Main Intelligence Agency (Russian: Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, tr. Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye; IPA: [ˈglavnəjə rɐzˈvʲɛdɨvətʲɪlʲnəjə ʊprɐˈvlʲenʲɪjə]), abbreviated GRU (Russian: ГРУ; IPA: [geeˈru]), is the foreign military intelligence main agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Army General Staff of the Soviet Union). The official full name is Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Russian:Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние Генера́льного шта́ба Вооружённых Сил Росси́йской Федера́ции). It is also known as GRU GSh (Russian: ГРУ ГШ; abbreviation of ГРУ Генера́льного шта́ба, tr. GRU Generalnovo Shtaba (English: GRU of the General Staff)).
The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency. In 1997 it deployed six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, the successor of the KGB‘s foreign operations directorate. It also commanded 25,000 Spetsnaz troops in 1997.
Its first predecessor in Russia was created on October 21, 1918 under the sponsorship of Leon Trotsky, who was then the civilian leader of the Red Army; it was originally known as the Registration Agency (Registrupravlenie, or RU). Simon Aralov was its first head. In his history of the early years of the GRU, Raymond W. Leonard writes:
As originally established, the Registration Department was not directly subordinate to the General Staff (at the time called the Red Army Field Staff – Polevoi Shtab). Administratively, it was the Third Department of the Field Staff’s Operations Directorate. In July 1920, the RU was made the second of four main departments in the Operations Directorate. Until 1921, it was usually called the Registrupr (Registration Department). That year, following the Soviet–Polish War, it was elevated in status to become the Second (Intelligence) Directorate of the Red Army Staff, and was thereafter known as the Razvedupr. This probably resulted from its new primary peacetime responsibilities as the main source of foreign intelligence for the Soviet leadership. As part of a major re-organization of the Red Army, sometime in 1925 or 1926 the RU (then Razvedyvatelnoe Upravlenye) became the Fourth (Intelligence) Directorate of the Red Army Staff, and was thereafter also known simply as the “Fourth Department.” Throughout most of the interwar period, the men and women who worked for Red Army Intelligence called it either the Fourth Department, the Intelligence Service, the Razvedupr, or the RU. […] As a result of the re-organization [in 1926], carried out in part to break up Trotsky’s hold on the army, the Fourth Department seems to have been placed directly under the control of the State Defense Council (Gosudarstvennaia komissiia oborony, or GKO), the successor of the RVSR. Thereafter its analysis and reports went directly to the GKO and the Politburo, apparently even bypassing the Red Army Staff.
It was given the task of handling all military intelligence, particularly the collection of intelligence of military or political significance from sources outside the Soviet Union. The GRU operated residencies all over the world, along with the SIGINT (signals intelligence) station in Lourdes, Cuba, and throughout the former Soviet-bloc countries, especially in Lithuania, Latvia, andEstonia.
The first head of the 4th Directorate was Janis Karlovich Berzin, a Latvian Communist and former member of the Cheka, who remained in the post until 28 November 1937, when he was arrested and subsequently liquidated during Joseph Stalin‘s Great Purge.
The GRU was known in the Soviet government for its fierce independence from the rival “internal intelligence organizations“, such as NKVD and KGB. At the time of the GRU’s creation, Lenin infuriated the Cheka (predecessor of the KGB) by ordering it not to interfere with the GRU’s operations.
Nonetheless, the Cheka infiltrated the GRU in 1919. That worsened a fierce rivalry between the two agencies, which were both engaged in espionage and was even more intense than the rivalry between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency in the US.
The existence of the GRU was not publicized during the Soviet era, but documents concerning it became available in the West in the late 1920s, and it was mentioned in the 1931 memoirs of the first OGPU defector, Georges Agabekov, and described in detail in the 1939 autobiography (I Was Stalin’s Agent) of Walter Krivitsky, the most senior Red Army intelligence officer ever to defect. It became widely known in Russia, and the West outside the narrow confines of the intelligence community, during perestroika, in part thanks to the writings of “Viktor Suvorov” (Vladimir Rezun), a GRU officer who defected to Great Britain in 1978, and wrote about his experiences in the Soviet military and intelligence services. According to Suvorov, even the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to enter GRU headquarters, needed to go through a security screening.
