KGB Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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Knowing about the KGB is essential to understanding modern history, especially in Russia. Few organizations have had more impact globally than the KGB. Here is everything you need to know! 

What Is the KGB? 

The KGB was the principal security agency in the Soviet Union. The KGB — an acronym for Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, which translates to Committee for State Security — was a Soviet intelligence agency established in 1917 as Cheka. 

The Committee for State Security was founded in 1954, but its origins can be traced back to the Cheka and other intelligence agencies formed after the Russian Revolution of 1917. The KGB’s influence can still be seen today, as Vladimir Putin has used many former KGB officers to populate his political inner circle. 

The KGB succeeded its predecessors:

  • NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del), which was founded in 1934.
  • Cheka (Chrezvychainyy Komissariat Vneshnego Dela), which was created in 1917.
  • OGPU (Obschestvo Upravleniya po Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti), founded in 1922. 

The KGB is the Russian equivalent of the American CIA, and it’s responsible for state security. The organization was established in 1954 to replace NKVD (the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), and its functions include counter-espionage, internal security, and foreign operations.

What Are thhe Origins of the KGB?

Cheka was formed to combat counter-revolutionary activity, protect the government from internal and external threats, and ensure the survival of the USSR. In addition to these responsibilities, it also had power over other state institutions to maintain its control over society and prevent any opposition from forming against its regime.

This organization was arguably one of the most powerful agencies within Soviet Russia because it controlled all aspects of life within their borders, including: military forces; civil rights violations; political parties; education; mass media outlets like newspapers, radio stations or television channels; religious freedoms (or lack thereof); free speech laws (or lack thereof); and more. 

The organization became NKVD in 1934 to be the replacement. The primary purpose behind creating this agency was so that Joseph Stalin could consolidate his own personal power through fear tactics. He knew that other leaders wouldn’t challenge him if they thought he would arrest them too if they did so.

As time went on and Stalin’s death occurred after the end of the World Wars, the KGB started to become what it was at its height of power. The communist party of the USSR created the KGB in its final form in 1954 to function as the country’s federal security service. 

The End of the KGB

As the KGB was the government’s secret police, it was not uncommon for its officers to be involved in activities that were not well-known. They were known for their intelligence gathering and interrogation techniques, but they also had a history of spying on dissidents — people who disagreed with their government.

In this way, it is easy to see why so many people may have been concerned about how much influence the KGB exerted over their lives. 

Because of the high intensity of the state security committee, many people intensely disliked the KGB. Everyone in the Soviet Union — from Moscow to Ukraine — was scared of being spied on by KGB agents and intelligence officers. That tension was heightened, especially during the Cold War. This tension led to the threat of civil war and a rise in anti-soviet attitudes and tendencies. 

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union through democratic elections. One of his policies as leader was glasnost (pronounced “glas-nots”), which means “openness.” 

Under this policy, citizens’ access to information increased significantly. They could read uncensored newspapers, watch television programs without worrying about being exposed to subversive material, and travel abroad freely if they wanted or needed. This led to the ceasing of operations of the KGB in December 1991. 

The KGB Today

The FSB is Russia’s security service and successor to the KGB. The FSB works closely with other Russian intelligence agencies, such as the SVR (foreign intelligence), GRU (military intelligence), and Directorate K of the Federal Narcotics Service.

The FSB has been involved in high-profile espionage cases like Anna Chapman and Mikhail Khodorkovsky—the former was deported from the United States for espionage. At the same time, the latter was arrested for tax fraud after his oil company YUKOS was dismantled by Putin, a former Soviet and KGB leader.

Today, despite its name change from KGB to FSK to FSB and its change in focus from political police to national security, it remains a significant player in Russian politics. This organization is responsible for many different internal and external security responsibilities, including: 

  • Controlling counterintelligence operations, both foreign and domestic; 
  • Working closely with border guards on passport control; 
  • Carrying out surveillance on suspected terrorists; 
  • Monitoring illegal drug trade within Russia; 
  • Investigating economic crimes such as money laundering; 
  • Protecting classified information about weapons systems used by Russian military forces;
  • Coordinating export control over sensitive technology exports outside Russia that could be used against national interests if leaked abroad (this includes developing non-proliferation treaties); 
  • Preventing terrorism within its borders through monitoring potential threats such as extremist groups’ financial transactions through banks or cash transactions made during terrorist attacks (these measures are then shared globally through international organizations like Interpol).


If KGB is just one of many abbreviations that you aren’t familiar with, you’ve come to the right place! Here at The Word Counter, it’s our mission to provide people with all of the resources they need to be the best communicators they can be. 

Success in the modern world is directly proportional to how good a person is at communicating, and that’s why we created our blog to provide answers to tough questions. 

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KGB | Origins, Functions, Significance, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica