KGB to Brezhnev:

Cold War in Annual Reports of the KGB Chairman Y. Andropov to the General Secretary CC CPSU L. Brezhnev.

Souproun, Mikhail N. 

            In the history of nations one can hardly find more capacious  and plain documents than reports of punitive bodies bosses to the leaders of their state. Regarding the USSR history - these are annual reports of the KGB Chairmen (VChK-OGPU-NKVD) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The way of keeping them in a “Special File” in archive of the President of RF - and a stamp of “special importance” emphasize a particular national significance to this kind of documents. Besides these the KGB reports were carrying an additional stamp with a short instruction how these documents should be treated: handed only to a personal responsibility of a limited circle of people and obligatorily handed back afterwards. That excluded any leakage of information. It was a usual practice in 1960s-1980s to mark the KGB annual reports with “top secret stamps”. It was a well known stagnation period with its  “psychological war”, crazy arms race and fight against dissidents.  

These reports form outstanding examples of bureaucratic accuracy and regularity: no corrections, no mistakes, on both style and grammar verified. The only thing which is against the general rule - is handwritten figures. We can assume that this was done because of secrecy, perhaps by Andropov himself, several hours before submitting a report to Brezhnev. Each report after reading was signed by Politburo members. Usually there were not more than 6-7 names: it means that a document was typed in one or two copies to speed up working on a report. 

     Structure of reports was strictly in compliance with competence of  Directorates (Glavnye Upravlenya). There were not more than 12 of them in different years. It is well known that General Secretary did not like reading, preferred to listen to information   It was not the intention of the author to make detailed reports. That is why all important reports were kept maximum short , 7-8 pages. In other words results of  a year activity took only one page. According to a tradition of that time the first page was a preamble with a list of party documents, laid as a basis for the present year, containing a lot of quotations and the last one – assurances in devotion to Comrade Brezhnev. It means that the report of the first 3 main Directorates could occupy only half a page. Reports of Andropov to Brezhnev , though rich with figures, were three times shorter than reports of  Vladimir Semichastny - Andropov’s predecessor   to the state leader N. Khrouschev.  Analysis, conclusions and implications were minimized. To insure himself against possible criticism, Y.Andropov in contrast to V.Semichastny, avoids emotional evaluations, descriptions, examples, ways how information was obtained. Alongside with his own signature he used to add “Approved by the KGB board”. But the last one existed only until 1980. Since the same year a notation “To Politburo” was changed to “Comrade L.I. Brezhnev” personally as well.

A practice to submit a report to Politburo once a year casts doubt on awareness of  the Brezhnev environment (excluding Andropov himself) about the real situation in the country. These reports would show high execution discipline and accuracy of authors. For additional information or for comments,  one had to apply to the author or to start an individual analysis, i.e. to compare a report with previous ones or to other sources. A tradition to present data in portions placed an author in one rank to the first person in the state and made him one of the main successors of this person. Wasn’t a “practice” to submit most important the KGB reports to Politburo only once a year a reason for immobility of the system and it’s stagnation?!  Mentioned above statement does not mean that some Politburo members did not know real situation in the USSR. Collecting of information and analysis was the basis for all of the KGB activities.

Based on obtained information the KGB submitted to the Central Committee and to the relative Departments 3-4 informational materials daily (in customary the KGB terms – “informations”) and 1-2 analytical reports. Major part of them were fulfilled on a very high professional level. Competence of the KGB analysts was stipulated by a steady staff selection system to a “special order”(«raznaryadka») and the intake of intellectual civilians. New requirements to educational level were developed by V.Semichastny in 1950s in the times of so called “combing-outs”(«chistky»). Andropov paid particular attention to the education of the KGB officers. For instance in 1954 only 13,5% of the KGB officers had University to similar to it education. While in 1963 this figure grew  to 52,2%. By 1980 almost all officers of  the KGB had university or other high school degree.

           Compared with reports of V.Semichastny the reports of Y.Andropov show increased and new flexible types of  the KGB activity. Informational documents doubled as soon as Andropov started to work in the KGB (from 14500 in 1962 up to 25645 in 1967 and to 33500 in 1978). It was evident that a person coming to power tried to prove his superiority over his predecessor.   

            From the point of view of the contents the Andropov’s  reports might be divided into two categories:  external and internal activity of  the KGB.

