The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan - review by Oleg Gordievsky

Oleg Gordievsky

Spooked Out

The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB


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This important monograph, written by a brave and talented team, is a history of the KGB (now called the FSB) over the last fifteen years. It covers, if not always explicitly, the full range of the organisation’s interests: strengthening the state and weakening society; gradually infiltrating independent groups that might otherwise become unduly influential at some time in the future; creating the impression that Russia is actively opposed by a variety of aggressive, inimical forces (while simultaneously claiming that the Cold War is over); encouraging anti-Western attitudes (not least towards Estonia and Latvia); restarting the war against Chechnya; grabbing parts of Georgia (rather reminiscent of the annexation of part of Finland after the Winter War of 1939–40); controlling almost all the media, especially television (which is used as the main means of brainwashing the population), while allowing a few small critical voices to let off steam as in the post-Stalin Soviet period; arresting a few scientists and killing a few journalists from time to time to maintain an atmosphere of healthy anxiety among the intellectuals; purporting to struggle against various manifestations of vaguely defined extremism (thereby trying to give the impression that it professes a middle-of-the-road political outlook); using all manner of devices in an attempt to improve its own image, sometimes with the assistance of ‘useful idiots’ abroad; covering up its abysmal failures such as the theatre siege in 2002 and the massacre of schoolchildren and others in 2004; and resuming ‘active measures’ (influencing the governments) in foreign countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Austria and Britain, as in Stalinist times. In other words, the book is not only about the FSB but also, and inevitably, about contemporary Russia and the prospects for the Russian state and Russian society.

The authors provide us with a great deal of detailed information about the FSB and its institutional mindset. Of exceptional importance is Appendix 1, which details the structure of this vast organisation. How vast it is remains one of the major state secrets – a sure sign that

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