The GRU is still a very important part of the Russian Federation’s intelligence services, especially since it was never split up, unlike the KGB. The KGB was dissolved after aiding a failed coup in 1991 against the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since been divided into the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Security Service (FSB).
According to the Federation of American Scientists: “Though sometimes compared to the US Defense Intelligence Agency, [the GRU’s] activities encompass those performed by nearly all joint US military intelligence agencies as well as other national US organizations. The GRU gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. It also maintains significant signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery reconnaissance (IMINT) and satellite imagery capabilities.” GRU Space Intelligence Directorate has put more than 130 SIGINT satellites into orbit. GRU and KGB SIGINT network employed about 350,000 specialists.
According to GRU defector Kalanbe, “Though most Americans do not realize it, America is penetrated by Russian military intelligence to the extent that arms caches lie in wait for use by Russian special forces.” He also described a possibility that compact tactical nuclear weapons known as “suitcase bombs” are hidden in the US and noted that “the most sensitive activity of the GRU is gathering intelligence on American leaders, and there is only one purpose for this intelligence: targeting information for spetsnaz (special forces) assassination squads [in the event of war].” The American leaders will be easily assassinated using the “suitcase bombs,” according to Lunev. GRU is “one of the primary instructors of terrorists worldwide” according to Lunev. Terrorist Shamil Basayev reportedly worked for this organization.
US Congressman Curt Weldon supported claims by Lunev but noted that Lunev had “exaggerated things” according to the FBI. Searches of the areas identified by Lunev – who admits he never planted any weapons in the US – have been conducted, “but law-enforcement officials have never found such weapons caches, with or without portable nuclear weapons.”
During the 2006 Georgian–Russian espionage controversy, four officers working for the GRU Alexander Savva, Dmitry Kazantsev, Aleksey Zavgorodny and Alexander Baranov were arrested by the Counter-Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and were accused of espionage and sabotage. This spy network was managed from Armenia by GRU Colonel Anatoly Sinitsin. A few days later the arrested officers were handed over to Russia through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
GRU detachments from Chechnya were transferred to Lebanon independently of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon after the 2006 Lebanon War “to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world”, according to Sergei Ivanov. Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated by two GRU officers. GRU officers have also been accused of creating criminal death squads.
The GRU has significant part in Russia’s involvement in Syrian civil war.
Dmitry Kozak and Vladislav Surkov, members of the Vladimir Putin administration, reportedly served in GRU. Two Chechen former warlords Said-Magomed Kakiev and Sulim Yamadayev are commanders of Special Battalions Vostok and Zapad (“East” and “West”) that are controlled by the GRU. The battalions each included close to a thousand fighters until their disbandment in 2008.
In 2002, Bill Powell, former Moscow bureau chief at Newsweek, wrote Treason, an account of the experiences of former GRU colonel Vyacheslav Baranov, who had betrayed GRU for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and agreed to spy for it. He was exposed to the Russians by a mole in either the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the CIA and spent five years in prison before he was released. The identity of the mole remains unknown to this day, but speculation has mounted that it could have been Robert Hanssen.
- Stig Bergling
- Joseph Milton Bernstein
- Eugene Franklin Coleman
- Desmond Patrick Costello (alleged)
- Klaus Fuchs
- Harold Glasser
- Tanner Greimann
- Rudolf Herrnstadt
- Arvid Jacobson
- Gerhard Kegel
- Mary Jane Keeney and Philip Keeney
- Tadeusz Kobylański
- George Koval, a scientist who stole atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project.
- Ursula Kuczynski
- Stefan Litauer
- Robert Osman
- Ward Pigman
- Adam Priess
- Alexander Radó
- Vincent Reno
- Elie Renous
- William Spiegel
- Lydia Stahl
- Irving Charles Velson, Brooklyn Navy Yard; American Labor Partycandidate for New York State Senate
- Stig Wennerström
- Jeffrey Delisle, Royal Canadian Navy intelligence officer sentenced to 20 years in prison for selling Stone Ghost secrets to the GRU via the Russian Embassy in Canada.
