Soviet Union Table of Contents
The basic organizational structure of the KGB was created in 1954, when the reorganization of the police apparatus was carried out. In the late 1980s, the KGB remained a highly centralized institution, with controls implemented by the Politburo through the KGB headquarters in Moscow.
The KGB was originally designated as a "state committee attached to the Council of Ministers." On July 5, 1978, a new law on the Council of Ministers changed the status of the KGB, along with that of several other state committees, so that its chairman was a member of the Council of Ministers by law. According to the 1977 Soviet Constitution, the Council of Ministers "coordinates and directs" the work of the ministries and state committees, including the KGB. In practice, however, the KGB had more autonomy than most other government bodies and operated with a large degree of independence from the Council of Ministers. The situation was similar with the Supreme Soviet, which had formal authority over the Council of Ministers and its agencies. In 1989 the actual powers of the Supreme Soviet, however, gave it little if any power over KGB operations.
The KGB was a union-republic state committee, controlling corresponding state committees of the same name in the fourteen non-Russian republics. (All-union ministries and state committees, by contrast, did not have corresponding branches in the republics but executed their functions directly through Moscow.) Below the republic level, there existed KGB administrations (upravleniia) in the kraia (see Glossary) and oblasts (see Glossary). In the Russian Republic, however, there was no separate KGB. Oblast KGB administrations in the Russian Republic were subordinated directly to the central KGB offices in Moscow. At the lower levels, autonomous okruga (see Glossary), cities, and raiony (see Glossary) had KGB departments or sections.
The KGB also had a broad network of special departments in all major government institutions, enterprises, and factories. They generally consisted of one or more KGB representatives, whose purpose was to ensure the observance of security regulations and to monitor political sentiments among employees. The special departments recruited informers to help them in their tasks. A separate and very extensive network of special departments existed within the armed forces and defense-related institutions.
Although a union-republic agency, the KGB was highly centralized and was controlled rigidly from the top. The KGB central staff kept a close watch over the operations of its branches, leaving the latter minimal autonomous authority over policy or cadre selection. Moreover, local government organs had little involvement in local KGB activities. Indeed, the high degree of centralization in the KGB was reflected in the fact that regional KGB branches were not subordinated to the local soviets (see Glossary), but only to the KGB hierarchy. Thus, they differed from local branches of most union-republic ministerial agencies, such as the MVD, which were subject to dual subordination.
The KGB was directed by a chairman--who was formally appointed by the Supreme Soviet but actually was selected by the Politburo-- one or two first deputy chairmen, and several (usually four to six) deputy chairmen. Key decisions were made by the KGB Collegium, which was a collective leadership body composed of the chairman, deputy chairmen, chiefs of certain KGB directorates, and one or two chairmen of republic KGB organizations.
Data as of May 1989