Corruption in Russia

Corruption in Russia
Overview of the index of perception of corruption, 2009. (Where the highest perception of corruption is colored red, and lowest is colored green.)

Corruption in Russia is a significant problem that impacts the lives of Russia’s citizens. Russia is on the 154th place out of 178 in the Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International. According to some expert estimates, the market for corruption in the country exceeded US$240 billion in 2006.[1]

According to a poll conducted in early 2010, 15% of Russians reported to have paid a bribe in the past 12 months.[2] The overall amount of bribes in the Russian economy skyrocketed from $33 billion to more than $400 billion per year in Putin's government, according Georgyi Satarov.[3]

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



Political corruption
Corruption Perceptions Index, 2010
Corruption Perceptions Index, 2010

Bribery · Cronyism · Economics of corruption
Electoral fraud · Nepotism · Slush fund

Corruption by country

Angola · Armenia · Canada · Chile · China
Colombia · Cuba · Ghana · India · Iran
Ireland · Kenya · Nigeria · Pakistan
Paraguay · Philippines · Russia
South Africa · Ukraine · United States

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For a long time, the corruption of officials in Russia was legal: up to 18th century, government officials had lived through "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 "Кормление" 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.

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.[4]

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.[5]

Statistical evaluations

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
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).

In modern Russia, it is widely accepted that corruption is one of the main obstacles to the country's economic development. 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.[1] 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). The average bribe that Russian businessmen offer to civil servants increased from US$10,000 to US$136,000. More than half of adult population has direct experience in giving bribes.

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), 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.

Income of civil servants engaged in government, has been growing. In 2005, their income increased 44.1%. This by far exceeds average income growth for the rest of the population, which grew by 21.3%. 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.

On 26 September 2007, Transparency International published their World corruption perception index. 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). 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.

Problems with anti-bribery legislation

Russian criminal legislation contributes to corruption as it envisages penalties not only for bribery to commit illegal acts but for bribery as an act in general.

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.

Thus, the Criminal Code envisages punishment for bribery even in cases when bribes do not lead to illegal acts commitment. This encourages civil servants to take bribes for carrying out their straight duties, as they can't be held liable for committing illegal acts and at the same time they are protected from bribe-givers' denouncement by the existing law.

Release from criminal responsibility for bribery can happen only when the fact of blackmailing by a civil servant is proven. Therefore, the legislation insures civil servants from being denounced.

Formal release noted in the article 291 is there to appease public opinion and hide the corruption character of point 1 article 291 as in the existing practice the release is not automatic.

Taking into account that high rank civil servants have influence over law enforcement bodies, the existing legislation makes it impossible to hold liable for bribery. Moreover, the commentary to the article says: “Relief of bribe-givers from criminal responsibility based on the fact that they were blackmailed and involved into bribery or that they voluntarily confessed bribe-giving does not imply absence of elements of crime. Therefore, they cannot be considered victims and have no right to reclaim the values that were given in the form of bribe”. Thus a man forced to become a bribe-giver is considered a criminal and cannot be acknowledged a victim.

This is confirmed by statistics. Based on the data of Prosecutor General of Russian Federation Yuriy Chayka, more than 3.5 thousand people were incriminated with bribe-giving in 2009 while only 2 thousand people with taking bribes.

Cancellation of legal responsibility for bribe-giving is necessary to provide public control over civil servants. Blackmailing and forcing towards illegal acts should be considered a crime but not the actual fact of bribe-giving as it is almost impossible to prosecute the bribe-taker unless there is a will of law enforcement bodies to do so.

Areas of corruption

Today all areas of government are corrupted: people give bribes to get an assignment for a child to a kinder garden, to avoid army service; it has roots up to the highest ranks of the governmental spheres. Corruption is an ordinary part of life for all social levels. Areas that are mostly subject to corruption are:

  • customs: bribes for letting forbidden goods across border, return of confiscated goods and currencies, reduction of customs fees, just to avoid ungrounded delays at the border, unjustified delays of customs payments;
  • medical organizations: bribes to procure equipment and medicine for higher prices, to get false medical papers/certificates, to get served faster at the expense of other customers;
  • motor licensing and inspection: bribes to get unjustified driving licenses and maintenance checkup lists, to avoid penalty for breaking rules on the road, to forge data and conclusions about road accidents in favor of bribe-givers;
  • judicial bodies: biased hearing of cases, taking unjust decisions, breaking procedural rules, contradictory decisions of different judges on the same case, using law-courts as a tool of raiding captures;
  • tax bodies: reduced tax levy, return of VAT, checks and stoppage of production induced by competitors;
  • law enforcement bodies: to institute or stop legal proceedings, sending them to additional investigation, to avoid legal punishment for breaking law;
  • bureaucracy: to get necessary papers, permits etc.;
  • anti-corruption movements: is actually a cover to divide and steal the funds given to fight corruption;
  • higher education institutions: buying and selling diplomas, getting higher grades for exams, admitting to universities people with unsatisfactory level of knowledge;
  • licensing and registering entrepreneurial activity;
  • authorizing bank transactions for budgetary funds;
  • credit approvals;
  • export quota approvals;
  • tenders for goods/services procurement from budgetary funds;
  • construction building and repair works at the budgetary funds expense;
  • notarization of transactions;
  • control over licensing rules observance;
  • supervision of hunting and fishing activities;
  • release from army service;
  • entering higher education institutions (mainly ones majoring in law and economics);
  • governmental registration, certification and accreditation of private higher education institutions;
  • getting into secondary education institutions and pre-school establishments;
  • employing to state and municipal establishments with high illegal revenue;
  • forming party electoral lists.

Anti-corruption efforts

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.

Bloggers’ initiatives

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.[6]

See also


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