Russian History


Secrecy Laws

The passage of a new secrecy law in 1993 indicated that the Yeltsin government was not prepared to abjure the protection of state secrets as a rationale for controlling the activities of Russian citizens. The secrecy law of 1993, harshly criticized by human rights activists, set forth in detail the procedure for labeling and protecting information whose dispersal would constitute a danger to the state. The concept of secrecy was given a broad interpretation. The law prescribed secret classifications for information on foreign policy, economics, national defense, intelligence, and counterintelligence. However, a more specific description of the classification process, including which specific types of information were to be classified as secret and which agencies and departments were authorized to classify information, was to be made public at a later date.

In general, the security police under Yeltsin do not use secrecy laws to prosecute individuals, but there have been exceptions. In October 1992, officers from the Ministry of Security arrested two chemical scientists, Vil' Mirzayanov and Lev Fedorov, for having written an article on current Russian chemical weapons research in a widely circulated daily newspaper. The article's revelation was embarrassing to the Yeltsin government because Russia had claimed it was no longer conducting such research. Although Mirzayanov was brought to trial in early 1994, public and international protest caused the Yeltsin government to release him two months later. In a landmark decision, the procurator's office awarded Mirzayanov about US$15,500 in damages for having been illegally detained.