When KGB Was in Charge, No Acts of Terrorism Happened

A former KGB officer talks about his past experience
Amir Gumanov was head of the KGB in the city of Naberezhniye Chelny from 1985-1993. We asked him to give us an interview about his experience of working in the secret services of the Soviet Union.

You started working in the State Security Committee (the KGB) when Yury Andropov chaired it. Was there anything peculiar about his administrative style? Did you sense anything about it?

I was at several large official meetings and I listened to some of his speeches. All his words and actions were permeated with lawfulness. Here is an example: it became known one day that KGB officials of the Rostov region of Russia had used sponsors' help, as they would put it now, and repaired the building where the committee was housed. As a result, Andropov stripped the general of the regional department of his rank, and strictly prohibited such practices in the future.

The period when Mikhail Gorbachev was in power was rather revealing: the KGB was accused of pursuing dissidents. Was there anything like that in your region?

Everyone who had another way of thinking was considered to be a dissident. The KGB was interested in the people who practiced that other kind of thinking and had a wish to overthrow the regime. We had no such anti-Soviet persons here. We had people who did not know which side they were on. We just warned them. Builders and transport industry workers went on strikes sometimes in Naberezhniye Chelny, so our committee investigated such incidents. However, we detected not instigators, but reasons why such things had happened. Most often, workers went on strike because of salary delays or the deficit of petrol. There was an alcohol revolt at the end of the 1980s, when people blocked a highway because a police officer attempted to buy a bottle of alcohol without standing in a long line. Such things occurred, but they could not be described as anti-Soviet actions. The activity of foreign agents was a totally different issue: about 6,000 foreign agents worked at a major automobile enterprise, KAMAZ. The KGB suppressed both ideological and economic subversive activities. There were fake foreign companies that had just a name and nothing else. As a result, the company saved millions of rubles.

High-ranking officials often visited Naberezhniye Chelny back in those years. Who guarded them?

Soviet statesmen were not in the habit of traveling with a group of bodyguards. One person was usually accompanied by three bodyguards, and regional divisions of the KGB were totally in charge of security issues. We neutralized psychologically unbalanced people first or foremost - it would be a disaster if someone threw a stone at an official car. It is pleasant for me to recollect - all the official visits were immaculate, there were no accidents at all, although emergencies occurred at times. For example, a secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party was expected to arrive for a regional conference. His plane had to perform an emergency landing not far from the center of the region. Roads were covered with ice, but I had to organize an escort very quickly and accompany him on his visit.

Did acts of terrorism happen?

No, they never happened in the city. If they were being organized, the KGB would find out immediately. It was a moral obligation for people to report violations or transgressions to the committee at that time. Obtaining the information with people's help was considered to be demeaning later. Terrorists seized hundreds of hostages last year in Moscow, but no one ventured to warn the authorities about it. By the way, two explosions took place in Moscow in 1976. It took the KGB five years to find the organizers.

Elvira Muhametdinova
Vecherniye Chelny

Author`s name Olga Savka