Russian Liberals are the Nomenklatura’s Children

Liberal electoral victories in Moscow compared to the prevalence of those ultimate SWPL status symbols, bike sharing stations…


… the upscale organic food store Azbuka Vkusa…


… and concentrations of nomenklatura housing as of 1989.


At first glance, one of these is not like the others.

But that’s not all that surprising.

Dig into the family histories of the Russian liberals, as they are disparagingly called, and all sorts of Communist and chekist skeletons tumble out of the closet.

  • Evgenia Albats (liberal enforcer, sort of like a one-woman SPLC) – Grandfather a candidate member of the Communist Party, arrested and shot in 1937.
  • Konstantin Borovoy (simply a clinical Russophobe on Novodvorskaya’s level) – Mother was secretary of the “Association of Proletarian Writers,” cooperated with the KGB.
  • Alexey Venediktov (head of Echo of Moscow) – Grandfather was a military prosecutor. From the award handed out to him: “He carried out a ruthless struggle with turncoats, spies, and traitors against the Motherland; dozens of traitors were judged by him and sentenced to their deserved punishment.”
  • Maria Gaidar (went to Ukraine after Euromaidan) – Her father was an editor of political economy in the Communist Party journal, “Communist.” Grandfather was head of the military section of Pravda.
  • Vasily Gatov (gained fame for an unsolicited apology for the Crimean deportations on behalf of Russia) – Grandfather was the fourth in the chain of command of the NKVD; head of the Senior Officer School of the NKVD – and headed the operation to resettle the Crimean Tatars.
  • Masha Gessen (lesbian Jewish feminist who hates Putin for the lack of European cheese in Moscow) – Grandmother worked for the MGB (predecessor to the KGB) as a telegram censor in Moscow.
  • Dmitry Gudkov (anti-Crimean socialist) – Father worked in the KGB in the 1980s.
  • Irena Lesnevskaya (pro-Ukraine activist) – Grandfather was a Bolshevik revolutionary and friend of Dzerzhinsky; shot in the 1930s.
  • Andrey Piontkovsky (anti-Putin activist who called on NATO to include a nuclear strike against the Russian leadership as part of its military doctrine_ – Grandfather was a judge in the Supreme Court of the USSR during the late Stalin period from 1946-51.
  • Ilya Ponomarev (anti-Crimea activist, emigre deputy wanted for fraud over absurdly renumerated lectures at Skolkovo) – Nephew of a candidate to the Politburo, who also occupied some other prestigious positions.
  • Vyacheslav Rabinovich (failed investor who has predicted a dozen of the Russian economy’s past zero economic collapses) – Grandfather was one of the first Komsomol members, served in the Cheka, engaged in accusations and counter-accusations of “Menshevism” and other thoughtcrimes in the 1930s; spent the 1948-55 period in prison as a result.
  • Mark Feygin (Pussy Riot’s lawyer who fails his cases and attacks his clients when they question his team’s competence) – Granduncle one of the founders of the Komsomol; died during the crushing of the Kronstadt mutiny in 1921.

In other words, just the sort of fine, upstanding people you’d want to replace Putin and rule Russia (if you hate it).

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Anatoly,

    Thanks for this rogues gallery of Nomenklatura’s Children.

    It provides a very convenient score card for Russia’s modern day despicable/deplorables!

  2. AK, they just want to be “real” Russkis and people like you keep turning them away. Hurtful.

  3. To be fair, shouldn’t one also do a background examination like this for various prominent Russian non-liberals?

    For instance, is Putin’s inner circle also composed of people who were supporters of the Soviet system?

  4. If I were designing a city from scratch, I would put in bike lanes and racks. But more in a way to encourage exercise and independence, esp. among children who may be too young to drive. It’s also maybe good for young people who drink overmuch. I suppose you would have to figure out some SJW kryptonite though, to prevent them from settling down in concentrated numbers.

    The trouble is when they try to remake a city that wasn’t even designed for cars into one that is meant for cars and bikes. Moscow, I would think would be too cold to make bikes practical for much of the year.

