Military Wiki
GRU Generalnogo Shtaba
Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije
Главное Разведывательное Управление
Generalstaff central dep.svg
Agency overview
Formed November 5, 1918, GRU since 1942
Preceding agency
  • 5th Department of the Russian Imperial Chief of Staff
Jurisdiction President of Russia
Headquarters Khoroshevskoye shosse 76, Khodinka, Moscow
55°46′49.41″N 37°31′21.51″E / 55.7803917°N 37.5226417°E / 55.7803917; 37.5226417Coordinates: 55°46′49.41″N 37°31′21.51″E / 55.7803917°N 37.5226417°E / 55.7803917; 37.5226417
Agency executive
Parent agency Russian Ministry of Defense
Website Official Page

GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye (Russian: Главное разведывательное управление, English: Main Intelligence Directorate) is the foreign military intelligence main directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Army General Staff of the Soviet Union). "GRU" is the English transliteration of the Russian acronym ГРУ, which stands for "Главное Разведывательное Управление", meaning Main Intelligence Directorate. The official full name translation is Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It is also known as GRU GSh (short for GRU Generalnovo Shtaba, or ГРУ Генерального штаба, i.e. "GRU of the General Staff").

The GRU is Russia's largest foreign intelligence agency.[1] In 1997 it deployed six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, the successor of the KGB's foreign operations directorate. It also commanded 25,000 Spetsnaz troops in 1997.[2]

The current GRU Director is Lieutenant General Igor Sergun.[3]


GRU Official emblem (until 2009) with motto engraved: "Greatness of Motherland in your glorious deeds"

The GRU first predecessor in post-tsarist Russia was created on October 21, 1918 under the sponsorship of Leon Trotsky, who was then the civilian overseer of the Red Army;[4] it was originally known as the Registration Directorate (Registrupravlenie, or RU). Simon Aralov was its first head. In his history of the early years of the GRU, Raymond W. Leonard writes:

As originally established, the Registration Department was not directly subordinate to the General Staff (at the time called the Red Army Field Staff — Polevoi Shtab). Administratively, it was the Third Department of the Field Staff's Operations Directorate. In July 1920, the RU was made the second of four main departments in the Operations Directorate. Until 1921, it was usually called the Registrupr (Registration Department). That year, following the Soviet-Polish War, it was elevated in status to become the Second (Intelligence) Directorate of the Red Army Staff, and was thereafter known as the Razvedupr. This probably resulted from its new primary peacetime responsibilities as the main source of foreign intelligence for the Soviet leadership. As part of a major re-organization of the Red Army, sometime in 1925 or 1926 the RU (then Razvedyvatelnoe Upravlenye) became the Fourth (Intelligence) Directorate of the Red Army Staff, and was thereafter also known simply as the "Fourth Department." Throughout most of the interwar period, the men and women who worked for Red Army Intelligence called it either the Fourth Department, the Intelligence Service, the Razvedupr, or the RU.[...] As a result of the re-organization [in 1926], carried out in part to break up Trotsky's hold on the army, the Fourth Department seems to have been placed directly under the control of the State Defense Council (Gosudarstvennaia komissiia oborony, or GKO), the successor of the RVSR. Thereafter its analysis and reports went directly to the GKO and Politburo, even apparently bypassing the Red Army Staff.[5]

It was given the task of handling all military intelligence, particularly the collection of intelligence of military or political significance from sources outside the Soviet Union. The GRU operated residencies all over the world, along with the SIGINT (signals intelligence) station in Lourdes, Cuba, and throughout the former Soviet bloc countries, especially in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The first head of the 4th Directorate was Janis Karlovich Berzin, a Latvian Communist and former member of the Cheka, who remained in the post until 28 November 1937, when he was arrested and subsequently liquidated during Joseph Stalin's purges.

The GRU was well known in the Soviet government for its fierce independence from the rival "internal intelligence organizations", such as NKVD and KGB. At the time of the GRU's creation, Lenin infuriated the Cheka (predecessor of the KGB) by ordering it not to interfere with the GRU's operations. Nonetheless, the Cheka infiltrated the GRU in 1919. This planted the seed for a fierce rivalry between the two agencies, which were both engaged in espionage, and was even more intense than the rivalry between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency in America would be in a future time.

