Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Three-Line Rifle: Background on Russian Monster Control

If you've read my latest installment of Three-Line Rifle, you no doubt noticed that Grisha talked about an old KGB unit called the 13th Division. I didn't go into great detail about what it was or how it worked because it would have interrupted the flow of the story, but I can certainly talk about it in this blog post.

Not Bronia. But possibly her mother?
Model: Red McCord. Photo: Oleg Volk

Back in the Soviet era, the KGB was organized into Chief Directorates. There were at least 16 of them at one point, but I don't have all their names. Here are the first nine:
  1. First Chief Directorate (Foreign Operations) – foreign espionage.
  2. Second Chief Directorate – counter-intelligence, internal political control.
  3. Third Chief Directorate (Armed Forces) – military counter-intelligence and armed forces political surveillance.
  4. Fourth Directorate (Transportation security)
  5. Fifth Chief Directorate – censorship and internal security against artistic, political, and religious dissension.
  6. Sixth Directorate (Economic Counter-intelligence, industrial security)
  7. Seventh Directorate (Surveillance) – of Soviet nationals and foreigners.
  8. Eighth Chief Directorate – monitored/managed national, foreign, and overseas communications, cryptologic equipment, and research and development.
  9. Ninth Directorate (Guards and KGB Protection Service) – uniformed bodyguard for Party leaders and families, guarded critical government installations (nuclear weapons, etc.), operated the Moscow VIP subway, and secure Government–Party telephony. 
Given that I'm looking for a Russian version of the Monster Control Bureau from Larry Corriea's Monster Hunter International series (I did mention that Three-Line Rifle is glorified fanfic, yeah?), the Fifth Chief Directorate's censorship of religion and cracking down on dissidents is the perfect spot to place a Soviet MCB. 

The 15th Division (sometimes translated as "direction") of the 5th Directorate was tasked with “identifying and stopping manifestations that tend to develop into politically harmful groupings that encourage the enemy to conduct ideological sabotage against the USSR”. To me that sounds like bureacrat-ese for "We investigate cults and supernatural creatures and we kill them."

During the Soviet era, that's all that was needed -- the KGB would kill the monsters and the cultists, and the witnesses would either be killed or sent off to the gulag unless they were high up in the Party. But after the Yeltsin reforms, the KGB lost its power due to the collapse of the communist state, and with the rise of capitalism and Russian gangsters came people to fill the gaps left by the government -- many of whom were ex-KGB in their own right. 

At first, these monster hunters were criminals who frequently worked with, or for, or were Russian mafia. As those who didn't die became more efficient, they were seen as vigilantes by the people: heroic warriors against evil who nonetheless were persecuted by the government. Finally, as their success grew (and the government showed itself unable to do its own job), they were recognized as a necessary evil and became legitimate government contractors. 
These days there are Russian hunter teams in every major city. 

Government sanction of hunters has made life considerable easier for the FSB (the successor to the KGB). They only have to identify existential threats to the state, eliminate them, and of course perpetuate cover-ups in order to prevent the populace from learning the truth and panicking. What was once the 13th Division has become the Directorate for Issues Relating to Monsters, aka the Monster Directorate, aka Directorate Ч.* 

Under the Monster Directorate are discrete sections: one for investigation, one for elimination (strike teams), one for research, one for witness suppression, and so forth. I haven't named those yet, and may never need to. 

* Pronounced "chuh", Ч is the Russian letter Ch and is the first letter of the word Чудовище, which is translated as Chudovishche and means "monster".  So if you see the words "Directorate Ч", make sure you pronounce it "Directorate Chuh"!

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