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Comparative Criminal Law and Enforcement: Russia - Crime In Post-soviet Russia

government instead economy society

According to Soviet ideology, crime was a "bourgeois" phenomenon, an excrescence of capitalist society that would disappear in a mature communist system. Crime statistics were not published until Gorbachev's glasnost reforms so one does not have a clear idea of the level of crime in Soviet society. But there is little doubt that crime has risen dramatically since the dismantling of the Soviet administrative-command economy. Not only is corruption rampant at every level of local and national government, but the new capitalist economy is widely controlled either by organized crime or by so-called oligarchs who obtained large chunks of the former state economy for a fraction of their value in exchange for sweetheart relationships with government officials at all levels. Russia's immense wealth is being pillaged through the selling off of former state assets and natural resources as well as transfer-pricing and stock manipulations, and the proceeds are being invested overseas instead of in Russia. Organized criminal gangs, estimated in the mid-1990s to number around three thousand (in about fifty overarching syndicates), are active throughout Russia. The catastrophic fall in gross national product, the inability to collect taxes, and two devastating and costly wars in the breakaway Republic of Chechnya have left the Russian government in a continuing fiscal crisis. The number of registered crimes was 16.3 percent higher in 1999 than in 1998 and has risen every year since the early 1990s. Violent crimes, and especially murders, have reached shocking proportions. The number of intentional murders reported in 1999 was 31,140 (in a population of around 147 million), compared with "only" 16,910 in the United States in 1998 (in a population of around 270 million). The government of Vladimir Putin, elected to succeed Boris Yeltsin as president of the Russian Federation on 26 March 2000, must redirect the executive branch of government to fighting crime, instead of participating in it, to strengthening the judicial branch of government, instead of sabotaging its enforcement of the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, and to pushing to perfect the reforms, instead of obstructing them at every step of the way.

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