Thursday, October 25, 2018

Could Putin’s Praetorian Guard Play the Same Trick on Its Creator that Its Roman Model Did?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 24 – Vladimir Putin has created a modernized form of the Roman Praetorian Guard in the form of the Russian Guards and related security agencies in order to protect himself against any challenge, Alfred Kokh observes; but it appears he has forgotten that the Praetorians often turned on their creator and became the key power in the Roman state.

            In yesterday’s Yezhednevny zhurnal, the Russian commentator recalls that when the Roman emperors created the Praetorian Guard in classical times, they intended it to be the chief protector of their own persons. As such, the Praetorians were the only armed force allowed in the city (

            The Roman army, in contrast, was kept busy beyond the confines of the city and was not allowed to cross the Rubicon River lest it become a political force of its own. But the Praetorian Guard often played an evil joke on its creators or at least on their successors: it became the key power in the state, removing and replacing emperors or even installing one of its own.

            That is a danger that faces all authoritarian leaders: the defenses they built if they are strong enough to do their job are also strong enough to overthrow their creators – or at the very least to become a power in the state with which their creators and nominal bosses cannot fail to take into consideration.

                Kokh is suggesting that something similar may happen in Russia; and it is a measure of the extent to which he has pointed to an issue that the Kremlin is worried about that the full version of his article has been taken down from the site – only the first paragraph remains -- lest the very discussion of this possibility make it even more likely. 

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