Corruption in Russia

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Corruption in Russia is a significant problem that impacts the lives of Russia’s citizens. Russia is on the 133rd place out of 176 (tied with Comoros, Guyana, Honduras, Iran, and Kazakhstan) in the Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International.[1] According to some expert estimates, the market for corruption in the country exceeded US$240 billion in 2006.[2] The Russian think tank Indem estimates that bribes accounted for 20% of Russia's GDP as of 2005.[3]

According to a poll conducted in early 2010, 15% of Russians reported to have paid a bribe in the past 12 months.[4] The overall amount of bribes in the Russian economy during the last decade skyrocketed from $33 billion to more than $400 billion per year in Putin's government, according to Georgy Satarov, former aide to Boris Yeltsin.[5]

Former president Dmitry Medvedev made fighting corruption one of the top agendas of his presidency, and launched an anti-corruption campaign.


For a long time, the corruption of officials in Russia was legal: up to the 18th century, government officials had lived through "kormlenie" (кормления - "feedings" – i.e. resources provided by those interested in their area of business).

Since 1715, accepting a bribe in any form became a crime, as officials began to receive fixed salaries. However, the number of officials under Peter the Great had increased so much that salaries came to be paid irregularly, and bribes, especially for officials of lower rank, again became their main source of income. Soon after the death of Peter, the system of "kormlenie" was restored and fixed salaries only returned with Catherine II. The salaries of civil servants were paid in paper money, which in the beginning of the 19th century began to depreciate greatly in comparison with metallic money. Insecurity within the bureaucracy again led to increased corruption.

In Soviet Russia, bribery was considered a counter-revolutionary activity, and the Criminal Code in 1922 made it punishable by death.

During World War II, bribery saw an upsurge, thanks to disruptions in supply, damage to transportation, and shortages of housing. Officials were willing to take bribes to offer citizens these things. In the period of Late Stalinism (1945-1953), bribery became a widespread means whereby citizens obtained documents and apartments which had been lost during wartime. People paid bribes to acquire and keep their jobs. There were also numerous cases of police, prosecutors, and judges accepting bribes to release people from prison. <James Heinzen, “The Art of the Bribe: Corruption and Everyday Practice in the Late Stalinist USSR.” Slavic Review, vol. 66, no. 3 (Fall, 2007), 389-412."> The Communist Party both railed against bribery and enabled it, as corruption began to permeate party organizations around the country. <Jones, Everyday Life and the “Reconstruction” of Soviet Russia during and After the Great Patriotic War, 1943-1948; James Heinzen, “A Campaign Spasm: Graft and the Limits of the ‘Campaign’ against Bribery after the Great Patriotic War,” in Late Stalinist Russia: Society between Reconstruction and Development, edited by Juliane Fürst (Routledge, 2006), 123-141.> During Khrushchev's "Thaw," a harsh anti-bribery decree in 1962 reintroduced the death penalty for the most egregious cases of bribery. <William Clark, Crime and Punishment in Soviet Officialdom: Combating Corruption in the Political Elite, 1965-1990 (Armonk NY, 1993.>

According to a survey conducted in 2006 63% of Russians had a negative or highly negative view on taking bribes, but only 51% had the same views on giving bribes (with 37% being neutral on this issue). At the same time 38% percent had a negative or highly negative view on reporting about the cases of corruption to the police.[6]

On 20 November 2009, the State Duma adopted a law "On general principles of public service delivery and performance of public functions", which allows officials to make the citizens pay for "public services" and "public function". According to the authors of the law it is intended to make it easier for the citizens and organizations to have the public services delivered for them; however, according to the Russian parliamentary opposition parties CPRF and LDPR, this effectively legalizes corruption.[7]


1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Corruption Perceptions Index
Bribe Payers Index
(21st; last place)
(28th out of 30)
(22nd; last place)
Scores are on a 0–10 scale, 10 being best (least corrupt / bribery least necessary).