Being the main state structure on obtaining information from abroad, the KGB serviced in the first place Politburo, departments of  the Central Committee of the CPSU, and leading departments. Y.Andropov was highly skilled to use this for his own  career. Up to 1973, before Andropov’s electing as a member of  Politburo the attitude to the KGB leader in a higher section of authorities was alert and cool. Perhaps, that is the reason  why the largest amount of  “political reports” were sent in the second of  value power department - Ministry of Defense, which leader Dmitry Ustinov was a  Secretary of  the Central Committee (and starting from 1976 - Politburo member). Soon the situation changed. So, in 1967 Andropov presented 4639 of such reports to the Ministry of Defense, 4260 – to the Central Committee and 4832 - to the Foreign Ministry. In 1978 - only 2000 to the Ministry of Defense, 5500 – to the CC CPSU and  the rest  750 – to FM (MID). In two years, when  Andropov was elected at the position of  a Central Committee Secretary (with the conservation of the position of  a chairman of the KGB) the Ministry of Defense received only 1500 reports. Meantime over 6000 political reports were directed to the Central Committee.  

      Annual reports of Andropov do not give a description of the presented information. However reports of V.Semichastny expressed how actual and significant information was sent to the leadership of the state. In the report for 1962 the KGB chairman specifically noted that his subordinates managed to get technical documents on the American early warning system against the continental ballistic missiles, information on IBM to make a PC of new generation, an American  type of hard fuel for missiles, documents on production of poleprene rubber.  Special pride of secret service men was the collected information on NATO’s needs of weapons for the nearest 4 years, reports of NATO’s Secretary General (Sticker) under the titles: "The Defense Policy of NATO" and “On the Cooperation Between NATO Countries ", as well as data on the most sharp world political conflicts, including such regions as Cube, Chinese-Indian border, on economical problems (for instance, Great Britain entering E-Market). 

Aside from annual reports including analytical developments, the KGB increased its efforts to gain results of research developments executed to the orders of ministries and departments.  In 1962  they received 703 secret samples of the most up to date technology (mainly military oriented), in 1978 -  already near 3000, but in 1980 - 2000 samples  Certain circles in Central Committee were aware that it was much cheaper to compete with highly developed countries in armaments using industrial espionage. Another question is how tinned samples were introduced into life.

       Alongside with getting information, the KGB was also active in the creation and spreading misinformation and on counter-information. Ex.: In figures of pure statistics for 1962 records one may read that the Committee had spread 263 pieces of misinformation (“dez”) via its channels, had published 80 books and brochures overseas, 3200 article beneficial to the USSR (However, any article beneficial to the USSR might have been presented as the KGB action – S.M.). The KGB “inspired" 50 requests in parliaments, 60 appearances over foreign radio and television. With participation of the Committee 34 demonstrations and meetings were organized, 34 leaflets by the circulation of 680 thousand pieces were widespread.  Even a convocation of the Continental Congress in Rio-de-Janeiro (March 1963) which aim was to create "The League to Protect Cube" was organized by the KGB. The Committee supported financially 25 foreign newspapers, 19 magazines, 3 printing houses and 6 bulletins. As a result of 45 actions of the year ciphers and codes of 17 Western countries were obtained.

It is notable that in the future especially with the beginning of so called "psychological war", the KGB activity in this direction was vastly extended. In 1978s employees of the Committee organized already 147 demonstrations, published 4800 books and brochures, organized 162 interviews overseas, etc.

       Denouncement of agents of foreign intelligence services and introduction of the Soviet ones stayed the most important side of the KGB activity. The trends of this kind of activity in reports were defined by international situation. In 1962 s under conditions of a "cold war", they disclosed 716 foreign spies and 19 agents, including well known Pen’kovsky and Gogua. In 1967 s - accordingly 218 and 59 (including Salov and Seregin). With the beginning of detente in early 1970s the number of foreign spies or agents varied from 10 and 20 accordingly 20 and 70 that is in compliance with the need of their denouncement. Nationality of agents was also defined by the type of the relations of the USSR with one or another country. For example, in case relations became worse with China more than one half of denounced spies were Chinese or Korean. With the expansion of "Solidarity" activity most denounced agents were Polish people. In comparison with 26 agents three NATO states intelligence services, revealed in 1980, KGB had identified 70 "agents" belonging to Polish "Solidarity". Such a trend might be traced on the amount of foreigners expelled from Russia (54 - in 1962, 108 - in 1967 and  99 - in 1980) as well.

