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Chekism (from Cheka, the first Soviet secret police organization) is a term to describe the situation in the Soviet Union and contemporary Russia, where the secret political police control everything in society.


Soviet Union

The idea of the secret political police as a backbone of Soviet society was put forward by Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov, who wrote:

It is not true that the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party is a supreme power. The Political Bureau is only a shadow of the real supreme power that stands behind the chair of every Bureau member (...) The real power thinks, acts and dictates for all of us. The name of the power is NKVD—MVD—MGB. The Stalin regime is based not on the Soviets, Party ideals, the power of the Political Bureau or Stalin’s personality, but on the organization and the techniques of the Soviet political police where Stalin plays the role of the first policeman.

To tell that NKVD is a state secret police—means to tell nothing to the point. Intelligence Service is also a secret police, but in the eyes of the Britons its existence is as natural as the Health Ministry. To tell that NKVD is a body of mass inquisition also tells nothing to the point, because Gestapo also was a mass inquisition, although its chief Heinrich Himmler—would not be fit to serve as a sergeant of the Soviet State Security Service. To tell that NKVD is «a state within the state» means to belittle the importance of NKVD because this question allows two forces: a normal state and a supernormal NKVD: whereas the only force is Chekism. A state Chekism, a party Chekism, a collective Chekism, an individual Chekism. Chekism in ideology, Chekism in practice. Chekism from the top to the bottom.

These ideas were also shared by journalist John Barron, retired KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin, and researcher on KGB subjects Evgenia Albats. According to Albats, most KGB leaders, including Lavrenty Beria, Yuri Andropov, and Vladimir Kryuchkov, have always struggled for the power with the Communist Party and manipulated the communist leaders.

Commenting on the Soviet regime of early 1980s Yegor Gaidar writes: "Authority of the regime was based on the effective secret police." Along with that, "since 1968, before the death of Brezhnev, no weapons were used to suppress the dissent. The regime has learned to do without extreme forms of violence". According to the data provided by Gaidar, "In 1958-1966 people convicted for anti-Soviet agitation amounted to 3448. In 1967-1975, 1583 people were convicted. In 1971-1974, KGB "took care" of 63 thousand people. Potential dissidents must realize that their activities are known to the authorities and there's an alternative—to be jailed or to express loyalty to the authorities."

Contemporary Russia

According to former Russian Duma member Konstantin Borovoi, "Putin's appointment is the culmination of the KGB's crusade for power. This is its finale. Now the KGB runs the country." Olga Kryshtanovskaya, director of the Moscow-based Center for the Study of Elites, has found that up to 78% of 1,016 leading political figures in Russia have served previously in organizations affiliated with the KGB or FSB. She said: "If in the Soviet period and the first post-Soviet period, the KGB and FSB people were mainly involved in security issues, now half are still involved in security but the other half are involved in business, political parties, NGOs, regional governments, even culture... They started to use all political institutions."

The KGB or FSB members usually remain in the "acting reserve" even if they formally leave the organization ("acting reserve" members receive second FSB salary, follow FSB instructions, and remain "above the law" being protected by the organization, according to Kryshtanovskaya). As Vladimir Putin said, "There is no such thing as a former KGB man". Soon after becoming prime minister of Russia, Putin also perhaps somewhat jokingly claimed that "A group of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has successfully completed its first mission." Moreover, the FSB has formal membership, military discipline, and an extensive network of civilian informants, hardcore ideology, and support of population (60% of Russians trust FSB), which according to Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick makes it a perfect totalitarian political party.

