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ArcheoBiblioBase: Archives in Russia: C-7Last update of repository: 7 September 2017
Operativnyi arkhiv Sluzhby vneshnei razvedki RF (Arkhiv SVR Rossii)
The Foreign Intelligence Service was established as a separate agency after the attempted coup in August 1991, when the KGB was reorganized, and its former First Chief Directorate (sometimes translated First Main Administration) (Pervoe glavnoe upravlenie), which dealt with foreign operations, was established as a separate agency in November 1991—the Central Intelligence Service (TsSR). In December 1991, the TsSR became the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
Operations of the SVR predecessors date back to the first Foreign Division of the Cheka (Inostrannyi otdel VChK—INO VChK), founded in December 1920 by order of Feliks Dzerzhinskii, at which time an archive was established within the VChK structure. The new special service consolidated operations in a single intelligence agency that had hitherto functioned since prerevolutionary times under the military General Staff, the Protection (of Security) Division (Okhrannoe otdelenie), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The INO then had four divisions—the chancellery, the division controlling agents (agenturnoe otdelenie), the Special Foreign Division, and the so-called Visa Office (biuro viz), which later was transformed into the Archival Directorate (arkhivnoe upravlenie).
The Foreign Intelligence Division (INO), as it was called from 1920 through 1941, continued under the successive Soviet security agencies—from February through December 1922 under the State Political Administration (often translated “Directorate”) (Gosudarstvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie—GPU) under the NKVD, which in November 1923 became the Consolidated State Political Administration (OGPU), and starting in July 1934 came under the Main Administration (or Chief Directorate) of State Security (Glavnoe upravlenie gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti—GUGB), which at that time again came under the jurisdiction of the NVKD.
After 1926 the parallel but separate Directorate for Special Tasks, as it was called following its establishment under Viacheslav R. Menzhinskii, was responsible for acts of foreign sabotage or diversion.
In February 1941 the People’s Commissariat of State Security (NKGB) was split out from the NKVD SSSR, with foreign intelligence as the First Directorate; but it was reunited with the NKVD after the Nazi invasion in July 1941. In April 1943, the NKGB was again split from the NKVD, with foreign intelligence remaining as the First Directorate. At that point the organs of military counterintelligence were taken out from under the NKVD and transferred to the People’s Commissariat of Defense as the Chief Directorate of SMERSH Counterintelligence (Glavnoe upravlenie kontrrazvedki “SMERSH” [Smert' shpionam—Death to Spies]) and to the People’s Commissariat of the Navy as the Directorate of SMERSH Counterintelligence (Upravlenie kontrrazvedki “SMERSH”).
From 1941 through 1954, foreign intelligence operated as the First Directorate (Pervoe upravlenie) under the successive security organs, which by 1946 had become the Ministry of State Security (MGB). During the period 1947–1949, foreign operations of the MGB were transferred to the so-called Committee of Information (KI) under the Council of Ministers of the USSR and combined the foreign directorates of both the MGB and the military intelligence agency under the General Staff, GRU (Glavnoe razvedyvatel'noe upravlenie). In February 1949, the KI was reorganized under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and GRU operated independently. The First Chief Directorate (PGU) for foreign intelligence was established under the Ministry of State Security (MGB) in January 1952, but then in March 1953, was reorganized as the Second Chief Directorate under the MVD SSSR. The following year (March 1954), the MGB was transformed into the Committee for State Security (KGB), a separate agency directly under the Council of Ministers of the USSR, at which time foreign intelligence was taken over by the First Chief Directorate (often abbreviated in English as FCD), headquartered in Iasenevo (Yasenevo), a southern suburb of Moscow.
Following its formation as an independent agency at the end of 1991, the SVR took over most of the records of foreign operations of the KGB and its predecessors (see C-6). However, as the latest law “On Foreign Intelligence,” passed in December 1995 and signed into law in January 1996, makes clear, other foreign intelligence operations are still handled by the military agency (GRU), the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), and the FSB (see C-6).
According to the presidential decree of August 1991, former KGB records were supposed to be transferred to state archival custody. Furthermore, according to the 1992 law “On the Foreign Intelligence Service”, records from the SVR archive, which are considered to have “scientific-historical significance,” were supposed to be transferred to federal public archives under Rosarkhiv. However, no significant transfers have since taken place.
An agreement with Rosarkhiv in spring 1995 provided for some limited transfers (see below under holdings). However, the January 1996 law “On Foreign Intelligence” gives the SVR increased jurisdiction over its own records—especially any files that might reveal agents, informers, or intelligence methods. Although the requirement for transferring files of “historical and scientific” value is repeated (in conformance with other Russian archival legislation), other provisions of the law clearly give the SVR the right to determine those files that it deems appropriate to declassify.