Nostalgias for Soviet militia born out of NKVD, Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“This is what kind of militia stories were witnessed on the Soviet land, either it goes to the union level or to the republican one. Respectively, the citizens who are nostalgic for the Soviet period can ponder over and decide if it is worth keeping the nostalgic memories of the glorious times alive...”

Multiplication of occasions for the nostalgic ones...

The approaching centenary of the USSR makes the nostalgic ones to more intensely bemoan and mourn the disappearance not only of the Soviet empire but also of its institutions. For example, on September 26 the nostalgic people celebrated the 60th anniversary of the publication of the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the institution of the Soviet militia day. They could have waited until November 10 to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the Soviet militia but, under the pressure of nostalgia, decided to anticipate things and to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the signing of the decree on the institution of the militia day. In a month and a half, they will celebrate the militia day already. This way they create more occasions for recollections.

The goal of the nostalgic people is to emphasize the connection between epochal events – Soviet militia were born out of the Bolshevik revolution and the revolutionary banner is now carried by the leader of the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM), ex-minister of internal affairs of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) Vladimir Voronin. This way, the leader of PCRM is eulogized for opposing the National Liberation Movement: „…in 1989 the people’s militia remained one of the last bodies of the Socialist state, when the process of renaissance of the Bourgeois system, which was under the pressure of the nationalist reaction of the future Liberals, Democrats, oligarchs, expanded. On November 10, 1989 it gave an appropriate response to national-unionists. On that day, the destructive forces besieged and occupied the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the MSSR… Police general-major Vladimir Nikolayevich Voronin, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the MSSR, was on the front line of the defenders of the building when the crowd forced its way. He didn’t order to use firearms to defend themselves from the attackers but allowed using only shields and rubber batons... Minister Voronin this way avoided a massacre that would have definitely taken place, even if, in accordance with the law, he had the right to make such an order”.

As usual, the nostalgic propagandists use half-truths. They refuse to mention the causes of the protests mounted around the MIA caused by the police. The truth is a number of persons who took part in a broad demonstration, blocking also the Soviet military vehicles on the Victory Square in Chisinau that were to take part in a parade to commemorate the October Socialist revolution, were arrested on November 7, 1989. In this connection, the November 10 events were staged to defend those who were arrested by the militia and this thing was confirmed by the placards carried by the participants: Violence generates violence; Down with anti-people militia; Why do you hit your brothers; Melt the batons into condoms etc. The chronology of the events precisely shows that the protesters were incited to violence by representatives of the militia. In this connection, it should be noted that the Soviet militiamen were detested, being called “garbage”. Not only the ordinary citizens detested the militiamen but also the representatives of state bodies. For example, the KGB officers considered the militiaman ignorant and dishonest and cooperating with them was considered as getting dirty.

Soviet militia born out of revolution or of NKVD?

The stages of the evolution of Soviet militia do not contain something glorious of which they could be proud. It’s true that this was instituted on November 10, 1917 on the third day of the Bolshevik putsch by order of Alexei Rykov, People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs (NKVD). The document required that all the soviets of labor MPs and soldiers should urgently found “a militia of workers” on a voluntary basis, which would be under the exclusive subordination of the given soviets. To say that the Soviet militia was born out of revolution is an exaggeration as the Bolsheviks themselves named the putsch of November 7, 1917 a coup (perevorot). Only ten years later they started to broadly use the term great October revolution. So, it is right to say that the Soviet militia was born out of NKVD not out of the revolution as those nostalgic claim.

Namely the first actions of the Soviet militia impacted the image of this throughout the period of existence of the USSR. Initially, the idea of attracting the proletariat into the Soviet militia and its arming seemed attractive. But the immediate consequences were disastrousan unprecedented outburst of the crime during the first years of the Soviet power after the vagrants and yesterday’s criminals massively joined the ranks of the militia. These quickly realized the unique opportunities offered to them by the new order. A significant number of convicts with “class affiliation” similar to that of the proletariat were set free after the February revolution and even more after the October revolution. Respectively, the fresh “militiamen” focused on activities typical of ordinary gangs. Consequently, in several days of the constitution of “the militia”, in November 1917, the Militia Council in Moscow, an organism created to protect the revolutionary order, had to make the first order that banned the conduct of searches without a warrant.

Throughout the Soviet period, the bodies of the ministry of internal affairs, so the Soviet militia too, were subject to most of the reorganizations. Particular bodies of the Soviet militia, such as the Department against Misappropriation of Socialist Property (OBHSS) or the State Traffic Inspectorate (GAI) built a reputation of fully corrupt institutions. The corruptibility of the Soviet militia was the reverse side of the staff policies. The point is the high-ranking nomenklaturists were often parachuted to the administrative militia bodies as a bonus for their patriotic work or as part of Komsomol. After five years of activity in the militia bodies, the parachuted nomenklaturists retired with a huge pension. Consequently, the nomenklaturists’ competition for posts in the Soviet militia bodies made almost impossible the promotion of professionals to key posts and the epaulets of generals went to the inexperienced nomenklaturists. The case of general-major Vladimir Voronin is a relevant one. Anyone who would examine the biography of the leader of PCRM, Vladimir Vornin, would see that this was named general-major and minister of internal affairs after he was nomenklaturist in Soviet and party bodies in Dubăsari, Ungheni and Bender. So, it is not surprising that former nomenklaturists parachuted to administrative posts are nostalgic for the times of their glory.

