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Russian компрома́т
Romanization kompromat
Literal meaning compromising materials

In Russian politics, kompromat, short for "compromising material" (компрометирующий материал), is damaging information about a politician or other public figure used to create negative publicity, for blackmail, or for ensuring loyalty. Kompromat may be acquired from various security services, or outright forged, and then publicized by use of a public relations official.[1][2] Widespread use of kompromat has been one of the characteristic features of the politics of Russia[3] and other post-Soviet states.[4][5]


The term kompromat is a borrowing of the Russian KGB slang term компромат from the Stalin era, which is short for "compromising material" (компрометирующий материал). It refers to disparaging information that can be collected, stored, traded, or used strategically across all domains: political, electoral, legal, professional, judicial, media, and business. The origins of the term trace back to 1930s secret police jargon.[6]


In the early days, kompromat featured doctored photographs, planted drugs, grainy videos of liaisons with prostitutes hired by the KGB, and a wide range of other primitive entrapment techniques. However, more contemporary forms of kompromat appear as a form of cybercrime.[7] One aspect of kompromat that stands the test of time is that the compromising information is often sexual in nature.[8]


Kompromat is part of the political culture in Russia, with many members of the business and political elite having collected and stored potentially compromising material on their political opponents.[9] Kompromat does not necessarily target individuals or groups, but rather collects information that could be useful at a later time.[10] Compromising videos are produced long in advance when in need for leverage of people.[11]

Opposition research is conducted in the U.S. to find compromising material on political opponents so that such material may be released to weaken the opponents. Kompromat differs, however, in that such information is used to exert influence over people.[12]


In the 1950s, British civil servant John Vassall was a victim of a gay honey trap operation, which would be used as a form of kompromat against him since homosexuality was illegal in Britain at the time.[13] During a 1957 visit to Moscow, American journalist Joseph Alsop also fell victim to a gay honey trap operation conducted by the KGB.[14]

In 1997, Valentin Kovalev was removed as the Russian Minister of Justice after photographs of him in a sauna with prostitutes controlled by Solntsevskaya Bratva were published in a newspaper. In an interview with another newspaper, Kovalev said, "Kompromat is vile. Once it starts, it knows no limits. Kompromat is always effective in Russia".[6] In 1999, a video aired with a man resembling Yury Skuratov in bed with two women that later would lead to his dismissal as Prosecutor General of Russia. It was released after he began looking into charges of corruption by President Boris Yeltsin and his associates.[15]

In August 2009, videos allegedly released by the FSB purportedly featured American diplomat Brendan Kyle Hatcher making telephone calls, presumably to a prostitute, then engaging in sexual activity with a woman. The United States Department of State protested that it was a doctored, unproven tape.[11] In April 2010, politician Ilya Yashin and comedian Victor Shenderovich were involved in a sex scandal with a woman claimed to have acted as a Kremlin honey trap to discredit opposition figures.[16] The video was released only two days before the wedding of Shenderovich's daughter.[11]

In cases of kompromat during the early 21st century, Russian operatives have been suspected, or accused of, placing child pornography on the personal computers of individuals they were attempting to discredit.[17][18] In 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service of the United Kingdom announced that it would prosecute Vladimir Bukovsky for "prohibited images" found on his computer;[19] however, the case against Bukovshy had been put on hold as investigators are trying to determine whether the pornographic images were planted.[7]

Ahead of the 2016 Russian legislative election, a sex tape of Mikhail Kasyanov emerged on NTV.[15][18]

Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it emerged on 10 January 2017, that U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating possibly compromising personal and financial information on President-elect Donald Trump, leading to allegations that he and members of his administration may be vulnerable to manipulation by the Russian government.[20][21]

At a joint press conference on July 16, 2018 both Trump and Putin were asked point blank whether Russia had kompromat on Trump. Neither answered "no". Putin responded

Yeah, I did hear these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow. Well, distinguished colleague, let me tell you this: When President Trump was at Moscow back then, I didn't even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with utmost respect, but back then when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow... Well, let's take St. Petersburg Economic Forum, for instance, There were over 500 American businessmen, high-ranking, high-level ones. I don't even remember the last names of each and every one of them. Well, do you remember -- do you think that we try to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them? Well, it's difficult to imagine an utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this. Well, please, just disregard these issues and don't think about this anymore again.[22]

