Staunton, June 17 – This week marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of Yuri Andropov, the KGB leader who rose to be head of the Soviet Union and was responsible among other things for the elevation of Mikhail Gorbachev to the Politburo and ultimately to the position of the first and only president of the USSR.
But for many who were in, inspired by or simply followed aspirations in the USSR for democracy there a more immediately important event is the death at 94 this morning of Filipp Bobkov, the KGB general who long headed the fifth chief directorate of the Soviet security agency and oversaw the persecution of dissidents (newsru.com/russia/17jun2019/bobkov.html).
Bobkov worked for 45 years in the Soviet organs, eventually heading the fifth chief directorate (1969 to 1983) which was responsible for maintaining the ideological correctness of the population and suppressing dissent including the use of forced psychiatric incarceration and becoming the first deputy chairman of the KGB of the USSR.
It is a sad commentary on the current times in the Russian Federation that most of the commentaries on his death have focused not on his crimes against the Soviet people but on his role in developing counter-terrorism strategies for Moscow, an important and undoubtedly in his mind and the minds of many in the KGB a closely related phenomenon.
(For a selection of these obituaries – and there have been more than a 100 Yandex reports – see especially charter97.org/ru/news/2019/6/17/338043/, lenta.ru/news/2019/06/17/bobkov/ and www.mk.ru/politics/2019/06/17/vydayushhiysya-chelovek-kem-byl-umershiy-general-kgb-bobkov.html.)
But for those who want to know more about his most significant role, mistreating and otherwise repressing Soviet citizens whose only crime was to have the freedoms promised by the Soviet constitution and that were their rights as human beings, see especially Yevgenia Albats’ The State within a State (New York, 1994).
A nation, it is often said, should know its heroes. It should also remember those who commit the worst kind of actions. Bobkov is one of the latter despite the efforts of the Putinist regime to keep him as one of the first.