Born in Vilna, Lithuania in 1877, Feliks Dzerzhinsky wanted to become a priest at an early age. Became involved in politics as a teenager and helped to lead protests against the czarist regime in Russia at the time. Was arrested several times from 1897 to 1900 and twice escape from the Siberian prison to which he was confined.
Continued as a political agitator in Berlin, Germany and in Poland and again was arrested and imprisoned. Twice more he was imprisoned for the same charge and in 1917 was released from prison by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution.
Was a trusted ally of Vladimir Lenin and was placed in charge of security for senior party members. He was later appointed by Lenin to serve as the head of Cheka, the Russian Secret Police (and precursor to the KGB). Cheka consisted of less than 25 employees when it was established but boasted more than 37,000 just two years later.
Designed and developed a ruthless, merciless, brutal system of eliminating political dissidents. Employed imprisonment, torture and murder without hesitation, both to set an example and as a precautionary measure. Sanctioned assassinations abroad as well as planted the seeds of intelligence networks throughout Europe and within the United States.
Setup the first Soviet concentration camps in Solovetsky Island in 1922 and also served as the first Director of Transportation for the Soviet Union, overseeing the reorganization of the Russian Railway system.
In 1924, was named Director of the Soviet Economics Council. Died on July 20, 1926, reportedly by natural causes, although speculation exists that he suffered a fatal stroke while engaged in an argument with Josef Stalin.