- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

Russia's intelligence services, with one of their own in the Kremlin and a reform-battered public yearning for order, are enjoying something they never knew under the old Soviet system a surge of popular approval and prestige.
"Members of the security services are not only proud of themselves, they are also sure they have come to power in the past couple of years," said Sergei Grigoryants, head of the Glasnost Foundation, a Moscow-based human rights watchdog.
"Their possibilities seem unlimited right now," added Mr. Grigoryants, who was a dissident during the Soviet era. On June 7, he was detained for five hours by the FSB, the primary successor to the notorious Soviet KGB, before being allowed to depart for a conference in Washington.
But aside from a few liberals and human rights activists, the newly assertive and openly tough-talking FSB appears to be meeting mostly with public approval.
A tracking survey conducted over the past eight years by the independent VTsIOM public opinion agency found that positive "confidence" in the security forces among Russians has gone from a post-Soviet low of 44 percent in 1995 to almost 60 percent last year.
President Vladimir Putin and growing numbers of his top appointees are veterans of the KGB's foreign intelligence wing. The security forces are reviving some Soviet-era social controls and, despite a decade of life without communism, few Russians are objecting.
"Society is exhausted after a decade of tumultuous changes," said Alexander Gasparishvili, head of Moscow State University's social research center. "The Stalin-era abuses of the special services are far in the past. Now they are seen as the only incorruptible element of society, the ones who can fight crime and bring order."
Though Mr. Putin's year-and-a-half record in office is still sparse on the democratic reforms he espouses, there is no mistaking the upsurge in activity by the FSB.
A wave of high-profile treason trials instigated has targeted an American businessman, two Russian scientists, a diplomat and an environmentalist over the past couple of years.
Another example of the FSB's growing power is a recent directive to the Russian Academy of Sciences, requiring the country's 910,000 registered scientists and scholars to begin reporting their contacts with foreigners, at home or abroad. This Soviet practice was discontinued a decade ago, but surprisingly, at least some scientists want it back.
"There has been chaos in science, and many Russian ideas and technologies have been sold for a song to the West," said Sergei Blagovolin, deputy director of the official Institute of International Economy and World Relations.
Mr. Putin himself has never hidden his KGB past and has often spoken with pride about his service as an agent in East Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He said his work involved advancing his country's interests abroad and did not include domestic repression.
"What was cultivated in the security community and the intelligence community as the most important asset was patriotism and love of your country," the president said in an interview with Western journalists in June.
On Mr. Putin's orders, a plaque commemorating the first KGB official to become president, the Soviet-era leader Yuri Andropov, has been installed in a prominent place at the security service's headquarters in Moscow.


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