Book Review: “The New Nobility.”
Posted by democratist on October 6, 2010
6th October 2010,
Last night Democratist had the pleasure of attending a public lecture at the LSE by Andrei Soldatov, co-author of the recently released “The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB.” (PublicAffairs $26.95). This was followed by brief discussions with Dr Roy Allison from the LSE’s International Relations department (who chaired the meeting) and Irina Borogan, Andrei’s journalistic partner and co-author.
Democratist strongly recommends “The New Nobility” for its multiple insights into the ways in which the FSB has taken on a more central and powerful role in the politics and economy of the Russian Federation than the KGB was ever able to manage during the Soviet period, and the methods by which it has been able to weave itself ever more deeply back into the fabric of Russian political and economic life after the hiatus of the early 1990’s.
Among the many interesting points that Soldatov raised in his lecture, we were especially intrigued by his suggestion that, even in the late 1970’s and 1980’s many in the KGB (who were, of course far better informed about the real state of the USSR than almost any other group of citizens) began to see themselves not only as the successors and inheritors of Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka, but also of the Tsarist Okhrana, (tasked with insuring internal stability in the pre-revolutionary period). In Democratist’s opinion, this emphasis on the centrality of maintaining internal stability to the FSB’s work has become all the more apparent over the past decade.
Another key point that Soldatov and Borogan make (underscored in the book) is the way in which some former members of the FSB found employment, and were subsequently corrupted by their involvement with Russian oligarchs in the 1990’s, while other officially “retired” officers sought to reassert Russian state power by seeking to infiltrate Russian political and economic circles as members of the FSB’s so-called “attached reserve.”
However, the authors of “The New Nobility” make clear that many of the more senior (and therefore better paid) FSB reservists also soon became more loyal to the businesses which employed them than the security agency itself. Rather they suggest these generals and colonels came to see the FSB as a source of access to intelligence and personnel. This trend of placing former KGB/FSB staff in key positions has become more overt since 2000, and was extended as Putin cleared the way to appoint (presumably somewhat more loyal) former colleagues to man the “commanding heights” of the Russian state and economy.
Readers may also be interested to hear this interview Soldatov gave to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.