As we’ve seen in the show The Americans, the KGB acronym is synonymous with the Cold War. But, what was the KGB? A great deal of Americans don’t know much about the Soviet organization and what it stood for.
KGB stood for Komitet Gosundarstvennoy Bezopasnosti – or Committee for State Security. It served as the primary intelligence organization in the Soviet Union from 1954-1991 – and was perhaps the most feared intelligence organization in the world.
Similar to the American Central Intelligence Agency and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), the KGB had several missions. It’s foremost mission was to protect the Soviet state by enforcing heavy border security and prosecuting dissidents. It kept a watchful on anyone entering or leaving the Soviet Union.
The KGB also managed internal counterintelligence and international espionage for the Soviet Union. Any crime against the state were considered treason and were handled by the agency.
Members of the KGB were trained extensively – especially for those operatives who were deployed to the United States. Some of that training included torture and specialization in disinformation and propaganda.
Methods of the KGB spy operations were carried out in the same ways we read about in books and see on television in programs like The Americans. Operatives played extensive cat and mouse games in order to infiltrate America’s government. There were mysterious assignations. Peculiar packages and complex codes to decipher. KGB spies generally stopped at nothing to get what they wanted.
During its reign, the KGB was an extremely powerful organization. So powerful in fact, Mikhail Gorbachev decided it had too much power and ordered a reorganization in 1991.
After the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union feel, the KGB became a part of the Russian government and the domestic operations of the agency were spun off into a separate agency. The KGB continued to handle foreign intelligence, and was later renamed the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) – a name that is still used today.