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Encyclopedia > SMERSH
For James Bond's fictional nemesis based on the real Soviet department, see: SMERSH (James Bond).

SMERSH (short for SMERt' SHpionam (СМЕРть Шпионам), or "Death to Spies") was the name of a specialized counterintelligence department in the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff GRU of the Soviet Union. Operating under various names since the beginning of the GRU, it was given its most notorious name SMERSH during the years immediately preceding World War II. The direction of SMERSH was to secure the rear of the active Red Army from partisans, saboteurs, and spies, on the front to investigate and arrest conspirators and mutineers, "traitors, deserters, spies, and criminal elements", and support the General Staff's strategic operations by carrying out global assassination of elements considered subversive to the military stability of the Red Army. SMERSH (in capitalised letters) is a Soviet counterintelligence agency that was featured in Ian Flemings early James Bond novels and films as 007s nemesis. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Espionage (spying) is a practice of obtaining information about an organization or a society that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. ... Counterintelligence or counter-espionage is the act of seeking and indentifying espionage activities. ... For other uses, see GRU (disambiguation). ... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... Red Army flag The Workers and Peasants Red Army (Russian: Рабоче-Крестьянская Красная Армия, Raboche-Krestyanskaya Krasnaya Armiya; RKKA or usually simply the Red Army) were the armed forces first organized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War in 1918 and that in 1922 became the army of the Soviet Union. ... Traitor redirects here. ... // For other uses of Desertion, see Abandonment. ...



Soviet intelligence policy generally divided their activities along three directions in accordance with the division of power in the Soviet Union: State, Party, Military. The State's primary intelligence arm was the Cheka and remained focused on counter-intelligence; the Party's main intelligence arm was the various Communist Commissions on the domestic front which focused on political counter-intelligence and the Communist International which was focused on foreign intelligence and covert operations; and the Military which focused on politico-military activities both intelligence and counter-intelligence at home and abroad. Because of the early status of the Soviet Union as a pariah nation, most of what today would be considered politico-military intelligence activities as conducted by a state power were conducted by the GRU. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The first edition of Communist International, journal of the Comintern published in Moscow and Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) in May 1919. ...

SMERSH existed within the GRU almost from its beginning. However, the early years were almost entirely devoted to investigating and carrying out counter-intelligence operations against partisans, saboteurs, and other dissident elements at home in the military units or in areas of rebellion of the Soviet Union. Therefore, as the Russian Civil War died down and Moscow's grip became more strengthened, the elements which it constituted were almost entirely folded up and replaced by the Checka and various paramilitary police organizations such as the MVD. Combatants Red Army (Bolsheviks) White Army (Monarchists, SRs, Anti-Communists) Green Army (Peasants and Nationalists) Black Army (Anarchists) Commanders Leon Trotsky Mikhail Tukhachevsky Semyon Budyonny Lavr Kornilov, Alexander Kolchak, Anton Denikin, Pyotr Wrangel Alexander Antonov, Nikifor Grigoriev Nestor Makhno Strength 5,427,273 (peak) +1,000,000 Casualties 939,755... Modern emblem of Russian MVD Russian Gendarme officers in the 1860s The Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del (MVD) (Министерство внутренних дел) was the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the imperial Russia, later USSR, and still bears the same name in the Russian Federation. ...

However, the GRU remained as the primary covert intelligence service of the Soviet Government following its almost total isolation by world powers. The GRU became the primary agent of the Soviet Union in obtaining military-industrial hardware such as electronics, aerospace design, radio communications, etc., as well as traditional military intelligence such as unit strength, table of organization values, military policy and strategy, etc.

