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The Role of Corruption in Russian Politics - Gorenburg 2009

The Role of Corruption in Russian Politics - Gorenburg 2009...

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3 Russian Politics and Law , vol. 47, no. 4, July–August 2009, pp. 3–7. © 2009 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1061–1940/2009 $9.50 + 0.00. DOI 10.2753/RUP1061-1940470400 D MITRY G ORENBURG The Role of Corruption in Russian Politics Editor’s Introduction The author discusses the problems faced by Russia as a result of the prevalence of corruption and bribery in its political and economic systems. He is pessimistic about the possibility that efforts to reduce corruption in Russia could succeed. Western and Russian scholars are in agreement that the Russian political and economic systems have been virtually swamped by a tide of cor- ruption. Bribery greatly increases the cost and reduces the certainty of doing business in Russia, hindering foreign investment and increasing the inefficiency of domestic production. The knowledge that both large business deals and everyday interactions with bureaucrats will require the parties to act in ways that contravene the law leads to an overall decline in morality. The authors in this issue take on a number of different aspects of this issue, ranging from defining and disaggregating the topic to proposing possible solutions. But they all agree that corruption is one of the most important issues facing the Russian political system. Without a serious effort to tackle this problem, Russia is unlikely to achieve sustained economic growth or to develop a stable political system. At the same time, as these articles make clear, undertaking such an effort is very dif- ficult or perhaps even impossible, given the current political conditions in the country. Svetlana Barsukova’s “Corruption: Academic Debates and Russian Reality” sets the stage for the other articles in this issue. Barsukova defines corruption as “an official’s use of his position for purposes of private
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4 RUSSIAN POLITICS AND LAW advantage.” In the first section of her article, she situates the study of cor- ruption in Russia and the West, discussing the differences between purely economic and more sociological approaches. She clearly comes down on the sociological side of this divide, arguing that the purely economic approaches ignore the social embeddedness of economic subjects. This social embeddedness is what determines, for her, the types of corrupt activities that most commonly occur in any particular society. Further- more, she argues that most studies of corruption use Western measures, which inevitably paint non-Western societies in a worse light than the Western control group. Taking this approach as a starting point, Barsukova argues that cor- ruption in Russia has become institutionalized as part of the system of government, with the mid- and low-level functionaries who collect bribes and kickbacks now required to share the proceeds with higher- ups. This phenomenon not only entrenches the corruption at all levels of government but also makes it difficult for honest bureaucrats to stay in government, as their superiors may fault them for not providing their share of the “loot.” At the same time, a second form of corruption is tak-
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