  5. Brilliant catch. And, of course, the 90s thieves were themselves largely the flower of Communist society.

  6. @AP: To be fair, though, Putin himself is also a product of the Soviet system–specifically a classically Sovok former KGB agent.

  7. Nah, he’s a completely reformed commie, since he found out that sitting at the very top of a power vertical is conducive to lining ones own pockets!

    I’m still trying to figure out what the political philosophy of Russia is, that’s guiding its ‘non-commie’ guiding elite? (Somehow though, I think that the answer lies either in Cyprus or some other quiet offshore account).

  8. To be fair, though, Putin himself is also a product of the Soviet system–specifically a classically Sovok former KGB agent.

    Not really Sovok, per say. Putin is sort of a last grasp of the old social mobility of 19th-20th Century Russia. He is the descendant of peasants who worked themselves up the social ladder before the revolution, and managed to avoid getting liquidated during the purges and wars. He is very much a product of classic Petersburg (“We are more European than the Europeans”) culture in many respects, and viewing him that way gives more insight into his character than the bare-chested action hero image he presents to the world, or the dirty Neo-Imperialist Commie his enemies brand him as.

    I’m still trying to figure out what the political philosophy of Russia is, that’s guiding its ‘non-commie’ guiding elite? (Somehow though, I think that the answer lies either in Cyprus or some other quiet offshore account).

    Aside from the graft*? Keeping the wheels on the axle. It is no mean feat considering just how much trouble the nation is in after the past one hundred years of disasters. Putin is a solid administrator, and generally good at getting himself and his government out of a corner, and for that he has to be given due respect because most of the leadership that came before him generally was lacking in those qualities. But he is not an ideologue, and the sad truth may be he believes in nothing more than his ability to keep the country afloat until old age removes him. All the talk of “Tsar Vlad I” aside, that he is not bothering to openly cultivate a successor to take over for him seems to suggest he knows the game is up on some level.

    Putin increasingly reminds me of Franco. And like the late Generalissimo, I do not expect his order to long survive him. A lot of Anatoly’s reports seem to confirm my fears that Russia is again lurching towards the Western mindset despite being able to fully see the damage it unleashes on any society foolish enough to embrace it, and having a disastrous brush with it in the 90’s. The past year has been very dispiriting in that regard, but the real problems may start to show up after the elections in 2018. You will have a generation coming to maturity who has known nothing but Putin as their leader, and that setup tends to lend itself to bored and restless youth striking out at the old order.

    *Which seems to be a time-honored tradition of Eastern Slavic societies since time immemorial. I like the Russians, but this has been a weakness of theirs since before the Mongol Conquest, so I do not expect it to be going anywhere, just potentially mitigated by effective leadership, if/when it can be found.

  9. Verymuchalive says

    Excellent article. I’m glad that they’re reacting so well to their families’ loss of status and power.

  10. I’m still trying to figure out what the political philosophy of Russia is, that’s guiding its ‘non-commie’ guiding elite?

    This article by Paul Robinson is an indispensable guide (use Sci-Hub to access it).

    Robinson counted the number of times Putin has quoted various people, on the very plausible assumption that this choice somewhat reflects his own ideological beliefs.

    Here are some key extracts:

    Since becoming Prime Minister for the first time in August 1999, Putin has quoted Ivan Ilyin and Fyodor Dostoevsky five times. Next most popular are Pyotr Stolypin, Joseph Stalin, and Mikhail Lermontov, whom Putin has cited three times. In addition, Putin has twice quoted Emperor Alexander iii, Vladi-mir Lenin, Lev Gumilev, Otto von Bismarck, Nikolai Berdyaev, Thomas Jeffer-son, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Nikolai Karamzin. Finally, Putin has quoted the following people one time: Alexander Pushkin, Konstantin Aksakov, Mikhail Pogodin, Vasily Kliuchevsky, Vladimir Vysotsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Kon-stantin Leontiev, and Aleksei Losev.