As the various global powers came to grip with the spread of GRU activities, counter-intelligence activities by the Western nations soon began blocking penetration attempts, then later identifying potential GRU agents, and finally expanding more complex counter-intelligence operations of doubling and disinforming GRU agents. At this point in the late 1920s, the ruthlessness of the Soviets which had featured the summary executions of millions of dissidents at home let alone suspected spies were now brought to bear on GRU officers and their agents who were suspected of wittingly or unwittingly working for the Western powers. Thus, the various death squads of the Russian Civil War were reactivated for use in the GRU. For the next twenty years, operating under various names, usually under names such as killing squads, death to traitors, death to spies etc, were named, but always operating under the same bureau of the Defense Chief Counter-intelligence Directorate.

As the requirements of war expanded and the Soviet arms began their conquest of previously occupied German territory, the complexities of counter-espionage, counter-insurgency, and occupation were sufficiently large to encourage the Stalin to consolidate all of SMERSH under his direct control. On April 19, 1943 SMERSH was officially made a sub-directorate of the Directorate of Special Departments of NKVD. The full name of the head entity was Главное управление контрразведки СМЕРШ Народного комиссариата обороны СССР, or USSR People's Commissariat of Defense Chief Counterintelligence Directorate "SMERSH". At the same time SMERSH directorate within the People's Commissariat of the Soviet Navy and SMERSH department of NKVD were created.. All were to be coordinated by a single directorate with its own analytical division. It was headed by Viktor Abakumov, who instead of reporting to the Defense Committee now reported directly to Stalin. April 19 is the 109th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (110th in leap years). ... 1943 (MCMXLIII) was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1943 calendar). ... This does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... From 1919 to 1946, functions of ministers in the government of Russia and, later, the Soviet Union were performed by Peoples Commissars (Russian title: Narodny Komissar, or Narkom). ... From 1919 to 1946, functions of ministers in the government of Russia and, later, the Soviet Union were performed by Peoples Commissars (Russian title: Narodny Komissar, or Narkom). ... The Soviet Navy (Russian: Военно-морской флот СССР, Voyenno-morskoy flot SSSR, literally Naval military forces of the USSR) was the naval arm of the Soviet armed forces. ... Viktor Abakumov Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov (Russian: Виктор Семёнович Абакумов) (1894 - December 18, 1954), Soviet police official, was a protege and subordinate of Lavrenty Beria, head of the Soviet political police aparatus from 1938 to 1953. ... Iosif (usually anglicized as Joseph) Vissarionovich Stalin (Russian: Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин), original name Ioseb Jughashvili (Georgian: იოსებ ჯუღაშვი&#4314...

As the war wound down, the need for a strategic directorate focused on counter-espionage wet operations and counter-insurgency pacification operations which answered directly to Stalin was no longer viewed necessary. Thus, on March 1946 SMERSH Chief Directorate was resubordinated to the People's Commissariat of Military Forces (Наркомат Вооруженных Сил, НКВС. Additionally, as a period of increased scrutiny by Western powers was expected as well as a new Soviet propaganda offensive at political subversion of Western anti-communist resistance, the Soviets further sought to purge the image of SMERSH and the HKBC was latter reorganized into the Ministry of Military Forces (МВС) soon thereafter), and officially discontinued in May, 1946. However, the elements and organs of SMERSH remained structured and glimpses of the organization remained as late as the 1950s, particularly during the Korean War and the late 50's Cold War.

Some high-profile assassinations or disappearances of individuals that would historically have been under the writ of SMERSH also continued. These include Louis Adamic, Noel Field and his entire family, and hundreds of Field's agents. Additionally, numerous suspected GRU German agents as well as a number of Allied agents (even intelligence officers) disappeared in Berlin and other parts of occupied Europe well into the 1950s. Louis Alojzi Adamic (March 23, 1899 – September 4, 1951) was a Slovenian-American author and translator. ... Noel Field, an American citizen, worked in the Western European Division of the United States Department of State in the 1930s. ...

SMERSH had functioned as an organization to mobilize youth in national defense, and some of its promising young members, such as Yuri Modin, were recruited into the KGB. Yuri Modin (1922- present) was the KGB controller for the so called Cambridge Five, from 1944 to 1955, during which period Donald MacLean was said to have passed atomic secrets to the Soviets, and he later arranged the 1951 defections of Maclean and Guy Burgess. ...

