Grigory Pasko: How the Kremlin Fights Corruption


How the Kremlin Fights Corruption

Grigory Pasko, journalist

Here’s a story of a person I have recently come into contact with, which speaks volumes about how the Russian authorities deal with their own worst problem:  corruption.

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One middle-tier entrepreneur, having spent 15 years living in the North of Russia, decided to relocate himself and his business (he works in transport, hotel services, construction) to the vicinity of Moscow. During a preliminary reconnaissance trip there, he met with the head of one of the Rayons [something like a local district council or township–Trans.] – subsidized, poor, with financial problems, unattractive for investments.

The head of the Rayon told the entrepreneur that an influx of money into his district is very much needed, as are new jobs. He suggested that the new entrepreneur’s business line be selected for licensing, and that with regard to these activities everything would be done within the letter of the law, or “just-like-home conditions” and an absence of problems, the Rayon promised.

On his next trip to the Rayon, the entrepreneur received an offer tolease and develop a lot next to a road for a fee. The sum in question – about $250,000.00 in the form of… a bribe to an official. It goeswithout saying that the offer came not from the head of the Rayon, butfrom one of the bureaucrats.

Question: is the head of the Rayon aware of the fact that business matters are being resolved in justthis way behind his back (or with his participation after all?)?

Naturally, the northern entrepreneur is going to take his investmentssomeplace else. It is entirely possible that this someplace couldturn out to be completely beyond the borders of Russia.

All this reminds me of one of those balancing scales: on one side – thehead of the administration with his promises of legality and “just-like-home conditions;” on the other – the coarseness, heaviness,and visibleness of real life.

But there is also a third side – this side sort of hangs over boththese sides of the scale – the higher power in the country, which withthe lips of the president and the premier from time to time pronouncesslogans about a rule-of-law state, the struggle with corruption,demands to “stop giving business nightmares,” preferential conditionsfor the development of small and medium business…

Only to someone completely uninitiated could it seem that all thesesides are little connected with one another. And that they’re speakingdifferent languages. They actually all understand each other quite wellindeed. And this whole edifice is called “the Putinite state.” AndMedvedev is just a cog in this machine. A prominent one, to be sure,but far from the most important one.

P.S. Already after this reply was written, I took a look at thewebsite. Placed there, inpart, is information about a meeting of president of the RF Medvedevwith young members of the «United Russia» party. Answering a questionfrom one of the participants in the meeting, Dmitry Medvedev said: «Theproblem of allocating lots of land is acute for many regions… At somemoment it turned out that there are practically no lands forconstruction, because the heads of municipal formations at one momentquietly hid it into their structures… Even the governors weren’t ableto do anything, we ended up having to call the Procuracy-General andthe Federal Anti-Monopoly Service. They created a shukher throughoutthe entire country, criminal cases were even started up in a series ofregions, and as a result of these actions we succeeded in pulling acertain quantity of lands out from the hiding places. And this is anillustrative example”.

..The example with the entrepreneur from the North and his visit to oneof the Rayons of Moscow Oblast, it seems, is also illustrative.

P.P.S. I ask you to notice the slang term that the jurist fromPetersburg and part-time president of a large country, Medvedev, used -shukher. In the language of the criminal underworld – this is alarm,danger. In principle, a power that uses the methods of the criminalunderworld in running a country could speak in the language ofgangsters constantly and freely: Putin’s little jokes have been anexample of this for a long time already. So why do they hesitate? Whomdo they feel embarrassed in front of? Us, the Russians, every fourthone of whom has sat in the zone? No need to be embarrassed in front ofus: we’ll understand them just fine. They will stopudovo (that is -certainly) prokanayut (in the jargon – pass) as one of us. And we willonce again line up at attention, as they taught us in camp, to vote forthem. Naturally. Not to see freedom for an age.

• everything I have written took place practically before my very eyes

Illustration from – text on the man’s leg reads “corruption”