Some observers note that the current Russian state security organization FSB is even more powerful than KGB was, because it does not operate under the control of the Communist Party as the KGB in the past. Moreover, the FSB leadership and their partners own the most important economic assets in the country and control the Russian government and the State Duma. According to Ion Mihai Pacepa,

In the Soviet Union, the KGB was a state within a state. Now former KGB officers are running the state. They have custody of the country’s 6,000 nuclear weapons, entrusted to the KGB in the 1950s, and they now also manage the strategic oil industry renationalized by Putin. The KGB successor, rechristened FSB, still has the right to electronically monitor the population, control political groups, search homes and businesses, infiltrate the federal government, create its own front enterprises, investigate cases, and run its own prison system. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. Putin’s Russia has one FSB-ist for every 297 citizens.

However, the number of FSB staff is a state secret of Russian Federation., and the staff of Russian Strategic Rocket Forces is not officially submitted to the FSB, although FSB might be interested in monitoring these structures, as they intrinsically involve state secrets and various degrees of admittance to them. The Law on Federal Security Service which defines its functions and establishes its structure doesn't involve such tasks as managing strategic branches of national industry, controlling political groups, or infiltrating the federal government.

A political scientist, Stanislav Belkovsky also defines Chekism to be an "imperial ideology" that includes aggressive anti-Americanism.

Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor of Vladimir Putin, describes contemporary Chekism as a new socio-political order (the Power Model), "distinct from any seen in our country before". In this model, members of the Corporation of Intelligence Service Collaborators [Russian abbreviation KSSS] took over the entire body of state power, follow an omerta-like behavior code, and "are given instruments conferring power over others – membership “perks”, such as the right to carry and use weapons". According to Illarionov, this "Corporation has seized key government agencies – the Tax Service, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, and the government-controlled mass media – which are now used to advance the interests of KSSS members. Through these agencies, every significant resource of the country – security/intelligence, political, economic, informational and financial – is being monopolized in the hands of Corporation members." The ideology of "Chekists" is "Nashism (“ours-ism”), the selective application of rights", he said.


Chekists perceive themselves as a ruling class, with political powers transferred from one generation to another. According to a former FSB general,

A Chekist is a breed. ... A good KGB heritage—a father or grandfather, say, who worked for the service—is highly valued by today's siloviki. Marriages between siloviki clans are also encouraged.

The head of the Russian Drug Enforcement Administration Viktor Cherkesov said that all Russian siloviks must act as a united front:

We [Chekists] must stay together. We did not rush to power, we did not wish to appropriate the role of the ruling class. But the history commanded so that the weight of sustaining the Russian statehood fell to the large extent on our shoulders... There were no alternatives.

Cherkesov emphasized the importance of Chekism as a "hook" that keeps the entire country from falling apart:

The country has survived a full-scale catastrophe in early 90-s. ... Some Chekists have quickly fell apart and parted the professional community. Some became traitors. Some have sweepingly become depraved. But a part of the community has nevertheless stayed. I won't discuss again what's the part and why did it remain intact... Falling into the abyss the post-Soviet society caught the 'chekist' hook. And hanged on it. ... Someone will say: “We saved the country from chekism!” In actuality, they will not have saved the country, they will have ruined it.


Political scientist Yevgenia Albats found such attitudes deplorable:

Throughout the country, without investigation or trial, the Chekists [of an earlier generation] raged. They tortured old men and raped schoolgirls and killed parents before the eyes of their children. They impaled people, beat them with an iron glove, put wet leather 'crowns' on their heads, buried them alive, locked them in cells where the floor was covered with corpses. Amazing, isn't it that today's agents do not blanch to call themselves Chekists, and proudly claim Dzerzhinsky's legacy?

"Chekism" has also been criticized as a modern Russian ideology that is actually very old. According to critics, its essence is very simple:

... the state is everything, people are nothing. Those who are against the state will be labeled as enemies of Russia and therefore enemies of the people.

In a February 2012 video statement issued by the “Emir of the Caucasus Emirate,” Dokka Umarov ordered those under his command to desist from attacks against Russian civilians arguing that protests in a number of Russian cities "show us that the population of Russia does not support Putin and that they, too, are exploited by these perverts … they are hostages to this Chekist regime also".


Chekism Wikipedia

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