This sentence was taken from Le Carre's novel Smiley's People:

As a condition of your application being favourably considered by the authorities, you signed an undertaking to the organs of State Security to perform certain tasks for them during your residence in Paris.

Does State Security here mean specifically The Committee for State Security (aka KGB) or is it just a generic name meaning the security force/departments of the Soviet Union authorities? The words are capitalized here, which makes me think it means KGB, but I'm not sure.

Another similar sentence:

On that date, for insulting organs of State Security, so many more months, extended for bad behaviour, followed by so many years’ internal exile.

1 Answer 1


“Organs of state security” broadly refers to the KGB and its predecessor organizations, as well as to military intelligence (the GRU).

It’s been a while since I read the book, but IIRC some of the events being referred to took place before 1954, when the KGB was organized; the “organs” referred to may be the MGB (ministry of state security), MVD (ministry of internal affairs), or even the pre-1946 NKVD (people’s commissariat for internal affairs).

The capitalization is a stylistic flourish of Le Carre’s, similar to the way the narrator of “The Honorable Schoolboy” refers to “a Gold Seam coming from Russia.”

  • 2
    Apparently KGB is even the Russian abbreviation for "committee for state security". And the East German MfS, "Ministry for State Security" (today better known as Stasi, short for Staatssicherheit = State Security) was created under that name in 1950 (and the MfS features prominently in another Le Carre novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold). Dec 11, 2023 at 21:38

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