Not Accidental Renaissance of KGB Namely in Belarus

Someting about historical and mental origins of the Soviet State Security Committee (the Russian acronym is KGB).

A Polish nobleman, professional revolutionary and founder of the All-Russian Special Commission (All-Russian Special Commission) Felix Dzerzhinsk on 20 December 1917 and Head of it until 1922, and thus the first Chekist and the pioneer of the Bolshevik terror, began to spread fear throughout Russia wight after he established this power structure.

From December 1918 the VCK pursued the policy of Red Terror adopted by Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin, which was described by the eminent Chekist Mārtiņšas Lācis in the journal Krasnyi Terror (Red Terror) in November 1918 as follows: “We are not fighting against individuals, but we are fighting to kill the bourgeoisie as a class (…) That’s the essence of Red Terror.“

The VCK was established not to administer justice, but to destroy enemies, and thanks to its activities, the country entered an era of lawlessness. The revolutionary tribunals that were set up replaced judicial investigators, prosecutorial supervision, the Bar, and were guided not by evidence but by revolutionary intuition – if the president of the tribunal decided that the enemy was in front of him,  nobody objected him.

At the beginning of 1922, when Felix Dzerzhinsky was sent to Siberia to deprive peasants of their bread, he did so in a particularly barbaric manner, treating those who refused to give up their rations like criminals. The VČK also cynically theorised the Orthodox Church and the churchgoers.

Even the more insightful Bolshevik leaders pleaded not to remove the relics of the most revered Orthodox saints Sergius of Radonezh, from the Lavra Trinity Monastery in Sergiev, after the Bolshevik government on 1 February 1919 took a decision in the matter of atheistic propaganda. The Chekists executed the order with unscrupulous harshness, which was egual to a spiritual diversion for the Russian churchgoers.

Felix Dzerzhinsky was saved by a natural death (heart rupture on 20 July 1926), and would probably have been liquidated by the Soviet regime same as many of the leaders of power structures.

The current Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation is the successor to the KGB, the organisational and mental successor of the VCS.

Now somehing about the persistence of the KGB mentality. According to the expert at the Philadelphia Institute for Foreign Policy Studies Stephen Blank,  one of the main problems the West still faces is that the core of ruling class of Russia (of course, we should start with the President) is made up of graduates of the KGB schools of some 40 years ago, with a worldview based on the doctrines of the Soviet leaders, Leonid Brezhnev and even Joseph Stalin.

Current rulers of Russia are not only implementing this system in the context of the 21st century, but they are believing their own lies.

According to the Russian political analyst Valery Solovey, strategy of Russia is determined by the people who have learnt the basics of the culture of policy making in the power structures, because almost all of them are their members – not only Vladimir Putin, who is a KGB defector, but also the highly influential Nikolai Patrushev, the chief of the Russian external intelligence service Sergei Naryshkin and the director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation Alexander Bortnikov. And so on.

According to the Bulgarian publicist Momchil Doychev, his country is an example of an “imprisoned state” on the grounds that there is evidence of recruitment by the KGB and the Russian GRU in 1987-1989 of some 3,000 Bulgarians, who are still holding leading positions in political parties, the legislature, the executive, the administration, the courts, the business world, the banking industry of Bulgaria  – in other words, everywere.

The Russian playwriter Alexander Gelman tells how, before becoming the president, Vladimir Putin spent four hours in a meeting with members of the Russian PEN Club explaining that the KGB certainly had a gloomy history, but there was no shortage of bright minds in the Committee, and that those minds understood the changes that were taking place, and did not hinder them, even though they could, if they did not approve them.

It should be recalled that Alexander Gelman is talking about the situation at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, when the current (and geopolitical) circumstances are completely different.

We can debate (on the details) the statement by the President of the Russian Institute for Economic Analysis Andrey Illarionov, that as long as there were so-called civilian (i.e. not from the power structures) business oligarchs, it was possible to talk about something like opposition to the Kremlin in Russia. As soon as they were liquidated on the basis of the algorithm against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the power finally went into the hands of those who retired from the KGB.

The situation in Belarus was similar, but without the civilian oligarchs, the power was in the hands of a person who runs the country primarily through the KGB from the very beginning.

The future dictator of Belarus Aliaksandr Lukashenka served in the frontier army of KGB near his home in Brest, even though it was a common practice during the Soviet era to transport conscripts further afield. This can also be seen as a sign that this particular conscript had special links with the structures actually involved in the distribution of soldiers. The KGB was certainly included in the small list of such structures.

During his service (first term 1975-1977) he worked as a political instructor, a position that was also shrouded in special KGB attention. The KGB did not abandon such people after their service – they protected them and helped them to make a career.

It is likely that the graduate of KGB Aliaksandr Lukashenka has not been and is not inclined to scatter this Soviet legacy, which is why it is worth mentioning that the Minsk KGB school (originally in Lviv), established in 1946 (and later the KGB Higher School under the Council of Ministers of the USSR), together with Moscow KGB Higher School called under Felix Dzerzhinsky, for many years was  one of only two KGB employee training centers in the whole Soviet Union.

We can also talk about a dialectical link of tradition – had it not been for the decades-long KGB employee training center in Minsk, Belarusians might not have “received” the most steady dictator in the post-Soviet area. On the contrary, the presence of a KGB employee training with a deep tradition of routinisation undoubtedly helped Aliaksandr Lukashenka rise, and continues to do so.

A clarification of how the Belarusian version of the KGB differs from the “root tradition” in Russia. Current affairs indicate quite convincingly that the Belarusian KGB starts where the Russian KGB ends or rather, has been forced to pause before a new phase of activity (repression).

