Russia’s Budget Is Getting More Transparent

Not often that you see Russia in some color other than bloody red on a world map of corruption or institutional quality. But according to the Open Budget Index (2012 results), the Russian budget is actually pretty transparent as far as these things go. Of the major countries, only the UK (88), France (83), and […]

Russia’s New Anti-Corruption Law

Russia is preparing to “nationalize the elites” by forbidding bureaucrats (and their spouses and children) from owning property or bank accounts abroad. (1) This need hardly be said at this point but this does demonstrate that Russia is not the “kleptocracy” it is frequently described as. Why would kleptocrats purposefully make life any harder for themselves? (2) It is […]

Boris Releases His Eighth (?) Dud

I can’t be bothered deconstructing it as I did with the demographic section of Boris Nemtsov’s last (seventh) white paper. But there are some things to be said about its claims as regards Putin’s lifestyle and its coverage in the Western media. (1) The definitions of what constitutes one of Putin’s “residences” is very loose. […]

Chinese Netizens Praise Russian Democracy, Accountability

Typically when Westerners write about Chinese and Russians they stress the negative aspects of the relationship. Russians are invariably racist towards the Chinese and fear them in xenophobic reaction to their (non-existent) swamping of Siberia. The Chinese for their part laugh at the alcoholic, non-productive Russkies. And quite likely they will soon invade and take […]

Ernst & Young: Russian Corruption Is Rather Banal By World Standards, And Improving

When I cited TI figures showing that Russian everyday corruption is middling by global standards (percentage paying bribes: 26%, compared to 15% in Latvia, 18% in Greece, 24% in Hungary, 28% in Romania) – as opposed to being on the same plank with Zimbabwe or Liberia – one of the most common counter-arguments was that […]

DAM, What A President!: The Real Medvedev, Part 1

A recent study by Laura Bottazzi et al. at the University of Bologna, Italy confirmed a pretty obvious fact of international business. Far from being the rational agents of standard economics, objectively focusing on those countries offering the best return on their investments, international financiers are in fact heavily influenced by national stereotypes. A Dutch venture […]

Names Of The Oligarchs On A Map Of The Motherland*

Not really arguing anything in this post, just sharing some interesting stats I found about the affluent class in Russia (as compared with BRIC’s and others). First, as we know Russia is (in)famous for the opulence of it oligarchy. But according to the research firm Wealth-X, despite a relatively high number of billionaires, its overall share […]

Given Free Publicity On NTV, Khodorkovsky Only Incriminates Himself Further

Following the failure of Khodorkovsky’s appeal against his prison sentence for theft and money laundering, state-owned NTV aired a positive segment on his case on national prime time. Most sides of the story were mentioned: Amnesty International’s designation of him as a “prisoner of conscience”, the Kremlin’s view that it was only the criminal justice […]

How NOT To Be A Whistleblower In Russia: The Case Of Yevgeny Starshov

In 2009, the UK was rocked by lurid revelations about MP’s expenses: home renovations, expensive meals and holidays, and even apartments fraudulently claimed by Parliamentary deputies. Apologies, recriminations, resignations, and even prosecutions followed in the wake of the documented evidence published by The Daily Telegraph. In the past two weeks, an intern at the State Duma incited […]

Corruption Realities Index 2010

The most famous corruption indicator is Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Its only problem is that the perceptions of their self-appointed experts have nothing to do with reality! As I explained in previous posts on this blog, it suffers from numerous flaws. Part of it has to do with its questionable methodology: using changing mixes of […]

Luzhkov Flees To Albion On Heels Of Russian Corruption Investigation

Refused residency in Austria and Latvia, we know learn that the disgraced former mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov has been granted an entrance visa to the UK. According to an ITAR-TASS source, it was granted on the basis of “reunifying the family.” His daughters have already been transferred to a London university. His wife Baturina has also […]

REPRINT: Is Putin Pitiable, Or Is The Financial Times Corrupt?

A thundering takedown of the Financial Times transparently one-sided coverage of the Khodorkovsky affair -and Khodorkovsky says Putin is ‘pitiable’ can also serve as a palimpsest for Western media coverage of this topic in general – from Eric Kraus at Truth and Beauty. BTW, do feel free to add his blog Truth and Beauty to your […]

Introducing the Karlin Corruption Index (KCI)

Following on the ground-breaking and globally acknowledged Karlin Freedom Index (which is of course by far the most objective, accurate, comprehensive and plain awesome democracy measuring tool available to political scientists today), I’m now revealing the Karlin Corruption Index (KCI) which rates transparency based on my own readings, personal impressions and bigoted prejudices. As with the […]

Interview with Kevin Rothrock (A Good Treaty)

Kicking off the Watching the Russia Watchers interview series at S/O is the promising new blogger A Good Treaty. He is a DC-based foreign policy analyst who prefers a “good treaty with Russia” to only treating with a good Russia: as a foreign policy realist, he is averse to neocon (and neoliberal / liberal interventionist) tropes alike. […]

The Red Slope to Caviar Road

The Russian magazine Esquire came up with some pretty shocking figures: It would be cheaper to pave one 48km road for the Sochi Olympics with elite beluga caviar than asphalt. The total cost would come in at a cool 227 billion rubles, or $160 million per kilometer – five times higher than what it costs […]

In which I Criticize Vladimir Putin

I’ve been accused of being a “Russophile cockroach”, an “amoral Putin lackey”, and overall bad guy. Guilty as charged! Yes, I do like Russia and don’t have much good to say about the Western media’s coverage of it. Yes, I don’t give much of damn for the moralistic posturing that any vapid idiot Kremlinologist can easily […]

Translation: Ksenia Larina – Radio Liberty, The Liberty of Mendacity

One of my readers, Fedia Kriukov, kindly pointed me to a LiveJournal blog post by Ksenia Larina from August 13th, 2009. She’s been working with the liberal “Echo of Moscow” radio station since 1991 and her husband, Rinat Valiulin, had accepted a position with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in February 2009. In uncompromising […]

Missing the Forest for the Trees

Russia is commonly represented as one of the most corrupt countries in the world in the Western media, ruled over by Kremlin clans who sugarcoat their kleptocracy with bombastic nationalism. The most oft-cited evidence comes from Transparency International. This is an organization which aggregates surveys of foreign businesspeople and regional analysts to compile a Corruption […]

Kremlin Dreams Sometimes Come True

This April, Michael Bohm, editor at the Moscow Times, published the article New Kremlin Dreamers, which questioned Russia’s stated intention of becoming an advanced industrial nation by 2020. I wasn’t much impressed by its pessimistic assertions – for instance, regarding Russia’s hopes of becoming the world’s fifth largest economy by 2020, he falls into the […]

Victimized Venezuela III: Myths And Reality

At the recent Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, two great leaders, Obama and Chavez, shook hands in what could be the symbolic first gesture of reconciliation. Treasonous neocons will no doubt rush to condemn this as yet another limp-wristed and unilateral concession to “America’s enemies”, reminding their listeners that Chavez closed down opposition media, […]