FSB General Mikhaylov: “The interior ministry and FSB evaded the dialogue with the society”
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs turns 85
10 July is a significant date in the history of law enforcement structures of Russia — 85 years since the founding of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). On 10 July 1934, the Central Executive Committee of the USSR (CEC) adopted the resolution “On the formation of the All-Union People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs”. Realnoe Vremya is publishing the author's column of the retired FSB General Alexander Mikhaylov where he tells about the past of the NKVD, the role of this organization in the history of the country, as well as today's distrust of the Russians to the law enforcement agencies.
“It's not just punitive agencies”
The NKVD was a powerful and strong organization that was responsible for a wide range of affairs, sometimes not related to law enforcement or special services. For example, the NKVD included the Main Directorate of Highways, Main Archive Directorate, Main Directorate of Public Utilities. It was the system with broad powers and rights, and most importantly — it was very powerful in terms of the number of people working in it.
At the same time, unfortunately, we are more focused on issues related to '34-38 years, which is probably not very correct. The thing is that the NKVD is not only punitive bodies. The structure of this organization included border troops, internal troops, that is, the entire system of infrastructure security was in the hands of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs.
Of course, we understand that between the October Revolution and the creation of the NKVD was a short period of time and, unfortunately, in this structure there worked not only good lawyers — an impressive proportion was uneducated or poorly educated public, which came with a revolutionary fervour to protect the interests of their country. But given the fact that this organization was directly subordinated to party organs, in fact, it was an armed detachment of the party. Consequently, the NKVD was not so free in its actions — it was very dependent on the decisions that were taken from above.
Given the fact that this organization was directly subordinated to party organs, in fact, it was an armed detachment of the party. Consequently, the NKVD was not so free in its actions — it was very dependent on the decisions that were taken from above
“They began to punish both those who were guilty and those who were not guilty”
In addition, I would like to note the atmosphere of those years. For some reason, we forget that not so little time passed between the civil war and the events related to the creation of the NKVD. A significant part of the people who worked in the NKVD went through the civil war. This is the most brutal war, which to some extent levelled human life. The whole atmosphere in our society was black and white: on the one hand — we, and on the other — the enemies. In this case, very often the concept of “enemies” was interpreted quite widely.
A certain point of no return, in my opinion, was the murder of Kirov in 1934. After that, the society, which with great respect treated Sergey Mironovich, demanded to find and punish murderers. Under this “accordion”, they began to punish both those who were guilty and those who were not guilty. At that time, there was an atmosphere in society that required a quick, momentary enforcement of the sentence. Therefore, the NKVD as a punitive tool met the then existing requirements of the society.
It was a very difficult period associated with the expansion of repression, and I must say that the former leadership in the person of Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda went into oblivion, and in his place there came Nikolay Ivanovich Yezhov, who was known as 'Spiky Mittens'. He was trying to establish order in the country. At the same time, a significant part of the staff who served in this organization did not share the misanthropic views of Ezhov himself and his henchmen. As a result, they were as much victims as those subjected to political repression. In Kommunarka alone, there were killed about six thousand people. This was the place where the political leadership, the NKVD leadership — the people who brought these “gravediggers” to power — were shot.
The situation just went in cycles: on the one hand, society requires immediate punishment, the more punished, the stronger the appearance of a large number of enemies of the people... Roughly speaking, the flywheel of repression started to work.
A certain point of no return, in my opinion, was the murder of Kirov in 1934. After that, the society, which with great respect treated Sergey Mironovich, demanded to find and punish murderers
The NKVD was responsible not only for the repressive policy of the party — the organization solved many other tasks. The 1937-1938 years — is the forerunner of the Great Patriotic War, respectively, intelligence agencies that existed in the system worked very actively and implemented its agents in Germany and other countries that supported Hitler's socialism. When we started to lump everything together, it turns out that the NKVD is an evil, vile structure that was only engaged in killing people. This is not quite true, and maybe that’s not true at all. At the same time, no one absolves it and the party of the responsibility for mass repressions.
During the war, the NKVD troops proved to be very good. In October-November 1941, Moscow was defended by two divisions of the organization. Moreover, the NKVD took the first blow because almost all the border guards who stood on the Western border died defending the borders of their country.
“Sometimes we turn to the law enforcement system — literally in the void”
From the past I would like to return to the present: a recent survey conducted among our citizens showed that people are wary of law enforcement officials. I think it's an objective feeling, but it's not that simple. That structure, which was created in the time of Andropov, has changed significantly. Unfortunately, we note that many of the processes that are taking place are far from what we would like them to be: billions found, gangs, various provocations. Of course, nobody likes it.
The worst, in my opinion, is the other thing. If we talk about the police, people often do not find support there: they come with statements that are simply not accepted. They report that their lives are in danger, but they are replied: “When killed, then come.” Therefore, today there is a great distrust of many structures, despite the fact that they have heroic, brave guys who fight terrorism, catch spies and deal with serious problems of ensuring the security of strategic facilities.
Sometimes we turn to the law enforcement system — literally in the void. This is the worst
All this is very subjective, and subjectivism is formed here not only due to that people are faced with the internal affairs bodies, but also with the unfavourable background that is now around them. By the way, this disadvantage is explained by avoiding by the interior ministry and the FSB of the dialogue with the society. They have withdrawn into their shell within the framework of their public councils, which, by and large, are the most empty, meaningless establishments.
I started serving in 1974, and there were still people who fell under the repression or suffered from the cruelty of the period of the ‘30s. Nevertheless, even in those years, our special services and the law enforcement system were engaged in the dialogue with society. Today they are closed and thus further aggravate the situation around their image. Sometimes we turn to the law enforcement system — literally in the void. That's the worst part.
Returning to the NKVD, I want to say that in those years this organization was very active with the society, and not only in operational terms. Even then, the security forces understood the need for dialogue with society. Moreover, we all understand that without citizens it is impossible to form their personnel reserves. It’s important. But it is just unserious to sit in the sink and monitor on the topic: “Do they trust us or not?”