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The Daily Vertical: That Other 1917 Anniversary (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

So apparently the Kremlin doesn't think 1917 was all that bad after all.

Throughout the year Vladimir Putin's regime studiously ignored dates associated with the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The last thing they wanted, of course, was for Russians to have popular uprisings and coups on their minds in these times of rising discontent.

But yesterday's anniversary marking the centenary of the founding of the Cheka -- the original Soviet-era secret police and the predecessor to the NKVD and the KGB -- was another story.

In a Kremlin speech, Putin called the Cheka and its successors an "inalienable part of our history" and said those who served the secret police were "true patriots and defenders of the state."

And in a lengthy interview with the official Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov offered a remarkable defense of the mass purges, forced deportations, and gulag system that cost millions of lives.

The Stalinist purges, he said, had "an objective side" and a "significant number of criminal cases were based on factual evidence."

The Moscow-based journalist Leonid Ragozin tweeted that the Kremlin's celebration of the Cheka's centennial completes "a full journey from left-wing terrorism to far-right oligarchic junta."

The human rights organization Memorial issued a statement saying that the celebrations made a "mockery of the memory of millions of victims" of Soviet-era purges.

You can tell a lot about a regime from the parts of its history it chooses to highlight.

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