Corruption, by definition, is difficult to measure. Some of the widely published estimates of corruption in Russia suggest that more than half of GDP was consumed by bribery, and obvious impossibility. In 2006, the First Deputy of the Prosecutor General of Russia reported that according to some expert estimates, the market for corruption in the country exceeded US$240 billion.[2] According to INDEM fund, this number is even larger: in the business sphere alone in Russia, corruption volume increased from US$33 billion to US$316 billion between 2001 and 2005 (not taking into account corruption on the levels of federal-level politicians and business elites[citation needed]). The average bribe that Russian businessmen offer to civil servants increased from US$10,000 to US$136,000.[citation needed] More than half of adult population has direct experience in giving bribes.[citation needed]

The fact that there is legal basis, permitting civil servants to illegally enrich themselves (in Russia, for example, there recently appeared a new term, measuring how "bribe-permissive" each individual law is[citation needed]), through demanding bribes or through illegal privatization, or special privileges for civil servants, leads to a large difference between legal and illegal income for civil servants.[citation needed]

Income of civil servants engaged in government, has been growing. In 2005, their income increased 44.1%.[citation needed] This by far exceeds average income growth for the rest of the population, which grew by 21.3%.[citation needed] Comparing quality of life with official salary gives an idea about the level of illegal income. The poorest segments of society lose the most to corruption, because they have the least financial possibilities than wealthier citizens.

While Transparency International numbers are widely cited, in fact, they do not purport to measure corruption, but rather "the perception of corruption". This will vary widely between countries and will be influenced by cultural factors. On 26 September 2007, Transparency International published their World corruption perception index.[citation needed] Russia was 143 out of 180, with the rating of 2.3. According to the head of Russian division of TI, Elena Panfilova, there is a "stabilization of corruption" tendency in Russia, where its ratings don't change (from 2.4 in 2005 or 126 out of 158, to 2.5 in 2006 or 121 out of 163).[citation needed] Kirill Kabanov, President of the National Anti-corruption committee of Russia, believes that there is no real fight against corruption in Russia: arrests of middle level civil servants do nothing to curb corruption, and there is no real anti-corruption policy.

The 2009 TI study showed that the global financial crisis only encouraged corruption: in the last year it grew globally by 9%. Corrupt civil servants and politicians in developing countries, including Russia, receive annually US$20-US$40 billion in bribes. According to TI, Russian corruption, as of September 2009, was on par with that in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Syria – 147th place out of 180. According to the Investigation committee of the Gosprokuratura, the number of registered bribes grew from 6700 in 2007 to 8000 in 2008. According to MVD, from January to August 2009, 10 581 cases of graft were registered – 4% more than a year prior. The number of registered bribes of large amounts (more than 150,000 roubles) grew by 13.5% to 219.[citation needed]

Anti-corruption efforts[edit]

The Russian government recognises corruption as one of the most serious problems facing the country, and has taken steps to counter it. Fighting corruption has been a top agenda of President Dmitry Medvedev. An Anti-Corruption Council was established by Medvedev in 2008 to oversee the Russia's anti-corruption campaign. The central document guiding the effort is the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, introduced by Medvedev in 2010.

Russia has ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Anti-bribery legislation[edit]

Article 291 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code says:


  1. Bribe-giving to a functionary, in person or through a mediator, shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 200 to 500 minimum wages, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of two to five months, or by corrective labour for a term of one to six months, or by arrest for a term of three up to six months, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to three years.
  2. Bribe-giving to a functionary for the commission of known illegal actions (inactions), or repeatedly, shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 700 to 1,000 minimum wages, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of seven to twelve months, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to eight years.
Note: A person who has given a bribe shall be released from criminal responsibility if the bribe has been extorted by a functionary or if the person has informed of his own free will the body possessing the right to institute criminal proceedings about the fact of the bribe-giving.

Bloggers’ initiatives[edit]

Recently, many Russian bloggers started campaigning in the Internet with declarations to fight corruption and address state institutions with petitions to punish the state-related companies and individuals found to be involved in thefts. Particular prominence was gained by LiveJournal blogger Alexey Navalny who organizes the largest-scale campaigns.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Transparency International. "2012 Corruption Perceptions Index". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  2. ^ a b Александр Буксман (27 January 2011). "Ни дать, ни взять Генпрокуратура начала новое наступление на коррумпированных чиновников". Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  3. ^ (article not available for free on internet.) The Next Russian Revolution by Chrystia Freeland * The Atlantic | October 2011
  4. ^ Levada Center corruption poll April 2010 Levada Center Retrieved on 8 November 2010
  5. ^ Vladislav L. Inozemtsev. "Neo-Feudalism Explained". The American Interest. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Россиянам придется платить за срочное предоставление госуслуг". 20 November 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "Russia's Erin Brockovich: Taking On Corporate Greed". Time. 9 March 2010. 

External links[edit]