In the Russian political lexicon, a silovik (Russian: силови́к, IPA: [sʲɪlɐˈvʲik]; plural: siloviki, Russian: силовики́, IPA: [sʲɪləvʲɪˈkʲi]) is a person who works in the Russian Armed Forces, the Russian national police, Russian national drug control, Russian immigration control (GUVM), the Ministry of Justice, FSB political police, former KGB, GRU, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Federal Protective Service (FSO) and any other state organisation that is authorised to use force against people. This word is also used for a politician who came into politics from these organisations.[1]

Sergei Ivanov and Nikolai Patrushev at a meeting of Vladimir Putin with officers and prosecutors appointed to senior positions, April 2015
Putin with Sergey Lavrov, Alexander Bortnikov and Sergei Naryshkin, 19 December 2016

Siloviki is also used as a collective noun to designate all troops and officers of all law enforcement agencies of post-Soviet countries, not necessarily high-ranking ones.


The term siloviki ('siloviks') is literally translated as "people of force" or "strongmen" (from Russian сила, "force"). It originated from the phrase "institutions of force" (Russian: силовые структуры), which appeared in the early Boris Yeltsin era (early 1990s) to denote the military-style uniformed services, including the military proper, the police (Ministry of Internal Affairs), national security (FSB) organizations and some other structures.[2]

A similar term is "securocrat" (law enforcement and intelligence officer).[1] Daniel Treisman in turn proposed a term "silovarch" (silovik and oligarch).[3]


Siloviki often wish to encourage a view that they might be seen in Russia as being generally non-ideological, 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.[4] It is assumed that siloviki have a natural preference for the reemergence of a strong Russian state.[4]

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.[4]

A former KGB general said that "a Chekist is a breed... A good KGB heritage—a father or grandfather, say, who worked for the service—is highly valued by today's siloviki. Marriages between siloviki clans are also encouraged."[5]

Persons and positionsEdit

Igor Sechin (right) was often described as one of the closest siloviki to Vladimir Putin. His nickname is Darth Vader.

Senior siloviki under the presidency of Vladimir Putin included Sergei Ivanov, Viktor Ivanov, Sergei Shoigu, Igor Sechin, Nikolai Patrushev, Alexander Bortnikov and Sergey Naryshkin who had close working relationships with Putin and held key positions in Putin's governments.[6][7] Willerton points out, however, that it is difficult to assess if their common security-intelligence background translates into common political preferences.[4]

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.[8]

Putin's chief national security adviser, Nikolai Patrushev,[9] who believed that the West has been in an undeclared war with Russia for years,[10] was a leading figure behind Russia's updated national security strategy, published in May 2021. It stated that Russia may use "forceful methods" to "thwart or avert unfriendly actions that threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation".[11][12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Illiarionov, Andrei (2009). "Reading Russia: The Siloviki in Charge". Journal of Democracy.
  2. ^ For example: "Russian Politics and Law, Volumes 29-30". 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) [...]
  3. ^ Treisman, Daniel (2007-12-01). "Putin's Silovarchs". Orbis. 51 (1): 141–153. doi:10.1016/j.orbis.2006.10.013. ISSN 0030-4387.
  4. ^ a b c d Willerton, John (2005). "Putin and the Hegemonic Presidency". In White, Gitelman; Sakwa (eds.). Developments in Russian Politics. Vol. 6. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-3522-1.
  5. ^ "Russia under Putin. The making of a neo-KGB state". The Economist. 2007-08-23. Retrieved 2022-04-21.Archived 12 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Economist, 23 August 2007.
  6. ^ "Vladimir Putin: The security men, officials, and friends who are in Russian president's inner circle". Sky News. 28 February 2022.
  7. ^ Langton, James (15 March 2022). "Meet Russia's siloviki — Putin's inner circle". The National.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Troianovski, Anton (30 January 2022). "The Hard-Line Russian Advisers Who Have Putin's Ear". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  10. ^ Galeotti, Mark (5 July 2021). "New National Security Strategy Is a Paranoid's Charter". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  11. ^ "Russia's security strategy envisages 'forceful methods'". ABC News. 31 May 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  12. ^ Paulick, Jane, ed. (11 March 2022). "Putin's inner circle: Who has the Russian president's ear on the war in Ukraine?". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 28 March 2022.

Further readingEdit

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