2008 Casino Royale replaced the MI6 nemesis S.M.E.R.S.H. with the fictional criminal organization Quantum to better reflect an updated Bond world. What most casual fans of everything Bond didn’t realize is that S.M.E.R.S.H. was actually based on Smersh, the Soviet counter-spy agency with a fantastic history of catching spies and disrupting and aiding like-minded governments throughout the world. At one time the agency was over 40,000 strong and operated in numerous countries.
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, Smersh got its dubious start by infiltrating the Nazi secret services and enforcing order and loyalty on the war front.
Some items would not look out of place in a James Bond film. Smersh agents, conducting counter-intelligence, were known to carry pens that incorporated a shooting device as well as a miniature camera. There’s also reports of agents carrying parts of triangulating radios in inconspicuous packages, assembling them with other agents at a pre-determined locations to listen in on foreign spy’s secret communications. Also, on display at Moscow’s Central Museum of the Armed Forces, captured spy equipment, by Smersh agents, ranging from Nazi encoders to miniature cameras hidden in hats and ties.
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 labor 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.