Former security staff land top posts in Russian government

February 2, 2007

A study by a leading researcher into post-Soviet power elites has found that four out of five political leaders and state administrators in Russia are active or former members of the KGB or successor security services.

Olga Kryshtanovskaya, the founder of the Centre for the Study of the Elite at the Russian Academy of Science Institute of Sociology in Moscow, said there had been a huge expansion of influence by the KGB and the Federal Security Service, the former's key successor - in recent years.

In forthcoming research, she details how the country's President, Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy chief, has overseen a rapid rise in the number of security service appointments to key positions throughout Russia.

"The study traces the rise in influence of the security services and is currently being prepared for publication," Ms Kryshtanovskaya told The Times Higher .

The study builds on earlier research that suggests the appointments are part of a deliberate policy to concentrate power among the siloviki , as the powerful clique of ex-secret service officials are known in Russian.

Research published by Ms Kryshtanovskaya in collaboration with Stephen White of Glasgow University three years ago in the journal Post-Soviet Affairs showed that although top-level appointments of senior security officers to ministerial and other federal posts had attracted much comment, the pattern was even more strongly evident among deputy-level positions.

The study found that 35 per cent of deputy ministers appointed in the first three years of Mr Putin's presidency (2000-03) had a military or security background. The total number of military and security representatives at that time was some 25 per cent of Russia's political elite.

Ms Kryshtanovskaya's latest study shows that this has now reached some 78 per cent, nearly 20 times the number during President Mikhail Gorbachev's time in 1988, when it was just 4 per cent.

The increase over a comparative six-year period under Boris Yeltsin in 1993-99 was 11-17 per cent, the 2003 study showed.

The study supports anecdotal evidence that Russia is slowly returning to a strikingly similar functional profile to that found in the Politburo of Soviet times.

Ms Kryshtanovskaya's findings are borne out by other academic studies of the increasing centralisation of power in Russia.

Vladislav Inozemstev, an economist and director of Moscow's Centre for Post-Industrial Studies, said Russia's state employee sector has rapidly and massively expanded since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Today, the Civil Service employs some 5 million people and more than 15 per cent of the adult male workforce is directly employed by the Government in one way or another.

Civil Service budget allocations are growing at an unsustainable 20-25 per cent a year and account for 40 per cent of the federal budget and nearly 8 per cent of Russia's GDP, creating what he calls "an abnormal" economic burden.

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