Russian History


Chapter 10. Internal Security

RUSSIA'S INTERNAL SECURITY APPARATUS underwent fundamental changes beginning in 1992, after the Soviet Union dissolved and what had been the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was reconstituted as the Russian Federation. These changes, initiated by the government of Russian Federation president Boris N. Yeltsin, were part of a more general transition experienced by Russia's political system. The state security apparatus was restructured in the period after 1991, when the functions of the Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti--KGB) were distributed among several agencies. In that period, the interactions among those agencies and the future course of internal security policy became key issues for the Russian government. As the debate proceeded and the Yeltsin government's hold on power became weaker in the mid-1990s, some aspects of the Soviet-era internal security system remained in place, and some earlier reforms were reversed. Because Yeltsin was perceived to use the security system to bolster presidential power, serious questions arose about Russia's acceptance of the rule of law.

In the same period, Russia suffered an escalating crime wave that threatened an already insecure society with a variety of physical and economic dangers. In the massive economic transformation of the 1990s, organized-crime organizations pervaded Russia's economic system and fostered corruption among state officials. White-collar crime, already common in the Soviet period, continued to flourish. The incidence of random crimes of violence and theft also continued to increase in the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, Russia's police were handicapped in their efforts to slow the crime rate by a lack of expertise, funding, and support from the judicial system. In response to public outrage at this situation, the Yeltsin government increased the powers of internal security agencies, endangering the protections theoretically enjoyed by private citizens in post-Soviet Russia.