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        Alongside with suppression of the "hostile" activity from outside the country, the KGB had intensified, and - more important -  improved their methods of working with opposition inside the country. Obviously, the acquaintanceship of Y.Andropov with UK resident Kim Filby, prompted him to find more fine methods to influence dissidents. In this struggle Y.Andropov obtained perfection. Not accidentally, after moving to the building on Loubianka (June 17, 1967) he gives an order to set up a “memorable” 5-th Directorate to fight with "anti-Soviet elements" (so called "5th line"). Its  first leader was a former party functioner, secretary of Stavropol CPSU Committee Kadashev. But through-one and a half year he was replaced by a professional KGB officer Fillip D. Bobkov (now chief of safety service of group "Most"). The same 1967 year, a new "article 190 rot" was incorporated in the Penal Code which supposed punishment for spreading hostile for the state rumors. According to this article for the declaration of an anecdote about state leaders one could be put in jail for 3 years. However, there were not so many cases of that kind. The Committee worked more refined. There was a net of paid agents («stukachi» -«squealers»), who informed about the spirits of population.  In 1967 , when Y. Andropov started to work in the KGB  nearly 25 thousand of people were recruited as «stukachi». They formed 15% of the whole agency staff amount (near 167.000 of "squealers").

Taking into consideration the 50 thousand of the KGB officers it is not so difficult to count that of each thousand of citizens in the USSR one was a paid KGB employee.

          The full scale shadowing of citizens was done by either volunteers or by in partly paid assistants who were practically in every labor collective. Meanwhile the size of the organization of the KGB was increased in a geometrical progression. Everyone who was once upon a time included into this system could not leave it without serious consequence. In 1991, according to the official data, the KGB staff  totaled 480 thousand employees.  

Alongside with the denunciations acting from agents, the KGB received information by means of listening telephone conversations and secret reading («perlustration») of the private correspondence. Annually the employees of the departments of perlustration  managed to overlook 120-150 thousand letters and banderoles. Approximately 5 thousand of them, i.e. every 30th  letter or banderole, contained politically harmful materials according to them.

 Due to activity of the agents and perlustrators the Committee managed to establish an identity of  1500 - 2000 anonymous authors of anti-Soviet letters or leaflets per year (1912 authors in 1962, 1198 - in 1967, 1113 - in 1977, 1963 authors - in 1981. It is quite remarkable, that among the anonymous authors of letters revealed in 1981 (according to a social attribute) 26,7 % were employees, 23,4 % - workers, 17,1 % - students and pupils, 14,9 % - pensioners, 3,1 % - collective farmers. On a  political -organizational belonging  20,7 % - were members of the CPSU or Komsomol (Young Communist League). 

       In conditions of  the total shadowing,  in order to have necessary operative information, the KGB built up the internal political activity in three basic directions, according to trends of  the J.Andropov's report to Political bureau CC CPSU: struggle against dissidents, church and terrorism. Special department dealt with the protection of borders - Directorate of the Boundary Forces of  the USSR. However, it was difficult to separate work of all of these direction.  

        Reported cases were marked simultaneously both as antiterrorist and as operations on suppression of anti-Soviet or nationalist displays (high-jacking by Jews in 1970-E.Kuznetsov's and M.Dymshits case, Sado- Ogurtsov case, 1967-1970, explosion in the Moscow Underground in January, 1977). During the operation «Arsenal» on revealing weapon from the population several dozens of dissidents suffered. That year the KGB stopped activity of more than 20 dissident groups which had their editions.  

     As to a degree of influence to «state criminals» J.V.Andropov, not like his predecessors,  had staked to prophylactic treatment - that is prevention of crimes (profilactirovaniye). To a certain extent it was caused by a politics of the Party set by conditions of detente and the statement about completing of the constructing of the «real socialism» in the USSR. Last thesis was even stated in the Constitution of 1977. The table below shows practical tendencies of the KGB methods of influence used against the opposition inside the country at Andropov’s time (see Table 1

Table 1. 


about persons who were brought to justice and subjected to prophylactic treatment by the KGB, 1959-1974






