Stalin used the notorious “Article 58” to execute or sentence to the Gulag his political victims. Article 58, which was continued under his successors, was applied against people thought to be considering crimes against the state or having the wrong nationality or background. A “crime against the state” could be virtually anything including a “thought crime” or “any act that diminished the economic and social achievements of the state.”
My book “Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin’s Kremlin” The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina” tells the story of the “crimes” of Stalin’s most prominent victim and his young wife. It is a cautionary tale that says that “benevolent” dictators are rare, despite the current favorable press of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Russian parliament will shortly pass a new state security law, which is reminiscent of the notorious article 58. It gives Russian security services (the FSB which succeeded the KGB) sweeping powers to question people about crimes that have not yet been committed. The fear is that the law will be used to threaten Kremlin opponents, investigative journalists, and businesspersons. These “prophylactic” measures, as they are called in Russian, may also be applied in cases of “state secrets,” where the FSB defines what a state secret is.
Despite the current warming of US-Russian relations, this law confirms that Russia is a “KGB state”. Its state, industry, and media are controlled by former KGB officials with the former head of the KGB, Vladimir Putin, at its head. This fact speaks against a long-term improvement in our relations with Russia.