Staunton, December 14 – From the very beginning of his time in power, Vladimir Putin has viewed the 30 million Russian speakers living abroad as key promoters of Moscow’s interests abroad. In that, Rimma Polyak says, he has followed the Soviet tradition of putting his intelligence agency, the FSB, in charge of dealing with them.
In a detailed article for Vestnik Civitas, an online project she heads, Polyak points out that in the ramified system of government and nominally private organizations, Rossotrudnichestvo, the Federal Agency for CIS and Compatriot Affairs and International Humanitarian Cooperation, is the most important (vestnikcivitas.ru/pbls/4248).
That agency, she writes, is the successor of the Russian Center for International Scientific and Cultural Cooperation which existed between 1994 and 2008, which in turn was the successor of the Russian Agency for International Cooperation and Development which existed between 1992 and 1994.
These agencies continue the work of the Union of Soviet Friendship and Cultural Ties with Foreign Countries that was set up in 1958, a group that traces its origins to the All-Union Society for Cultural Ties with Abroad that was founded by the Bolsheviks in 1925, Polyak continues.
In Soviet times, all these agencies were under the control of the Soviet intelligence services from the OGPU in the 1920s to the KGB in the last decades of the USSR. “In post-Soviet times, nothing has changed in that regard,” Polyak says; and “Rossotrudnichesto can be considered a subdivision of the FSB ‘under cover.’”
That is something that matters profoundly because that organization has 98 representation offices in 81 countries, maintains 74 Russian centers for science and culture in 62 countries, and has 24 representatives in embassies in 22 countries. This year, Moscow allocated publicly 9.5 billion rubles (150 million US dollars) for its work.
In her article, Polyak details the alphabet soup of organizations the Putin regime has set up to work with Russian speakers abroad whom it hopes to make use of, a network so ramified that it confuses and is intended to confuse those who focus on only one part of it and who thus fail to understand the way the Kremlin is using all of them to one degree or another.