Soviet Union: Information on the status of the KGB since the attempted coup in August 1991…

The current status of the KGB in the Soviet Union is somewhat unclear as there have been numerous personnel changes since the attempted coup and several announcements regarding possible reforms. In addition, the Baltic states and some of the Soviet republics have apparently initiated changes to the operation of the KGB on their territories. This Response to Information Request provides a brief summary of some of the changes occurring in the KGB.

After the attempted coup in August 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev initially replaced KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, arrested as a participant in the coup, with Leonid Shebarshin, perceived to be an “old guard” conservative (RFE 30 Aug. 1991, 13). Shebarshin was replaced the following day, 23 August 1991, by Vadim Bakatin, who is considered to have more liberal views on reform ( Ibid.; RFE 6 Sept. 1991, 69). On 27 August 1991, Gorbachev announced that some military units currently under the control of the KGB would be placed under the Ministry of Defense and that certain provisions of the law on the KGB adopted in May should be revoked (AP 28 Aug. 1991; RFE 6 Sept. 1991, 82). On 29 August, Bakatin announced that all but one of the senior executives of the KGB had been fired. That man, Gennady Titov, was removed from his position in early September (TASS 9 Sept. 1991). Bakatin also announced plans to eliminate KGB departments which spy on Soviet citizens (AP 29 Aug. 1991). On 30 August, Bakatin held a news conference outlining planned reforms to the KGB including complete depoliticization, adherence to legality, decentralisation, and strengthening of republican bodies (TASS 30 Aug. 1991). On the 5 September, Bakatin stated that while one of the agency’s main goals is a radical change in the structure of state security, the KGB’s intelligence-gathering, counterintelligence and antiterrorism capabilities would be retained (RFE 13 Sept. 1991, 31). On 6 September, Gorbachev issued a decree creating a State Commission to investigate the KGB’s role in the attempted coup, and evaluate proposals for the KGB’s reorganization and the imposition of legislative controls on state security organs (RFE 6 Sept. 1991, 95). According to TASS, the Commission circulated proposals for the radical reorganization of the KGB on 24 September 1991 (24 Sept. 1991). The Commission is expected to complete its work within two months (RFE 6 Sept. 1991, 95).

Statements from senior KGB officials indicate that some reforms to the KGB are currently being implemented, including the removal of a number of officials, elimination of some departments and offices such as the Directorate for the Protection of the Soviet Constitutional System, and reduction in its telephone interception service (The Washington Post 31 Aug. 1991, A1; TASS 20 Sept. 1991; TASS 24 Sept. 1991 “Soviet KGB Head Suspends…”; TASS 1 Oct. 1991). Additional information on the degree to which these reforms have been implemented is not currently available to the IRBDC.

On 24 August, the Latvian Supreme Soviet decided to disband the KGB in Latvia, and subsequently an accord was signed with the USSR KGB agreeing to transfer KGB property to Latvia (RFE 6 Sept. 1991, 103). However, it was also reported that the KGB would operate in Latvia, abiding by the laws of the republic (Ibid.). A pact was signed between Estonia and the KGB agreeing that the KGB would end activities in the republic and respect the republic’s laws until KGB assets could be liquidated (RFE 13 Sept. 1991, 30). Lithuania also issued a decree ordering an end to KGB activity on its territory, and signed an agreement establishing a thirty-day transition period (RFE 6 Sept. 1991, 72). According to TASS, the Deputy Chairman of the KGB of the USSR announced in late September that the structures of the KGB in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will soon be dissolved and that this would be completed by early 1992 (28 Sept. 1991). He also indicated that when the former union republics form their own secret structures, which he said the republics could not avoid, local agents would have the right to join them (Ibid.).

According to the New York Times, the Russian Republic has set up a state security service separate from the KGB, although most of its operational staff is expected to come from KGB ranks (5 September 1991). TASS reported on 26 September that the KGB Directorate for Moscow and the Moscow region would be subordinate to the Russian KGB and not the USSR KGB. TASS also reported that the KGB of Uzbekistan has been replaced with a national security service subordinate to the president of the republic (27 Sept. 1991).

Additional information specific to this topic is not currently available to the IRBDC.

Bibliography

The Associated Press (AP). 29 August 1991, AM Cycle. “New KGB Chief Fires Top Managers…” (NEXIS)

. 28 August 1991, PM Cycle. “Gorbachev Strips KGB of Its Troops…” (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 5 September 1991. “Soviet Turmoil; Inside the Old KGB…,” p. 1. (NEXIS)

Radio Free Europe. 13 September 1991. Report on the USSR. “Weekly Record of Events.”

. 6 September 1991. Report on the USSR. “Weekly Record of Events.”

. 30 August 1991. Report on the USSR. Foye, Stephen and Alexander Rahr. “Gorbachev Appoints Temporary Heads of Army,

KGB, and MVD.”

TASS. 1 October 1991. “KGB Cuts Its Telephone Interception Service By A Third.” (NEXIS)

. 28 September 1991. “USSR KGB Structures in the Baltics Dissolved.” (NEXIS)

. 27 September 1991. “Uzbek KGB Transformed.” (NEXIS)

. 26 September 1991. “Status of KGB Directorate Altered.” (NEXIS)

. 24 September 1991. “Commission Suggests Priority Measures to Reorganize KGB.” (NEXIS)

. 24 September 1991. “Soviet KGB Head Suspends Activities of a KGB Directorate.” (NEXIS)

. 20 September 1991. “New Senior KGB Official Says Reforms in Full Swing.” (NEXIS)

. 9 September 1991. “Decree on Commission to Investigate KGB Activities.” (NEXIS)

. 30 August 1991. “News Conference By New KGB Chief.” (NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 31 August 1991, Final Edition. “New KGB Chief Starts Purge of Secret Police…,” p. A1. (NEXIS)

Attachments

The Associated Press (AP). 29 August 1991, AM Cycle. “New KGB Chief Fires Top Managers…” (NEXIS)

. 28 August 1991, PM Cycle. “Gorbachev Strips KGB of Its Troops…” (NEXIS)

The Independent. 13 September 1991. “Dzerzhinsky Still Casts a Dark Shadow Over Revamped KGB…” (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 5 September 1991. “Soviet Turmoil; Inside the Old KGB…,” p. 1. (NEXIS)

Radio Free Europe. 13 September 1991. Report on the USSR. “Weekly Record of Events.”

. 6 September 1991. Report on the USSR. “Weekly Record of Events.”

TASS. 1 October 1991. “KGB Cuts Its Telephone Interception Service By A Third.” (NEXIS)

. 28 September 1991. “USSR KGB Structures in the Baltics Dissolved.” (NEXIS)

. 27 September 1991. “Uzbek KGB Transformed.” (NEXIS)

. 26 September 1991. “Status of KGB Directorate Altered.” (NEXIS)

. 24 September 1991. “Commission Suggests Priority Measures to Reorganize KGB.” (NEXIS)

. 20 September 1991. “New Senior KGB Official Says Reforms in Full Swing.” (NEXIS)

. 9 September 1991. “Decree on Commission to Investigate KGB Activities.” (NEXIS)

. 30 August 1991. “News Conference By New KGB Chief.”

(NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 31 August 1991, Final Edition. “New KGB Chief Starts Purge of Secret Police…,” p. A1. (NEXIS)

 

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