Within Vladimir Putin's administration there were three main factions vying for power: the technocrats, the liberals, and the siloviki siloviki (literally, strongmen). The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, as of June 2008 was the de facto leader of the technocratic party. Of the three groups the siloviki was the most powerful during the Putin administration.
The term siloviki is taken from silovye struktury, Russian for force structures. These "force structures" were the intelligence agencies, armed services and the law enforcement agencies. Siloviki literally means an official, present or past of one of the previous agencies. Still, not all high-level members of the silovye struktury belonged to siloviki and not all siloviki were products of the silovye struktury. The word came into usage and developed a colloquial meaning referring to members of one of the bureaucratic divisions centered on Viktor Ivanov, one of Putin's advisers, Nikolai Patrushev, the director of the Federal Security Service, or Igor Sechin, the deputy head of the presidential administration. These three men formed the core and had the most influence over decisions made in the Putin administration. The second level was made up of those who were members of smaller and less important bureaucracies and private businesses. The third level was made up of those who were working their way up through the bureaucratic systems, or were in the regional government and deputies.
In 2000 "siloviki war" was a contest between groups of agents of the old Services and the inner circle of the already powerful Putin. The losers were the men of Viktor Cherkesov, who lost against the siloviki Nikolai Patrushev and Igor Sechin. The "liberal siloviki" later supported Dimitri Medvedev as Putin’ successor in 2008.
As of 2006 more than ten agencies within the Russian government were controlled by the siloviki with another seven under partial control.
The rise of the siloviki was thought to have taken place alongside the destruction of the Yukos Company. Yukos was the largest petroleum company in all of Russia and was charged, tried and convicted for tax evasion. Yukos' founder oligarch Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky was sentenced to ten years jail. It was thought that the company was destroyed so that the remnants could be taken by a government owned company and so some siloviki could target Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky. The founder was known to provide money and support to left-leaning political parties and as an oligarch was the target of the siloviki.
The siloviki had shown to be an extremely tight knit group that even supported marriages between various siloviki families. The bond that holds them together is their shared political philosophy and a sense of duty that it is their job to help Russia. As was written in a pamphlet by a very prominent siloviki Viktor Cherkesov "We [siloviki] must understand that we are one whole. History ruled that the weight of supporting the Russian state should fall on our shoulders. I believe in our ability, when we feel danger, to put aside everything petty and to remain faithful to our oath."
The siloviki believed in a highly centralized system of political and economic power structure. They favored a stable state run on law and order over one with a strongly active civil and democratic society. The group believed in having large security and defensive organizations. The state should have a strong hand in dealing with the economy, strategic secters should be under the control of the State. Globalization was viewed as a dangerous trend and companies should be protected from possible dangers resulting from global competition. Foreign investment in natural resources, should be limited.
The Siloviki also want to be rid of the oligarchs who became extremely rich durring the 1990s. As Putin said, they should be "eliminated as a class." Much of the Russian populace were not happy with the oligarchs and started supporting the Siloviki in their attempts to reduce their influence or eliminate them. The group had also been able strike a chord with the people, in that they have the characteristics that Russians tend to look for in their rulers. According to Inna Solovyova, a Russian cultural historian, Russians historically gravitated towards leaders that are reserved, firm, slightly mysterious, and authoritative.
Internationally, the siloviki supported a return to the glory and respect the Soviet Union demanded. In their eyes NATO remained an external threat that continued in its attempts to undermine Russia and force the collapse of the state even after the fall of the Soviet Union. To protect from that threat they supported a strong and advanced military, as well as pushing for former Soviet nations to remain as reincorporated into Russia as much as possible.
