Four years, five bosses and six name changes since the 1991 coup that broke Soviet power, the dreaded KGB is alive, well and making a comeback under the protection of none other than Boris Yeltsin.
Last month, Yeltsin promoted the chief of the Kremlin guards, a close friend, to head the Federal Security Service, his latest move to tighten his grip on the old KGB.Many Russians, including opposition politicians, businessmen, bankers, former dissidents - even some of Yeltsin's top advisers - are jittery about the president's growing ties to the secret police.
With the campaign for parliamentary elections about to start, opposition politicians have voiced concern the secret service will be used to manipulate the December vote on Yeltsin's behalf.
"In my position, I know the capabilities of various special services," Yeltsin's national security adviser, Yuri Baturin, told the Obshchaya Gazeta recently.
"So, I made a rule for myself, I don't say anything in the office or on the phone, or anywhere else that I wouldn't say on live television," said Baturin, reflecting widespread fear of the growing power of Gen. Alexander Kor-zha-kov, who as Yeltsin's bodyguard and companion exercises growing influence over Russian security services.
Despite all the name changes, many Russians still refer to the secret police as the KGB. The organization's critics say it is stronger than at any point since the 1991 effort to overthrow former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which the KGB and other top Communist Party officials masterminded.
Wary of the role the KGB played, Yeltsin seems to want to preserve his power by ensuring the secret police remain loyal to him.
The appointment of Gen. Mik-hail Barsukov, who commanded elite troops who attacked the parliament to oust Yeltsin's foes during the October 1993 political violence in Moscow, is a key element of that strategy.
Barsukov, a Korzhakov ally who has the president's ear, has said one of his main goals is to consolidate the sprawling network of organizations that emerged after the KGB was reorganized in 1991.
But the secret police under Barsukov is likely to be less fearsome than its predecessors, which under Soviet rule were the "sword and shield" of the Communist Party and brooked no opposition.
The long arm of the secret police stretched across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, claiming millions of victims in Siberian labor camps, suppressing dissidents and brutally squelching any kind of independent, unsanctioned activity.
The latest changes in Russia's post-Soviet secret police do create a powerful, centralized security apparatus. Several elite anti-terrorism units that were once under the Interior Ministry have been transferred to the Federal Security Service. More changes can be expected. Reformers have been ousted.
In addition to personnel changes, Yeltsin earlier this year signed a new law giving the secret police vast powers, which allows the service to run its own prisons and enter a private business or residence without a warrant.
"This law strengthens their powers. It hurts civilian control," said Boris Pustyntsev, the head of a group called Civilian Control that tries to monitor the KGB's activities. "This service has so many powers it is a direct attack on human rights."