Activity Overseas

It was the period between 1933-1943 that saw the original SMERSH's most active overseas operations. During this period, the "Main Enemy" of all Soviet activities was the British Empire. Thus, MI5 and MI6 were the primary opponents of GRU-SMERSH during the period. The methods utilized by MI5 and MI6 and their effectiveness were of particular concern to the GRU and helped increase the hysterical paranoia of the Stalinist regime. Thus, few successful SMERSH operations were conducted in the British Empire. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), more commonly known as MI6 (originally Military Intelligence Section 6), or the Secret Service, is the United Kingdom external security agency. ...

In the United States, as the GRU organized ARMTOG was the sole representative of Soviet power, SMERSH's primary opponent in North America was the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, while the FBI was effective and surveillencing many communist operations they were as yet unaware of the larger strategic outlines of Soviet operations and thus were often caught off-guard by SMERSH's assassination squads. Thus, many of SMERSH's most successful executions occurred in the United States and Latin America and not Western Europe. They coordinated the assassinations of thousands of suspected Soviet agents that were believed to have turned ranging from Harold Ware in 1935 to Leon Trotsky in 1936 and Juliet Stuart Poyntz in 1937. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a Federal police force which is the principal investigative arm of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). ... Hal Ware, son of Ella Reeve Bloor. ... Note: This page is very long. ...

The documented cases of suspected SMERSH assassinations outside of the Soviet Union run in the hundreds if not thousands. However, the full extent of the homicides committed by SMERSH overseas will never be known. But given the rather brutal nature of communist party work in covert activities and the highly dangerous world of military human intelligence operations let alone the context of espionage in nations wracked by civil war like China and Spain and Colombia, the numbers are not shocking.

As World War II brought the US, UK, and USSR into alliance, the focus of Soviet counter-intelligence shifted. Thus, during the war the main opponent of SMERSH in its counterintelligence activity was Abwehr, the German military foreign information and counterintelligence department, active during both World War I and World War II. The Abwehr was a German intelligence organization from 1921 to 1944. ... Combatants Allied Powers: Russian Empire France British Empire Italy United States Central Powers: Austria-Hungary German Empire Ottoman Empire Bulgaria Commanders Nicholas II Aleksei Brusilov Georges Clemenceau Joseph Joffre Ferdinand Foch Robert Nivelle Herbert Henry Asquith Sir Douglas Haig Sir John Jellicoe Victor Emmanuel III Luigi Cadorna Armando Diaz Woodrow... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000...

In all of these operations against foreign intelligence services, SMERSH operated at a more complex and subtle environment and its activities were then part of a larger and more coordinated maskivoyaka" (mask operation) which included the full apparatus of the Soviet organs. Although, SMERSH was utilized as a killing instrument in operations against the Germans, British, and Americans and other powers, it was usually done so as a subordinate agent rather than the principle agent of Soviet activities.

Activity Domestically and Eastern Front

Since the writ of SMERSH was targeted against traitors, the Soviet Union's national security organs were structured as a counter-intelligence apparatus, and SMERSH primarily originated as a battlefield counter-intelligence group, it was at home in the military ranks that most large scale activities of SMERSH were conducted.

Organized principally to carry out special activities against dissidents within the military including wiping out mutineers, a close look at another vile and brutal Soviet tactic is instructive: the Punishment Battalion. Each military regiment had attached to it a punishment battalion. This military unit's sole role was establish a behind the edge of the battle field area of operation from which all dissidence to the Soviet Union was eliminated. This area was the province of anti-partisan, anti-sabeteur, anti-espionage activities on the battlefield by GRU.

Additionally, the punishment battalions other activities in securing this area was establishing a killing zone in which even Soviet troops were killed if they fled the battlefield. Used only in extraordinary circumstances, the punishment battalions would begin forcing Soviet soldiers forward to ensure they didn't break upon assaults on the enemy or flee from a defensive position when assaulted. Investigating potential mutineers or those who refused to properly implement orders and then carrying out their executions in this area was the final role of SMERSH.

