Monday, October 19, 2015

Like Stalin, Putin Using a Secret Infrastructure to Maintain Power, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 19 – As even some of Vladimir Putin’s defenders have had to acknowledge, the Kremlin leader’s real power is both illegal and unconstitutional because it rests not on formal institutions but rather on a secret informal network of special departments and special sections, much like the arrangements Stalin used in the 1930s, according to Irina Pavlova.

            “One can only imagine how thoroughly Russian society is ‘penetrated’ by agents of the special services and force structures,” the Russian historian says, arguing that “it is no exaggeration to say that the entire population of the country is under their first” and that this ensures [Putin’s] power” (

            The occasion for her comments are three articles by prominent commentator Gleb Pavlovsky, two last week and one from 2010 (, and and one by another Moscow analyst, Sergey Tikhonov (
            In his three articles, most openly in the one published earlier but sufficiently clearly in his latest, Pavlovsky says that what he calls “the Russian system” is not something established by the constitution or law but rather is centered on Putin who is “an informal institution” the constitution doesn’t recognize and thus “the supreme authority of this system.”

            Thus, she says, “Mr. Pavlovsky confirms that the real power in Russia is unconstitutional and consequently illegal,” and his references to “a keyboard” on which the Kremlin leader plays the bureaucracy “in essence confirms the existence in the power structure of a secret infrastructure, a network of staff and non-staff workers of the special services and force organs.”

            Tikhonov provides “by the purest chance” evidence of the operations of this “conspiratorial power.”  In an article in the journal “Expert,” he writes that “a secret structure with special authorities [has been established, about which] even the top brass of the Investigative Committee does not have access.”

            The Russian analyst continues that people jokingly refer to this shadowy group as “SMERSH, by analogy to the famous Stalinist special service which struggled with enemies via harsh but effective surgical means.”

            “Why such secrecy?” Tikhonov asks. “Why do even highly placed chiefs of the FSB not know about its existence? For the very same reasons that operational and investigative structures were created in the 1930s and 1940s” – to conduct purges in anticipation of war and then to carry them out during war itself.

            At the start of this process, “there were little party tsars in the localities, former militants of the civil war whom it was necessary to put in their place and elites who had to be cleansed and very quickly.”  The ordinary legal structures couldn’t be counted on to do so reliably from the Kremlin’s perspective because they were too closely tied to those who were to be purged.

            Thus the need both for Stalin and for Putin to create “a special group” which had and has “direct access to the president and personally reports to the first person of the state about the situation in this or that region,” Terekhov says.  And Pavlova adds that this is confirmed by the significant role of the All-Russian Popular Front locally.

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