Russia and the Cult of State Security

The Chekist Tradition, From Lenin to Putin

By Julie Fedor

© 2011 – Routledge

292 pages

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Paperback: 9780415703475
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About the Book

This book explores the mythology woven around the Soviet secret police and the Russian cult of state security that has emerged from it.

Tracing the history of this mythology from the Soviet period through to its revival in contemporary post-Soviet Russia, the volume argues that successive Russian regimes have sponsored a ‘cult’ of state security, whereby security organs are held up as something to be worshipped. The book approaches the history of this cult as an ongoing struggle to legitimise and sacralise the Russian state security apparatus, and to negotiate its violent and dramatic past. It explores the ways in which, during the Soviet period, this mythology sought to make the existence of the most radically intrusive and powerful secret police in history appear ‘natural’. It also documents the contemporary post-Soviet re-emergence of the cult of state security, examining the ways in which elements of the old Soviet mythology have been revised and reclaimed as the cornerstone of a new state ideology.

The Russian cult of state security is of ongoing contemporary relevance, and is crucial for understanding not only the tragedies of Russia’s twentieth-century history, but also the ambiguities of Russia’s post-Soviet transition, and the current struggle to define Russia’s national identity and future development. The book examines the ways in which contemporary Russian life continues to be shaped by the legacy of Soviet attitudes to state-society relations, as expressed in the reconstituted cult of state security. It investigates the shadow which the figure of the secret policeman continues to cast over Russia today.

The book will be of great interest to students of modern Russian history and politics, intelligence studies and security studies, as well as readers with an interest in the KGB and its successors.


"Fedor’s study also makes inroads into the subject of historiography and Putin’s fierce desire to rewrite history. It demonstrates why an authoritarian regime needs to forge a past and a memory, and impose it on the narod, ‘the people’, kept under pressure to be Russian, orthodox and loyal to Putin. The motivations for the Pussy Riot singers’ trial and conviction in 2012 are all exposed in this book … written before the actual event." -Marie Mendras, Sciences Po, France; International Affairs 89: 1, 2013.

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Soviet Chekism 1. Dzerzhinsky’s Commandments 2. Late Soviet Chekism: The Changing Face of Repression under Khrushchev and Beyond 3. Screening the Historical Chekist 4. Screening the Contemporary Chekist Part 2: Post-Soviet Chekism Introduction 5. Re-Inventing Chekist Traditions 6. The Cult of Andropov 7. Securitizing the Russian Soul. Conclusion

About the Author

Julie Fedor is a Research Associate on the project 'Memory at War: Cultural Dynamics in Poland, Russia and Ukraine', in the Department of Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge. She has taught modern Russian history at the Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Melbourne and St Andrews, and has a PhD from King's College, Cambridge, where she was a Gates Scholar.

About the Series

Studies in Intelligence

The growing interest in intelligence activities and the opening of hitherto closed archives since the end of the Cold War has stimulated this series of scholarly monographs, wartime memoirs and edited collections. With contributions from leading academics and prominent members of the intelligence community, this series has quickly become the leading forum for the academic study of intelligence.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Law Enforcement
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Intelligence