From Academic Kids

The Okhranka was the secret police of the Russian Empire and part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) in late 1800s, aided by Special Corps of Gendarmes. Its name originates from Security Detachment (Okhrannoje Otdelenie, Охранное отделение in Russian). As the name suggests, its primary purpose was the security of the tsar and royal family, including, but not limited to, fighting hostile organizations: terrorists ("bombists"), socialists, and revolutionaries.

It was informally called "Okhrana", "Okhranka", or "tsarist Okhranka" by revolutionaries and other people dissatisfied with the tsarist regime. The Okhranka operated offices throughout the Russian Empire and in a number of foreign satellite agencies primarily concerned with monitoring the activities of Russian revolutionaries abroad, most notably in Paris. Its headquarters were located in St. Petersburg, Fontanka Quai 16; this street address was infamously known in the Russian Empire.

Prisoners captured by the Okhranka were typically given to the normal Russian judicial system, and then either executed or sent to forced labor camps known as katorgas in extremely remote areas of northeastern Siberia, although in extraordinary circumstances, the Okhranka was permitted to conduct summary executions by hanging or firing squad.

The task was performed by any means, including covert operations, undercover agents, "perlustration"—reading of private correspondence. Even its Foreign Agency served this purpose. The Okhranka is notoriously known for its agents provocateurs—Dr. Jacob Zhitomirsky (a leading Bolshevik and close associate of Vladimir Lenin), Yevno Azef, and Dmitry Bogrov. Of note is the Bloody Sunday event, when imperial guards killed hundreds of unarmed workers who were peacefully marching during a protest organized by an Okhranka agent provocateur, Father Gapon. The Okhranka tried to compromise labour movement by creating police-run trande unions, the practice known as zubatovshchina.

Other controversial activities of the agency included fabrication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion document and fabrication of the antisemitic Beilis trial.


The first special security department was Department on Securing the Order and Public Coolness under the Head of St. Petersburg, created in 1866 after failed assassination attempt on Alexander II, with a staff of 12 investigators. After another failed attempt, on August 6, 1880 the Emperor, under proposals of Count Loris-Melikov, created the Department of State Police under Ministry of the Interior and transferred both Special Corps of Gendarmes and Third Section of the Imperial Chancellery to the new body; the Chief of Gendarmes was merged with the Minister and Commander of the Corps was assigned Deputy of the Minister. Still, these measures did not prevent the assassination of Alexander II.

In an attempt to implement preventive security measures, Emperor Alexander III immediately created two more 'Security and Investigation (охранно-розыскные) secret police stations, supervised by Gendarme officers, in Moscow and Warsaw; they became the basis of the later Okhranka. The Gendarmes still operated as security police in the rest of the country through their Gubernial and Uyezd Directorates. The Tsar also created Special Conference under the MVD (1881), which had the right to call for Emergency Security State in various parts of the Empire (which was actively used in the time of 1905's Revolution), and subordinated all of the imperial police forces to the Commander of the Gendarmes (1882).

The rise of the Marxist movement called for integration of security forces. Since 1898, the Special Section (Особый отдел) of the Department of Police succceded the Gendarmes in gaining information from domestic and foreign agents and "perlustration". Following the SR assassination of MVD Minister Sipyagin on April 2, 1902, the new Minister Plehve gradually relieved Directorates of Gendarmes of investigation power in favor of Security and Investigation Stations (Охранно-розыскное отделение) under respective Mayors and Governors (who as a matter of fact were subordinate to the MVD Minister).

Following the outbreak of 1905's Revolution and assassination of Pleve, Pyotr Stolypin, as the new MVD Minister and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, created of nation-wide net of Security Stations. By 1908, there were 31 Stations and more than 60 by 1911. Two more Special Sections of the Department of Police were organized in 1906. The centralized Security Section of the Department of Police was created on February 9, 1907; it was located on 16, Fontanka, St Petersburg.

The assassination of Stolypin and the Azef case put the methods of the Okhranka under great suspicion; they were further compromised by dicrovering loads of similar double agents-provocateur. In Autumn 1913, all of the Security Stations but original Moscow, St Petersburg and Warsaw were dismissed. The start of World War I marked a shift from anti-revolutionary activities of the Department of Police to counter-intelligence; however, the efforts of the Department were poorly synchronised with counter-intelligence units of the General Staff and the Army.


Charles A. Ruud, Sergei A. Stepanov; Fontanka 16 - The Tsars' Secret Police; McGill-Queen's University Press (paperback, 2002) ISBN 0773524843

Political police and political terrorism in Russia (second half of XIX - beginning of XX). Сollection of documents. Compiled by V.I. Kochanov, N.N. Parfyonova, M.V. Sidorova, Ye. I. Sherbakova. Moscow, AIRO-XX (2000). ISBN 5-88735-079-2. (In Russian). [1] (http://www.auditorium.ru/books/472/index.htm)

External links

de:Ochrana nl:Ochrana pl:Ochrana


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