The Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or KGB served as the main security agency for the Soviet Union beginning in 1954 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Unlike other security agencies, the KGB was ultimately an independently run government body with little oversight from Soviet Unions leaders.
The KGB maintained many roles: gathering intelligence both domestically and abroad, patrolling Soviet borders and promoting communist propaganda. The more controversial role of the KGB involved members participating in what was dubbed as the “secret police”. The Soviet Union employed over half a million spies within Soviet borders and 1000s of spies working abroad. Domestically, the KGB would investigate individuals believed to be against communism or those who threated Soviet ideology, which often led to house searches, arrests, interrogation and even execution.
Often the KGB employed domestic citizens in order to conduct surveillance and observation amongst neighbors and were ordered to report suspicious activity or radical behavior. Additionally, citizens were trained to travel abroad and to spy on countries of interest to the Soviet Union. The United States and the Soviet Union at the time were at each others throats in response to the Cold War and the use of nuclear weapons. Soviet spies, trained by the KGB, were sent to the United States in order to gain intelligence and information. On the higher level, individuals were sent to the United States with occupational disguises and if caught claimed international immunity. On the local level, individuals were sent to small towns within the United States. Imagine a Soviet spy as your neighbor!
Special training was provided for these individuals who were sent abroad in order to blend in American society without suspicion. In a more modern text, KGB ALPHA TEAM TRAINING MANUAL published in 1993, chapters are highlighted and were mandatory to complete (pages 2-4). Additionally, in order to prepare Soviet spies for the small towns of the United States and to experience an actual American lifestyle, training camps were constructed. In 1959, a small American town was built in Vinnytsia, Ukraine and was used throughout the 1960s to train Soviet spies. These small towns were based off of released American movies or TV shows. Living within these towns for a period of time, spies in training were to conduct themselves as they would in the United States. Greeting and speaking amongst one another, driving cars, cooking Americanized dinners, attending church, and purchasing American goods from the grocery store. Retired KGB officers and spies were hired to play the roles of various individuals one would find within a small town: neighbors, police officers, businessmen, and bankers are only a few disguises.
Preparation and training was taken seriously by the KGB and the Soviet Union and during the years of the Cold War when tensions were high between the United States and the Soviet Union espionage was key in gathering intelligence on the enemy.
“Is FSB Trying to Rewrite History.” Current Digest of the Russian Press, 2017. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/50413310.
“KGB Alpha Team Training Manual.” Issuu Inc, October 27, 2016. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://issuu.com/forcesdudesordre/docs/kgb_alpha_team_training_manual_-_un.
Flemer, Sherman W. “SOVIET INTELLIGENCE TRIANING.” CIA, 1994. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol3no1/html/v03i1a08p_0001.htm.
“1960 Soviet Spy School Training: Small Town Espionage and Surveillance.” YouTube, May 23, 2012. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJeBDQXjKy8.
Loveland, Mariel. “Fake American Towns Built by the Soviets to “Understand America”.” Weird History: In Soviet Russia. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://www.ranker.com/list/kgb-built-fake-american-town-for-training/mariel-loveland.