I used to keep track of the Kremlin’s biographies and changes to them, once upon a time. I started collecting and collating the information in 2004, and you can still see some of my work over on my blog Putinania.
So I was amused when I saw Andrei Illarionov’s post today about how the head of Russia’s Presidential Administration Sergei Ivanov’s biography has changed over the recent past. To be fair, Ivanov’s biography has always had some blank spots, and some questionable content. At one point there were claims that he worked in Kenya, Finland, and the UK, but I’ve never seen any exact dates. If anybody knows of them or has more information, feel free to pass it on.
According to Illarionov, Ivanov now claims that he worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 15 years, something he had never mentioned before. But this is impossible, Illarionov points out.
“Moreover, as recently as three weeks ago, Ivanov himself insisted that it was served in the KGB, “I [served for]… 25 years in the KGB, which, incidentally, I am proud of.”
This is also not quite true because Ivanov claimed to have left the KGB in 1991, after serving only 15 years. The KGB was shortly thereafter split into different branches, and Ivanov officially served in both (the SVR and the FSB) until 1999. This comes to about 24 years of service (if Ivanov started his career in 1975), so it is not too much of an exaggeration to claim 25 years, but…
That being said, I don’t think you ever truly leave the security services, and Illarionov agrees.
But Illarionov is hung up on Ivanov’s recent claim that he also worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 15 years, as it conflicts with the claim that he worked for the KGB for 25 years. And we can rule out the last 15 years of service since we all know where Ivanov was during that time, he says. So for this to be true, Ivanov would have had to start his career in 1955 (at the age of 2).
I honestly don’t see this as a problem, however. In theory, if Ivanov was working overseas as a KGB spy of some sort during the Soviet Union, then he could potentially been operating undercover as an employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a common enough practice even now.
Illarionov concludes by asking why Ivanov needs a new biography, but I would just point out politicians do like to change their stories to relate to an audience or to emphasize a point. Ivanov is just playing the role of politician now. His reasons for that, however, are unclear, and that’s Illarionov’s point.
P.S. If you want some amusing reading in English, read this Ivanov biography:
Sergey Ivanov speaks fluent English and Swedish and has a good aural memory: he is capable of easily memorizing and reproducing voice pitches.
How is that for a skilled spy?