Dissemination of corruption in militia bodies by nomenklaturists

The fish rots from the head. This proverb was confirmed by the last minister of internal affairs of the USSR Nikolai Shcholokov. He, before being named minister of internal affairs of the USSR in 1966, in 1951-1966 was a nomenklaturist on Moldovan land and held the posts of deputy president of the Council of Ministers of the MSSR, president of Sovnarkhoz and deputy secretary of the Communist Party of the MSSR. Even if penal statistics in the USSR was classified, when the data started to be published it turned out that in the middle of the 1960s, which is after Shcholokov became minister of internal affairs of the USSR, the crime started to rise constantly, trebling over the next 20 years. Most of the violent offenses in that period were characterized by domestic violence generated by alcohol abuse and fury. That was the effect of the nomenklature promotions. What is even sadder is that corruption that became deep-rooted in the 1960s developed strong metastases in the 1990s, when the militia admitted that “they are not paid salaries and have to use the pistols and permits to gain food”.

The invoking of the example of ex-minister Shcholokov is not accidental as this person played the disagreeable role of the most corrupt Soviet official who enjoyed the protection of the secretary general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev. The irony of fate is that Leonid Brezhnev’s ascent to the peaks of the power started also in the MSSR from which he later recruited reliable staff. Many things could be arranged through the agency of this staff. This way, Leonid Brezhnev’s son-in-law Yuri Churbanov became deputy of minister Shcholokov. Respectively, corruption spread in the ministry of internal affairs based on the protection of the secretary general of the CPSU. These are the origins of our tradition for which the Moldovan nostalgic Communists plead now! The consequences were tragic. In a month of the death of Brezhnev, Shcholokov was dismissed from the post and in two years he committed suicide, following the example of his wife who allegedly made an attempt on the life of Yuri Andropov, Leonid Brezhnev’s successor. For his part, Brezhnev’s son-in-law and the deputy of Shcholokov was sentenced to 12 years in jail. The aforementioned are only some of the glorious pages of the Soviet militia doe which the nostalgic pro-Communists in the Republic of Moldova mourn.

Nomenklature parallels at union and republican levels

From the aforesaid, we can convince ourselves that there are many parallels in the careers of nomenklaturists who, from the internal affairs bodies, were promoted to heads of the Soviet militia. In this regard, it is worth comparing the ex-minister of internal affairs of the USSR Nicolai Shcholokov with ex-minister of internal affairs of the MSSR Vladimir Voronin. As it was noted, they both were appointed to these posts according to the same schemes. They are both good family men and love their close ones. Shcholokov invested a lot in the whims of his wife Svetlana – diamonds, works of art, collection of epoch cars, etc. As the family Shcholokov started the nomenklaturist career in the MSSR, the irony of fate wanted a part of the collected treasures to be taken out of the USSR through Moldova. Regrettably, the end of this enigmatic story is unknown.

For his part, Vladimir Voronin invested a lot in his son Oleg. According to the tax returns of the latter, he became a prosperous man after he entered the business sector in 1988. This happened a year before his father became minister of internal affairs of the MSSR. Surely, the success of his son in business was not only due to the appointment of his father as minister of internal affairs. However, one thing bothers – why a future capitalist was educated in the family of an inveterate Communist – a successor and promoter of the revolutionary values? The question is a question only but Oleg Voronin’s businesses developed dramatically during his father’s tenure of President of the Republic of Moldova. To imagine how rich the son of the Communist President was, it is enough to remember that Oleg Voronin dared to spend millions of lei without any declared origin: “The Anticorruption Center is probing the sources from which Oleg Voronin reloaded his personal card with which in 2008-2009 he paid for goods and services to the value of 67 million lei outside the borders of the Republic of Moldova, given that he declared revenues of 4 million lei to the tax authorities. CCCEC turned its attention to this case following the publication by the paper TIMPUL of particular investigations in December 2009”. As the family Shcholokov, the family Voronin collects epoch cars, with the collection being estimated at 70 million lei. No one ever traced the sources of the wealth of the family Voronin.  

Even current coalition partners of Vladimir Voronin publicly expressed their conviction that the wealth and the docile behavior of the ex-minister of internal affairs of the MSSR and ex-President of the Republic of Moldova are related to the relationship with oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, who, when Vladimir Voronin held office of President, allegedly offered precious services to the presidential family. This was noted by the press in Moscow too: “By the way, his (Plahotniuc’s) friend Oleg Voronin, the son of the former President of the Republic of Moldova Vladimir Voronin, often flied by the private plane of Plahotniuc. The reputation of Oleg Vladimirovici cannot be named immaculate either: he was suspected of considerable tax evasion and money laundering and he then wrangled with Plahotniuc and said that he regretted he knew with him as this “applied raider practices”. The local press also broadly covered the services provided to President Vladimir Voronin and this made him hostage and he had to accept any comprises with oligarch Plahotniuc. An additional revelation about the mutually advantageous relations between the family Voronin and Vladimir Plahotniuc was made recently. Consequently, what it matters is that the compromises accepted by ex-President Vladimir Voronin weakened his will. Voronin refrained from leveling public criticism at oligarch Plahotniuc, turning into a banal political weathercock. The benefit of the compromises made by the leader of PCRM are evident – nothing is known about the criminal case started against his son over alleged money laundering.

This is what kind of militia stories were witnessed on the Soviet land, either it goes to the union level or to the republican one. Respectively, the citizens who are nostalgic for the Soviet period can ponder over and decide if it is worth keeping the nostalgic memories of the glorious times alive.

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