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Felix Dzerzhinsky

Felix Dzerzhinsky Cover Image

K.A. Bachus

December 20, 2021

Spymaster of the Soviet Union

Felix is mentioned by Frank in Cetus Wedge.

The spymaster with perhaps the longest reach in time and also one of the highest death tolls must be Felix Dzerzhinsky a Polish nobleman and Marxist revolutionary. On December 20, 1917, Felix founded the organization that maintained the police state of the Soviet Union until the 1990s.

He was born on his family’s estate near Minsk in what is now Belarus and grew up and was educated in Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania. The gymnasium where he went to school expelled him shortly before he was due to graduate because of his involvement in Marxist agitation. By 1897 he was arrested and sentenced to one year in a Kaunas (modern Lithuania) prison. He had organized a strike among shoemakers.

The next twenty years saw him develop skills in deception, tradecraft and evasion of the Tsarist secret police, the Okhrana.

He was to take these skills and create an organization far more effective than that of his old enemies under the Tsar. As director of the Cheka and the OGPU, predecessors to the present day FSB and SVR, Felix developed the policies and procedures that kept a small cadre of communist party officials in undisputed control over a vast country for decades through the uncompromising application of terror against its own citizenry.

The first test of his methods made the history books under the name The Red Terror. I began at the start of the Russian civil war in 1918. Besides torture and mass executions, the episode marks the beginning of the Gulag prison camps used extensively by later Russian leaders, notably Stalin. Estimates of the death toll in the initial four-year period range from approximately 100,000 to over 1.3 million people.

The present-day Russian security apparatus and successor to the KGB, the FSB, still celebrates the Cheka’s founding by Dzerzhinsky on 20 December of each year. He remains a hero to many current and former security officers of the country.