In September 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that an inability to make much progress in the battle against corruption was one of his administration’s greatest failures. In fact, rising corruption has been a direct consequence of Putin’s policies to strengthen the state and to crack down on many elements of Russia’s civil society. The results of this expanding corruption will be felt in the upcoming 2007-2008 parliamentary and presidential election cycle and in many other spheres of Russian public life.
The main organizations that gauge corruption cross-nationally, such as Transparency International, the World Bank, and Freedom House, generally agree that corruption in Russia seemed to decline in the early years of Putin’s presidency but has increased over the last few years. While the overall number of bribes may be shrinking, the size of the bribes is growing. Russia’s “bribe tax” recently shrunk from 1.4 percent of revenue to 1.1 percent, according to the World Bank, but the amount of bribes has grown as much as 50 percent in absolute terms because of the growing size of Russia’s economy. While one can debate the validity of various organizations’ methodologies, the trend lines are clear. [...]