NKVD or, in other words, the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, was the successor of Cheka. It was a law enforcement organization which implemented the ideas of the Communist Power and protected it from all possible dangers from inside and outside.
After the February and October revolutions, the overthrow of the Russian Tsar and the establishment of the Bolshevik regime the new agency of public security was created. Headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky, this organization was occupied with different internal affairs, like taking care of homeless children – though being mostly known for repressions and terror. NKVD, the new form of Cheka, was born in 1934 and continued the traditions of its predecessor.
NKVD’s power and responsibilities embraced different spheres of people’s lives. Apart from public police domain, it had also been engaged in providing traffic police, border guarding, archiving and firefighting services. But that was just the top of the iceberg. At the same time, NKVD was responsible for spying on the foreign politics. The organization had its agents in almost all foreign countries, especially those which could pose threat to the USSR. People from this organization also supervised those Soviet citizens who managed to get abroad. Apart from that, they had to kill individuals who were believed to be dangerous for Stalin personally.
Moreover, solely NKVD had the right to issue international passports to Soviet people, as every their visit to other countries could be considered risky for the national security. For example, in the novel The Thin Thread of Destiny by Lara Prodan Leonid Nikolaevich, one of the Ukhtomsky Dukes who stayed in Russia after the February revolution, got the chance to go to the United States of America in the business trip from his Institute. It was a great luck for him – as far not everybody got such possibility, especially considering that apart from his main aim, Leonid wanted to find his brother and family.
During the 1940th NKVD had several waves of the Great Terror when more than 600 thousand people from all over the country were arrested, put to jail or killed. Main victims were those who could be the main probable public enemies (opponents of the Stalin’s regime), counterrevolutionaries and ordinary people from noble families. In this period Leonid Ukhtomsky was arrested, as well as all those who went to America. They were suspected of being American spies and organizing the murder of Stalin. Of course, Ukhtomsky was not guilty, just like most of the others – but nobody cared.
The same period was also known for big purge inside the organization, when one of its members could inform against another. The same happened in the novel, when the investigator Stepan Uglovaty reported about his companion comrade Rozov. As the NKVD could find the person guilty and sentence it to death without the court, most of such victims had no chance.
After the dissolution of the organization in 1946, NKVD stayed in people’s memories as the agency conducting mass extrajudicial executions, political assassinations, repressions and imprisoning the ‘public enemies’ in Gulag camps. Just as it took up the baton from Cheka, later NKVD passed it to MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and KGB (Committee for State Security) with the division of the spheres of influence.