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Corruption in Russia - Historical Perspective

Corruption in Russia - Historical Perspective

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Published by: The Russia Monitor on Oct 23, 2010
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Corruption in Russia: A Historical Perspective
Manabu Suhara
Introduction
There seems to be general agreement among specialists thatcorruption is particularly rampant in post-communist Russia. It is,therefore, not the intention of the author to add yet another accu-sation to the already voluminous existing literature on the alarmingsituation of Russian politico-economic life.
1
Rather, the main purpose of this paper is to investigate the causes of the corruptionin present-day Russia from the viewpoint of the ethical or moralconsciousness of the Russians, and to trace back the historical pathtowards the sources of their social mentality.This paper is organized as follows. In Section 1, the currentsituation regarding corruption in Russia is briefly summarized, andthe relationship between corruption, on the one hand, and Russianlegal culture and its moral awareness, on the other, is examined.Section 2 describes so-called ‘legal nihilism’, one of the charac-teristics of Russian legal culture, and Section 3 deals with ‘ethicaldualism’, another feature of Russian moral consciousness the au-thor would like to emphasize. In the final section, general relations between corruption and economic development are considered,and their implications for the economic prospects of Russia areexplored.
1. Corruption in Post-Communist Russia
In the literature of political science, corruption is usually de-fined as the abuse of public office, powers or resources for private
1
 
See, for example, Shlapentokh (2003) for analysis of the current situationregarding corruption in Russia.
 
M
ANABU
S
UHARA
- 384 - benefit. At first, we will examine Russian statistics on corruption based on this definition. Table 1 shows recent official data on threetypes of criminal offences (bribery, embezzlement and abuse of  power), which are generally regarded as corruption. According tothese statistics, corruption in Russia began to
decline
from themiddle of the 1980s, reached its lowest point around the year 1990or in the first half of the 1990s, and then began to pick up again inthe second half of the decade. Is this true? It seems to be substan-tially different from the information provided by the Russian massmedia. Table 2 displays corruption perception indexes for selectedcountries including Russia, compiled by Transparency Interna-tional (TI), a non-government organization specializing in sur-veying corruption. This table shows, in contrast to Table 1, thatwhile corruption in Russia was not so severe in socialist times(27th place out of 54 countries in the world in the first half of the1980s), it worsened considerably in the 1990s, and now Russia isregarded as one of the most corrupt areas in the world. Accordingto the 2000 TI ranking, for example, the degree of corruption inRussia was ranked 82nd out of 90 countries. Also, the severity of corruption for Russia proves to be much worse than that for CentralEuropean transition countries like Poland, the Czech Republic andHungary. The figures in Table 2, compared with those in Table 1,are far more congruous to our perceptions.If we accept the figures in Table 2 as plausible, then why dothe statistics of registered crimes in Table 1 not reflect the reality?We can easily think of some reasons for the inaccuracy of the fig-ures in Table 1. First, the ability of the police and legal prosecutorsto investigate crimes has been substantially reduced by the disorder within the judicial system caused by systemic transformation.Second, crime-rate statistics have fallen, because people have be-come reluctant to report crimes to a police-force which is deemedto be ineffective and corrupt. Third, the criminal code of the olddays has become unsuitable to new forms of offences. It is true thateach of these is, indeed, a big problem now faced by Russian so-ciety. However, we may cite yet another reason for the fact thatofficial statistics fail to live up to our perceptions. It is that thecorruption defined here as a criminal offence might be slightly
 
 
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   S  o  u  r  c  e
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- 385 -
C
ORRUPTION
 
IN
R
USSIA 

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