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VCheka, commonly known as Cheka, (from the initialism ChK, Russian: ЧК, IPA: ) 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 commission for combating counter-revolution, sabotage under the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR (VCheka under CPC RSFSR).” In Russian: Всероссийская чрезвычайная комиссия по борьбе с контрреволюцией и саботажем при Совете народных комиссаров РСФСР (ВЧК при СНК РСФСР) (Vserossiyskaya chrezvychaynaya komissiya po borbye s kontrrevolyutsiey i sabotazhem pri Soviet narodnykh komisarof RSFSR (VChK pri SNK 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 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'".

"State security organs"
(Russian:  organov Gos(ugarstvennoy)bezopasnosti)

This page was last edited on 16 March 2018, at 12:18.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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