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SMERSH is the Soviet counter-intelligence agency portrayed in the early James Bond novels based on the real-life agency of the same name in. In the novels, it was one of 007's greatest nemeses. A large portion of MI6's efforts were devoted to protecting the world from SMERSH. SMERSH has had a significant influence on the development of Bond's character, as we see in the novel Casino Royale. In the Author's Note to the 2003 Penguin Edition of From Russia With Love (below), Fleming describes how his portrayal of SMERSH is based, at least in part, on the actual agency of SMERSH that was active in Stalinist and post-Stalinist politics:

SMERSH - James Bond WikiNot that it matters, but a great deal of the background to this story is accurate.

SMERSH, a contraction of th Smiert Spionam - Death to Spies - exists and remains today the most secret department of the Soviet government.

At the beginning of 1956, when this book was written, the strength of SMERSH at home and abroad was about 40,000 and General Grubozaboyschikob was its chief. My description of his appearance is correct.

Today the headquarters of SMERSH are where, in Chapter 4, I have placed them - at No 13 Sretenka Ulitsa, Moscow. The Conference Room is faithfully described and the Intelligence chiefs who meet round the table are real officials who are frequently summoned to that room for purposes similar to those I have recounted.

(Penguin, 2003 Edition)

Word Origin:
  • Conjectured of two Russian words 'Smiert Shpionam' meaning 'Death to Spies'

  • Leningrad, Russia (USSR)

  • Eliminate all forms of treachery

  • Department I - In charge of counter-intelligence among Soviet organizations
  • Department II - Operations (including executions)
  • Department III - Administration and Finance
  • Department IV - Investigations and legal work. Personnel.
  • Department V - Prosecutions: FINAL judgement on all victims

  • Responsible for assassination of Trotsky in Mexico (1940)
  • After World War II, Smersh purged. Currently consist of a few hundred members
  • Only two agents ever captured: Garrad-Jones and Mr. White

Appearances in James Bond Novels:

Bond Villains:

  • A common spoof known around the James Bond universe appears in the spoof film of Casino Royale. Anyone in the movie who would say SMERSH would be quieted by someone else saying "SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Contemporary Significance:
  • The BBC ran the <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">following article</a> (below) that touches on the SMERSH/Bond connection. (April 19, 2003). It's main focus is on an exhibition of Soviet memorabilia and describes the role that SMERSH played in World War 2 as the agency tasked with infiltrating the Nazi Secret Service:

Russia unveils Stalin spy service

Camera owned by Soviet spy Richard Sorge
The exhibition features wartime spying equipment
The Soviet wartime counter-intelligence service, Smersh - subject of numerous spy stories - exerts a chilling lure even today.

A special exhibition in Moscow marks the 60th anniversary of Smersh's founding.
The security organ, set up during World War ll, was one of the most powerful and dreaded tools of the Soviet wartime regime.
Its name, taken from the Russian Smert Shpionam, or Death to Spies, was said to have been coined by Stalin himself.
Directly subordinated to the Soviet leader, it was used to infiltrate the Nazi secret services and to enforce order and loyalty on the war front.
Pen containing a shooting device
Some items would not look out of place in a James Bond film.

Spy gear

According to a spokesman for Moscow's Central Museum of the Armed Forces, many of the items at the newly-opened exhibition are on public display for the very first time.
The exhibition includes a camera belonging to Soviet "super spy" Richard Sorge, a German pen containing a shooting device, a military cap worn by Hitler and an air meter found in the Nazi leader's underground bunker.
One display is devoted to the history of "funkspiel", or radio games with the German counter-intelligence, which helped Smersh track down saboteurs.
Military cap worn by Hitler
The display features a number of Nazi trophies
Memories of war

The exhibition's opening ceremony was attended by retired military heads and broadcast by Russian television.
Former counter-intelligence chief of the Moscow military district, Leonid Ivanov, recalled how he had taken part in a special operation in Berlin aimed at establishing that Hitler was dead.
"I held Hitler's military jacket, pens and files in my hands," he said, adding: "None of us felt tempted to take anything."
Smersh was ruthless in its methods. Units operating behind the fronts were charged with shooting down Red Army troops retreating in the face of German attacks.
To be captured by the enemy was officially regarded as treason and those who escaped risked being shot or shipped off to labour camps.
The military counter-intelligence also oversaw the deportation of entire ethnic groups within the Soviet Union. Many died en route or perished later in the camps.
Smersh was gradually absorbed into what was to become the KGB, and many of its operations still remain shrouded in secrecy.
<a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">BBC Monitoring</a>, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.