Today we continue reading Evgeny’s Krutikov’s op-ed on the dissolution of the KGB of the USSR. This all happened back in 1991, the so-called “Time Of Troubles” (Смутное время ) in modern Russian history. This is a long, but very interesting essay; which is why I have broken it up into such numerous chunks, and also added some content, such as the biographies.
In this segment of his essay, Krutikov speculates on the motives of those involved. The motives of Yeltstin and his inner circle (such as Gennady Burbulis, whose biography we discussed yesterday) are crystal clear. But what about men such as Vladimir Kriuchkov? What could have possibly motivated him to assist in the destruction of his own institution?
We briefly discussed Kriuchkov in an earlier segment. As the Chairman of the KGB of the USSR, Kriuchkov had met in a back room with Gorbachev and Yeltsin a few months earlier, on May 5 1991. They met and plotted to create a new KGB structure, just for the Russian Federation. Which, as we mentioned, was the only Union Republic which did not have its own KGB. Probably because it didn’t need one up until now.
To Kriuchkov at the time, did this just seem like a logical re-organization? After all, companies, business, and government agencies are constantly fiddling with organizational structures, trying to make things run more efficiently, no? Sometimes a department is merged with another; sometimes a new department is created.
Is this what Kriuchkov thought was happening? Just a normal reorg? Kriuchkov was a highly intelligent guy, he didn’t get to where he was by being blind deaf and dumb, so …. dubious. And Kriuchkov was not alone: There were many senior KGB officials who willingly marched off to the guillotine, like lambs to the slaughter singing a little ditty as they go. Again, one can only speculate who got to them; or what was going on in their brains at the time.
Born in 1924 in the city of Tsaritsyn, later Volgograd, later Stalingrad, later Volgograd again, Vladimir Alexandrovich Kriuchkov served as a young man in the Great Patriotic War, in an artillery unit in Stalingrad. In 1943 he joined the Communist Youth affiliate, the Komsomols, and rose through the ranks, all the way to Central Committee of the Komsomol. At the end of the war he entered Law School, and continued his work in the leadership of the Stalingrad Komsomol. From 1946-50 Kriuchkov established his career as a Prosecutor and graduated from Law School in 1949. For a couple of years he worked as the Prosecutor in Kirov. Expanding his career, in 1954 he completed post-graduate work in the School of Diplomacy under the Foreign Office of the USSR, and was assigned to the European Division of the Foreign Office. He was fluent in Hungarian and German. From 1955-59 he was stationed in the Soviet Embassy in Hungary, and “participated in the Hungarian events” of 1956. Kriuchkov’s diplomatic career continued to specialize in the arenas of Hungary and Romania, where he worked with local Communist and Peoples Parties to help spread Soviet influence.
One can speculate, that during his years abroad, Kriuchkov might have seen up close that certain peoples, such as Hungarians and Romanians, were not fond of Russians nor of the Soviet Union. Who knows? Maybe he started to think that the system he supported would not be able to keep these other peoples as good friends indefinitely.
Be that as it may, in the years 1965-1967 Kriuchkov worked his way up to Assistant Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Working directly under Yury Andropov. Who, according to certain conspiracy theorists, was an American mole in the Soviet power structure; but that is just rumor and gossip. All we really know about Andropov, from that particular angle, is that (1) government corruption skyrocketed on his watch; and (2) America’s Time Magazine named him “Man of the Year” in 1983, along with his co-Man Ronald Reagan. Make of that what you will. Keeping in mind the general rule that Americans only honor Russians when they are either (1) agents of influence, or (2) being self-destructive.
Kriuchkov soon followed Andropov into the KGB (USSR) and continued to be his Deputy in that capacity. For the next decade, Kriuchkov continued his career in the KGB. Towards the end of the 1970’s Kriuchkov played a key role in the Afghan War. Not as a soldier himself this time — Kriuchkov was already in his 50’s — but as a geo-political strategist. Kriuchkov was involved in the dirty business of assassinating President Hafizullah Amin, whom the Soviets suspected of being a CIA mole. Again, people read something into that, and there is a whole line of conspiracy theories, according to which the Soviets were suckered into Afghanistan as part of an elaborate Westie trap. Not sure I would go that deep, but in any case, Kriuchkov continued to be involved in Afghan political intrigues, he travelled all the way to Kabul and helped to persuade the new leader Babrak Karmal, to take early retirement and go gently into that good night, rather than face the same fate as Amin.
Again, all of this “wet work” and “moist work” may have had a psychological effect on Kriuchkov. Convincing him that the Soviet Union was losing its grip on all its former allies. Which it was, although a lot of that was just self-fulfilling prophecy. On a more positive note: On October 1, 1988 Kriuchkov attained the apogee of his political career: Chairman of the KGB of the USSR. And a year later: member of the Politburo of the Communist Party USSR.
And we know the rest: It seemed like Kriuchkov was going along like a good doobie with Yeltsin’s scheming. But then something turned around in his craw, and he started to fight back: Just a month after that backroom meeting with Yeltsin-Gorbachev, Kriuchkov suddenly stood up in a session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, denounced “agents of influence”, and threatened to call a State of Emergency. He had realized that the USSR itself, his native Fatherland, which he had served for decades, was in mortal peril.
In August 1991 Kriuchkov fought back along with the “putschists” resisting the Yeltsinite counter-revolution. He was arrested on 22 August and tossed into a prison cell. The so-called “President of the USSR” Mikhail Gorbachev kicked additional sand into Kriuchkov’s face by signing a decree relieving him (Kriuchkov) of his post in the KGB. During his interrogation, Kriuchkov denied that he had plotted to get rid of Gorbachev. But it only took two days to break the man: Soon enough Kriuchkov was penning a confession denouncing the putsch as “anti-government” and dubbing his own actions “criminal”. Three years after Kriuchkov’s death (in 2007), Kriuchkov’s then-attorney Yury Ivanov, appearing on a talk show on Channel 5, claimed that Kriuchkov’s “confession” had been penned under psychological duress. Duh!Kriuchkov had been kept in isolation for 3 days, not allowed to see a lawyer, and with the radio on all the time, and people spouting on the radio what a horrible “butcher” he was. This was enough to break him. Heck, it would break anybody except maybe Stirlitz. Stirlitz would have just sneered and cracked some joke. Like: “Me a butcher? That reminds me: Did I leave that lamb flank in the oven all night?”
Next: Krutikov goes on to list all the ramifications and draw lessons for future generations.
[to be continued]