Jens Gieseke - The Post‑Stalinist Mode of Chekism: Communist Secret Police Forces and Regime Change After Mass Terror

The occasion of the centenary of establishing the Soviet secret police known as the “Cheka” encourages a closer examination of the “Soviet-type” of the secret police in terms of their long-term development. Secret police forces were evidently of constitutive importance to the communist regimes. At the same time, their role was subject to considerable change and variation concerning their role in the fabric of the communist power apparatuses, their methods, and the groups in society against which they were directed. In the first part of this study, four to five phases of the Soviet secret police development and their “brother organs” in the Eastern Bloc are outlined as a working hypothesis. In the second part, continuity and change will be exemplified by the transition to the third, “post-Stalinist” phase, focusing on the cases of the Soviet Committee for State Security (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, KGB) and the East German Ministry of State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS) in terms of their role within the fabric of power relations, their self-images and public representations, and their practices of violent persecution and preventive surveillance.