It was no surprise that President Boris Yeltsin tapped a former KGB chief to be prime minister in his latest government shakeup. Through the ages, Russian leaders have turned to their secret police for support to overcome political crises and maintain control. A few examples:

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Ivan the Terrible, who ruled Russia from 1533-84, used his secret police, known as the oprichniki, to mercilessly suppress the boyars, privileged members of the early Russian aristocracy.

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Peter the Great took Ivan's hatred of the boyars a step further, outlawing them during his reign, which lasted from 1696 to 1725. His extensive secret police network played a crucial role in his efforts to modernize Russia.

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Throughout the 19th century, the czars used the secret police to repress growing revolutionary sentiment. Alexander II's repressions were one reason for his assassination in 1881, while Alexander III used his secret police to commit pogroms against Jews and impose greater control on peasants.

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Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union's founder, created the direct precursor to the KGB, the Cheka, and gave its head Felix Dzerzhinsky immense powers to repress political opponents, under the guise of defending the fledgling nation against ``bourgeois counter-revolution.''

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Soviet dictator Josef Stalin relied on secret police chiefs to eliminate his rivals and seal his stranglehold on power. The secret police rounded up millions of people, including artists, war veterans and peasants who hid their harvests from punishing requisition programs.

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Soviet leaders from Nikita Khrushchev to Konstatin Chernenko relied on the KGB secret service to maintain control over political dissidents and suppress free thought. The organization came to be a massive international spy agency and domestic force aimed at keeping the Communist Party in control.

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Mikhail Gorbachev, responsible for reforms that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union, left the KGB virtually untouched, and KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov helped lead an abortive hard-line Communist coup against him in 1991. Under Yeltsin, the KGB was split into a foreign intelligence, domestic security and other agencies.