KGB: The Sword and the Shield showing on History channel

If you wanted compelling evidence of man’s inhumanity towards man, this history of the Soviet security services fits the purpose neatly. Millions have suffered at their hands since Lenin first set up a secret police force, the Cheka, as a temporary measure, but today the FSB (the successor to the KGB) is as powerful as ever.

In this first episode, one former KGB officer recalls the words drummed into him as a young recruit: “cool head, warm heart, clean hands”; but under the likes of Dzerzhinsky, Yezhov and Beria, the security services in their first few decades presided over countless horrors, such as the Katyn massacre of Polish officers in 1940. “Terror is an absolute necessity in times of revolution,” said Dzerzhinsky, a policy that continued right up to the atomic age.

The Committee for State Security, `KGB’, was used by the USSR to crush dissent. Millions suffered at their hands via mass executions, secret wars and coup d’états. Today, it’s arguably stronger than ever, with poisoning and hacking central to its operations. The reason behind this is the rise of a lowly lieutenant colonel to President of this vast country – Vladimir Putin. This documentary recounts the history of the KGB, told through its veterans and its victims.

***Review by Gill Crawford, originally published by RadioTimes***

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