    This makes a total of 43 quotations from 21 people in a 16 year period, an average of about two and a half a year. This is not many, especially when com-pared to the Soviet habit of regularly including supporting quotations from Lenin or other communist sources. On the one hand, this lends credence to the thesis that Putin is more pragmatically than ideologically-oriented.

    Also, before anyone gets “excited” about Stalin’s high position on the list:

    First, he has rarely drawn from Soviet leaders or communist thinkers to illustrate his political arguments and, as we shall see, when he has quoted Lenin and Stalin it is not with approval. The only people from the Soviet period whose words he has used in a positive sense are Solzhenitsyn, Gumilev, and Losev, all of whom spent time in the Gulag. This seems to be a fairly clear indication that Putin does not think that quot-ing communist sources would lend him and his arguments legitimacy. Instead, Putin prefers the late Russian Empire and the inter-war Russian emigration.

  11. Alexey Venediktov (head of Echo of Moscow) – Grandfather was a military prosecutor. From the award handed out to him: “He carried out a ruthless struggle with turncoats, spies, and traitors against the Motherland; dozens of traitors were judged by him and sentenced to their deserved punishment.”

    I’m beginning to like Venediktov’s grandfather. Brutal enforcers are necessary in times like those.

  12. the irony of Commie apparatchiks’ descendants LARPing (continuing to LARP, rather) as the nation’s conscience* is completely lost on you, is it?

    how to explain it to you. look, it’s like when a family values politician …

    • “We must firmly submit our slightest doubts for the class-conscious workers, for our Party, to judge. We trust our Party. We see in it the intelligence, honour and conscience of our times.” –Lenin
  13. Mao Cheng Ji says

    I don’t think there is anything remarkable about some among the current ‘liberal intelligentsia’ being related to ‘communist intelligentsia’ of the communist period. That’s what ‘intelligentsia’ does: they serve, they promote the dominant ideology, whatever it might happen to be. They are professional “opinion makers”; it’s their job.

  14. It’s too bad that Karlin hasn’t finished his thought process here and explained what the relevance is of his ‘shocking’ new findings? Mr. XYZ makes an excellent point by inferring that almost everybody within the Russian politicum has some commie skeletons in their closet. So what? It’ mostly a generational thing.

  15. By quoting such a broad cross section of writers and thinkers, does Putin indicate that he’s crafted a well thought out vision for Russia, or perhaps, is it more of a sign of an individual willing to latch on to any lifeboat that seems to be floating by? At best, it shows that the man is well read. At worst, his ‘pragmatism’ may only be the result of his scatterbrained approach to politics and statecraft.

  16. Are you reading the same text that I am? Putin’s citations are quite ideologically consistent, they are mostly conservatives and liberal-conservatives of the 19th-early 20th century and of the White emigration.

  17. The info you post presents a positive picture of Putin. My own impression is that Putinism represents the consolidation and stabilization of the 90s rather than some sort of negation of it (Ukraine, in contrast, failed to consolidate and stabilize but remained in looting phase) – Putin emerged from Sobchak’s world, after all. Oligarch-thieves need to be managed and to work together; they cannot take too much, as this would lead to instability/revolution and a total loss by everyone. Nor should they war with each other. Those not getting with the program (Khodorkovsky) need to be destroyed. Regular people need to feel benefit, in order to be placated, but the massive resources and wealth remain solidly in the hands of those who grabbed them. Effective management of this graft farm needs a strong State. Real Russian nationalism, not tied to the State, can be disruptive and must be stifled, but populistic nods to nationalism by the State can be useful for maintaining population loyalty. It is less disruptive for the State to buy off Chechen loyalty with privileges and “special status”, so this is done. But if ethnic Russians riot (as in Pugachev) the State backs off a little, so sentiments calm down and order is restored. And so we have Putinism.

  18. Good observation.
    These are exactly the people you need to convert, if you want the cause of scientific HBD-IQism to prevail. With proper sales pitch ( You are the high IQ master race. You have the duty to cleanse first Russia, then rest of the world of all stupidity and drive the world with iron fist to the bright future.) it will be walk in the park.

