GRU Generalnogo Shtaba
Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije
Главное Разведывательное Управление
GRU Genshtaba RF.gif
GRU Official emblem (since 2009)
Agency overview
Formed November 5, 1918
Preceding agency 5th Department of the Russian Imperial Chief of staff
Jurisdiction Government of Russia
Headquarters Khodinka, Moscow
Agency executive Lt. Gen. Alexander Shlyakhturov, Director
Parent agency Russian Ministry of Defense
GRU Official emblem (until 2009) with motto engraved: "Greatness of Motherland in your glorious deeds"

GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye is the foreign military intelligence directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Army General Staff of the Soviet Union). GRU is the English transliteration of the Russian acronym ГРУ, which stands for "Главное Разведывательное Управление", meaning Main Intelligence Directorate. The official full name translation is II Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Other name, GRU GSh (GRU Generalnovo Shtaba, i.e. "GRU of the General Staff").

The GRU is Russia's largest foreign intelligence agency.[1] In 1997 it deployed six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, which is the KGB intelligence successor. It also commanded 25,000 Spetsnaz troops in 1997.[2]

The current GRU Director is Lieutenant General Alexander Shlyakhturov.[3]



The GRU was created on October 21, 1918 under the sponsorship of Leon Trotsky, who was then the civilian overseer of the Red Army;[4] it was originally known as the Registration Directorate (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 Registraupr (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 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 Politburo, even apparently bypassing the Red Army Staff."[5]

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, and Estonia.

The first head of the GRU 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 purges.

The GRU was well-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. This planted the seed for 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 America would be in a future time.

The existence of the GRU was not publicized during the Soviet era, although 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.[6] 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 agent who defected to 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 couldn't enter GRU headquarters without going 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 like the KGB was.[3] The KGB was dissolved after aiding a failed coup in 1991 against the then Soviet leader 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."[7] GRU Space Intelligence Directorate has put more than 130 SIGINT satellites into orbit. GRU and KGB SIGINT network employed about 350,000 specialists.[8]

According to GRU defector Kalanbe[citation needed], "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[9][10] 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.[9] GRU is "one of the primary instructors of terrorists worldwide" according to Lunev[9] Terrorist Shamil Basayev reportedly worked for this organization.[11][12][13]

US Congressman Curt Weldon supported claims by Lunev but noted that Lunev had "exaggerated things" according to the FBI.[14] 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."[15]

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, who also masterminded the terrorist act in the town of Gori in central Georgia on 1 February 2005.[citation needed] A few days later the arrested officers were handed over to Russia through the OSCE. [16].

GRU detachments from Chechnya were transferred to Lebanon independently of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict "to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world", according to Sergei Ivanov.[17] Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated by two GRU officers. GRU officers have also been accused of creating criminal death squads.[18]


A Spetsnaz GRU unit prepares for a helicopter mission at Kabul airport in Afghanistan in 1988. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev.


Dmitry Kozak and Vladislav Surkov, members of the Vladimir Putin administration reportedly served in GRU.[19] 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. Each battalion included close to a thousand fighters,[20] 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. Baranov had been recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and agreed to spy for them, but was betrayed to the Russians by a mole in either the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the CIA and spent five years in prison before being released. The identity of the mole remains unknown to this day, although speculation has mounted that it could have been Robert Hanssen.[21]

Historic agents

GRU "Illegals"

Naval GRU

Vladimir Semichastny

GRU defectors

  • Viktor Suvorov (Vladimir Bogdanovich Resun)
  • Stanislav Lunev
  • Oleg Penkovsky, a GRU officer who played an important role during the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • 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
  • Ignace Reiss, a GRU defector who sent a letter of defection to Stalin in July 1937, found dead in September 1937
  • Juliet Poyntz, a founding member of the Communist Party of the United States, allegedly killed for an attempt to defect
  • Iavor Entchev, a communist member of GRU; defected to United States during the Cold War.

See also


  1. ^ Reuters Factbox on Russian military intelligence by Dmitry Solovyov
  2. ^ Lunev, Stanislav (12 September 1997), "Changes may be on the way for the Russian security services" (– Scholar search), The Jamestown Foundation, [dead link]
  3. ^ a b Reuters Russia's Medvedev sacks military spy chief by Dmitry Solovyov Fri Apr 24, 2009
  4. ^ Earl F. Ziemke, Russian Review 60(2001): 130.
  5. ^ Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution, p. 7.
  6. ^ Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution, p.xiv.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7.
  9. ^ a b c Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  10. ^ Symposium: Al Qaeda’s Nukes by Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine, October 27, 2006
  11. ^ Western leaders betray Aslan Maskhadov - by Andre Glucksmann. Prima-News, March 11, 2005
  12. ^ CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER: BASAEV WAS G.R.U. OFFICER The Jamestown Foundation, September 08, 2006
  13. ^ Analysis: Has Chechnya's Strongman Signed His Own Death Warrant? - by Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, March 1, 2005
  14. ^ Nicholas Horrock, "FBI focusing on portable nuke threat", UPI (20 December 2001).
  15. ^ Steve Goldstein and Chris Mondics, "Some Weldon-backed allegations unconfirmed; Among them: A plot to crash planes into a reactor, and missing suitcase-size Soviet atomic weapons." Philadelphia Inquirer (15 March 2006) A7.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Moscow posts two Chechen platoons in S. Lebanon, one headed by an ex-rebel commander, "to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world" by DEBKAfile
  18. ^ Special services are making teams for extrajudicial punishment (Russian) by Igor Korolkov, Novaya Gazeta, January 11, 2007. English translation
  19. ^
  20. ^ Land of the warlords, by Nick Paton Walsh, Guardian Unlimited
  21. ^ Powell, Bill (2002-11-01), Treason: How a Russian Spy Led an American Journalist to a U.S. Double Agent, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0743229150 
  22. ^ [|Chambers, Whittaker] (1952), Witness, New York: Random House, pp. 799, ISBN 52-5149, 

Further reading

External links

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  • gru´el|er — gru|el «GROO uhl», noun, verb, eled, el|ing or (especially British) elled, el|ling. –n. 1. a nearly liquid food made by boiling oatmeal or other cereal in water or milk. Gruel is often given to those who are sick and old. 2. any similar substance …   Useful english dictionary

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