The existence of the GRU was not publicized during the Soviet era, although documents concerning it became available in the West in the late 1920s and it was mentioned in the 1931 memoirs of the first OGPU defector, Georges Agabekov, and described in detail in the 1939 autobiography (I Was Stalin's Agent) of Walter Krivitsky, the most senior Red Army intelligence officer ever to defect.[6] It became widely known in Russia, and the West outside the narrow confines of the intelligence community, during perestroika, in part thanks to the writings of "Viktor Suvorov" (Vladimir Rezun), a GRU agent who defected to Great Britain in 1978, and wrote about his experiences in the Soviet military and intelligence services. According to Suvorov, even the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union couldn't enter GRU headquarters without going through a security screening.

The GRU is still a very important part of the Russian Federation's intelligence services, especially since it was never split up like the KGB.[7] The KGB was dissolved after aiding a failed coup in 1991 against the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since been divided into the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Security Service (FSB).


GRU headquarters in Moscow

According to the Federation of American Scientists: "...Though sometimes compared to the US Defense Intelligence Agency, [the GRU's] activities encompass those performed by nearly all joint US military intelligence agencies as well as other national US organizations. The GRU gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. It also maintains significant signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery reconnaissance (IMINT) and satellite imagery capabilities."[8] GRU Space Intelligence Directorate has put more than 130 SIGINT satellites into orbit. GRU and KGB SIGINT network employed about 350,000 specialists.[9]

According to GRU defector Kalanbe[citation needed], "Though most Americans do not realize it, America is penetrated by Russian military intelligence to the extent that arms caches lie in wait for use by Russian special forces". He also described a possibility that compact tactical nuclear weapons known as "suitcase bombs" are hidden in the US[10][11] and noted that "the most sensitive activity of the GRU is gathering intelligence on American leaders, and there is only one purpose for this intelligence: targeting information for spetsnaz (special forces) assassination squads [in the event of war]". The American leaders will be easily assassinated using the "suitcase bombs", according to Lunev.[10] GRU is "one of the primary instructors of terrorists worldwide" according to Lunev[10] Terrorist Shamil Basayev reportedly worked for this organization.[12][13][14]

US Congressman Curt Weldon supported claims by Lunev but noted that Lunev had "exaggerated things" according to the FBI.[15] Searches of the areas identified by Lunev – who admits he never planted any weapons in the US – have been conducted, "but law-enforcement officials have never found such weapons caches, with or without portable nuclear weapons."[16]

During the 2006 Georgian-Russian espionage controversy, four officers working for the GRU Alexander Savva, Dmitry Kazantsev, Aleksey Zavgorodny and Alexander Baranov were arrested by the Counter-Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and were accused of espionage and sabotage. This spy network was managed from Armenia by GRU Colonel Anatoly Sinitsin. A few days later the arrested officers were handed over to Russia through the OSCE.[17]

GRU detachments from Chechnya were transferred to Lebanon independently of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict "to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world", according to Sergei Ivanov.[18] Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated by two GRU officers. GRU officers have also been accused of creating criminal death squads.[19]

GRU Spetsnaz

GRU Spetsnaz
GRU emblem.svg
Active 1949 - 2012
2013 - present
Country  Soviet Union
(1949 - 1991)
 Russian Federation
1991 - 2010 (under the GRU)
2010 - 2012 (Non-GRU)
2013 - present (under the GRU)
Type Special Forces
Role Unconventional Warfare
Special Reconnaissance
Direct Action
Size Classified[20]
Part of Coat of arms of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Armed Forces
(1949 - 1991)
Medium emblem of the Вооружённые Силы Российской Федерации.svg Russian Armed Forces
(1991 - present)
GRU Headquarters Khoroshevskoye 76, Khodinka, Moscow
Mascot(s) Bat
Engagements Cold War conflicts
Soviet War in Afghanistan
Civil War in Tajikistan
East Prigorodny conflict
War in Abkhazia
First Chechen War
War of Dagestan
Second Chechen War
Insurgency in the North Caucasus
Russo-Georgian War
2014 Crimean Crisis

Spetsnaz GRU are the elite military formations under the control of the military intelligence service GRU. It was the first Soviet/Russian spetsnaz. The word "Spetsnaz" is often written in all capital letters ("SPETSNAZ"). In 2010, following Russian Military reforms, Spetsnaz GRU were disbanded and instead placed into different divisions of the Ground Forces of the Russian Military; in 2013, however, some units were re-assigned to GRU divisions and placed under GRU authority once more.[21]


Anatoly Lebed was a famous operator of the 45th Spetsnaz regiment.

