Vladislav Davidzon is Tablet magazine's European-culture correspondent and works for Ukrainian television in Paris.
As the depredations of our new cold war have lowered relations between Russia and the West to ever frostier depths, the Kremlin’s inner workings have become ever more opaque to the West. The process that has concentrated power within a tightening circle around Vladimir Putin has reached its logical denouement. Politics in Russia has been removed from the realm of the polis proper. Decision making has devolved to a small group of men.
While the worldviews and instincts of these men were honed by a youth spent in the security forces, their views are not uniform or monolithic. Attempts to decipher the way decisions are made in the Kremlin, and what Putin is really thinking, have become the foundation of the new-old Kremlinology.
Joshua Yaffa’s “The Double Sting,” in The New Yorker, is a revealing window on the antagonism among Russia's security agencies -- and the human costs -- that has continued unabated from Soviet time.
The story of the rise and fall of Boris Kolesnikov, a general who had been deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s anticorruption department, illustrates the way that turf wars of the security agencies have become, in effect, Russia's new politics. His death in custody at the age of 36 was the outcome of a lethal cocktail of naiveté, arrogance, archaic principle, and misunderstanding of the rules of the game.
Before having read this article, I would not have been able to imagine myself sympathizing with the travails of a Russian interior-ministry general. It is tautly and sensitively written, with a touch of noir. This is what journalism can and should do.