First Section

First Section
(Perviy Otdel)
   One of the keys to the KGB’s control of Soviet society was the First Section, the personnel directorate at every plant and educational institution in the country. The section, always headed by active-duty or retired KGB officers, served as an instrument of bureaucratic control over dissent. The chief of the First Section also had responsibility for the flow of paperwork within Soviet institutions. Material from the West was kept in special repositories (spetskhran); the head of the first section decided who could— and could not—have access to the material and determined what could—and could not—be photocopied.
   Retired KGB officers were often offered positions as head of a First Section as a sort of honorarium. They were useful to the KGB in recruitment of informers, and in the search for young staff officers. In these positions, the retired officers often received higher academic or bureaucratic rank than they enjoyed in the security service. According to the memoirs of a number of Soviet academics and scientists, First Section heads had and abused considerable power. Yelena Kozeltseva served as a colonel in the NKVD before and during World War II. Later, as a retired officer, she headed the First Section at Moscow State University for more than two decades. In interviews, she noted with pride that she had been able to “protect” students from their bad judgment by preventing them from attending demonstrations and becoming marked as dissidents.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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