  19. At the time the Berlin Wall fell, about 13% of the adult population of Bulgaria held Communist Party membership cards, to take one example. To take another, when the Hungarian Socialist Worker’s Party reconstituted itself in 1989, it asked all members wishing to belong to the successor party to obtain a new party card. A grand total of 4% of the quondam membership did so.

    There were things you had to do to work in a particular trade and things you had to do to earn a living. People commonly have quite a mess of descendants and shirt-tail relations.

    Here you have a list of 12 people related to others, generally 2d degree relations (in one case a 3d degree relation). Of these others, one was killed nearly a century ago, one was an ordinary party member put to the sword eighty years ago, another was a minor functionary in the censorship apparat, another pair were employed in the press and (one might guess) of no influence, one influential was imprisoned under the ancien regime, another influential was shot, and so forth. It isn’t all weak sauce, but about 1/2 of it is.

  20. Meh, this is usual stuff in post-communist countries, including Poland. A lot of the “democratic opposition” during communism, were trotskyists or just children of the old school communists. In 1968, when there was a students’ protest in Warsaw, which is now an icon of resistance, the students actually even sang the Internationale on the unversity campus, because they thought of themselves as true marxists. Many of them have decided to abandon the name marxist and have changed it to “liberal”. 2 icons of anticommunist opposition in 1965 issued a famous “letter to the party”, which is now seen as a symbol of resistance, in which they actually accused the party of not following marxism closely enough and of distorting the democratic character of marxism

    After 1989, those rebellious liberal marxists formed an alliance with those opportunists, who decided to stay deeply involved and maintain the falling system, in order to, you know, fight the dangers of theocracy, fascism, authoritarianism, antidemocratism, nationalism and unify the humanity (although they of course don’t call it that)

  21. Hillary Clinton just said in her podcast interview with the New Yorker something along the lines of “Putin loves to quote Lenin, who said ‘probe with bayonets. If you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw.’ ”. I did a search and found Nixon included this Lenin quote in his 1978 autiobiography*.

    Mr, Karlin, does this claim Hillary makes about Putin’s love of this quote ring true?

  22. This article would be even better ( though too long to read) if it included all similar types in the Ukrainian elite. Ukraine isn’t and never was a nation…..and the past history of these “patriots” and their families proves it. Far more deeper and longer-lasting ties to the Communist hierachy than those in your list. That’s not to mention all the cultural and economic links these “patriots” have cultivated…earning most of their money and power solely off Russia
    The same in the Baltics, as we all know.
    Also, Estonia has just left a rather embarrassing phase of having an American as President…an American dipshit with a Russian grandmother.

  23. Ukraine isn’t and never was a nation…..

    Gerad isn’t and never was a person. Let’s kill him and take his stuff.

  24. Looks like something that’s merely projected onto him:

    “You know, Putin believes in the old Lenin adage that you probe with bayonets, when you find mush you push, when you find steel you stop,” Walker said at this month’s GOP debate.

    I mean, this is very common on GOP rhetoric on Russia, this idea that Putin is a gangster who only understands the language of force or whatever. From whence it follows that the US needs to “get tough” on Russia.

  25. Certainly – Russian baiter Irina Farion immediately comes to mind.

  26. Mao Cheng Ji says

    I mean, this is very common on GOP rhetoric on Russia, this idea that Putin is a gangster who only understands the language of force or whatever. From whence it follows that the US needs to “get tough” on Russia.

    GOP rhetoric? The establishment rhetoric, more like; in fact, noticeably crazier on the D side recently, see Paul Begala on CNN.

  27. Khokhols don’t have any stuff, except for their pigs. Donbass coal belongs to Russians.

  28. And pathological Ukrainaphobes don’t have anything in their brains except pigshit. 🙁

  29. Certainly – Russian baiter Irina Farion immediately comes to mind

    Wrong. I had once assumed this to be true based on Farion’s background. However, Farion is an exception, at least among the nationalists.

    The leader of Svoboda, Tiahnybok, is the son of the Soviet Olympic boxing team’s chief physician, but his father in turn comes from anti-communist pre-war Galician politicians. Medicine due to being rather non-ideological could attract intelligent “closet nationalists” during Soviet times.

