Russia's Higher Police

Whether Czarist or Soviet, the Russian intelligence elite has always conceived on itself as the "most loyal" servant of "the Russian idea." Now one of their own is president.

Issue: Spring 2002

SO MUCH HAS changed in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union that it is easy to overlook some things that have not changed. One of the most significant of these constants is the continued importance of an intelligence elite that has existed within the Russian state for nearly 200 years, both as a corporate body and, more importantly, as a current of thought endowed with a distinctive identity and self-assured sense of national mission. This elite calls itself "the Higher Police" and, as things have turned out, it is largely in charge in today's Russia.

As it happens, the historical continuity of this elite can be traced, its self-conception can be charted, and its impact on the actions of the Russian state, yesterday as well as today, can be assessed. Such tasks are critical to understanding contemporary Russia and Russian foreign policy. It is to such labors, at least in their preliminary stage, that this essay is directed.

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