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Encyclopedia > Vecheka

The Cheka (ЧК in Russian) was the first (of many) Soviet secret police organizations.

A member of Cheka was called chekist. Over the time Cheka underwent reorganization and renaming, but Soviet state security personnel were referred to as "Chekists" throughout the Soviet period and the term is still found in use in Russia today.

Actually called the Vecheka (ВЧК), it was created on December 20, 1917 and headed by Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky. Vecheka stands for All-Russian Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (Всероссийская чрезвычайная комиссия по борьбе с контрреволюцией и саботажем).

After early attempts by the west to intervene against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War, the Soviet leadership and the Cheka became convinced that there was a wide ranging conspiracy of foreign enemies and internal counter-revolutionaries. Therefore they poured resources into the intelligence service to combat this conspiracy. The Cheka quickly succeeded in destroying any remaining counter revolutionary groups. Additionally, the Cheka played a significant role in destroying nonpolitical criminal gangs.

At the end of the civil war, the Cheka was changed on February 8, 1922 into the GPU (State Political Directorate), a section of the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs).

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