Trump simply answered "It would have been out long ago" before changing the subject and ending the press conference.[22]

British Labour MP Chris Bryant, an ex-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Russia, who claims that the Russian government orchestrated a homophobic campaign to remove him from this position, has claimed that the Russian government has acquired kompromat on high-profile Conservative MPs including Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Alan Duncan, and David Davis.[23] Following a 2016 phone call between incoming-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Flynn allegedly lied to the White House on the extent of those contacts placing him in a position vulnerable to blackmail. According to congressional testimony delivered by former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, the Department of Justice believed that "General Flynn was compromised," and placed Flynn in “a situation where the national-security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”[24][25]

See also


  1. ^ Hoffman, David (2003). The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia. PublicAffairs. p. 272. ISBN 1-586-48202-5. 
  2. ^ Koltsova, Olessia (2006), News Media and Power in Russia, BASEES/Routledge series on Russian and East European Studies, Routledge, p. 108, ISBN 0-415-34515-4 
  3. ^ White, Stephen; McAllister, Ian (2006), "Politics and the Media in Post-Communist Russia", in Voltmer, Katrin, Mass Media and Political Communication in New Democracies (PDF), Routledge/ECPR studies in European political science, Routledge, pp. 225–226, ISBN 0-415-33779-8, archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-19 
  4. ^ Wheatley, Jonathan (2005). Georgia from National Awakening to Rose Revolution: Delayed Transition in the Former Soviet Union. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-754-64503-7. 
  5. ^ Operation Smear Campaign, The Ukrainian Week (10 September 2013)
  6. ^ a b Ledeneva, Alena V. (30 September 2013). How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business. Cornell University Press. p. 288. ISBN 9780801470059. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Higgins, Andrew (9 December 2016). "Foes of Russia Say Child Pornography Is Planted to Ruin Them". The New York Times. Cambridge. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  8. ^ Waxman, Olivia B. (12 January 2017). "Document Claims Russia Has Donald Trump 'Kompromat.' What Is That?". Time. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  9. ^ Maher, Richard (12 January 2017). "What is 'kompromat' and how does it work?". New Statesman. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  10. ^ Woolf, Christopher (11 January 2017). "Moscow's long history of gathering 'kompromat'". PRI. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c Ioffe, Julia (11 January 2017). "How Blackmail Works in Russia". The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  12. ^ Tucker, Joshua (12 January 2017). "Everything you need to know about the Russian art of 'kompromat'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  13. ^ Jones, Bryony; Mackintosh, Eliza (12 January 2017). "What is Kompromat?". CNN. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  14. ^ Higgins, Andrew; Kramer, Andrew (12 January 2017). "Sexual blackmail, Russia style: a history of 'kompromat'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Hodge, Nathan; Grove, Thomas (11 January 2017). "Trump Dossier Spotlights Russian History of 'Kompromat'". The Wall Street Journal. Moscow. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  16. ^ Osborn, Andrew (28 April 2010). "Amateur model known as 'Katya' revealed as Russian honey trap bait". The Telegraph. Moscow. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  17. ^ Higgins, Andrew (9 December 2016). "Foes of Russia Say Child Pornography Is Planted to Ruin Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Myre, Greg (11 January 2017). "A Russian Word Americans Need To Know: 'Kompromat'". NPR. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  19. ^ "Vladimir Bukovsky to be prosecuted over indecent images of children". Crown Prosecution Service. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  20. ^ Nelson, Eliot; Young, Jeffrey (10 January 2017). "Kompromat? More Like KomproMAGA!". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  21. ^ "Trump says Russian 'kompromat' claims are fake". Financial Times. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Wolf, Z. Byron (16 July 2018). "Does Russia have Kompromat on Trump? Here's Putin's strange answer". CNN. Retrieved 16 July 2018. 
  23. ^ Townsend, Mark; Smith, David (14 January 2017). "Senior British politicians 'targeted by Kremlin' for smear campaigns". The Guardian. 
  24. ^ Wright, Austin (2017-05-08). "Sally Yates: 'We believed that Gen. Flynn was compromised'". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-02-24. 
  25. ^ "Michael Flynn's Questionable Conduct, and Trump's". The New Yorker. 2017-05-09. Retrieved 2018-02-24. 

External links

  • Компромат.Ru (Russian website)
  • Компромат.Ua (Ukrainian website)
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