First Chief Directorate - Chiefs of Foreign Intelligence

Chiefs of Foreign Intelligence

The first chief of the Soviet foreign intelligence service, Cheka foreign department (Inostranny Otdel—INO), was Yakov Davydov. He headed the foreign department until late 1921, when he was replaced by long time revolutionary Solomon Mogilevsky. He led INO only for few months, as in 1925 he died in a plane crash.

He was replaced by Mikhail Trilisser, also a revolutionary. Trilisser specialized in tracing secret enemy informers and political spies inside the Bolshevik party. Before becoming INO chief, he led its Section of Western and Eastern Europe. Under Trilisser's management, foreign intelligence had become big professionally and respected by their opponent's services. This period characterized the enlisting of foreign agents, wide use of emigrants for intelligence tasks and organization of a network of independent agents. Trilisser himself was very active, personally traveling to Berlin and Paris for meetings with important agents.

Trilisser left his position in 1930, and was replaced by Artur Artuzov, the former chief of department of counter-intelligence (KRO) and main initiator of the Trust Operation. In 1936, Artuzov was replaced by then State Security Commissar 2nd rank Abram Slutsky. Slutsky was an active participant of the October Revolution and Russian Civil War. He had started work in security organs in 1920 by joining Cheka and later working in OGPU, Economic Department. Then in 1931, he went to serve in OGPU's Foreign Department (INO), and often left the country for Germany, France and Spain, where he participated in the Spanish Civil War. In February 1938, Slutsky was invited to the office of GUGB head komkor Mikhail Frinovsky, where he was poisoned and died.

Slutsky was replaced by Zelman Passov, but soon he was arrested and murdered, his successor Sergey Spigelglas had met with the same fate, and by the end of 1938, he was arrested and murdered. The next chief (acting) of Foreign Department for only three weeks was the experienced NKVD officer Pavel Sudoplatov. Before he become INO head in May, 1938, on Stalin's direct order, he personally assassinated the Ukrainian nationalist leader Yavhen Konovalets.

Later in June 1941, Sudoplatov was placed in charge of the NKVD's Special Missions Directorate, whose principal task was to carry out sabotage operations behind enemy lines in wartime (both it and the Foreign Department had also been used to carry out assassinations abroad). During World War II, his unit helped organize guerrilla bands, and other secret behind-the-lines units for sabotage and assassinations, to fight the Nazis. In February, 1944, Lavrenty Beria (head of NKVD) named Pavel Sudoplatov to also head the newly formed Department S, which united both GRU and NKVD intelligence work on the atomic bomb; he was also given a management role in the Soviet atomic effort, to help with coordination.

After Sudoplatov left his post, he was replaced by Vladimir Dekanozov, before becoming INO head, Dekanozov was Deputy Chairman of the Georgian Council of People's Commissars and after he left his post in 1939 and became the Soviet ambassador in Berlin.

For the next seven years, from 1939 to 1946, the chief of the foreign intelligence department (then 5th Department of the GUGB/NKVD) was a very young NKVD officer and graduate of the first official intelligence school (SHON), Major of State Security Pavel Fitin. Fitin graduated from a program in engineering studies at the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy in 1932 after which he served in the Red Army, then became an editor for the State Publishing House of Agricultural Literature. The All-Union Communist Party (CPSU) selected him for a special course in foreign intelligence.

Fitin became deputy chief of the NKVD's foreign intelligence in 1938, then a year later at the age of thirty-one became chief. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service credits Fitin with rebuilding the depleted foreign intelligence department after Stalin's Great Terror. Fitin also is credited with providing ample warning of the German Invasion of 22 June 1941 that began the Great Patriotic War. Only the actual invasion saved Fitin from execution for providing the head of the NKVD, Lavrenty Beria, with information General Secretary of the CPSU, Joseph Stalin did not want to believe. Beria retained Fitin as chief of foreign intelligence until the war ended but demoted him.

From June to September 1946, the head of foreign intelligence (MGB 1st directorate), was Lieutenant General Pyotr Kubatkin (born in 1907), when he was replaced by then Lieutenant General Pyotr Fedotov (born in 1900). Before he became head of foreign intelligence, he was working in OGPU/GUGB counter-intelligence and 'Secret Political departments and then he headed the NKVD's counter-intelligence department. From 1949 to 1951, the head of intelligence in the Committee of Information was Sergey Savchenko. Savchenko was born in 1904 and at first he was working as a security guard. He joined Soviet security organs in 1922 and in the 1940s was a top NKVD man in Ukrainian SSR. When Andrey Vyshinsky became Minister for Foreign Affairs and the head of Committee of Information, Savchenko was his deputy and head of foreign intelligence. In 1951, he was replaced by Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Petrovich Pitovranov, long time secret service worker. Between 1950 and 1951, he was the deputy of MGB head Viktor Abakumov.

On March 5, 1953, MVD and MGB were merged into the MVD by Lavrenty Beria and his people took over all high positions. The foreign intelligence (2nd Chief Directorate of the MVD), was given to Vasili Ryasnoy. After Lavrenty Beria was arrested, along with his people in MVD, Aleksandr Panyushkin became the head of foreign intelligence.

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