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All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Russian: Всероссийская Чрезвычайная Комиссия), abbreviated as VChK (Russian: ВЧК, Ve-Che-Ka) and commonly known as Cheka, (from the initialism ChK) was the first of a succession of Soviet secret police organizations. Established on December 5 (Old Style), 1917 by the Sovnarkom, it came under the leadership of Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat-turned-communist. By late 1918, hundreds of Cheka committees had sprung up in various cities at the oblast, guberniya, raion, uyezd, and volost levels.

The official designation was All-Russian Extraordinary (or Emergency) Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage under the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR (Russian: Всероссийская Чрезвычайная Комиссия По Борьбе с Контрреволюцией и Саботажем при Совете Народных Комиссаров РСФСР, Vserossiyskaya chrezvychaynaya komissiya po borbe s kontrrevolyutsiyey i sabotazhem pri Sovete narodnykh komisarov RSFSR).

In 1918 its name was changed, becoming All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption.

A member of Cheka was called a chekist. Also, the term chekist often referred to Soviet secret police throughout the Soviet period, despite official name changes over time. In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn recalls that zeks in the labor camps used old chekist as a mark of special esteem for particularly experienced camp administrators. 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 and as head of the KGB's successor, FSB).

The chekists are commonly dressed in black leather, including long flowing coats, reportedly after being issued such distinctive coats early in their existence. Western communists adopted this clothing fashion. The Chekists also often carried with them Greek-style worry beads made of amber, which had become "fashionable among high officials during the time of the 'cleansing'".

In 1921, the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic (a branch of the Cheka) numbered at least 200,000. These troops policed labor camps; ran the Gulag system; conducted requisitions of food; subjected political opponents to secret arrest, detention, torture and summary execution. Also, they put down rebellions and riots by workers or peasants, and mutinies in the desertion-plagued Red Army.

This page was last edited on 13 May 2018, at 09:43 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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