Russia’s first secret service, the Oprichnina, was founded in 1564 by Tsar Ivan IV (“The Terrible”). To search out his enemies, Ivan dispatched 6,000 Oprichniki who were dressed in black, rode black horses, and carried a dog’s head and a broom to symbolize their mission of purging the land of terror. The Oprichniki murdered thousands of men and women suspected of disloyalty, purging the once-great city of Novgorod of its leaders and merchants. The Oprichnina was abolished in 1572. Some Russian historians compared the NKVD of Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrenty Beria to Ivan’s oprichniki.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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