Volume XIV Number 3 (March-April 2004)


By Richard Staar (1)

Several recent developments strongly suggest that Vladimir V. Putin is laying the foundations for a regime that would be dominated completely by a nationwide network of Federal Security Service (FSB) officers that would continue to function even after his second term as president expires in 2008.

The foundation for this development can be found in Presidential Decree No. 960, the text of which appeared without fanfare last summer. (2) This 5,653-word document supersedes five previous decrees concerning the secret police that had been issued between 1998 and 2001.

The same 2003 legislation, cited above, states that the president of Russia "directs activities of the FSB," whereas the government only "coordinates" them. Basic tasks of the FSB include administration of [police] organs and [military] troops; informing the president of threats to the security of Russia; counter-espionage against foreign countries and individuals, threatening the security of Russia; and coordination of federal executive organs involved with counter-espionage and domestic security.

Seventy-four specific FSB functions are listed in this decree, which also describes the duties of its director, who is appointed by the president of Russia. The document ends with an outline of the current FSB structure. This includes the statement that "administrative sections exist in the armed forces and security organs," which represents official reestablishment of the Soviet political commissar system throughout the military establishments.

The last provision suggests that Putin may be worried about the possibility of a coup d’Ètat by the officers corps in the armed forces that could lead to his ouster. As a product of the former KGB and current FSB, he realizes that only the armed forces represent a potential threat to his own position as well as that of the secret police.

The Ruling Elite

An interview with Olga V. Kryshtanovskaia (3) about her research at the Institute of Sociology in Moscow elicited important data concerning the new governing class or federal-level elite. About 24 percent of these "inherited" officials have been replaced by Putin. One-fourth of the newcomers are from St. Petersburg, home town of the president. Most of these replacements have military, law enforcement, or security police backgrounds. The last category dominates.

Officers from the armed forces and internal affairs ministry comprise 15 percent of the Federation Council and are heavily concentrated in the national-level Security Council (more than one-half hold military rank). Seventy percent of the staffs that serve presidential representatives in the seven federal districts are men in uniform. They coordinate all military, law enforcement, and security agencies that operate throughout these districts.

Military and police officers occupy one-fourth of all government staff positions, a powerful "clique" in certain key ministries like communications, industry, economic development, and especially defense and internal affairs. An estimated six thousand FSB officers already occupy higher government positions. (4)

Most civilian ministries in Moscow have at least one deputy minister from the military or police. On the average, almost 25 percent of all central government officials come from the armed forces, security services, and law enforcement. (5) At the same time, the percentage of these employees with university diplomas dropped from 52.2 in 1993 to only 21.0 in 2003, ten years later.

Progress toward consolidation of this vertical bureaucratic hierarchy can be seen in Table 1, based on data accumulated by Professor Olga Kryshtanovskaia. This expert suggests that, since government and media are now under Putin’s control, only the business world remains as the last target. Success there would complete central domination over the economy.

The foregoing pertains to executive authority in Russia. Legislative control had to await elections to parliament, which took place on 8 December 2003. Results could have been forecast in advance. Some twenty-three political parties were represented. Of the 225 parliamentary seats, the pro-government movement United Russia took 117 as well as 105 of the 223 single-mandate districts.

Described by Putin as "free, honest, open, and democratic," his assessment varied from that of some five hundred Western observers sent by the Council of Europe as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Both of these organizations concluded that the extensive use of the state apparatus and media favoritism to benefit the largest pro-presidential party had made the results a foregone conclusion. Putin can count on at least 300 seats in the 450-seat national legislature, or Duma. (6)

Perhaps even more significant is the earlier-cited presidential edict, which provides the Federal Security Service with oversight regarding

implementation of federal laws, presidential instructions, government decisions, and international agreements; preparation and enforcement of government programs; neutralization of threats to national security; counter-espionage; organized crime and attempts to seize power; special forces to combat terrorism; organization of police and armed forces to defend borders; defense of economic zones; protection of state secrets; security within the armed forces and other military formations; defense of the national security complex, nuclear industry, transport, and communications; and security over secret police organs.

This document lists seventy-four functions to be exercised throughout the eighty-nine administrative regions and the armed forces as well as other military organizations. See Table 2.


Regardless of whether Putin’s new legislature will modify the constitution and permit him to run for a third term, the system in place will not be changed. By the year 2008, the FSB’s tentacles will have spread to such an extent that nothing short of a revolution will be able to dislodge its control over the government and indeed the people of Russia.



Table 1

Military Personnel in Elite Groups (percentages)

Year Security Council Government

1988 4.8 5.4

1993 33.3 11.4

1999 46.4 22.0

2002 58.3 32.8


Source: Iurii Vasil’ev, "Glavnaia tema: Operativniki-plokhie strategii,"Moskovskie novosti, no. 26 (14 June 2003), p. 2.



Percentage of Siloviki* in Elite Groups

Presidencies Government Personnel Top Leadership

Gorbachev (1988) 5.4 4.8

Yel’tsin (1993) 11.4 33.3

(1999) 22.0 46.4

Putin (2002) 32.8 58.3

* former officers of the army, interior ministry, security services, and Office of the Prosecutor General

Source: Olga Kryshtanovskaia, Anatomy of the Russian Elite (Moscow), as cited in Arkady Ostrovsky, "Putin Oversees Big Rise in Influence of Security Apparatus," Financial Times (London), 1—2 November 2003, p. 3.



(1) Richard Staar is a senior fellow in the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. During calendar year 2003, he taught in the political science department at San JosÈ State University. He wishes to thank Ms. Molly Molloy, Slavic Reference Librarian, for locating some of the sources in this article.

(2)Ukaz Prezidenta ot 11 Avgusta 2003, no. 960: "Voprosy Federal’noi sluzhby bezopasnosti R.F.," Rossiiskaia gazeta, no. 161 (15 August 2003), pp. 1—24.

(3) Anatolii Kostiukov, "Vlast’ tsveta khaki," Nezavisimaia gazeta, 19 August 2003, pp. 1—2.

(4) "Chekisty vo vlasti," Novaia gazeta, 14 July 2003, p. 2.

(5) Seth Mydans, "Putin Extends Power in Parliament,"

New York Times, 30 December 2003, p. A-7.

(6) Elena Ovcharenko and Evgenii Umerenkov, Komsomol’skaia pravda, 20 December 2001, p. 8; interview with Nikolai P. Patrushev, FSB chief.


Copyright ISCIP 2004
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