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KGB influence still felt in Russia

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This is not the first time Kryshtanovskaya, who founded the Elite Studies Unit at Russia's Institute of Sociology in 1991, has sounded the alarm about dangerous shifts at the summit of Russian society. A decade ago her data warned that former communist functionaries had moved into business, banking, and politics - a trend that she said could inhibit the growth of institutions of democracy and market economics. Now, she says, the flow of siloviki into government portends "the emergence of tough, authoritarian politics."

The policeman's hand is already being felt in the tightening grip on the media, the massive deployment of "administrative resources" to back pro-Kremlin parties in elections, and the recent arrest of "disloyal" oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Also, Russia's Education Ministry recently banned a previously approved history textbook because the latest update included an exercise asking students to debate whether Putin had established an authoritarian regime in Russia. In a meeting with historians, Putin defended the order, saying: "Textbooks ... must not provide grounds for new political infighting. They should provide historical facts and [inculcate] a sense of pride among the youth in their history and country."

Another indirect sign of the siloviki's rising influence is a campaign by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzkhov to evict hundreds of residents from two downtown areas to provide housing and office space for the FSB, the successor to the KGB. A Moscow government official, who asked not to be named, says the current, mainly elderly, tenants will be involuntarily relocated to the suburbs, and about 20 percent of the redeveloped properties - choice locations near FSB headquarters on Lubyanka Square - turned over to the security agency.

"The influx of siloviki into government has already had a negative impact on democracy," says Viktor Kremeniuk, deputy director of the Institute for USA-Canada Studies in Moscow. "These are people who feel that democratic rules and transparency interfere with their mission to restore order. They believe the country needs stability, which to them means fewer elections, less interference into state affairs from parliament and the media, and an end to divisive debates in society."

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