PRAVDA.Ru had an interview with Gennady Gudkov – former KGB attendant, currently a representative of the Russian legislative power. We talked abut the present, the future of our country, what should be done to make Russia a super-power, which obstacles are on that way.
Question: Mr. Gudkov, you used to be employed in the Moscow department of the KGB. The dissidents called your place of work “Gestapo,” thinking that every third person in the country was spied upon. To what extent is the up-to-date Russian society free in comparison with the society of that time?
Answer: I think you mixed two KBG services here. My department was working on the residents of the NATO countries, I was personally in charge of Germany and Austria. As far as Gestapo is concerned, like you mentioned it, then we had that secret police only in the 30s. But you have to realize here that the security is an instrument of the politics, and nothing more. In 1937 NKVD (the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) turned to the punitive board, and it did not happen just because it wished for it – it was ordered so. The security bodies of our country did not perform the functions of the secret police of the Third Reich, the Gestapo. The statements from the dissidents were not correct. Speaking about the freedom in the USSR, in Russia now, I personally think that the major problem of the society is not the security bodies, but its mind-set, which allows to do anything with the people, to make them obedient and quite. I would not say the Russian society is free now, it is suppressed by the red tape, not by the security services of the country.
Q: So, you think that the democratic slogans of the coup d’etat in the USSR in 1991 were right, but the people, who did not care about their own country, used them in the wrong way; they only wanted to make their pockets full.
A: A classic writer once said that the noble ideas of the past are used by mean people of the present, this often happens in the world. The most sincere issues of Christianity, like tolerance, brotherhood, love, were used by the inquisition and crusaders against those, who had other faith. The idea of socialism is a beautiful idea of social equality and justice, but it was used by the people, like Stalin, who was mentally unbalanced, for the creation of the monstrous governmental system. The democratic ideas that were in the air at the end of the 80s in the USSR, were perverted after 1991. The shameless and dishonest politicians got everything they wanted, became rich, while the majority of the population grew poor.
Q: Were the people relieved of the tapped phones? Of the tough control over their activity?
A: This has never been a problem of the people, living in the USSR. There were a lot more of the tapped phones in Germany at that time, in comparison with the USSR. The Germans did not actually have any problems, in spite of the fact the German, English, French, American special services were spying on them. A friend of mine used to say she sometimes heard a strange sound in the phone receiver, while she was on the phone with someone, and she thought her phone was tapped. I do not think it was really so, I guess it is about stereotypes that work very well in such situations. When we were doing those tapping works, there were very few of the tapped phones, and only in large cities; there was nothing of that kind in the Moscow region, for example. The issue of the tapped phones was exaggerated a lot. There was a certain number of those, who were controlled, but there were very few of them. We were spying on the spies, and this is the global practice. The break up of the USSR was not only the collapse of the country – the inner state mechanisms were ruined too, the country was gripped with chaos.
Q: Was the secret-service a link in the KGB’s work to tap the dissidents?
A: Yes, the secret-service was dealing with the majority of that information. There were some funny occasions sometimes. When I was on the probation period as a counter-intelligence agent in the 5th service of KGB, I saw the reports, in which it was said to disconnect a phone of an object of shadowing in order to complicate his work. It was even almost impossible to do that. The chief of a phone station could disconnect a phone for two weeks only, maybe for a month, saying there was a breakdown on the station, something came out of order. But then, a phone was operable again, in a month time. About 15-20% of the population was tapped in Germany at that time, whereas the figure was 0.1-0.2% in the USSR. It is a very big difference.
Q: Terrorism started growing in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Do you think the break up of the state and the special services made its contribution to that? Could our society suppose ten years ago, to what extent terrorism would grow?
A: I think a lot of people did not understand, what will come out of the break up of a super-power. A lot of journalists, who were standing for the freedom of speech and democracy, could not even imagine, what will be the end of that. Some of the most famous journalists were killed. This was the way they paid for the unreasoned and wild policy of those, who came to power after the Soviet Union went to pieces. Democracy is a form of power, and it does not mean there will be no system to control certain procedures in the country. Those, who were developing the state security system, they were doing it deliberately, they had an extensive plans for the future. The majority of the people did not realize that, and what would happen in the end. It is a paradox that we are the enemies to ourselves. There is no other nation like us in the world – no one has caused so much damage to themselves like we did, having destroyed such a powerful country.
Q: Did the state bodies become corrupted after 1991?
A: The USSR has always been corrupted, but not the KGB. There was no KGB agent, who could take a bribe – that was our strength. We did not betray our people, there was no information drain. For the time being, the corruption is a great evil in Russia. It makes all other negative things grow and flourish. Criminality is becoming a norm. Unfortunately, it penetrated into the state security bodies too, but it is much lower in comparison with other law-enforcement bodies. The Ministry for Internal Affairs is the most corrupted department to date. There are a lot of reasons for that disease of the society, but the major one is of the economic character. I know a lot of honest attendants of the military departments, who would like to report about the infringements. But they doubt in the honesty of their chiefs, which makes them do nothing in that respect. When they look around and see others stealing, they think about it – if they have to remain honest, if they can not get enough food for their children. This is getting bigger and bigger. It is even a usual thing to think that way: if everybody steals, then why shouldn’t I do it?
Q: So those unsolved assassinations, the support of the terrorists in Chechnya are also connected with the corruption?
A: I have not been to Chechnya, but my friends from the Federal Security Service, who served their, said the Russian soldiers in Chechnya say this toast, when they drink: “Let’s drink for not to be killed by our people.” There has always been the issue of corruption in the military structures. Corruption kills all the moral values in a person, and makes him do everything for money. Anything can be sold, but those, who sell, they do not care about the killed children, explosions, hostages and so on.
