Russian President Vladimir Putin has renamed an elite Russian police force after the founder of the Soviet KGB Felix Dzerzhinsky. Notorious intelligence director Felix Dzerzhinsky was responsible for a massive death toll after orchestrating mass executions and torture as part of the Bolshevik Secret police.
The Rehabilitation of Felix Dzerzhinsky, from the respected World Affairs Journal:
In September President Vladimir Putin restored the title “Dzerzhinsky Division” to an elite Moscow police unit. So what, you say? Well, that’s the point. As the novelist Martin Amis put it in Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, “Everybody knows of Himmler and Eichmann. Nobody knows of Yezhov and Dzerzhinsky.”
Born in 1877, Felix Dzerzhinsky was a revolutionary… A Bolshevik and a murderous fanatic, Dzerzhinsky founded the Cheka, the Soviet secret police. He had a “long burning zealot’s face,” dressed in high hunting boots and simple tunic, and lived a spartan life at his headquarters in the Lubyanka, waging what he called his “fight to the finish.” He kept a little black notebook to enter the names of “enemies” he came across as he did his job. “In 1918–1919, ten thousand persons were shot on the basis of decisions that Dzerzhinsky signed personally,” says David Satter in his It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway, a superb account of the dire consequences for post-Soviet Russia of the failure to face up to its Communist past.
As early as February 1919, Dzerzhinsky was keen for the new labor camps to re-educate “those gentleman who live without any occupations” and “those working in Soviet institutions who demonstrate unconscientious attitudes to work.” He oversaw the “first camp of the Gulag,” the Solovetsky, where, according to Anne Applebaum’s magisterial Gulag: A History, “the OGPU [the reorganized Cheka] first learned how to use slave labor for profit.” Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago records how brutal (and corrupt, despite the myth) Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka was. “He didn’t shirk from dirty work,” as Stalin put it.
Since August 1999, when a former head of the FSB [Putin], the successor organization to Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka, became prime minister, there has been a creeping erosion of liberal democracy, as mapped by the journalist Anna Politkovskaya before her murder by state agents. The rehabilitation of Felix Dzerzhinsky has proceeded in lockstep with this long semi-forced march from memory into myth.
…in 2005, without any official explanation, a bronze bust of Dzerzhinsky returned to the courtyard of the Moscow police headquarters at 38 Petrovka Street. Interviewed by a reporter from Novye Izvestia one police officer said something which, inadvertently, captured the meaning of the rehabilitation of Felix Dzerzhinsky and of the repression of the historical memory of Communism: “Of course we were all surprised” said the officer, “but, as you know, the decisions of the bosses are not discussed.”
Indeed. And now Putin has hinted that Dzerzhinsky’s statute is coming back; a great big 50-ton symbol of the new-old country Putin is creating, where the bosses decide and the people are decided upon.