Live and Let Die
From Russia, with Love
SMERSH (in capitalised letters) is a Soviet counterintelligence agency that was featured in Ian Fleming's early James Bond novels as 007's nemesis. SMERSH is a conjunction of two Russian words: "SMERt' SHpionam", (Смерть Шпионам), which means "Death to Spies". Though Fleming's SMERSH was supposed to be modelled on the real SMERSH organization, the novels had SMERSH as a massive Soviet counterintelligence operation aimed at sending operatives abroad to subvert the West with an additional goal of killing Western spies, particularly Bond.
SMERSH is broken down into five departments:
- Department I: In charge of counterintelligence among Soviet organizations at home and abroad.
- Department II: Operations, including executions.
- Department III: Administration and finance.
- Department IV: Investigations and legal work. Personnel.
- Department V: Prosecutions — the section which passes final judgment on all victims.
SMERSH is a Soviet counterintelligence agency that is a recurring threat to James Bond and the British Secret Service.
According to Appendix B that is attached to the Head of Station S's letter to M, SMERSH assassinated Trotsky in 1940 and collaborated with NKVD in the midst of Hilter's invasion of Russia. After the war, the number of SMERSH members were reduced to only a few hundred. At that point, the only operative MI6 acquired was Goytchev, who shot a medical officer in the Yugoslav embassy.
James Bond first encounters SMERSH in 1951 when pitted against their agent Le Chiffre, attempting to recover lost funds from a failed chain of brothels in a game of Chemin-de-fer. MI6 decided to have Le Chiffre eliminated by making him lose to the finest gambler in the service, James Bond, with the assistance of Vesper Lynd of Section S, Felix Leiter of the CIA, and Rene Mathis of the Deuxieme Bereau. During this game, Bond was nearly killed by a gunman, and initially went bankrupt until Leiter gave him more capital. After the game, Le Chiffre kidnapped Vesper and a chase initiated by Bond immediately followed. Bond ended up crashing and was subsequently captured and tortured with a carpet beater by Le Chiffre, who demanded the location of the money. When he did not yield, Le Chiffre was about to castrate him when a SMERSH agent executed him. The agent carved a Russian letter (representing SMERSH) into the back of his hand. Despite skin grafts, a faint scar remained on Bond's hand. Later, another SMERSH agent known as "Adolph Gettler" was tracking Vesper and Bond, but Vesper committed suicide for Bond's and her sake.
Since the incident with Le Chiffre, Bond has sought revenge on a number of occasions such as when Bond is almost completely uninterested in disrupting Mr. Big's smuggling setup to finance Soviet operations in North America until he learns that Mr. Big is actually an agent of SMERSH. After learning this Bond makes it a personal mission of vengeance against the organization.
In 1954, after causing the deaths of both Le Chiffre, Mr. Big, and Hugo Drax, SMERSH attempts to strike back and avenge past embarrassments. James Bond is issued a "death warrant" for immediate execution ("To be killed with ignominy") by SMERSH. Not only is Bond set up for assassination, but SMERSH also goes to great lengths to make his death one that will be embarrassing and scandalous throughout the entire intelligence community. The plan nearly works, leaving Bond poisoned by Rosa Klebb, but he was subsequently rescued by his friend Rene Mathis and recovered within a matter of months.
He had another mission of personal vengeance in 1957 after learning Auric Goldfinger is the treasurer of the agency. Bond encounters SMERSH again shortly after his encounter with Goldfinger at a race track in Nuremberg, foiling their plans to cause a British driver's car to crash and demonstrate Soviet engineering superiority.
After Goldfinger, SMERSH is only mentioned fleetingly by Fleming, and in Thunderball, the organization is revealed to have been "disbanded" by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1958, and replaced by the Special Executive Department of the M.W.D.
In John Gardner's series of Bond novels, SMERSH is renamed as "Department V" (the letter) in Icebreaker. They return once again playing a much larger role in No Deals, Mr. Bond, this time renamed yet again as "Department Eight, Directorate S," and have been reorganized as a subsection of the KGB.