By Emil Danielyan
The National Security Service, the Armenian successor to the former KGB, is learning and drawing inspiration from the “glorious” experience of the Soviet secret police, its recently appointed director said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday. Gorik Hakobian also described as “patriots” former KGB informers that had for decades helped the Soviet regime suppress dissent.
“The Soviet special services followed a glorious path and were considered one of the best in the world,” he told the “Hayots Ashkhar” daily. “Their positive work experience, effective methods of training have been passed on to our employees as well.”
Hakobian was quick to admit that the KGB, which had changed several names since its creation by the Bolsheviks in 1918, is also guilty of massive repression and other human rights violations. “During the known period the Soviet security agencies became tools in the hands of the country’s supreme leadership and unfounded, unjustified repressions took place. We and those young people that are the future of our structure must not forget this,” he said.
Tens of millions of innocent people perished in a wave of mass repressions that swept Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, including Armenia, following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. The state terror reached its climax in the late 1930s under dictator Josef Stalin who ordered wholesale executions, imprisonments and deportations of individuals he thought might challenge his despotic rule.
The repressions eased dramatically after Stalin’s death in 1953. However, public criticism of the Soviet regime continued to be considered a crime and hundreds of dissidents were jailed in the ensuing decades. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian himself spent two years in Russian labor camps in the early 1970s for his membership of a clandestine group that agitated for Armenia’s independence.
Human rights activist Vartan Harutiunian, another member of the group who was jailed for eight years in the 1980s, scoffed at Hakobian’s praise of the KGB. “If their record was glorious the state which they served would not have crumbled,” he told RFE/RL.
Helping the KGB and its sister agencies in other parts of the Communist bloc stifle dissent was a tight network of informers. Some Eastern European countries, notably East Germany, publicized the names of the former secret police collaborators and even banned them from holding government posts following the fall of Communism.
Hakobian spoke out strongly against applying the practice to Armenia. “That is absolutely unacceptable because a state respecting itself will not allow itself to make such revelations,” he said,
“Believe me, the image of a [KGB] agent is distorted in our society,” he added. “They are patriots, truly dedicated individuals with a sense of duty. Throughout my long career I have dealt with hundreds, if not more, of agents and am ready to bow my head in front of the vast majority of them.”
Ex-dissident Harutiunian denounced the remark, saying that most of the informers were used for the “political persecution” of the regime’s opponents. “It is sad to hear this from the head of independent Armenia’s security service,” he said. “He showed that he continues to serve the Soviet Union.”
Hakobian, 58, is a career security officer who joined the KGB in 1970. He was appointed by President Robert Kocharian as head of the National Security Service last month. His predecessor, Karlos Petrosian, was sacked under still uncertain circumstances.
(Photolur photo: Hakobian, right, meeting with Kocharian after his appointment.)