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The Return of Terror’s Architect

The restoration of a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky in Moscow illuminates the gulf that now divides Russian society.

· 8 min read
The Return of Terror’s Architect
May 1, 1987 - Moscow, RU - The headquarters of the KGB, on Lubyanka Square in Moscow, is decorated for May Day with a portrait of Vladimir Lenin. At right is a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, first chief of the Soviet secret police, a Moscow landmark during Soviet times. Alamy

In September, a new statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky was erected in the Moscow suburbs outside of the headquarters of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR). Dzerzhinsky was the Polish creator of one of the world’s great repressive political machines. In 1917, he had been instructed to create the SVR’s forerunner, known then as the Cheka, by Lenin himself, who much admired the toughness of the man who became known as Iron Felix. The organisation would be called many names—the GPU, OGPU, NKVD, MGB, KGB—and it is now split into the SVR and the domestic Federal Security Service or Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (FSB).

At the statue’s ceremonial unveiling, the SVR chief Sergei Naryshkin said a few words:

Colleagues, the sculpture in front of which we are standing is a somewhat reduced copy of the famous monument to Dzerzhinsky installed on Lubyanka Square in Moscow in 1958.

His winged words, that only a person with a cold head, a warm heart and clean hands can become a security officer have become a significant moral guideline for several generations of employees of the security agencies of our country.

That declaration of Dzerzhinsky’s alleged moral purpose illuminates the gulf that now divides Russia, and the supreme difficulties that its society will face in uniting after the war in Ukraine finally ends.

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