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|07-29-2003, 03:11 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Currently in Bosnia
Soviet State Security Militaria
This and the following few posts come from my old NKVD/KGB web site.
GUIDE TO COLLECTING SOVIET STATE SECURITY ITEMS
There is a wide range of items relating to the Soviet state security organs (Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MGB, KGB and SMERSH) to collect. There are items to suit almost any budget - see the rough price guide at the bottom of this page. An entire collection can be built around state security items or they can be used to expand another collection - Soviet hats, badges or uniforms, western spy stuff, etc.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of fake and fantasy items and a huge amount of mis-labelled items out on the market. Very few vendors (or even collectors) know what they are doing. This is due in large part to the extreme shortage of reference guides - especially in English.
There are also many KGB-related items for sale that usually have nothing to do with the real KGB. For example:
T-shirts: the KGB never issued t-shirts or track suits
Golf gear: the KGB never issued golf balls or tees or shirts
Mugs and vodka bottles: The KGB never issued these either. Existing mugs are all western made. Metal vodka bottle with a fake brass KGB badge are common but post-Soviet fantasy tourist items. I have seen a few genuine post-KGB Russian security service vodka bottles (I have a St. Petersburg FSB one) but these were ceramic and rare and had no badge attached.
Watches: Soviet state security officers were awarded watches since the Cheka era as special awards. However, these watches were not special state security watches. Instead the were high quality civilian watches with an engraving on the back to the awarded officer from his unit or comrades. These are mostly pocket watches. They are very rare and expensive. Modern wrist or pocket watches with a KGB device on the face are for civilian and tourist purchase only! They are not issued by or to genuine state security personnel. While watches are still awarded to Russian state security personnel they are regular high quality civilian pieces without any KGB or FSB or SVR device on them.
Weapons: There were no special issue KGB knives or daggers. However, there are some genuine Soviet daggers and firearms that were issued to state security personnel. For example, I know of several 1950s style Soviet army daggers with blade engraving or a plaque on the handle indicating that they were issued to KGB officers by their comrades or their local unit (usually an Oblast KGB office). There are some doubts as to their authenticity although some genuine ones are known. There are also several firearms, usually pistols or hunting rifles, that bear plaques indicating they were similar awards. Most of these date to the 1920s-30s. I have a 1930s dated metal pistol grip plaque dedicated to an OGPU officer from the railway workers he worked with (read oppressed!).
There are also no genuine KGB key chains, challenge coins, etc.
There is nothing wrong with collecting these items and some are quite rare. However, they have nothing to do with the real KGB and should not be sold as such.
|07-29-2003, 03:18 AM||#2|
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Currently in Bosnia
NKVD/KGB COLLECTIBLES - ARE THEY GENUINE OR NOT?
Interest in Soviet collectibles has risen dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the fastest growing area of interest has been in items related to the Soviet state security organs; the KGB and its predecessors. Unfortunately, this area is also the least known as the KGB remains shrouded in secrecy. Thus, there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding the KGB. Many people do not believe that the Soviet secret police could have had any identifiable uniforms, badges, or insignia. At the other end of the spectrum many people have labelled anything related to the Soviet police, internal security, intelligence or special forces as "KGB". The reality lies between these two extremes.
The KGB and its predecessors were always well known to the Russian people. While details of their duties and organisation remained secret there existence did not. They played an unprecedentedly large role in the everyday lives of Soviet citizens. The KGB was officially revered in the Soviet Union. Its achievements and anniversaries were celebrated with official public news articles, books and cultural events. Millions of Soviets and thousands of Westerners have seen uniformed KGB personnel at border crossings, airports and, of course, Lenin's Tomb. Many items associated with the KGB are relatively easy for collectors to obtain and the serious collector can eventually find a wide variety of items. However, the key question concerning many KGB items for most collector is ...
IS IT GENUINE?
Unfortunately that question is extremely difficult to answer. However, one of the main purposes of this web site is to try to answer that question - this section will give some specific tips and the many images shown on other pages will help collectors in making comparisons.
WHY IS IT SO HARD TO DETERMINE?
The major obstacle that everyone who collects KGB related items must face is the lack of reliable information. By contrast, information on the Soviet military is both plentiful and reliable. Official documentation exists covering virtually all Soviet military collectibles. The final version of the Soviet Uniform Regulations, adopted in 1988 and printed in 1989, is widely available to collectors, both in its original Russian form and in my English translation. The regulations are an excellent source of information as they are an official government document (Prikaz [decree] #250 of the USSR Ministry of Defence, 4 March 1988). Information from earlier uniform regulations is also readily available, even though the actual documents are very rare. The excellent book "Soviet Military Uniform and Insignia 1918-1958" by O.V. Kharitonov quotes hundreds of different military regulations and orders, dating from 1917 to the 1960's, in its footnotes.
