The Most Valuable Product in Russia Is Information (Part 2): Compromising Materials

Kompromat must be kept forever.

            In Russia a system of total control has been established and put to work. For every person a detailed dossier is compiled. It exhaustively accumulates information on all important events in a person’s life. Birth, family, education, work, friends, hobbies,vices, weaknesses, connections, letters, photographs, denunciations, reports. Everything that happens to each person over the course of their lives is stored in that file.

            Millions of people work on accumulating and processing this information. Telephones are bugged, letters read, conversations recorded. Everything is under control. There is a personnel department in every organization. These collect the raw information that comes in from informants and pass it along to the security services. Who said what about whom. Who did something wrong. What looks suspicious. Most attention goes to information on misdeeds, mistakes, connections, violations of the law, high crimes and misdemeanors. Everything that a normal person tries to hide about themselves. This is called “compromising material,” kompromat in Russian.

            Sources for information are friends, enemies, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors and professional informants. Everything about everybody. The appropriate organs are ordered to sort through all of it. They decide how and when to use the information received. Whether the information is important or not. It is their duty to find and punish enemies of the motherland.

  • There is kompromat on everyone in Russia. Authorities decide when and how to use it.

            Every person’s life is under a microscope. State security archives gather and retain all this exhaustive data for a person’s whole life. As technological progress develops, the forms of data collection improve. Closed-circuit camera recordings, bugs and recordings of telephone conversations, correspondence by e-mail, PC databases: all of them have become a powerful new source of information.

Case Study: “We can do business with you”

            Once I sent a request from the US to the leadership of the company Norilsk Nickel asking for a meeting. I wanted to give Norilsk Nickel an official letter from General Motors proposing cooperation. I was granted an appointment in Moscow. At that time, I didn’t know that GM was using several middlemen simultaneously, including the President of GM for Russia and a well-known former diplomat. I was one of several.

            At the private meeting, they showed me three copies of the document I’d taken with me. The other middlemen, who had been denied a private meeting, sent them by fax. I couldn’t help asking, “Why did you agree to meet with me and refuse to meet with these others?”

            The answer was unexpected: “We took an attentive look at your personal file and decided that you would deserve our trust. We can do business with you.” I would also very much like to take a look at my personal file.

(This has been an excerpt from the upcoming book How Business is Done in Russia: Secrets of a Russian-American Executive. Click “HBDR the Book” on the menu to learn more)

(Credit for featured graphic: Espfutbol98, Wikipedia)

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