Olga Kryshtanovskaya is a sociologist who dances with wolves. For
more than a decade she's been Russia's premier expert on the
political, business, and security elites.
But even Ms. Kryshtanovskaya says she's alarmed by her own recent
findings. Since Vladimir Putin came to power four years ago, she's
been tracking a dramatic influx into government of siloviki - people
from the military, the former Soviet KGB, and other security
services - bringing with them statist ideology, authoritarian
methods, and a drill-sergeant's contempt for civilian sensibilities.
"Whereas in the past people from security backgrounds generally
did jobs connected with state security functions," Kryshtanovskaya
says, "you now find them holding high office in just about every
ministry and government agency."
While many experts are concerned at the Putin-era invasion of
siloviki into the corridors of power, Kryshtanovskaya has generated
hard data. By her tally, about 60 percent of the inner circle around
Mr. Putin, himself a former KGB officer, are ex-military and
security people. About a third of government functionaries are
siloviki, as are 70 percent of the staffs working for the Kremlin's
seven regional emissaries.
Moreover, Kryshtanovskaya says that security men are deliberately
"parachuted" into high government posts in a manner that resembles
the Stalinist system of assigning commissars, or party watchdogs, to
keep tabs on professional managers whose political loyalties may be
suspect. For instance, Justice Minister Yury Chaika has four
deputies who are siloviki, Trade and Economic Development Minister
German Greff has three, and Communications Minister Leonid Raimon
has three. "Even the minister of press, Mikhail Lesin, has an FSB
general as his deputy," she says. "Just about every cabinet minister
has at least one."
This is not the first time Kryshtanovskaya, who founded the Elite
Studies Unit at Russia's Institute of Sociology in 1991, has sounded
the alarm about dangerous shifts at the summit of Russian society. A
decade ago her data warned that former communist functionaries had
moved into business, banking, and politics - a trend that she said
could inhibit the growth of institutions of democracy and market
economics. Now, she says, the flow of siloviki into government
portends "the emergence of tough, authoritarian politics."
The policeman's hand is already being felt in the tightening grip
on the media, the massive deployment of "administrative resources"
to back pro-Kremlin parties in elections, and the recent arrest of
"disloyal" oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Also, Russia's Education Ministry recently banned a previously
approved history textbook because the latest update included an
exercise asking students to debate whether Putin had established an
authoritarian regime in Russia. In a meeting with historians, Putin
defended the order, saying: "Textbooks ... must not provide grounds
for new political infighting. They should provide historical facts
and [inculcate] a sense of pride among the youth in their history
Another indirect sign of the siloviki's rising influence is a
campaign by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzkhov to evict hundreds of residents
from two downtown areas to provide housing and office space for the
FSB, the successor to the KGB. …