The concept of using special forces tactics and strategies was originally proposed by the Russian military theorist Mikhail Svechnykov (executed during the Great Purge in 1938), who envisaged the development of unconventional warfare capabilities in order to overcome disadvantages that conventional forces may face in the field. Practical implementation was begun by the "grandfather of the spetsnaz" Ilya Starinov. During World War II, reconnaissance and sabotage forces were formed under the supervision of the Second Department of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces. These forces were subordinate to the commanders of Fronts.[22]

Spetsnaz GRU during the War of Dagestan, August 25, 1999

The situation was reviewed after the war ended, and between 1947 and 1950 the whole of GRU was reorganized.[23] The first 'independent reconnaissance companies of special purpose' were formed in 1949, to work for tank and combined-arms armies, which were tasked to eliminate amongst others enemy nuclear weapons systems such as the MGR-3 Little John and MGM-1 Matador.[23] In 1957, the first Spetsnaz battalions were formed, five to operate beyond the 150–200 km range of the reconnaissance companies. The first brigades were formed in 1962, reportedly to reach up to 750 kilometres in the rear to destroy U.S. weapons systems such as the MGM-52 Lance, MGM-29 Sergeant, and MGM-31 Pershing.[23] Two 'study regiments' were established in the 1960s to train specialists and NCOs, the first in 1968 at Pechora near Pskov, and the second in 1970 at Chirchik near Tashkent.[24] According to Vladimir Rezun, a GRU defector who used the pseudonym "Viktor Suvorov", there were 20 GRU Spetsnaz brigades plus 41 separate companies at the time of his defection in 1978. The primary function of Spetsnaz troops in wartime was infiltration/insertion behind enemy lines (either in uniform or civilian clothing), usually well before hostilities are scheduled to begin and, once in place, to commit acts of sabotage (such as the destruction of vital NATO communications logistics centers) and the assassination of key government leaders and military officers.[citation needed]

During Soviet times, Spetsnaz GRU operatives would have to complete training that included the following: weapons handling, rappelling, explosives training, marksmanship, counter-terrorism, airborne training, hand-to-hand combat, climbing (alpine rope techniques), diving, underwater combat, long-range marksmanship, emergency medical training, and demolition.

Its operations included Operation Storm-333, the successful mission to kill the Afghan president in 1979. During the 2000s, ethnic-Chechen Special Battalions Vostok and Zapad existed.

File:Spetsnaz gru.jpg

GRU Spetsnaz troops posing with a destroyed Georgian tank after the Russo-Georgian war

Since 2009-2010, Spetsnaz GRU forces have been resubordinated, now attached to military districts of the Ground Forces of the Russian Federation[25] and subordinate to the operational-strategic commands, due to Anatoliy Serdyukov's military reforms. In 2011, it was announced that some former Spetsnaz GRU personnel might return under control of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in some form separate and distinct from GRU, and answering directly to the General Staff. In 2013, Spetsnaz units were returned to GRU authority.

Listing of brigades

Below is a 2012 list of Spetsnaz units in the Russian Armed Forces:[26][27]

Spetsnaz weapons

Soviet Spetsnaz weaponry consisted of more streamlined, stripped-down weapons suitable for covert operations, such as the AKS-74U carbine. Modern Russian Spetsnaz weapons include the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle, SV98 sniper rifle, AK-9 assault rifle, AN-94 assault rifle, and the PP-19 Bizon submachine gun, along with older weaponry such as the AKS-74U. Specialized weaponry includes the NRS-2, a survival knife with a built-in single-shot firing mechanism able to fire an 7.62x42mm SP-4 cartridge (the same used in PSS Silent Pistol), along with the RPG-16 and plastic explosives; for urban warfare scenarios, the PKP Pecheneg LMG has also been used by Spetsnaz groups. Similar to other modern special forces organizations, Spetsnaz weaponry is selected by merit of stealth and reliability for special military operations, espionage, sabotage, or other covert actions.