Similarly, the official collection of all Soviet laws and decrees applying to state and military awards is available in a Russian language volume ("Sbornik zakonodatel'nykh aktov o gosudarstvennykh nagradakh SSSR"). This book details the establishment, physical description and award process for all Soviet orders and medals. Even Soviet military badges have been relatively well documented. V.A. Borisov's wonderful book quotes many government decrees covering the institution and award procedures of military badges. Thus, when it comes to Soviet military collectibles it is possible to know that an item is genuine by going right to the official source. (This is not to say that many dealers and collectors do not remain uninformed. Unfortunately many items are inaccurately described. Also fakes, forgeries, and counterfeits of military items do exist. But this is a whole other story.)
Alas, no similar works have been published covering KGB collectibles, no KGB uniform or award regulations have ever been released, and the KGB archives remain tightly sealed. The few existing works, in English and Russian, that cover KGB material are based solely on physical evidence; badges and items in collections and museums. It is therefore difficult to substantiate many claims about KGB collectibles and some debates are likely to rage until the relevant archives are finally opened. (If they ever are.)
SO HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS REAL AND WHAT IS NOT?
Due to the lack of official sources KGB collectors are forced to make certain assumptions and guesses. The first task is to sort out all items into several classes based on the reliability of information that surrounds them. Often the line between each class is hazy and many items straddle the line between two classes. It is hoped that by sharing information on this web site we can upgrade the class of as many items as possible.
SUBSTANTIATED ITEMS: Despite the lack of official uniform or award regulations some items can be substantiated. For example, the "Guarding the State Frontiers" medal is described in the same collection of state award decrees described above. Other items, such as the "Honoured Employee of State Security" badge have been referred to in official KGB publications and in the Soviet press. For example, the December 1989 issue of the internal publication "Informational Bulletin of the USSR KGB" (Informatsionnyi Byulleten' KGB SSSR) describes, on page 12, how retired KGB Colonel Ya.V. Karpovich was striped of his "Honoured Employee of State Security" badge (lishen znaka "Pochetnyi Sotrudnik Gosbezopasnosti") and his right to wear the KGB uniform for releasing information on KGB activities to the press.
WIDELY ACCEPTED ITEMS: Some facts, such as the KGB's branch of service colours, are well known and accepted, even if western eyes have not seen the official decrees. Similarly, much information has been gleaned from Soviet photos and press articles. Thus, standard uniform details (widely accepted as following Soviet military uniform regulations fairly closely), the use of many regular military badges (specialist, sportsman, etc.) by enlisted Border Guards, and the existence of the genuine 50th, 60th and 70th KGB anniversary badges are widely accepted.
POSSIBLE ITEMS: Possible items are those that could be genuine but are not likely. Here are only rumours supporting them and no decent proof has been found. For instance, it is possible that there are some genuine brass or aluminium KGB badges (there are many reports from veterans). However, there is no way so far to prove this or to determine which ones are genuine.
FAKE ITEMS: There are many items which are definitely fake. Though, just because a collector or vendor declares that an item is fake does not mean for sure that it is. However, some items are known fakes. These include items created or made in the west. The most famous is a fake Honourable Employee of State Security badge made by an American company since the mid-1980s. This one piece brass badge is similar in size to genuine Soviet badges but is of very different construction. Material, pin, and enamel are very different form anything seen on Soviet made badges and the design is subtly wrong. The badge can be seen on the cover of the paperback issue of John J. Dziak's "Chekisty: A History of the KGB". Most of the cheap KGB badges offered today are fakes. Some authorities divide this class into fakes which are basically forgeries of genuine badges and fantasy pieces or badges which ae nothing like any genuine badges. Use the term fake to cover anything that is not a genuine NKVD/KGB item.
NON-KGB ITEMS: There are also many items which are not KGB related items but which are genuine items of some other service. The most common of these items include: MVD items, Militia items, Custom (GTK) items, Prokuratura items, private association items (i.e. items from the Association of Alfa Group Veteran's), some regular military items, and even some items from private companies (for example the Security Guard badges of the private Russian airport security company "Sher Company" and of "Azal", the Azerbaijanian airline company, have been marketed in the west as KGB items.)
HOW CAN YOU DETERMINE WHICH CLASS YOUR ITEM IS IN?
This is done by collecting and analysing all available information on this subject. (In other words through the Intelligence Process!) Important questions include:
-What is the source of the information and do they have their own interests (to sell, to brag, to put down)? (As any lawyer or historian knows second hand claims, rumours, and here-say do not equal proof! However, as any police officer or intelligence analyst knows they do offer important clues.)
-Is the information substantiated by several, separate sources? (Remember to determine if they are truly separate! Three sources that all simply quote, or draw on, a fourth source equals one source not four!)
-Does the information make sense inherently? (If there are inconsistencies in the information itself it should be approached with caution.)
-Does the information make sense when taken with everything else we know? (Does it contradict widely accepted facts or does it answer important mysteries? Is it logical? For example, is it logical that a badge made of cheap stamped brass with thin washy cold-enamel could be a real distinguished employee award badge for the elite KGB? Probably not!)
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