    I didn’t find any links between Azov founder and leader Andriy Biletskiu and Sovok nomenklatura, at least based on a quick search. Russian wiki says nothing, English wiki is interesting – “Born in 1979 in Kharkiv, Soviet Union, Biletsky’s father Yevhen Mykhailovych Biletsky hailed from an old Cossack family that founded the village of Krasnopavlivka (Lozova Raion), while Biletsky’s mother Olena Anatolivna Biletsky (née Lukashevych) descended from a noble family from Zhytomyr region, to which belong the Decembrist Vasiliy Lukashevich (Vasyl Lukashevych) who founded the “Little-Russian Secret Society”.

    Right Sector founder Yarosh was a youthful member of pioneers and komsomol (like most bright kids) but there is no info either way about his family of origin. This probably means they weren’t important. He appears to have gone nationalist as a youth in the late 1980s.

    Yuriy Shukhevych, leader of UNA-UNSO, is of course the son of the head of UPA. This guy spent decades in Soviet prison camps.

    Andriy Parubiy (speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, far-right activist since the early 90s, when he was a youthful neo-Nazi) – his father was was a member of the Communist Party and Academy of Sciences in the 1980s (during Perestroika), but was a Rukh activist so he probably doesn’t count as a real ex-commie.

    Rukh founder Chornovil – son of village schoolteachers, komsomol member in his youth but quickly became a dissident and spent a lot of the Soviet years in prison.

    Here is an article about the Communist past of Ukrainian officials:

    It’s rather light, not much dirt.

    With the post-Soviet looters (including Tymoshenko) the pattern is the same as with Russian oligarchs – ex-Sovok elite. Except for Yanukovich, who was a Soviet-era street thug sponsored by ex-Soviet elites.

  30. So in essence this seems to be another example of even intelligent and well-informed Russians incorrectly assuming that Ukraine is just like Russia.

  31. It was roughly the same in Hungary.

  32. yes – white SJWism is class-based – it’s mostly the people who work in the top layer of the state funded sector whose prosperity derives from govt spending

    for the most part antifa are their children

    (it’s not necessarily conscious – they might have been drawn to public sector for reasons that correlate with SJW-ism but either way their politics suit their class interests at least while white people are the majority)

  33. nb i don’t mean they’re actual SJWs yet – just that they’re the same class that will become so over time

    the solution is either a small state – or if you’re an ex-leftie then a very efficient welfare state with a very small number of managers so not enough for an SJW caste / voting bloc

  34. I’m still trying to figure out what the political philosophy of Russia is, that’s guiding its ‘non-commie’ guiding elite?

    Putin strikes me as a standard soldier-ant / sheepdog type

  35. Perhaps, more like a squirrel that likes to hide its nuts deep into the ground, far far away from the view of other predators. 🙂

  36. Putin is like a soldier ant or sheepdog eh? A kind of automaton, bean-counter or place-holder I guess? Have you ever bothered to have a look at Putin’s many public appearances and interviews available at YouTube? Have you read the transcripts of any of his speeches? I know you have an internet connection — because you managed to post your comment here — but I don’t think you’re making full use of it.

  37. A kind of automaton, bean-counter or place-holder I guess?

    no, not remotely like that

  38. Putin increasingly reminds me of Franco.

    Yes, agree 100%.

    And like the late Generalissimo, I do not expect his order to long survive him.

    Maybe; Franco’s great achievement was getting to the point where Spain could decide its own destiny without people mowing each other down in the streets. Putin’s order is rather fragile, yes– it remains to be seen what comes next.

  39. Putin increasingly reminds me of Franco.


    For some reason the sheepdog type don’t tend to become rulers – not ambitious enough maybe? Only get ambitious enough in a crisis?

  40. Did Lenin ever say that? I know he wanted to probe with bayonets Poland’s readiness for social revolution, but the mush-and-steel bits I hadn’t heard.

  41. attiIathehen says

    And how many are Jewish?