Dmitry Kozak and Vladislav Surkov, members of the Vladimir Putin administration, reportedly served in GRU.Two Chechen former warlords Said-Magomed Kakiev and Sulim Yamadayev are commanders of Special Battalions Vostok and Zapad ("East" and "West") that are controlled by the GRU. Each battalion included close to a thousand fighters,[28] until their disbandment in 2008.


In 2002, Bill Powell, former Moscow bureau chief at Newsweek, wrote Treason, an account of the experiences of former GRU colonel Vyacheslav Baranov. Baranov had been recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and agreed to spy for them, but was betrayed to the Russians by a mole in either the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the CIA and spent five years in prison before being released. The identity of the mole remains unknown to this day, although speculation has mounted that it could have been Robert Hanssen.[29]


  • Joseph Milton Bernstein
  • Eugene Franklin Coleman
  • Klaus Fuchs
  • Harold Glasser
  • Tanner Greimann
  • Rudolf Herrnstadt
  • Arvid Jacobson
  • Gerhard Kegel
  • Mary Jane Keeney and Philip Keeney
  • Tadeusz Kobylański
  • George Koval, a scientist who stole atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project.
  • Ursula Kuczynski
  • Stefan Litauer
  • Robert Osman
  • Ward Pigman
  • Adam Priess
  • Alexander Radó
  • Vincent Reno
  • Elie Renous
  • William Spiegel
  • Lydia Stahl
  • Irving Charles Velson, Brooklyn Navy Yard; American Labor Party candidate for New York State Senate

21st century

  • Jeffrey Delisle Canadian Naval officer awaiting sentencing for selling secrets "wholesale" to the GRU[30]

Historical "illegals"

Naval agents

  • Jack Fahy (Naval GRU), Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs; Board of Economic Warfare; United States Department of the Interior
  • Edna Patterson Naval GRU, served in US August 1943 to 1956


  • Whittaker Chambers, an American journalist and ex-GRU agent who broke with Communism in 1938[31]
  • Iavor Entchev, a communist member of GRU; defected to United States during the Cold War.
  • Igor Gouzenko, a GRU cipher clerk who defected in Canada
  • Walter Krivitsky, a GRU defector who predicted that Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler would conclude a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, found dead in 1941
  • Stanislav Lunev
  • Oleg Penkovsky, a GRU officer who played an important role during the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Juliet Poyntz, a founding member of the Communist Party of the United States, allegedly killed for an attempt to defect
  • Ignace Reiss, a GRU defector who sent a letter of defection to Stalin in July 1937, found dead in September 1937
  • Viktor Suvorov (Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun)


The Head of the Russian Military Intelligence is a military officer and is the highest ranking intelligence officer in Russia. He is the primary military intelligence adviser to the Russian Minister of Defense and to the Chief of Staff and also answers to the President of Russia.

  • Semyon Aralov, November 1918-July 1919
  • Sergei Gusev, July 1919-January 1920
  • Georgi Pyatakov, January 1920- February 1920
  • Vladimir Aussem, February 1920- August 1920
  • Yan Lentsman, August 1920-April 1921
  • Arvid Zeybot, April 1921- March 1924
  • Yan Berzin, 1924- April 1935
  • Semyon Uritsky, April 1935-July 1937
  • Yan Berzin, July 1937- August 1937
  • Alexander Nikonov, August 1937-August 1937
  • Semyon Gendin, September 1937-October 1938
  • Alexander Orlov, October 1938-April 1939
  • Ivan Proskurov, April 1939- July 1940
  • Filipp Golikov, July 1940-October 1941
  • Alexei Panfilov, October 1941-November 1942

  • Ivan Ilyichev, November 1942-June 1945
  • Fyodor Fedotovich Kuznetsov, June 1945-November 1947
  • Nikolai Trusov, September 1947-January 1949
  • Matvei Zakharov, January 1949-June 1952
  • Mikhail Shalin, June 1952-August 1956
  • Sergei Shtemenko, August 1956-October 1957
  • Mikhail Shalin, October 1957-December 1958
  • Ivan Serov, December 1958-February 1963
  • Pyotr Ivashutin, March 1963-July 1987
  • Vladlen Mikhailov, July 1987-October 1991
  • Yevgeny Timokhin, November 1991-August 1992
  • Fyodor Ladygin,August 1992- May 1997
  • Valentin Korabelnikov, May 1997-April 2009
  • Alexander Shlyakhturov, April 2009- December 2011
  • Igor Sergun, Since December 26, 2011