They tended to be highly nationalistic, xenophobic and occasionally anti-Semitic, which led to their highly conservative views concerning immigration. Concerning the role of church in the affairs of state, the Soliviki took the view of the more conservative members within the Russian Orthodox Church. The groups supported the Russian Orthodox Church and integration of the church into daily life and had gave vast sums of money to the Church itself. "Next to the FSB building in Lubyanka Square stands the 17th-century church of the Holy Wisdom, 'restored in August 2001 with zealous help from the FSB,' says a plaque. Inside, freshly painted icons gleam with gold. 'Thank God there is the FSB. All power is from God and so is theirs," says Father Alexander, leader of the services at the church.
The Siloviki historically suffered from the fact that they had almost no experience with electoral proceedures and demorcary, thereby sightly limiting them in their ability to participate and compete. Given their backround in the silovye struktury they also had very little experience with public relations or with how to correctly run a business, although they represented powerful positions in some of the largest and most influential companies in Russia.
Putin transformed the Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN / FDCS] into a sort of second FSB in the mid-2000s. This move put the two intelligence services into competition, allowing Putin to rely on either one as the situation demanded, playing each against the other.
The long-simmering rivalries in Putin's inner circle surfaced dramatically on 09 October 2007 in a newspaper article by head of the Federal Narcotics Service's (FSKN) Chairman Viktor Cherkesov. Cherkesov complained, in the national daily newspaper Kommersant, about those siloviki who had become businessmen instead of soldiers for the state and he lifted the lid on the power struggle among the Kremlin-centered elite. He also credited the intelligence agencies for having steered Russia through the difficult 1990s, and argued that circumstances dictate that they remain at the wheel for the foreseeable future.
Most commentators viewed Cherkesov's article through the lens of his ongoing conflict with Presidential Administration Deputy Igor Sechin and FSB Chief Patrushev. They saw the arrest that preceded its publication as revenge for the FSKN Chief's role in the "Three Whales" furniture stores and Chinese goods corruption probes, as well as the ouster, in summer 2006, of then-Prosecutor General Ustinov, all of which undercut the FSB. Some also collaterally believed that the arrests were intended to trim the sails of Cherkesov, who they guessed would either be appointed to the vacant post of Secretary of the Security Council, put in charge of a consolidated, multi-ministry criminal investigative agency to be created after the new year, or replace Patrushev at the FSB.
The future of siloviki power, however, was no longer as certain after Putin's presidency as it was during it. They had lost some power because Puttin picked Medvedev for the presidency. It was thought that Putin felt that the siloviki were becoming too powerful, therefore to balance their power he picked Medvedev, a technocrat and also very liberal minded, to switch the balance of power. This being said, Putin was given the role Prime Minister of Russia, and such capacity weilded enormous power in how state funds are allocated and he continued to be very sympathetic to Siloviki. Given the large cross-over of cabinet members from the Putin to the Medvedev administration it was highly likely that the Siloviki would maintain a good amount of power in the Medvedev administration and beyond.
In a government marked by experience and continuity, President Medvedev nominated a new cabinet 13 May 2008 that leaves the "Zubkov" cabinet largely intact. The biggest surprises of the day came from appointments within the security services. In addition to the replacement of Justice Minister Ustinov, Medvedev announced that both FSB head Patrushev and Federal Drug Control Service Cherkesov would lose their jobs. The two have been involved in a behind the scenes struggle for influence, with "embarrassing" behavior - such as Cherkesev's letter in 2007 complaining about the conflict between the services. Patrushev will move to the empty chair of the Secretary of the Security Council, a probable comfortable sinecure, and will be replaced by Army General Aleksandr Bortnikov, the deputy head of the FSB and Director of the Department of Economic Security at the FSB since 2004.
With the return of Putin to the presidency in 2012, the siloviki also returned. Putin intended as early as his return to the Presidency in 2012 to bring peace to the vast community of the siloviki, a highly fragmented community. A variety of new security formations were created to manage and prevent problems of public order, combat terrorism, take actions against "extremist" groups such as Chechen gangs, and an to prepare for future protesters in future "color revolutions". Russia's numerous siloviki, who constitute Putin's power base, are still squarely behind him.
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