- Boris Bukov RU RKKA officer
- Yakov Grigorev
- Vladimir Kvachkov
- Hede Massing
- Richard Sorge
- Moishe Stern
- Joshua Tamer
- Alfred Tilton
- Alexander Ulanovsky
- Ignacy Witczak
- Jack Fahy (Naval GRU), Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs; Board of Economic Warfare; United States Department of the Interior
- Edna Patterson Naval GRU, served in US August 1943 to 1956
- Whittaker Chambers, an American journalist and ex-GRU agent who broke with Communism in 1938
- Iavor Entchev, a communist member of GRU; defected to United States during the Cold War.
- Igor Gouzenko, a GRU cipher clerk who defected in Canada
- Walter Krivitsky, a GRU defector who predicted that Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler would conclude a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, found dead in 1941
- Stanislav Lunev
- Oleg Penkovsky, a GRU officer who played an important role during the Cuban Missile Crisis
- Juliet Poyntz, a founding member of the Communist Party of the United States, allegedly killed for an attempt to defect
- Ignace Reiss, a GRU defector who sent a letter of defection to Stalin in July 1937, found dead in September 1937
- Viktor Suvorov (Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun)
The Head of the Russian Military Intelligence is a military officer and is the highest ranking intelligence officer in Russia. He is the primary military intelligence adviser to the Russian Minister of Defense and to the Chief of Staffand also answers to the President of Russia.
Head of USSR’s GRU
- Semyon Aralov, November 1918 – July 1919
- Sergei Gusev, July 1919 – January 1920
- Georgi Pyatakov, January 1920 – February 1920
- Vladimir Aussem, February 1920 – August 1920
- Yan Lentsman, August 1920 – April 1921
- Arvid Zeybot, April 1921 – March 1924
- Yan Berzin, 1924 – April 1935
- Semyon Uritsky, April 1935 – July 1937
- Yan Berzin, July 1937 – August 1937
- Alexander Nikonov, August 1937 – August 1937
- Semyon Gendin, September 1937 – October 1938
- Alexander Orlov, October 1938 – April 1939
- Ivan Proskurov, April 1939 – July 1940
- Filipp Golikov, July 1940 – October 1941
- Alexei Panfilov, October 1941 – November 1942
- Ivan Ilyichev, November 1942 – June 1945
- Fyodor Fedotovich Kuznetsov, June 1945 – November 1947
- Nikolai Trusov, September 1947 – January 1949
- Matvei Zakharov, January 1949 – June 1952
- Mikhail Shalin, June 1952 – August 1956
- Sergei Shtemenko, August 1956 – October 1957
- Mikhail Shalin, October 1957 – December 1958
- Ivan Serov, December 1958 – February 1963
- Pyotr Ivashutin, March 1963 – July 1987
- Vladlen Mikhailov, July 1987 – October 1991
|#||Head||Term||President(s) served under|
|1||Yevgeny Timokhin||November 1991 – August 1992||Boris Yeltsin|
|2||Fyodor Ladygin||August 1992 – May 1997||Boris Yeltsin|
|3||Valentin Korabelnikov||May 1997 – April 2009||Boris Yeltsin
|4||Alexander Shlyakhturov||April 2009 – December 2011||Dmitry Medvedev|
|5||Igor Sergun||December 2011 – January 2016||Dmitry Medvedev
|–||vacant position||January 3 – February 1, 2016||Vladimir Putin|
|6||Igor Korobov (Коробов, Игорь Валентинович)||Since February 2, 2016||Vladimir Putin|
- In the international best-selling The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, the main protagonist Lisbeth Salander‘s father, Alexander Zalachenko, was a former GRU spy who defected to Sweden and was granted political asylumand began his new life in Sweden under the protection of a secret division of the Swedish Security Service during the Cold War.
- In the video game Battlefield 3, there are 2 missions where you play as Dimitri Mayakovsky, a fictional GRU operative, and a former Spetsnaz operative.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the main character Naked Snake (real name John) eliminates GRU operatives during his quest to destroy the Shagohod and Colonel Volgin.
- In Team Fortress 2, the Heavy Weapons specialist (a Russian man) has a melee item called the Gloves of Running Urgently.