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It's no well-kept secret that Russia ranks highly among the most corrupt countries in the world. Freedom House, a civil rights watchdog group, gave Russia a score of 6.75 out of 7 for corruption this year. In its report, Freedom House pointed to President Vladimir Putin and his tight circle of political loyalists as the root cause for such rampant corruption. While Putin has promised to bring an end to bribes and favoritism since 2008, he appears to only target those who oppose him. Transparency International, a non-governmental organization focusing on corruption, had similar findings and reported Russia was one of the most corrupt developed nations in the world.
It's by no means a new problem in Russian society. As far back as the 16th century, those in power have been exchanging bribes and favors, often to make up for a lack of funds. Since then, corruption has spread throughout the country's financial system and bureaucracy, from banks to agencies that issue drivers licenses. It's become such a problem that Russia's economy not only tolerates dirty money, but it flat out relies on it. The World Bank Reported that in 2007, Russia's shadow economy comprised near half of the national GDP.
Herein lies the problem. As explored by Amanda Taub in Vox, Russia's systemic corruption is so widespread, it leaves people little if any choice to pursue other options. If you want to secure any government-issued permit or if you want your small business to thrive, the system forces you into illegal means. At the same time, such actions technically remain illegal, so those in positions of power can, if they wish, swoop in at any time with legal action.
Corruption Perceptions Index 2014: Results (transparency.org)
"Poorly equipped schools, counterfeit medicine and elections decided by money are just some of the consequences of public sector corruption."
Brief history of corruption in Imperial Russia (rbth.com)
"Since medieval times, corruption in Russia has been rooted in the essence of the governing system-not, however, an incurable disease."
Corruption in Russia as a Business (imrussia.org)
"Transparency International has ranked Russia 133rd in its recently-published 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index."
15 years of Vladimir Putin: 15 ways he has changed Russia and the world (theguardian.com)
"Days before he was elected to the Russian presidency in 2000, Vladimir Putin told the BBC that Russia was "part of European culture" and that he "would not rule out" the possibility of it joining Nato."