Letter From the Editors: Dec. 18 - 31, 2017

Author: Laurence Bogoslaw

All Histories Are Created Equal - But Some Are More Equal Than Others.

If you have any friends who are conspiracy theorists or propaganda aficionados - or even just fans of George Orwell’s "Animal Farm" (who isn’t?) - you should show them this issue of the Digest.

The first feature offers key sections of a long interview with Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of Russia’s Federal Security Service. The occasion for this conversation was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bolshevik counterrevolutionary commission dubbed the "Cheka" - which Bortnikov calls the first Russian intelligence agency "organized into a unified system under a single command." Although Bortnikov acknowledges the "excesses" of the early Soviet years, he praises the accomplishments of the Cheka’s successors - the NKVD (headed by the famous Lavrenty Beria), SMERSH (which performed "brilliant counterintelligence operations") and the KGB. Historian Nikolai Petrov takes issue with a number of these claims; for example, he condemns SMERSH as a "punitive body" that executed 70,000 people who were not spies, but mainly dissidents.

In the modern era, Bortnikov lauds the FSB for reducing terrorist activity in Russia by 90%. Former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, who currently heads the Russian Security Council, corroborates this figure in a separate interview. On the other hand, Ivan Davydov links the FSB’s self-promotion to new legislation that allows individuals in Russia, not just media outlets, to be labeled as foreign agents. "Mr. Bortnikov’s glorious predecessors had tons of experience cracking down on foreign agents, for whom social networks were break rooms at workplaces or their own kitchens. [Those foreign agents were] people who tirelessly spread information on behalf of foreign states and in turn ended up six feet under or in Siberia laboring for the Motherland."

Andrei Miroshnichenko identifies a similar (though not officially authorized) paranoia in the American media, which have been in a frenzy for over ...

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