorate under the NKVD of the RSFSR" (Russian: Государственное политическое управление при НКВД РСФСР, Gosudarstvennoye politicheskoye upravlenie under the NKVD of the RSFSR"). Its first chief was the Cheka's former chairman, Felix Dzerzhinsky.


Chronology of Soviet
security agencies
1917–22 Cheka under Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR
(All-Russian Extraordinary Commission)
1922–23 GPU under NKVD of the RSFSR
(State Political Directorate)
1920–91 PGU KGB or INO under Cheka (later KGB) of the USSR
(First Chief Directorate)
1923–34 OGPU under SNK of the USSR
(Joint State Political Directorate)
1934–46 NKVD of the USSR
(People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
1934–41 GUGB of the NKVD of the USSR
(Main Directorate of State Security of
People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs)
1941 NKGB of the USSR
(People's Commissariat of State Security)
1943–46 NKGB of the USSR
(People's Commissariat for State Security)
1946–53 MGB of the USSR
(Ministry of State Security)
1946–54 MVD of the USSR
(Ministry of Internal Affairs)

KI MID of the USSR
(Committee of Information under Ministry
of Foreign Affairs)

1954–78 KGB under the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
(Committee for State Security)
1978–91 KGB of the USSR
(Committee for State Security)
1991 MSB of the USSR
(Interrepublican Security Service)
1991 TsSB of the USSR
(Central Intelligence Service)
1991 KOGG of the USSR
(Committee for the Protection of
the State Border)

Internal security[edit]

On paper, the new agency was supposed to act with more restraint than the Cheka. For example, unlike the Cheka, it did not have the right to shoot suspected "counter-revolutionaries" at will. All those suspected of political crimes had to be brought before a judge in normal circumstances.[1]

Foreign intelligence[edit]

The 'Foreign Department' of the GPU was headed by a former Bolshevik and party member, Mikhail Trilisser.[2] The Foreign Department was placed in charge of intelligence activities overseas, including espionage and liquidation of 'enemies of the people'. Trilisser himself was later liquidated by Joseph Stalin during the Great Purge in 1940.


With the creation of the USSR in December 1922, a unified organization was required to exercise control over state security throughout the new union. Thus, on November 15, 1923, the GPU left the Russian NKVD and was reorganized as the all-union Joint State Political Directorate, also translated as "All-Union State Political Administration". Its official name was "Joint State Political Directorate under the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR" (Russian: Obyedinyonnoye gosudarstvennoye politicheskoye upravleniye under the SNK of the USSR, Объединённое государственное политическое управление при СНК СССР), or OGPU (ОГПУ).


Badge Political Military
none Cотрудник
Red Armyman
Агент 3-го разряда
Agent third category
Командир отделения
Squad commander
Агент 2-го разряда
Agent second category
Помощник командира взвода
Assistant platoon commander
Агент 1-го разряда
Agent first category
Старшина роты, батареи, батальона, дивизиона
First Sergeant of company, battery, battalion
Сотрудник особых поручений
Special assignment officer
Командир взвода
Platoon commander
Нач. оперативного пункта
Head of operative point
командир роты (полуэскадрона)
Company commander (Commander of half-squadron)
30 Нач. отдела инспекции; Пом. нач. адм.-следственной части
Leader of inspection department; Assistant head of investigative unit
командир батальона (эскадрона)
Battalion commander (Squadron commander)
Пом. нач. отделения; Уполномоч. отдела предварительного дознания; Нач. адм.-следственной части
Assistant departemental leader ; Plenipotentiary of preliminary investigation department; Head of investigative unit
командир полка
Regimental commander
Военрук инспекции
Military director of inspection
Командир бригады
Brigade commander
Нач. отделения ГПУ
Head of GPU branch
начальник и комиссар дивизии
Chief and commissar of division
Зам. нач. отдела ГПУ
Assistant head of GPU department
Командир корпуса; Зам. нач. штаба войск ГПУ
Corps commander; Assistant chief of staff for GPU troops
Нач. отдела ГПУ
Head of GPU department
Зам. Пред. ГПУ — Нач. штаба войск ГПУ
Deputy chairman of GPU - Chief of staff of GPU troops

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Overy, Richard (2004). The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. London: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393020304.
  2. ^ Kindermann, Karl Gustav, In the Toils of the O.G.P.U., Translated by Gerald Griffin; Hurst & Blackett, 1933 Digitized December 5, 2007, p. 149.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gerson, L. D. (1985). The Secret Police in Lenin"s Russia. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
  • Nation, R. C. (2018). Black Earth, Red Star: A History of Soviet Security Policy, 1917-1991. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.[1][2]
  • Ryan, James. (2012). Lenin's Terror: The Ideological Origins of Early Soviet State Violence. London: Routledge.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Katz, Mark N. (1994). "Black Earth, Red Star: A History of Soviet Security Policy, 1917-1991. By R. Craig Nation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991". Slavic Review. 53 (2): 610. doi:10.2307/2501355. JSTOR 2501355. S2CID 164502675.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Stuart (1993). "Reviewed work: Black Earth, Red Star: A History of Soviet Security Policy, 1917-1991, R. Craig Nation". Russian History. 20 (1/4): 377–378. doi:10.1163/187633193X00847. JSTOR 24657366.