Silovik (Russian: силови́к; IPA: [sʲɪlɐˈvʲik]; plural: siloviki, Russian: силовики́; IPA: [sʲɪləvʲɪˈkʲi]) is a Russian word for politicians from the security or military services, often the officers of the former KGB, GRU, FSB, SVR, the Federal Drug Control or other security services who came into power. It can also refer to security-service personnel from any country or nationality.


The term silovik, literally translated as "person of force" (from Russian сила, "force"), originated with the phrase "institutions of force" (Russian: силовые структуры), which appeared in the earlier Boris Yeltsin era (early 1990s) to denote the military-style uniformed services, including the military proper, the police (Ministry of Interior), national security (KGB/FSB) organisations and some other structures.[1] These "structures of force" formed a de facto higher-level inner cabinet under Yeltsin (President 1991-1999) and Vladimir Putin (President 2000-2008, 2012-present).

The term is occasionally translated as "strongman", but such a reading obscures the particular career background of a silovik; forces man would be a better rendering.


Siloviki wish to encourage a view that they might be seen in Russia as being generally non-ideological and honest, with a pragmatic law-and-order focus and Russian national interests at heart. They are generally well-educated and bring past commercial experience to their government posts.[2] It is assumed that the siloviki have a natural preference for the reemergence of a strong Russian state and may be less sensitive towards certain aspects of the democratic system, which in turn makes many people consider them as the pro-Chinese faction.[2]

The siloviki do not form a cohesive group. They do not have a single leader and there is no common, articulated "silovik agenda". However, according to John P. Willerton, these security-intelligence officials brought the work ethic and skills - that Putin apparently favoured - to the administration.[2]

Persons and positions

Senior siloviki under Putin's presidency included Sergei Ivanov, Viktor Ivanov and Sergey Shoygu, who had close working relationships with Putin and held key positions in Putin's governments. Willerton points out, however, that it is difficult to assess if their common security-intelligence background translates into common political preferences.[2]

Following the 2011 Russian protests, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, having made promises of political reform, nevertheless appointed several siloviki to prominent positions in the government: Sergei Ivanov to chief of staff of the presidential administration; Dmitry Rogozin to deputy prime minister; and Vyacheslav Volodin to deputy chief of staff.[3]

See also


  1. For example: Russian Politics and Law. 29-30: 90. 1990 Retrieved 2014-07-23. [...] the supreme leader, who firmly relies on the structures of force (the army, state security, the Ministry of Internal Affairs) [...] Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. 1 2 3 4 Willerton, John (2005). "Putin and the Hegemonic Presidency". In White, Gitelman; Sakwa. Developments in Russian Politics. 6. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3522-0.
  3. Andrew E. Kramer (December 28, 2011). "Political Promotions in Russia Appear to Belie President's Promise of Reform". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2011.

Further reading

External links

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