The Soviet leadership has ordered the establishment of a new corps of political commissars in the Interior Ministry in a clear attempt to impose stringent discipline on the country's uniformed police.
The decision last Friday by the Politburo, the Communist Party's policy-making committee, appears to give the new interior minister, Gen. Vitaly Fedorchuk, a free hand to modernize the police. There was speculation that Fedorchuk, who was chief of the Soviet secret police, the KGB, before his promotion last December, would bring experienced KGB officers to act as "political organs" within the ministry.
In contrast to the relative incorruptibility and professionalism of the KGB, the uniformed police has become notorious for corruption, low levels of professionalism and arbitrariness.
A number of senior officers of the MVD, as the Interior Ministry is called, are currently being investigated for corrupt practices, including Fedorchuk's predecessor in the job, Gen. Nikolai Shcholokov, who served as minister of interior for 16 years before being dismissed last December.
A Politburo statement said the establishment of "political organs" within the Interior Ministry was designed to "increase the personal responsibility of the staff in meeting their official responsibilities." The ministry controls the nation's uniformed police, riot-control troops and criminal investigations.
New political officers, according to the statement, will be responsible for political, ideological, cultural and educational work within the police.
The move suggests that Fedorchuk may be able to establish an alternate chain of command within the police establishment to carry out modernization of a huge force largely comprised of poorly educated, rural young men.
The anticipated influx of KGB men into the civilian police is also seen by Western observers as an informal marriage of the two chief Soviet law enforcement agencies which in recent years have been less than friendly rivals.
The influence of Fedorchuk, a no-nonsense career KGB officer, is believed to be considerable here. He is beliese to the new Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov, whom he replaced as KGB chief more than a year ago.
Fedorchuk's successor in the top KGB post, Viktor Chebrikov, ersonal associate of Andropov.
That Fedorchuk felt the need to restructure the Interior Ministry in such a that he has been having difficulties in engineering a cleanup and tightening of internal discipline. Soviet nave carried long reports of corruption and incompetence within the uniformed police.
The function of politiciated with the Red Army. During Josef Stalin's rule until 1953, commissars were equals of military commanderse commissars being responsible for ensuring the ideological and party loyalties of the officers and troops. The Soviet Army still maintains political officers within each unit but their role has been somewhat diminished.