I had one interlocutor, a KGB/FSB colonel who was a flawless caricature of the reptilian Stalin-era secret policeman. I used to love to needle him. During our closed-door sessions, I’d address him as “Tovarich Polkovnik,” or “Comrade Colonel.” And he’d always reply, with an attempted smile (you could hear the ice crack painfully), that he was simply “Colonel” now, that there were no more “comrades” in the “new” Russia. It was “Saturday Night Live” funny. “Tovarich Polkovnik” became a running joke among our team members.
Today, the tovarichi are still there, with all the old viciousness and cruelty, but unburdened by the constraints of ideology. Communism disappeared, freeing its executioners from the last protocols. The murderous sons of yesteryear’s thugs just wear better suits.
When you hear anyone refer to a “former Russian intelligence officer,” you can be sure that “former” spy has blood on his hands.