This is the latest installment in our (W)ARCHIVES series, which presents something from the past – a declassified report, military document, memo, article, or photo – and considers it in the context of important contemporary issues.
The Russian government today is not exactly tolerant of dissent and it tends to see foreign plotters behind many dissidents.
Uniformed Russian Cossacks beat the anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot at Sochi in front of video cameras. At least one of them shouted at the band members that “you sold yourselves to the Americans.” In a similar spirit, Russian sports fans wanting to watch the Olympic ice dancing competition on television the other night were treated instead to a “documentary” entitled “The Biochemistry of Treason” which compared the United States to Nazi Germany and said that it sought the destruction of Russia. America’s method? According to self-styled historian Yuri Zhukov, it “is to create as many traitors as possible, who would be able to cooperate with the new occupiers.”
Plus ça change.
Thanks to the fine work of the Cold War International History Project, we can consider these minutes of a 1969 meeting between a senior KGB delegation and the East German Minister of State Security (the Stasi). The subject was the fight against “ideological subversion.” The KGB deputy chairman leading the Soviet delegation noted that Western intelligence services were behind the 1968 Prague Spring which the Soviet Army had recently suppressed. He added that the United States spent 100 times as much money on ideological subversion as Hitler’s Germany had done. One of his minions added that “major activities are launched by the enemy to influence the youth with the intention of instigating them to rebel against party and government.” He also referred darkly to the subversive role of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Not surprisingly, the East German Minister was in full agreement. “The enemy has already started the third ideological World War in the fourth dimension,” he said.
Aside from the fact that East Germany no longer exists, this document reads like today’s news. Russian President Putin clearly absorbed his KGB indoctrination in an exemplary fashion.
Mark Stout is a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks. He is the Director of the MA Program in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Photo credit: Ana Paula Hirama