This section will help you if you are unfamiliar with the historical events referenced in KGB. I'm no historian, so this section is intentionally kept short, and doesn't aim to be comprehensive. If you want to learn more, many books and articles have been written on the subject.
Even in this section, there are a few major spoilers from this point on. If you haven't finished KGB, I advise you to stop reading, as this will likely diminish the enjoyment you can get from playing on your own. There are major plot twists which you don't want to know in advance if you want to experience the game the way you're meant to.
Send me an email if I accidentally got something wrong.
Fact vs. Fiction
The game takes place during the last days of the USSR, and gives you a fictional account of the August 1991 coup attempt. The parts about Protopopov and Rukov's investigation in general are obviously a fiction, but there was indeed a plot conceived by communist hardliners to overthrow USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. It culminated with his kidnapping and one of the conspirators, Gennady Yanayev, falsely announcing his resignation over health reasons.
However, the coup collapsed in only three days and Gorbachev returned to power. In the end, the event destabilised the USSR and is considered to have widely contributed to the demise of both the Communist Party and the USSR, eventually achieving the opposite of what the conspirators had intended. In late December 1991, the USSR was dissolved.
In 1985, Gorbachev had become the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, effectively making him leader of the Soviet Union. In the subsequent years, he launched an ambitious program of reforms, notably with the concepts of Perestroika and Glasnost.
In 1990, he had become President of the USSR, a newly created office. He then had repealed an article in the Constitution that gave the Communist Party supremacy over all other institutions in society, considerably hindering the Party's power.
By 1991, the power of the Communist Party was dwindling and the USSR was in a severe economic and political crisis, which some blamed on Gorbachev's reforms, culminating in the August 1991 coup attempt.
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was an important conflict that lasted about nine years, from late 1979 to early 1989. Millions were killed or wounded. The war opposed the Soviet Union, supporting Afghanistan's Marxist government at their own request, with the Islamist Mujahideen resistance. Several other nations also got involved in varying degrees.
I have found no trace of the existence of a "Department P" in reality, and thus must conclude that it was imagined for the purposes of the game, at least in its presented form.
"Uncle Vanya" is obviously a reference to the play of the same name by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Many surnames used in the game are also surnames of notable Russian people. However, since I don't know which references are possibly intentional and which are coincidences, I'm not listing them here.
Apparatchik: Functionary of the Communist Party or the Soviet government.
Chekist: Informal synonym of "KGB agent". The name derives from the Cheka, the ancestor of the KGB.
Double agent: Agent who infiltrates a target organisation on behalf of a controlling organisation.
Glasnost: Policy of transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the USSR. This relaxation of censorship notably resulted in the Communist Party losing its grip on the media.
GRU: Intelligence agency handling all military intelligence for the Soviet Union (now for Russia), particularly the collection of intelligence from foreign sources. Acronym of "Main Intelligence Directorate" in Russian.
KHAD: Main intelligence agency of Afghanistan, serving as the secret police during the Soviet occupation. Acronym of "State Information Agency" in Persian.
Lefortovo prison: Infamous KGB prison and isolation ward for political prisoners in the USSR.
Pamyat: Russian ultra-nationalist organisation, Orthodox Christian and firmly opposed to communism. It has been accused of racism, xenophobia and antisemitism. The word "Pamyat" means "Memory".
Perestroika: Policy of major economic and political reforms of the USSR, notably allowing private ownership of businesses and introducing multi-candidate elections.
Politburo: Executive committee for the Communist Party.
Shock worker: Super productive worker of the Soviet Union.
Spetsnaz: Elite special military unit under command of the GRU, known as one of the best special forces in the world. They were notably heavily involved in the Soviet-Afghan war.
Tovarich: Russian word for "comrade".
Triple agent: Agent who pretends to infiltrate a target organisation on behalf of a controlling organisation, but is in fact loyal to the target organisation.
Wrangel Island: Island in Siberia, formerly home of a massive Russian gulag.
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