Plot twist: Battle against corruption produces more corruption

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 18:  Russian Preside...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The Interior Ministry’s Department of Economic Security reports today that as President Dmitry Medvedev’s war on corruption heats up, so has corruption. In the first six months of 2010, the size of the average bribe has nearly doubled, from 23,000 RUB ($760) to 44,000. Since Medvedev was elected in 2008, bribes have quadrupled.


And bribes for bureaucrats who are of middle or low-middle rank have grown faster than inflation.

This confirms what I’ve been hearing from Russian businessmen in Moscow, who complain that visits from renegade tax inspectors, fire inspectors, pencil inspectors have grown more frequent and more brazen, and the size of bribes they ask for, well, see above. Some speculate that it is because the average bureaucrat’s sense of uncertainty has grown, especially if he thinks his money spigot is in imminent danger of being shut off, so they take as much as they can for the long winter ahead. But that is, of course, just the speculation of the people who have to deal with these inspectors.

No wonder even Medvedev admits he’s made no progress on fighting corruption. Quoth he: “Often efforts toward fighting corruption are limited to energetically signing papers.”


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21 Responses to Plot twist: Battle against corruption produces more corruption

  1. zed244 says:

    It took less than a year and just two people – one T.Roosevelt and one his friend – to completely clean up totally corrupt New York police and City Council of his time. It seems it is possible to give an upper limit estimate on the number of people available for the job in Russia (or even Moscow) today..

    • Mark Adomanis says:


      Will you venture a guess as to whether this is a temporary reversal to Dima’s anti-corruption efforts (something like a “storm before the calm”) or an indication that things in Russia are just so f***ed up right now that everything is beyond salvation?
      I’ll admit that the brazenness depicted in this article was a bit shocking: usually when the center declares something a priority the regional authorities at least pretend to comply. However, if the article is true, the degree of direct insubordination is frankly quite terrifying.

      • Julia Ioffe says:

        I think they are trying to comply at least cosmetically, but this is rattling the muroveinik and the freaked-out chinovniki are taking bigger and bigger bites in case they don’t get to take anymore. As for what it means in a broader policy or even historical sense, I don’t know. I think it’s too soon to tell but from here it smacks a bit of Andropov’s labor discipline initiative.

      • Mark Adomanis says:

        I can see pessimism being more than warrented, but I don’t think the Adnropov example is a particularly good one due to the huge variances between the command system and today’s Russia. The system Andropov tried to fix was, at a very basic and fundemental level, dysfunctional: no country has ever achieved a first-world level of development via state socialism. The planning methods that Andropov favored, by their very nature, cannot bring about intensive development – merely the mobilization of new resources.
        Meanwhile essentially the entirity of the developed world went through a period of gangster capitalism where the rules of the game were basically negotiable depending on how much money you had. Will Russia emerge from it’s current oligarchic capitalism? Of course no one really knows, but plenty of other countries have done it

      • kovane says:


        “no country has ever achieved a first-world level of development via state socialism”

        1. United States (GNP) $5,233,300.00
        2. Soviet Union (GNP) $2,659,500.00
        3 Japan (GNP) $1,914,100.00

        GDP per capita was also twice as low compared to the USA. This is clearly not to sing praises to the USSR’s economy. But one have to admit its achievements, despite its autarkic nature, insane military spending, stupid economic help to different countries, huge expenses on Chernobyl’s clean up and Afghan war, it somehow worked. Even allowing for ever-present statistics fudging and its gloomy future.

        And of course you’re right about Andropov’s initiatives. And about the ubiquity of corruption problems. Nothing new under the Sun there.

  2. kovane says:

    That’s not even funny. Julia, are you a chronic liar or what? Or maybe your Russian fails you?
    The next sentence in the article you referring to:
    “Эксперты говорят, что растут не взятки, а уровень чиновников, которых разрешено арестовывать.”

    My puny attempt at translation: “Experts say that it’s not an increase in the size of bribes, but more high-ranking officials are allowed to be arrested.”

    So actually, that shows that the anti-corruption campaign is mildly sucessful, because more corruption cases are investigated.

    Julia, maybe it’s time to think about a career change? I’m sure you’d make an excellent fairy tales writer.

    • Philanek says:

      I started my True/Slant presence with 2 blogs – Julia’s and Mark’s. When I realised the former is the aspiring champion of Tzeentch the Deceiver, I gave up.

      It seems poking Russia with a stick is a way to go in Western Journalism.

      How about tasered girls, blacklisted children and over-the-top military budgets in your own damn country huh?

      • kovane says:

        Philipp, why the nickname change? 🙂 And who is Tzeentch?

        I think it’s perfectly OK to poke any country, as long as you point to real problems and do honest job. I’d be very grateful to any journalist who tries to uncover Russia’s shortcomings. But only if it’s done with a proper analysis, hard work and impartiality. Instead of this, we have Yulia “the oscillograph hand” Latynina, Yevgeniya “get out of the job” Albats, and, now, Julia. I’m sure some juicy alias will appear shortly.

