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The Morning Vertical, December 22, 2017


The Cheka. The GPU. The NKVD. The MGB. The KGB. And the FSB.

The Kremlin's secret police have gone by many names. And this week, they had a birthday.

Throughout the year, Vladimir Putin's regime studiously avoided celebrating dates associated with the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

But the centenary of the founding of the Cheka -- the original Soviet-era secret police -- was another story entirely.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we look at the cult of the Chekist in the Russian imagination, the Kremlin's selective use of history, and the role of the Russian security services going forward.

Joining me will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, head of its Center for European Security, and author of the forthcoming book Vory: Russia's Super Mafia; and Andrei Soldatov, co-founder of the investigative website and co-author of the books The New Nobility: The Restoration Of Russia's Security State And The Enduring Legacy Of The KGB and Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators And The New Online Revolutionaries.

So be sure to tune in later today!


Amnesty International says groups that defend LGBT rights are facing a rise in hostility in parts of the former Soviet Union, fueled by discrimination, homophobia, and what it called Russia's crusade against "nontraditional sexual relationships."

The Associated Press reports that Russian hackers targeted more than 200 journalists globally in the same way they allegedly went after U.S. politicians and intelligence figures.

Police in Moscow today searched the homes of three activists of an opposition group called Protesting Moscow.

Despite rocky relations, London and Moscow should be able cooperate on global security challenges, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said as he began the first visit to Russia by a British government minister in five years.

Serbia is negotiating the purchase of military helicopters from Russia in one of several possible new Russian arms purchases that could heighten tensions in the Balkans.

The State Duma has ratified an agreement with Syria to extend Russia’s lease on a naval base at Tartus for 49 years.

The U.S. Justice Department says its decision to require RT to register as a foreign agent under a decades-old law was prompted in part by conclusions from the U.S. intelligence community about the state-funded Russian TV network.

The United States has imposed financial and travel restrictions on 52 government-linked people from Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, under a U.S. law aimed at human rights abusers and corrupt officials worldwide.

The European Union has formally prolonged economic sanctions against Russia for six months over Moscow's aggressive actions in Ukraine.

A draft order released by the Russian Justice Ministry suggests that the government may decide to label all media outlets receiving foreign funding as "foreign agents."

A Moscow court has ordered Pussy Riot punk protest band member Maria Alyokhina to perform 40 hours of community-service work as punishment for a protest she staged at the headquarters of the Federal Security Service.

Ukrainian tycoon Ihor Kolomoyskiy says that a London court's freezing of assets held worldwide by him and his partner, Hennadiy Boholyubov, in connection with trouble at Ukraine's largest lender, PrivatBank, is only "temporary."

An aide to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman has been detained on suspicion of being an agent of Russia's Federal Security Service.

Ukraine's military said today that one of its soldiers was killed and two wounded in the previous 24 hours in the eastern part of the country.


The Cult Of The Chekist

Timur Olevsky of Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, looks at the role of the FSB in Putin's Russia.

Postmortem On The Ulyukayev Verdict

In an op-ed for The Moscow Times, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague and author of the forthcoming book Vory: Russia's Super Mafia looks at the guilty verdict and eight-year prison sentence in the trial of former Economics Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev and concludes that it "heralds the end of Putinism."

The Deadliest Soviet Scientist

In The Atlantic, Sam Kean looks at the legacy and renewed popularity of Trofim Lysenko, "the Soviet era's deadliest scientist."

The Political Editor

In his column for, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin looks at the political role played by Ekho Moskvy editor in chief Aleksei Venediktov.

Cultural Politics

In a piece for, Andrei Arkhangelsky looks at the cultural politics of 2017 and argues that Fyodor Dostoevsky's "underground man" became the main news maker of the year.

Crimea's Prospects

In a blog post for Ekho Moskvy, economist and political commentator Vladislav Inozemtsev looks at potential futures for Ukraine's Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

Six More Years

In Intersection magazine, Anton Barbashin offers a blueprint for how the West should prepare for six more years of Putinism.

Aleksei Navalny exposes the Paris real estate holdings of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov's wife.

Roginsky On Stalinism

Arseny Roginsky, a founder of the Russian human rights group Memorial, passed away last week. This 2008 essay on Stalinist attitudes in Russia is well worth reading today.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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