Close Protection: The Politics of Guarding Russia's Rulers

Close Protection: The Politics of Guarding Russia's Rulers

Close Protection: The Politics of Guarding Russia's Rulers

Close Protection: The Politics of Guarding Russia's Rulers

Synopsis

The evolution of elite personal protection units--also known as "close protection" units--within the former Soviet Union is one of the least examined, yet crucial political developments in this region. Due to the often-violent environment in which the political leaders of this region now operate, the need for these special military units is obvious. This study examines the similarities between these the current units and those of the Soviet past and finds that, in spite of the highly unstable nature of politics in post-communist Russia, these elite units have not intervened to the degree that many might have expected. They have, however, played a significant political role throughout the region.

Excerpt

This book is about the people who protect the Russian leadership, and before that who protected the Soviet Politburo. During the Soviet period, the elite bodyguards of the Ninth Chief Directorate of the KGB were the only people authorized to carry weapons around Politburo members. They and other specialized units were charged with keeping the leadership alive and the party in power. Consequently, they tended to be in close proximity to, and in some cases actually involved in, many of the key events of Soviet rule, including the 1991 coup attempt.

When the Soviet Union was dissolved later that year, the Russian Federation assumed control over almost all of the protection services and has even expanded some of them. The change in status and the reorganization has not, however, reduced their closeness to the centers of power, as the Russian units have also been involved in several major political incidents, including the storming of the Russian legislature by troops loyal to Russian president Boris Yeltsin in October 1993. It is this proximity, as well as their function, that allows for a relatively unique look at both Soviet and Russian politics.

In addition, given the close ties these forces have with the military, they also raise many questions that relate to what are known as civil-military relations, or how the army interacts with the government. The various protection forces were meant to keep the Soviet leadership not only alive but in power. This function of a bodyguard unit, more commonly known as a “palace guard,” also seems to have carried over into Russian politics; Yeltsin and other post-Soviet leaders have clearly fa-

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