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VCheKa (Russian: ВЧК)
Cheka badge as it was in 1922
Agency overview
Preceding agency
Dissolved(reorganized and renamed) 1922
Superseding agency
TypeSecret police
Headquarters2 Gorokhovaya street, Petrograd
Lubyanka Square, Moscow
Agency executive
Parent agencyCoat of arms of the Soviet Union (1923–1936).svg
Council of the People's Commissars

The Cheka [1] was the first Soviet state security organization. It was created on 20 December 1917, after a decree issued by Vladimir Lenin. Its first leader was Polish aristocrat-turned-communist Felix Dzerzhinsky.[2]

History[change | change source]

By late 1918, hundreds of Cheka committees had been created in the cities. Many thousands of dissidents, deserters, or other people were arrested, tortured or executed by Cheka groups.[3] After 1922, Cheka groups underwent many reorganizations, as did the NKVD. Its members were called Chekists well into the late 1980s.[4]

From its start, the Cheka was an important military and security arm of the Bolshevik communist government. In 1921 the troops of the Cheka numbered 200,000. These troops policed and ran the Gulag system; "requisitioned" food; tortured and executed political opponents; put down rebellions and riots by workers or peasants, and mutinies in the desertion-plagued Red Army.[5]

Cheka was succeeded by OGPU.

Name[change | change source]

The full name of the Cheka in 1918 was (in Russian) the "All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption".

A member of Cheka was called a "chekist" throughout the Soviet period, despite various official name changes.[6] The term is still found in use in Russia today. For example, President Vladimir Putin has been referred to in the Russian media as a "chekist" due to his career in the KGB.[7]

References[change | change source]

  1. ЧК - чрезвыча́йная коми́ссия chrezvychaynaya komissiya, Emergency Commission.
  2. Laver, John (2008). The Impact of Stalin's Leadership in the USSR,1924-1941. Nelson Thornes. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7487-8267-3.
  3. pages 383-385, Lincoln (1999).
  4. "Library of Congress / Federal Research Division / Country Studies / Area Handbook Series/ Soviet Union / Glossary". Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  5. Courtois, Stephane; Kramer, Mark (1999). Livre Noir Du Communisme: Crimes, Terreur, Repression. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-07608-2.
  6. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander (1974). The Gulag Archipelago. II. New York: Harper. pp. 537–38. ISBN 978-0-06-092103-3. An old Chekist! Who has not heard these words, drawled with emphasis, as a mark of special esteem? If the zeks wish to distinguish a camp keeper from those who are inexperienced, inclined to fuss, and do not have a bulldog grip, they say: 'And the chief there is an o-o-old Chekist!' ... 'An old Chekist'—what that means at the least is that he was well-regarded under... Beria Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  7. "A Stalin slip and Putin trick | Opinion". The Moscow Times. 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-07-27.