As Soviet armies began their advance upon occupied German territory, it was foreseen that a substantial period of insurgency against Soviet arms would begin. Most of the Ukrainian and a substantial portion of the Belorussian population was opposed to the Soviet Union. Large armies had in fact been recruited by the Germans to aid in their war against the Soviets at the front and in the rear against the Red Partisans. To secure the supply lines, effect military order, and establish Soviet power it was viewed necessary to utterly smash any opposition or dissidence to Soviet rule. Therefore, it was concluded that SMERSH needed to be reinforced with substantial new assets including legal standing within the Soviet power structure. It was these new requirement which caused the previously shadowy SMERSH to come out from clandestine operations under military service commands to strategic authority under Stalin's direct command.

SMERSH activities also included "filtering" the soldiers recovered from captivity. It was also used extensively to "filter" the population of the gained territories, including Eastern Europe. The SMERSH was directly involved in the collection, interrogation, and execution of tens of thousands of Polish military officers, clerics, and political leaders at the Katyn Forest Massacre. The SMERSH was also actively involved in the capture, of tens if not hundreds of thousands of suspected disloyalists, anti-Soviets, and White Partisans in the Soviet Union such as forced repatriation, and execution of Soviet citizens who had been active in anti-communist armed groups fighting on the side of Nazi Germany such as the Russian Liberation Army, the Cossack Corps of Pyotr Krasnov, and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. This also included eastern POWs and eastern workers. Finally, SMERSH handled the capture and interrogations and executions of hundreds of thousands of German and Japanese POWs as well as the capture of thousands of American, British, French and Chinese soldiers, sailors, airmen, and expatriates many of whom were later murdered or died in captivity. The Katyń Forest Massacre, also known as the Katyn massacre, occurred in the Soviet Union, in a forest near Gnezdovo village, a short distance from Smolensk, during World War II. Many Poles had become prisoners of war following the invasion and defeat of Poland by the Nazis and the... Operation Keelhaul was a programme carried out in Austria by British forces in May and June 1945 that decided the fate of thousands of post-war refugees fleeing eastern Europe. ... A soldier of the Russian Liberation Army Russian Liberation Army or ROA (Русская Освободительная Армия, Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Armiya), also known as the Vlasov army, was a group of volunteer Russian forces allied with Nazi Germany during World War II. The ROA was organized by former Red Army general Andrey Vlasov, who tried... Ataman Pyotr Krasnov Pyotr Nikolayevich Krasnov (Петр Николаевич Краснов in Russian) (September 22 (10 O.S.), 1869 — January 17, 1947), sometimes referred to in English as Peter Krasnov, was Lieutenant General of the Russian army when the revolution broke out in 1917, and one of the leaders of the counterrevolutionary White movement afterwards. ... Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists or OUN (Ukrainian: or ОУН) was a Ukrainian political movement originally created in the interwar Poland. ... Eastern Workers or Ostarbeiter was the official term introduced in Nazi Germany to denote people of non-German national origin who inhabited the Reich Commissariat for the Ukraine, the General Commissariat for White Russia, or territories bordering on these territories to the east or on the former free states of...

SMERSH was also used to punish those within the NKVD itself; it was allowed to investigate whomever it wished in the NKVD structure; department and directorate heads were not immune from it. Smersh would also often be sent out to find and kill defectors, double agents, etc. This does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

SMERSH was also used by INO (the NKVD's later KGB FCD, First Chief Directorate, responsible for foreign intelligence operations outside of the USSR) to hunt down "enemies of the people" outside of Soviet territory. The KGB emblem and motto: The sword and the shield KGB (transliteration of КГБ) is the Russian-language abbreviation for Committee for State Security, (Russian: ; Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti). ...

