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Felix Dzerzhinsky - Head of Soviet Secret Police

Felix Dzerzhinsky - Head of Soviet Secret Police Civil Rights Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Visual Arts Disasters

Felix Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926), a close associate of Vladimir Lenin, became head of the Bolsheviks' secret police in 1917.

Initially called the "Cheka," the organization's more lengthy name was "All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption."

In his book Russia in 1919, Arthur Ransome describes the man who headed the much-feared Cheka:

This thin, tallish man, with a fanatic face not unlike some of the traditional portraits of St. Francis, the terror of counter-revolutionaries and criminals alike, is a very bad speaker. He looks into the air over the heads of his audience and talks as if he were not addressing them at all but some one else unseen.

He talks even of a subject which he knows perfectly with curious inability to form his sentences; stops, changes words, and often, recognizing that he cannot finish his sentence, ends where he is, in the middle of it, with a little odd, deprecating emphasis, as if to say: "At this point there is a full stop. At least so it seems."  (Ransome, at page 110.)

Although he may not have been the best speaker, Dzerzhinsky had no trouble organizing a system of reprisals against perceived enemies of the Soviet system.  That system of reprisals became known as the "Red Terror."


Media Credits

Image of Felix Dzerzhinsky, online courtesy Deutsches Historisches Museum.

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