Sunday, December 22, 2019

Many FSB Officers Accept Orthodoxy as a Substitute for Marxism-Leninism, Petrov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 20 – After the collapse of communism, many KGB officers who continued to work in the FSB “felt a certain vacuum as far as the motivation for service was concerned. They needed something to fill it,” Memorial’s Nikita Petrov says, and
“they weren’t able to find a better ideology than Orthodox faith.”

            Consequently, these officers “simply replaced the ideas of Marxism-Leninism … and continued their fight” but now not for “proletarian internationalism and the victory of the ‘progressive’ system” but rather for a set of ideas that “stressed the exceptionalism of the Russian Federation, its special path and special spirituality.”

            They can be legitimately called “Orthodox Chekists,” Petrov tells Yevgeny Senshin of the Znak news agency in the course of an extensive interview on the Russian holiday that falls on the anniversary of the formation of the Cheka (

            Even before the very end of Soviet times, he continues, “a number of highly placed KGB generals” had concluded that communism had “exhausted itself and “did not allow the construction of an isolationist and xenophobic” state like the one which today the Russian Federation has become. Of course, earlier, KGB officers didn’t advertise their change of faith.

            After 1991, there was a brief attempt to transform the KGB but it quickly failed: cadres remained the same, the state relied on them as had the Soviets, called them “chekists” which they very much liked, and gave the FSB control over the KGB files thus making the new security service the guardian of the old.

            Most countries have security services, and most security services employ similar methods, Petrov says. “But in present-day Russia, this arsenal is again being used above all for the suppression of any form of dissent and for the struggle with people who have expressed criticism of the powers that be.”

            At present, there are “certainly” some officers in the FSB who would like to see it become an intelligence service like the ones in Western democracies. “But I fear they are not so numerous,” Petrov argues.  And he says he remains pessimistic that the old guard will easily give way to a different approach.

            Even if orders come from above to behave differently, many officers will want to continue to work as they have been. They must thus be replaced via a thorough-going lustration process. Until that happens, the FSB will “work against the rights and freedoms of our citizens,” the Memorial expert says.

            What is especially worrisome, Petrov continues, is that the FSB has convinced many that it is fighting terrorism when it is in fact focusing its attention primarily on those who simply “are expressing their own opinion on the Internet.”  Counter-terrorism has thus begun in large measure “a struggle of the state with elements of civil society.”

            “In present-day Russia, the authorities are imposing on society a single view and intolerance toward the competition of ideas,” Petrov continues. And in such a state, the Chekists are “the administrative class” of the country.

            If things continue to develop in this direction, the Memorial expert says, then “the gap between the FSB and society will only increase,” a trend that history suggests can end in only one way, with “the collapse of the state.” Indeed, there are indications that this process is well-advanced.

            The population’s trust in the FSB and the regime it defends “is every less,” Petrov concludes; and as a result, “the most improbable events can occur which will suddenly change completely the political landscape in our country.”

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