Felix Dzerzhinsky, Russian Bolshevik leader, organizer, and first chairman (1917-21) of the Cheka.The son of a Polish landowner, was born in Vilno in 1877. He joined the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party and helped to organize factory workers into trade unions.
Dzerzhinsky was arrested in 1897 but managed to escape from Siberia two years later. He went to Warsaw where he joined the Social Democratic Party of Poland that had been formed by Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches in 1893.
Dzerzhinsky was arrested again and spent another nine years in Siberia until being released as a result of the political amnesty that followed the February Revolution and played an active role in the October Revolution.
In December, 1917, Vladimir Lenin appointed Dzerzhinsky as Commissar for Internal Affairs and head of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (Cheka). In September, 1918, Dzerzhinsky instigated the Red Terror that followed the attempt by Dora Kaplan on the life of Lenin. He was also responsible for dealing with the sailors arrested during the Kronstadt Uprising. According to Victor Serge over 500 sailors were executed for their part in the rebellion.
Dzerzhinsky was appointed as People's Commissar for Transport in 1921. However, he remained in control of Cheka and in 1922 he transformed it into the State Political Administration (GPU).
In January 1924 he was appointed chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy. With the support of Joseph Stalin, he was elevated to the Politburo. Felix Dzerzhinsky died of a heart attack on 20th July 1926.