Brought to justice in total





including: - for treason to the Motherland





- for espionage





- for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda





- for illegal smuggling of goods





-for violations of currency operation rules





-for illegal crossing of state borders





-for lossing documents which contain top secret information





- for other crimes





Subjected to prophylactic treatment in total









including:  persons who had suspicious contacts with the foreigners









persons who revealed manifestations of politically harmful character









Subjected to prophylactic treatment with the aid of the public









Persons who were threated officially





Persons who were brought to justice after being subjected to prophylactic treatment








Figures and most general lines of reports hide methods and tools of work of the Soviet secret police. The most widely used among those methods was mixing dissidents with ordinary criminals through flipping drugs, weapons, currency during searches, inspiring household crimes. Night interrogations and arrests of the relatives of nonconformists (S.Kovalev, A.Ipatov), creation of the false dissident magazines («Mnogie leta») and even arranging the politician murders (actress Zoya Fedorova) were widely applied. Y.Andropov had followed N.Khrouschev  and began violent isolation of dissidents in mental clinics, acting according to the well known thesis: «there are no dissidents in our country, those who considered to be ones are mentally sick people». If in 1964 there were known 2 clinics of the kind, in 1980 there were more than 30 of them. Only in 1981, according to the KGB data, 229 authors of anti-Soviet materials were placed to mental hospitals.  

Methods of prophylactic treatment (profilactirovaniye) were far to be marked with humanism as well. Depending on how serious accusations was, the KGB curators firstly resorted to so-called public pressure by means of discussing the person who revealed manifestations of politically harmful character at a party or Komsomol meetings. If such a pressure was not sufficient, persons were invited for chat with the KGB employee. As a rule, such conversations took place in a staff department of establishment where the person worked, or in special rooms outside establishment. If these conversations appeared insufficient too, the KGB would apply to sanctions. In each case they would act individually, that is why their methods extremely verified: from refusal in granting a registration to work dismissal, night interrogations with relatives.

          Only the most strong could sustain such influence. Therefore cases of mental diseases and suicides among the dissidents were quite frequent. The follower of  Y.Andropov and his deputy Victor M.Chebrikov, who replaced his patron in 1982, started his activity with even bigger eagerness. In the report for the first year of work he managed to increase almost all known parameters by 10-15 % and more.  Instead of 24 agents revealed in 1981, in a year the KGB found out 141 (among them 112 - students of military high schools of the USSR),  instead of 557 brought to justice in 1981 - 776.

          The struggle against dissidents and the Church was a matter of special V.Chebrikov’s concern . According to the report for 1982, operations, like discredit of organisations “Amnesty International”, “Helsinki Groups” or failure of  «Saharov’s action at the Paguosh conference»   - became the subject of his pride. The KGB had held a special meeting on perfection the prophylactic treatment  of dissidents. The well known instructive letter  on strengthening the struggle against dissent became a result of this meeting. During the first year of  management of the Committee, its new chairman had closed more than 20 not legally approved clerical organisations, liquidated 12 underground printing houses with 47 printing machines. In the struggle against the Church V.Chebrikov's had surpassed his patron. At least the latest reports of Andropov did not even mention the anti-church activity at all. 

        One more new direction of activity of the KGB was launched at those years - struggle with the “shadow busyness”. For this purpose in 1982 a special 6-th Directorate for economic safety - was created in the KGB.     

    All would seem was done for the further strengthening of the statehood. But in three-four years it became clear  that all this work was done for nothing. Gorbachev’s perestroika had brought to zero sum efforts of the device of one of the most terrible intelligence services in the world. With disorder of totalitarian Soviet system,  the KGB had to reconstruct its activity with the reference to new conditions. New cardinal changes were waiting for it.

Being a component of totalitarian system at each stage of its development bodies of suppression carried out characteristic tasks of the time. In times of  Brezhnev and Andropov, in conditions of detante, the  activity of the KGB to a certain extent started to westernise. The role of external intelligence serves, industrial espionage amplified. In the struggle against opposition (dessent) the KGB stakes on the prophilactic treatment. Nevertheless it did not help.

Why? We can possible assume, that it was caused by the nature of the whole system. But the operational experience of the KGB in Russia may be still claimed. And may be not only in Russia?



The article is based on annual reports of  the Heads of the KGB (Semichastny, Andropov and Chebrikov), 1962-1983 which are located in Archive of the President of the Russian Federation, Brezhnev and Andropov files.