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The Cheka (ЧК - чрезвыча́йная коми́ссия Chrezvychaynaya Komissiya, Extraordinary Commission Russian pronunciation: [tɕɛ.ˈka]) was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created by a decree issued on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin and subsequently led by aristocrat turned communist Felix Dzerzhinsky.[1] After 1922, the Cheka underwent a series of reorganizations into bodies whose members continued to be referred to as "Chekisty" (Chekists) into the late 1980s.[2]

From its founding, the Cheka was an important military and security arm of the Bolshevik communist government. In 1921 the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic (a branch of the Cheka) numbered 200,000. These troops policed labor camps; ran the Gulag system; conducted requisitions of food; subjected political opponents (on both the right and the left) to torture and summary execution; and put down (peasant) rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the desertion-plagued Red Army.[3]


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