Fictional uses

  • In the international best-selling The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, the main protagonist Lisbeth Salander's father, Alexander Zalachenko, was a former GRU spy who defected to Sweden and was granted political asylum and began his new life in Sweden under the protection of a secret division of the Swedish Security Service during the cold war.
  • In the video game Battlefield 3, there are 2 missions where you play as Dimitri Mayakovsky, a fictional GRU operative, and a former Spetsnaz operative.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, the main character Naked Snake (real name John) eliminates GRU operatives during his quest to destroy the Shagohod and Colonel Volgin

See also


  1. Reuters Factbox on Russian military intelligence by Dmitry Solovyov
  2. Lunev, Stanislav (12 September 1997). "Changes may be on the way for the Russian security services" ( – Scholar search). [dead link]
  3. "PRESS DIGEST – Russia – Dec 27". Reuters. 27 December 2011. 
  4. Earl F. Ziemke, Russian Review 60(2001): 130.
  5. Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution, p. 7.
  6. Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution, p.xiv.
  7. Reuters Russia's Medvedev sacks military spy chief by Dmitry Solovyov Fri Apr 24, 2009
  9. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  11. Symposium: Al Qaeda’s Nukes by Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine, October 27, 2006
  12. Western leaders betray Aslan Maskhadov - by Andre Glucksmann. Prima-News, March 11, 2005
  13. CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER: BASAEV WAS G.R.U. OFFICER The Jamestown Foundation, September 08, 2006
  14. Analysis: Has Chechnya's Strongman Signed His Own Death Warrant? - by Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, March 1, 2005
  15. Nicholas Horrock, "FBI focusing on portable nuke threat", UPI (20 December 2001).
  16. Steve Goldstein and Chris Mondics, "Some Weldon-backed allegations unconfirmed; Among them: A plot to crash planes into a reactor, and missing suitcase-size Soviet atomic weapons." Philadelphia Inquirer (15 March 2006) A7.
  18. Moscow posts two Chechen platoons in S. Lebanon, one headed by an ex-rebel commander, "to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world" by DEBKAfile
  19. Special services are making teams for extrajudicial punishment (Russian) by Igor Korolkov, Novaya Gazeta, January 11, 2007. English translation
  20. Spionage gegen Deutschland — Aktuelle Entwicklungen Stand: November 2008 (German)
  21. Bat or Mouse? The Strange Case of Reforming Spetsnaz
  22. Carey Schofield, The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces, Greenhill, London, 1993, p.34
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Carey Schofield, The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces, Greenhill, London, 1993, p.35
  24. Carey Schofield, The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces, Greenhill, London, 1993, p.37
  25. UNHCR | Refworld | Putin’s Military: Let the Good Times Roll
  26. "ГРУ (Главное Разведывательное Управление) ГШ ВС РФ" (in Russian). Russian Military Analysis. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  27. "Военно-Морской Флот" (in Russian). Russian Military Analysis. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  28. Land of the warlords, by Nick Paton Walsh, Guardian Unlimited
  29. Powell, Bill (2002-11-01). "Treason: How a Russian Spy Led an American Journalist to a U.S. Double Agent". Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2915-0. 
  30. Milewski, Terry (2011). "5 plot lines in the Jeffrey Delisle navy spy case". CBC. 
  31. [|Chambers, Whittaker] (1952). "Witness". New York: Random House. pp. 799. ISBN 9780895269157. 

Further reading

  • Павел Густерин. Советская разведка на Ближнем и Среднем Востоке в 1920—30-х годах. — Саарбрюккен, 2014. — ISBN 978-3-659-51691-7.
  • David M. Glantz. Soviet military intelligence in war. Cass series on Soviet military theory and practice ; 3. London: Cass, 1990. ISBN 0-7146-3374-7, ISBN 0-7146-4076-X
  • Raymond W. Leonard. Secret soldiers of the revolution: Soviet military intelligence, 1918-1933. Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0-313-30990-6
  • Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  • Viktor Suvorov Aquarium (Аквариум), 1985, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11545-0
  • Viktor Suvorov Inside Soviet Military Intelligence, 1984, ISBN 0-02-615510-9
  • Viktor Suvorov Spetsnaz, 1987, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11961-8

External links

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