      • Philanek says:

        Paranoia peak 🙂 Also, this happens to become my main nick since “Phil” is just too damn popular in the internets.

        Agreed. One may poke all he wants when he makes strong analysis. In fact, I perceive journalism as more of a thesis-writing thingy, since you actually HAVE to dig deep, find statistics and double-check facts before presenting your work to anyone.

        Writing opinions targeted at the audience and tweaked to appease them is some kind of Western thingy (freedom of speech, opinionated media, etc.), but I draw the line between this and actual journalism.

      • hehe a Warhammer player? (I’ve only played it about twice at other people’s places, but I read the Wikipedia articles on the different races since one of my long-term goals is to write a fantasy series).

      • Philanek says:

        Not really a player, but I read much about the universe and also happened to write an article on it. Great sci-fi in itself.

        Ah, writing a fantasy series… Somewhere between 14 and 18 yeats (period where the creativity just boils in people) I was crawling with ideas for short stories and novels. I wrote fanfics and poems.

        Now it’s all gone. I write things by trade (concepts, commercial offers, scenarios, etc). so I just can’t/don’t want to elaborate on non-profit stuff like novels and stories.

        A pity really, I had some fun ideas and VERY vivid imaginations of what I want to read. If you wish, I may share some – maybe you will find something to integrate in your series.

      • Thanks for the offer – that’s so kind of you!

        I’ve got many ideas for fantasy too, but realistically, they’re in an embryonic state. I’d very much appreciate any new ones and in the off chance that I actually 1) do get to write fantasy and 2) use them, I’ll be sure to acknowledge their source.

        Please, feel free to contact me through here or Facebook.

    • Julia Ioffe says:

      Did you read the rest of the article, or what?

      • kovane says:

        I certainly did. Corruption is not some kind of extortion. Corruption allows to cut corners and usually beneficial to all parties involved. The loser in this scenario is the state and the rest of people. Measuring corruption by opinion polls is nothing but stupid. And the Department of economic security’s estimates rate anti-corruption efforts, not corruption itself. For a common citizen, most widespread bribe is certainly road police corruption. The size of bribes there has skyrocketed indeed. The reason is the changes in official state fines and especially in the part, that handles driving ban. This has nothing to do with the corruption in government or business. You would undoubtedly know that if you were anything close to a honest journalist. So my offer about the career change stands.

      • Julia Ioffe says:

        Any suggestions for other careers? Drawing a blank on this one.

      • kovane says:

        Hm, maybe a spy? Lying is definitely your forte, I’m sure your Russian is fluent enough, and if you get captured we will once and for all ascertain who will win a hotness competition, you or Anna Chapman. Anyway, don’t get any close to fact-related jobs.

      • Philanek says:

        “Any suggestions for other careers? Drawing a blank on this one.”

        — Oh, you’re being too harsh on yourself. Surely your education can afford more than one career chance.

        As a consumer of your articles, I also happen to be the average Joe of the country you focus on, and personnanaly I don’t like your articles at all.

        Mind you: it’s not about “the truth scratches the eyes” thingy, it’s just that your style is 100% Western-oriented and there are cuts in facts here and there to appease more to the targeted audience.

        While a sound marketing move indeed, it’s just not what I personally perceive as “journalism”. It’s more of boulevard media – “oh, look, Russia is lol, how typical of them”.

        IMHO, of course.

      • kingsleyzissou says:

        Sheesh, tough crowd. I’m glad my career as an unemployed Internet tough guy is safe…

    • Julia Ioffe says:

      И, в-третьих, кампания борьбы с коррупцией ведет к росту рисков для взяточников и, соответственно, к росту стоимости их услуг.

      • kovane says:

        That’s right. The whole point of any anti-corruption campaign is to increase the risk of taking bribes, so officials would more RARELY do it. But the main reason of the surge is: “Во-вторых, согласно новому приказу министра внутренних дел о критериях работы милиции именно рост среднего размера взятки засчитывается как положительный критерий служебной оценки.”

  3. yalensis says:

    Career options? There are many honorable and well-paying careers available in the United States for a bi-lingual specialist. Here are two possibilities right off the top of my head: 1.) the U.N. needs fluent interpretors, or 2.) the American health care system has a great need for bi-lingual healthcare workers. There is also the diplomatic corps, of course, and with the Fulbright on your resume you would have a good shot at getting a position. However, you need to start comporting yourself with more dignity and be careful of the company you keep, otherwise the State Dept might not want to hire you. They only want squeaky-clean people with no stain on their reputation. Remember that anything you blurt out in your blogs can come back to bite you later. Also, no nude photos on Facebook, or anything like that. But I guess that just goes without saying. This is all good advice, by the way. I am not being sarcastic or hostile.

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