Spreading the Word: The KGB’s Image-Building Under Gorbachev

By Jeff Trimble

A paper by Jeff Trimble, fall 1991 fellow, analyzes how the Russian KGB dramatically transformed its image over time. The KGB, under different sets of initials, evoked frightening memories of the Soviet period of Russian history. Millions were herded into the communist version of concentration camps, transported to Siberia, or executed for having the wrong ideological pedigree. The KGB, by its brutal behavior, came to be identified throughout the world with the Soviet system of government. When that system began to disintegrate in the late 1980s under the pressures of Gorbachevian reform and internal rot, it was natural to assume that the KGB would also disintegrate. But, far from vanishing into the past, it changed its initials and transformed itself into a modern secret service, replete with a press office and a public relations strategy.

Download the paper (PDF).