Q: Do you think that those people, who were at power since 1991, are guilty of the might of such Russian oligarchs like Berezovsky, Gusinsky?
A: Yes, they were deliberately setting up the system of selection, when you could get rich only if you had someone, who had the power. The system of corruption, swindling and bribery was especially strong in the 90s. The people, who made it, gained a huge income.
Q: Do you think that the fight between the supervisor of the president’s Security Service, Alexander Korzhakov and the mentioned oligarchs, was nothing, but the clannish fight for the state property?
A: Korzhakov was a bright chief of Yeltsin’s security, but as soon as he started dealing with the political activity, the corruption touched upon him too, but not too much as I think. A lot of his subordinates could gain profit from his position, there were a lot of scandals around Yeltsin’s security services.
Q: As you are a deputy of the Russian parliament, what do you think should be done to stop the corruption, especially in the military structures?
A: The first thing to be done is to deprive the officials of the power levels in the business field, to pass several laws, which will help to get rid of the excessive red tape. There should be a legal reform, in order to control the court, to avoid bribery, especially when it comes to the economic disputes. It is also necessary to raise the wages of the law-enforcement officers, to the attendants of the military and governmental structures. The state services are very valuable for the country. If the state can secure its statesmen, then they will be doing their work well. There is no place for bribery in the state machine, the president should know it. I do not know Nikolay Aksenenko (the Railway Minister) in person, maybe he is a good minister, but if there have been 50 criminal cases instituted in the ministry, then one can only guess, what is going on in other ministerial departments.
Q: So, if there are the facts, which prove that a minister is involved in plundering and other dirty affairs, then, he should account for it?
A: Of course, but this is not the main thing. Our society does not have a system or levels to control the power currently. The executive power is getting more advantages in comparison with other branches of power. The parliament and other legislative assemblies in our country are powerless. This must be changed. The president, not matter how correct he is, is not able to control all the military and other departments alone. All the military departments in the West are controlled by the president, contrary to Russia. As long as there is no control over the officials, the corruption will keep growing.
Q: Should the budgetary funds be controlled as well? When the premier makes a speech in the parliament, saying the money has been transferred to the regions to pay wages to the budget-related workers, the deputies from those regions say they have not received anything. What is that?
A: I believe everything is supposed to be clear in this respect. For example, I do not support the idea of the closed budget of the military departments, when a minister decides, where the money should and should not go, and the deputies can not say anything. The money, assigned to the Defense Ministry, for instance, could be used for building the houses for the military men, but it can be also spent on other kinds of buildings, where the military officials will entertain themselves with stripping girls. I do not mean we should dig in the affairs of the Internal Affairs Ministry, of the Federal Security Service, there are the legal fields for the activity of those departments, and the parliament should know them.
Q: What is currently happening in the military and industrial complex? Is there the brain drain there?
A: Unfortunately, there is. But this complex has not yet been sold, thank God. They are trying to launch this process though, with the help of Ilya Klebanov, a Russian vice-premier, who thinks that the foreign investments in the Russian military and industrial complex can raise the Russian defense industry. If you believe the statistics, then 70% of our military and industrial complex are in a difficult situation, manufacturing the production, in which there is actually no demand. But there are 500 successful enterprises, and they must remain in the state section of the economy. When they say that the country can not be governed, I do not think it is true. The country can be governed, but it is governed in the interests of a large bureaucratic machine that is trying to subdue even the president.
Q: The deputies of the Russian parliament considered the law, which banned the advertising of terrorists, but there were some offers to prohibit journalists from travelling to the hot spots. Do you think it is fair?
A: It goes about different values here. The objective journalism is of course good. But sometimes the journalists put all the dirt on the front pages of the newspapers, trying to get hold of a cheap sensation; they charge the Russian army of everything, causing big damage to Russia in the international scale. I can not agree with that. The USA is now showing a way to sell the information from the hotspots. They do not display dead bodies or bombed villages on their television. The journalists agreed with those things, the authorities told them, and now they are on one and the same position. I agree, there were some television journalists, advertising terrorists. Our television makes too many reports about the ways to kill, how to commit a crime and the like.
Q: Getting back to the subject of the special services, I would like to remind you of an incident, which happened at the office of the newspaper Version (Versia), when the Federal Security Service agents came there and took away their computers after the newspaper published the materials regarding the sunk Kursk sub and the article that was called “The Entire Army of the President.” KGB would need a warrant for that – does this law still work in Russia now?
A: I believe in such actions of the law-enforcement bodies, it could really happen, but it is hardly a political decision.
Q: Is it possible, because there is no law about the efficient activity of the Russian security bodies?
A: No, it was probably a personal initiative, someone was afraid of something. They could negotiate with the Federal Security Service to check for any discrediting material. This was not a political decision, it was statesman’s fear. Such an official can negotiate with any military body, having the power and money.
Q: Can the attendants of the private security organizations be used for such operations?
A: The private security organizations take care of their own image, they have people, weapons, defense technology, and they do not have the public authorities.
Q: As far as I could guess, you believe in President Putin and his team?
A: It is not about Putin as the President of the country, he is a certain figure, a symbol for a definite change within the society. He is certainly a wilful, vigorous, young, he has a lot of good ideas. But he has serious adversaries, Boris Berezovsky and other oligarchs have invested a lot of money to bring down Putin’s milieu. The adversaries of the current changes are rather serious people, the groups of oligarchs with huge capitals. They are supervising the mass media, provoking for the anti-Putin controversy, since we do not have the independent media.
Q: Are the Western analytical, political, financial circles interested in this controversy?
A: Why not? I do not think there is someone in Russia, wishing to see Russia as a powerful state, the ideological wars will last forever.
Gennady Gudkov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/01/17/35652.html