Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've been looking at the history of the USSR and while the secret police were fairly straightforward under the Tsarist regime and the USSR under Lenin (Okhrana and the Cheka), for Stalin's rule of the USSR, I've seen OGPU and the NKVD pop up concurrently.

I've established that both are secret police and used by Stalin as the instrument for the Great Purges and establishing terror throughout the country, but what is the exact difference?

I've asked someone and he has said that they are essentially the same, but surely there must be some distinction between the two, for they have two different names.

Thanks in advance.

share|improve this question
3  
Its possible Stalin kept two such organizations in the event he felt the need to use one against the other (as Hitler did with the SA and SS). –  T.E.D. May 22 '12 at 22:15
1  
Note, the GPU was submerged into the GPU. They did not exist in parallel. –  Felix Goldberg Dec 2 '12 at 0:53
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

NKVD means Narodny Komissariat Vnutrennih Del, that is People's Comissariat of Internal Affairs. It was just a general internal affairs department. Although it included law enforcement agencies, it on the other hand included firefighters and civil registry services too.

Now GPU/OGPU was the secret police which sometimes was a part of NKVD, and sometimes was not. It is GPU which later became known as KGB.

There is a timeline for your convenience.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It is completely wrong if your source claims that NKVD was a "secret police", whatever it could mean. Sometimes I even spotted such claims in Wikipedia.

NKVD included normal police, traffic control, firefighters, border guards, passport issuing agency and prisons.

share|improve this answer
    
And none of those individuals had any motivation to work for the secret police. </sarcasm> –  Mark C. Wallace May 10 '13 at 11:00
    
@Mark C. Wallace I really do not understand your sarcasm, what do you mean to say? That there were many counter-intelligence agents among firefighters? That the counter-intelligence could use firefighters as a source of cadres? Some another idea? –  Anixx May 10 '13 at 12:19
1  
It included all these things AND the secret police. The secret police was by far the most important part of the NKVD. (Btw, The NKVD also had its own army - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Troops) –  Felix Goldberg May 10 '13 at 15:16
    
@Felix Goldberg well this depends on how you measure "importancy". It definitely was far smaller in numbers. I also have problem with understanding the term "secret police". How police can be "secret"? –  Anixx May 10 '13 at 15:34
1  
@Anixx: Are you more comfortable with the term "political police"? –  Felix Goldberg May 11 '13 at 9:31
add comment

The OGPU succeeded the GPU as the state security force which in turn became the NKVD which in turn became the KGB. Therefore, the NKVD was secret police, and they are all the same thing just during different time periods. Reference: Bolshevik and Stalinist Russia 1918-56 (third edition) by Michael Lynch.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.