As the war concluded, SMERSH was given the assignment of finding Adolf Hitler and, if possible, capturing him alive or recovering his body. Red Army officers and SMERSH agents found Hitler's partially burned corpse near the Führerbunker after his suicide and conducted an investigation to confirm the events of his death and identify the remains which (along with those of Eva Braun) were reportedly secretly buried at SMERSH headquarters in Magdeburg until April 1970, when they were exhumed, completely cremated, and dumped in a river. Hitler redirects here. ... This is a reconstruction of the layout of the Führerbunker. ... The front cover of Time magazine, May 7, 1945. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...


 People's Commissar of Defense | | Chief and deputies | | | Secretariat | | | | Section 1 ----------------------------- Section 5 Counter-intelligence protection | Oversight of SMERSH of central Red Army institutions | organs in military | districts | | Section 2 ----------------------------- Section 6 Work among POWs | Investigations | | | | Section 3 ----------------------------- Section 7 Counterespionage and | Information and Conduct radio games | statistic | | | Section 4 ----------------------------- Section 8 Organization of Counter- Codes intelligence behind and front lines communications 
Org.References - Lubianka 2. Iz istorii otiecziestwiennoj kontrrazwiedki, W.A. Sobolewa Moskwa 1999

SMERSH in fiction

SMERSH as a separate strategic entity was discontinued in 1946. Although it existed only three years as an independent official directorate, its notorious clandestine history in previous years and into the early cold war were made into works of fiction. The most notable example is Ian Fleming's SMERSH, a nemesis of James Bond. However, in most of the later film adaptations the independent criminal organization SPECTRE was substituted to avoid the connotation of fomenting hate for the Soviet Union and contributing to a destabilization of relations with that nation. SMERSH is mentioned in the early Bond film From Russia with Love, but doesn't play an active role in the plot. A masquerading reactivation of SMERSH appears in Timothy Dalton's first Bond film, The Living Daylights. It is also briefly mentioned in No One Lives Forever and figures in the 1967 Bond spoof Casino Royale. SMERSH (in capitalised letters) is a Soviet counterintelligence agency that was featured in Ian Flemings early James Bond novels and films as 007s nemesis. ... Look up nemesis in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The James Bond 007 gun logo James Bond 007 is a fictional British agent[1] created in 1952 by writer Ian Fleming, featured in several novels and short stories. ... Spectre, taken from the Battle for Wesnoth computer game. ... A 2002 Penguin Books paperback edition From Russia with Love, is the second James Bond film in the official EON Productions series, and the second to star Sean Connery as the suave and sophisticated British Secret Service agent James Bond. ... Timothy Peter Dalton (born March 21, 1946) is a British actor of stage and screen, best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989). ... The Living Daylights is the fifteenth James Bond film made by EON Productions. ... No One Lives Forever, commonly abbreviated NOLF, is the name of a computer game and video game series by Monolith Productions. ... Casino Royale is a 1967 surreal comedy film starring Peter Sellers and David Niven. ...

SMERSH is mentioned (along with a number of other increasingly obscure intelligence agencies) in DC Comics' Young Justice issue #1. DC Comics is one of the largest American companies in comic book and related media publishing. ... Young Justice is the name of a comic book written by Peter David and published by DC Comics, and the DC Universe superhero team within it, created by Todd DeZago. ...

Possibly the best (and most realistic) picture of the SMERSH in literature is given by Vladimir Bogomolov's novel In August of '44. In this narration the main methods of work of the SMERSH are shown along with the difficult conditions in which they had to act (as a Soviet counter-intelligence organization) to achieve their mission goals: to frustrate the leakage of military information and to capture infiltrated German spies and saboteurs. Vladimir Bogomolov (Russian: ; 3 July 1926 in Kirillovka village, Moscow oblast — 30 December 2003 in Moscow) was a Soviet Russian writer. ...

External links

  • Russia unveils Stalin's spy service BBC report on an exhibition in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of SMERSH's founding.

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