Moreover, the Kremlin, dominated by power structures (but not entirely by the KGB), finds it convenient to have at its fingertips the perhaps atavistic, but effectively predatory Aliaksandr Lukashenka regime as a geopolitical “attack dog”, which would be the first to test its predatory methods, both at home and abroad.

Vladimir Putin, after all, drew on Aliaksand Lukashenka experience of chasing the protests of recent years – Moscow was “staffed” by officers brought in from the provinces, the city centre was separated by metal barriers, and its perimeter was guarded by “cosmonauts” in blind suits. People were joking  that it looked like Moscow was occupied.

A few facts about the activity of Belarusian KGB that have leaked into the public domain (despite the desire to remain emphatically “behind the curtain”).

On 21 December, the Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsyhanouskaya sent a letter to the CEO of Google asking him to draw attention to the abuse of YouTube by the Belarusian KGB. The politician cited more than 40 cases of interrogations and confessions of guilt of political prisoners filmed by the Belarusian security services and uploaded on YouTube.

The brutal interrogation methods and torture used by the Belarusian KGB are well-known, in connection with which Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya pointed out that the forced extraction of confessions contravenes the United Nations Convention against Torture.

In response to the politician, Vice President of  Google Karan Bhatia informed her that the company had removed the promotional videos listed, as well as the accounts on which they had been posted. But the members of the Belarusian KGB still managed to promote their methods.

A former Minsk airport controller Oleg Galegov who fled to Poland in the summer of 8 December, told journalists that the forcd landing of a Rynair passenger plane in May in connection with the arrest of Roman Protasevich, the former editor-in-chief of the opposition website NEXTA, which he had been a passenger, was in fact a KGB operation.

The controller was supposed to inform the pilots about the bomb on board and recommend to change the route (the aircraft was flying from Athens to Vilnius), but then the process was taken over by a KGB officer who was always in the control room, who was constantly on the phone informing the pilots about what was going on.

In his address to Poles on the occasion of Independence Day on 12 November, the President Andrzej Duda referred to the carefully planned hybrid attack launched by the Belarusian KGB against Poland and the whole Europe in the matter of destabilising the migrant situation.

On the eve of the event a spokesman for the Polish special services Stanisław Żaryn tweeted about preparation of migrants, especially children, residing in Minsk for propaganda campaigns, and how they are instructed, given slogans and trained by local KGB officers. “The game of emotions continues.” – S.Żaryn concluded.

Even the post-Soviet republics that remained in the sphere of influence of the Kremlin (including, if not primarily, Russia) got rid of the abbreviation KGB in their own time, but not Belarus.

According to the Belarusian political scientist Dmitry Bolkunets, while in the post-Soviet area there was a symbolic (renaming of street names, power structures, etc.) de-Sovietization in the 1990s, in Belarus the parliamentarians, who theoretically were supposed to have authorised the process, did nothing, or almost nothing, as many of them were retired from the communist party who avoided radical changes.

In Belarus, one can still find the Communist Party or Soviet streets or a monument to Vladimir Lenin in almost every city, and in Slanim, where Dmitry Bolkunets was born, there are five of them. Unfortunately, Belarus is like a reservation of the Soviet „Eden“.

The exhibition on the events in the Belarusian capital following the fraudulent presidential elections on 7 August 2020, which was unveiled at the Belarusian Independence Palace in Minsk on 1 November, includes a painting depicting the 23rd of August, the day of the most massive protests in Minsk, which gathered, according to different estimates, between 150,000 and 250,000 people.

The canvas does not show Belarusians protesting against the regime, but the dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka, led by his youngest son Nikolai, with a Kalashnikov in his hands, in the vicinity of the Independence Palace.

The exhibits included the machine gun itself, Aliaksandr Lukashenka uniform with the OMON symbol, the flag with the inscription “Za Bat’ku” (For the Batkha) etc.

It should also be recalled that on that unfortunate 23rd of August, the dictator, apparently in all seriousness, that is to say, “in his own way”, triumphantly declared that the protesters had run away like rats. They would come out when they saw him…

On  1 November, the day of honouring the dead, the content of the exhibition, as well as the context, shows that there is room for work in the direction of “ironing out” the absurd in the newest Belarus. Only in a necrophilic culture is it possible to pestification “retro” structures like the KGB.

Alexander Knyrovich, an IT entrepreneur who was persecuted by the Committee, spent 55 months in prison since 2017, and left his homeland after his release, said in an interview with Svoboda (13 December) that he had seen Felix Dzerzhinsky portraits in all the KGB offices in which he was questioned.

According to Boris Grozovsky, a columnist for the Russian online publication EventsAndTexts, the mmbers of the Kremlin KGB have carried out a symbolic act of revenge on the oldest Russian human rights organisation Memorial, founded by the academician Andrei Sakharov, which had been operating for 30 years, when they completed its destruction at the end of 2021, in ‘payback’ for the horrors they personally experienced during the 1987-1988 transformation and especially during the three days of the August 1991 putsch, the attempt to reanimate the USSR, when a monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky was removed from Lubyanka Square in Moscow, the site of the former KGB and now FSB headquarters.

Thirty years later, with unlimited power once again at their disposal, the Russian ex-members of KGB are revenging wherever possible, although the final bill, according to Boris Grozovsky, will be paid by all Russians.

The Belarusian KGB simply has no need to take revenge on anyone, so it starts where the “fatherly” Russian KGB had to return after a 30-year break. Therefore, the renaissance, therefore, not accidental.

Arūnas Spraunius

Voras Online
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