This past Sunday, as most of Russia focused its attention on parliamentary elections, the country’s most popular daily, Kommersant, broke news of a story that, if true, could have consequences that last far beyond this latest round of Duma reshuffling.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Kommersant, is planning a major overhaul of the country’s security services. The Russian daily reported that the idea of the reforms is to merge the Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, with the Federal Security Service, or FSB, which keeps an eye on domestic affairs. This new supersized secret service will be given a new name: the Ministry of State Security.
If that sounds familiar, it should — this was the name given to the most powerful and feared of Joseph Stalin’s secret services, from 1943 to 1953. And if its combination of foreign espionage and domestic surveillance looks familiar, well, it should: In all but name, we are seeing a resurrection of the Committee for State Security — otherwise known as the KGB.
The KGB, it should be remembered, was not a traditional security service in the Western sense — that is, an agency charged with protecting the interests of a country and its citizens. Its primary task was protecting the regime. Its activities included hunting down spies and dissidents and supervising media, sports, and even the church. It ran operations both inside and outside the country, but in both spheres the main task was always to protect the interests of whoever currently resided in the Kremlin. With this new agency, we’re seeing a return to form — one that’s been a long time in the making.