Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov (Russian: Владимир Александрович Крючков) (29 February 1924 – 23 November 2007) was a Soviet lawyer, diplomat and head of the KGB, member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU.
Initially working in the Soviet justice system as a prosecutor's assistant, Kryuchkov then graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of the Soviet Foreign Ministry and became a diplomat. During his years in the foreign service, he met Yuri Andropov, who became his main patron. From 1974 until 1988, Kryuchkov headed the foreign intelligence branch of the KGB, the First Chief Directorate (PGU). During these years the Directorate was involved in funding and supporting various communist, socialist and anti-colonial movements across the world, some of which came to power in their countries and established pro-Soviet governments; in addition, under Kryuchkov's leadership the Directorate had major triumphs in penetrating Western intelligence agencies, acquiring valuable scientific and technical intelligence and perfecting the techniques of disinformation and active measures. At the same time however, during Kryuchkov's tenure the Directorate became plagued with defectors, had major responsibility for encouraging the Soviet government to invade Afghanistan and its ability to influence Western European communist parties diminished even further.
From 1988 until 1991, Kryuchkov served as the 7th Chairman of the KGB. He was the leader of the abortive August coup and the GKChP.
Early life and career
Kryuchkov was born in February 1924 in Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, and now Volgograd), to a working-class family. His parents were strong supporters of Joseph Stalin. He joined the Communist Party in 1944 and became a full-time employee of the Communist Youth League (Komsomol). After earning a law degree, Kryuchkov embarked on a career in the Soviet justice system, working as an investigator for the prosecutor's office in his home city of Stalingrad.
Kryuchkov then joined the Soviet diplomatic service, stationed in Hungary until 1959. He then worked for the Communist Party Central Committee for eight years, before joining the KGB in 1967 together with his patron Yuri Andropov. He was appointed head of the First Chief Directorate (FCD) in 1974 (the KGB Foreign Operations) and Deputy Chairman in 1978. In 1988, he was promoted to the rank of General of the Army and became KGB Chairman. In 1989–1990, he was a member of the Politburo.
A political hard-liner, Kryuchkov was among the members of the Soviet intelligence community who misinterpreted the 1983 NATO exercise Able Archer as a prelude to a nuclear attack. Many historians, such as Robert Cowley and John Lewis Gaddis, believe the Able Archer incident was the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
According to Sergei Tretyakov, Kryuchkov secretly sent US$50 billion worth of funds of the Communist Party to an unknown location in the lead up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
During the August Coup of 1991, Kryuchkov was the initiator of creation of the The State Committee on the State of Emergency (Государственный Комитет по Чрезвычайному Положению, ГКЧП) which arrested the President of USSR Mikhail Gorbachev. After the defeat of the Committee, Kryuchkov was imprisoned for his participation. However, in 1994 the State Duma freed him in an amnesty. Kryuchkov was replaced as chairman of the KGB by Leonid Shebarshin.
Kryuchkov died at the age of 83 on 23 November 2007. His body was buried at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.