A Cry from a Jar of Spiders By Grigory Pasko, journalist Kommersant recently published an article entitled “We must not allow warriors to turn into traders”, written by the head of the Federal Service of the Russian Federation for Control of the Circulation of Narcotics, Viktor Cherkesov (English translation here). This is a kind of response by one of the highly-placed chekists in Putin’s Russia to the recent arrests of several high-ranking officials with the Federal Service of Narcocontrol, as the agency is popularly known. In the Russian media, these arrests have already been called a “war of the special services”. In the opinion of Cherkesov himself, this is the result of the non-independence of the Investigative Committee. It is noteworthy that Cherkesov, the brave warrior, never did write just exactly who the Investigative Committee recently created by Putin is dependent on.
Pasko: Cherkesov’s article is like Yaroslavna’s lament
In my opinion, all this – both the arrests of the Narcocontrol generals and Cherkesov’s exercises in letter-writing – are the essence of the manifestation of the degradation of Putin’s style of running the country. The infamous “vertical of power” has shown its rotten core. The whole problem is that the “KGB hook”, about which Cherkesov writes, and which, in his opinion, is what saved Russian society from total disintegration, and which was the prototype for this “vertical”, was also rotten right from the start. It goes without saying that Cherkesov never admits this. It’s all fine and dandy to muse on how the corporation of chekists are God’s chosen people, while forgetting about one’s own personal involvement in the hounding of innocent people. Or has Cherkesov forgotten about his role in the persecution – just as one example – of the ecologist Alexander Nikitin? Mr. Cherkesov is offering us – Russian society – not a restoration of democratic principles of state-building, but his own, as he writes, “not the best, but ‘compatible with life’, scenario”. It consists, according to Cherkesov, of “completing construction the corporation and providing, with its help, for long-term stability and gradual escape from deep socio-cultural depression”. As near as I can guess, he’s referring precisely to the corporation of Chekists, of whom in today’s Russia around 80% are found in power. Completing construction of the corporation? Hasn’t its construction already been completed in the form of the “vertical of power”? Or is this “battle of the spiders in a jar” the uncompleted construction of the corporation that he means? Thus will such battles always be in the system of universal secrecy that has become the style in which the country is run. Because there is no openness in power, there is no competition in the naming of officials, there is no real role for an opposition, there are no independent media and courts that could serve as a counterbalance to the uncontrolled special services and at least as some kind of arbiters in the “battles of the spiders”. Mr. Cherkesov writes that he understands that “in this scenario there are huge risks. Including the danger of transforming a great country into a quagmire on the model of the worst Latin American dictatorships with their social closedness and neo-feudalism… Besides negative, corporatism can also be positive.” Of course it can. But not here and not now. Not with Putin and not with Cherkesov. They have already demonstrated to us enough their commitment precisely to “a quagmire on the model of the worst Latin American dictatorships”. Mr. Cherkesov also writes that any corporation (including a chekist one), in order to be healthy, has to “be a keeper of norms”. Moreover, in the opinion of the chekist Cherkesov, “it is preferable that these norms be not only internal, but also nationwide”. In my day, I had the experience of studying these very norms of chekist legality, morals, etc. that they continue to boast about to this day. No thanks, spare me the prospect of the transformation of chekist norms into nationwide ones. Rampant unprofessionalism; a “laws don’t apply to us” attitude; total disregard for the fates of people, not to mention their lives; masquerading as democrats; a desire to line their own pockets with riches at the expense of the resources of the whole country – there’s their corporate norms for you. But Cherkesov’s article, that’s a “Yaroslavna’s lament”. A cry from the jar in which the spiders are kept.