We continue working our way through Krutikov’s op-ed about the events of 1991, which led to the liquidation of the Soviet KGB.
The process itself was clear, as were the motives of those leading this process: This was a struggle for personal power, as well as an ideological struggle. The elements surrounding Boris Yeltsin had picked him as their leader and flag-bearer. Yeltsin, the First President of Russia nurtured a bitter grudge against the Soviet structures which had pushed him aside. And against his political rival, Mikhail Gorbachev. Yeltsin’s career had been thwarted in the Communist Party and Soviet arena; now he tried his act on a different stage. His ideological hatred for Communism was probably genuine, as was the case with much of the Party’s top Nomenclatura. They looked around, they travelled to the West; they saw that their counterparts, Western politicians and functionaries, could become immensely wealthy in the service of their capitalist elites. While they, Soviet functionaries, enjoyed distinct privileges, but not actual wealth. Not the kind of wealth where they could live like jet-set millionaires and pass their villas down to their offspring. Hence, the goal of Yeltsin and the people around him was to disentangle Russia from the socialist state and the Soviet Union; and to convert it into a capitalist nation in alliance with the so-called “Free World” of the United States and Europe. They themselves, the architects of this process, would become the new “compadore bourgeoisie” and finally begin to live the life of wealth and power of which they could only dream.
But this dismantling had to be done “delicately” – and not in a single day. For starters, the masses out there had to be kept in the dark, what was actually going on. The process was relatively swift, but took place in logical stages. The intermediate goalpost was to get the Russian Republic seceded and separated out from the USSR. A crucial power organ such as the KGB, where the line between “what is Russian?” and “what is Soviet?” were not always clear, was in much need of Separationist Shock Therapy.
As Krutikov remarks, Yeltsin quite logically and systematically built his own KGB, starting with those 14 guys in the back room of the White House. Throughout this entire process, Yeltsin’s Guiding Angel and right-hand-man was a guy named Gennady Burbulis.
Who Was Gennady Burbulis?
According to his biography, Gennady Eduardovich Burbulis was born in 1945 in the city of PervoUralsk. In the hinterlands of Eurasia, very distant from Moscow but quite close to Yekaterinburg, in the heart of the Ural Mountains. As his surname indicates, Burbulis was part Lithuanian – on his father’s side – but people shouldn’t read too much into that. Gennady’s paternal grandfather Kazimir Antonovich Burbulis, had emigrated from Lithuania to Russia in 1915, two years before the October Revolution, and was most likely a lefty, as was their whole family.
In fact, Gennady was born to be an ideal Soviet man: Finishing middle school, he got a job as a mechanic in a factory; quite normal in this industrial heartland of Russia. At the age of 19 Gennady went into the army (serving out his obligation to the Fatherland in an explosives unit). From 1969-1973 he studied in the Urals State University and graduated with a degree in Philosophy. In 1971 he became a member of the Communist Party. Communist Party membership was most likely required for what Gennady did for the next 10 years: He taught Dialectical Materialism and Marxism-Leninism as a Lecturer in the Urals Polytechnic Institute. Continuing his academic career, he received his Doctorate in Philosophy, and from 1983-1989 was the Head of the Social Science Department at a technical institution in Sverdlovsk.
One can only speculate here, but it is possible that Gennady’s study and teaching of “Dialectical Materialism” is what turned him into a class traitor. By post-Stalin times, the once-vibrant doctrines of Hegelianism and Marxism had become just rote memorization and repetition in the Soviet institutions. Instead of actually developing and debating the Materialist philosophy, students and professors were simply chanting it, like some kind of obscure slogans in an ancient tongue, which had nothing to do with their current lives. No new ideas were being created on the Socialist side of the aisle; and an entire generation of dissidents, disappointed by the poor economic performnce of their Soviet homeland, was mocking anything to do with Marxism or Socialism. Instead, they looked out at the decaying zombie mobs of Western Imperialism, and believed that they saw something alive and wonderful.
During the height of Gorbachev’s “Perestroika” campaign, which set out to reform the Communist Party from within, Burbulis engaged himself in a political club called “Discussion Tribune”. This is the first inkling we have that he had any ideology other than the standard Party one. In 1989 Burbulis entered the national stage when he was elected as a People’s Deputy of the USSR. Somewhere in the period 1989-1990 Burbulis became close with Boris Yeltsin (who was also from the Urals region, coincidentally or not), and entered into the latter’s inner circle. Burbulis conducted Yeltsin’s campaign for the Presidency of the Russian Soviet Republic. Under the Yeltsin Presidency Burbulis served as Secretary of State. Burbulis was right there in the thick of everything and always at Yeltsin’s side, as they fought to detach Russia from the Soviet Union. He was known as Yeltsin’s “Grey Cardinal”; Americans would say, his “Consigliere”, like Tom Hagen was to Don Corleone.
It was precisely Burbulis who bucked up a sometimes-self-doubting and prone-to-drinking Yeltsin: Convinced him to finalize the dissolution of the USSR by signing the Belovezha Accord. It was Burbulis who pushed onto a sometimes-reluctant Yeltsin the notion that Yegor Gaidar and his team of economists, along with their plans for “Economic Shock Therapy” was precisely what Russia needed at that time. It is probably in the relationship between Burbulis and Gaidar that one can detect any sort of logic or pattern to the Burbulis life-story. In any case, Burbulis faded over the years, like all the Yeltsinites, yet his biography shows that he still lives, and teaches at the so-called International University of Moscow, which is some kind of American project, created by President George Bush Daddy and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in the 1991 heyday. The purpose, obviously, being to create handshakeable Russian “cadres” for politics and journalism, of the pro-American brand.
Types like Burbulis are completely understandable, in their own way. But Krutikov expresses puzzlement at the motivation of other actors such as Vladimir Kriuchkov. What was in it for them? Why did they collude to destroy the KGB of the USSR, an institution to which they had previously professed their loyalty?
[to be continued]