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The following article was originally published in Bolshoi Gorod. It was translated by students on SRAS's Home and Abroad Program as an educational project related to the translation component of that program.

This article and translation was published as part of SRAS's free monthly newsletter. Want the newsletter?

All Moscow's Bribes
Originally published in Bolshoi Gorod
Translation by Michael Smeltzer and Danya Spencer
Editorial Support by Margaret Goodwin-Jones

Bribery occurs in maternity clinics, kindergartens, grade and high schools, colleges and universities, passport offices, hospitals, military conscription boards, police departments, courts, and even cemeteries. Bolshoi Gorod has collected anonymous, first-hand accounts of everyday corruption, asked experts how it’s all organized, and also discovered the strangest bribes in the post-Soviet states.

Text: Ekatarina Svarovskaya, Darya Sarkisyan, Lena Krayevskaya, Anna Krasilshik, Elena Mukhametshina, Ilya Vasyunin, Andrei Gridasov, Darya Ivanova, Igor Mostovshikov (The New Times)

Originally Published in Russian in Bolshoi Gorod #1 (267)

Two Sheep

“In the Region of South Kazakhstan, local administration leader and land inspector from the rural district of Zhilka have been arrested on charges of bribery. They accepted two sheep from a local resident.” Kazakhstan Today, September 5, 2009;


“Leonov, the ex-minister of Agriculture and Food, was sentenced to four years in prison for taking bribes in the form of “jars of pickles and wooden stools” from the chairman of a company called "Dawn." Belarusian Newsaper “BelGazeta”, July 16, 2001


Average Cost According to Expert Estimates:

A place in a Moscow kindergarten: $500 – 5,000

Entrance into a “decent” grade school: $1,000 – 50,000

Entrance into a prestigious university: €5,000 – 20,000

Final Exams: 1,000 – 15,000 rub.

Moscow State Technical University, one term: Test/exam/quiz: €300 - 1,000

Vladislav, student: “The situation is like this: a student can’t pass any of their tests, so they look for a way to approach a specific teacher through their friends. The friends, who personally know the teacher, explain to him or her: I have this friend. He’s a good guy, but an idiot. You need to slip him a grade. The student makes a deal with the teacher and gets a decent grade. The fixed rate for an exam or quiz is €300–400. At best, a physics teacher can walk away with up to 40,000 rubles for a single exam.”

Moscow State University, Humanities Department: Session Admission: 200,000 rub.

Maxim, editor: “I wasn’t able to take the final, because I had done poorly on three tests. In the dean’s office they said, ‘We don’t know how to help you,’ which is a sort of code phrase, and those who understand can begin the negotiations. There are teachers who can settle everything. They know who is in trouble before the exam, and when you think, ‘That’s it. Goodbye to my education,’ they just happen to be near at hand. So, this teacher said to me, ‘We’ll handle everything. Have your mother call me.’ My mother gave them 200,000 rubles, and they informed her that a certain percent would go to the deal’s negotiator, and the rest would be split among the dean’s office.”

Plekhanov Russian Economic University: Test: 2,000 rub.

Ivan, teacher: “In our school, the question of bribes depends on the department: in one, everyone learns peacefully. Everyone is honest. But, for example, in the department where I taught, you could learn in exchange for money. One time, a student called me and told me to meet her and some friends near a monument. She said that they would give me a little something and I would give them their grades. At first, I just laughed, but then I thought about it and agreed. A girl appeared out of a group and offered me an envelope. On it was written, ‘The best present is money!’ It contained nearly $1,000. Just about the entire group had pitched in, about 2,000 rubles per person. Also enclosed was a list of everyone who had given money and what grades I was supposed to claim each had received. I gave them each the grade they asked for, except for those who wanted to follow the rules and take the test themselves.”

Medical School: Test 3,000 rub.

Olga, student: “Our university is corrupt to the very top. There are students who don’t go to class at all and pay for all of the exams. Some students in my group don’t even know where the pancreas is. One time, my group decided to pay off the physics teacher. He said that he would only help seven students, so as to not look suspicious. They offered me the seventh spot. I declined rather bluntly, and the whole group decided to shun me afterwards. I passed that exam myself. Later we had economics and the whole group decided to buy that, pitching in 3,000 rubles each. Only two people took the exam: myself and another girl who didn’t have any money. Anatomy is the most expensive to buy, but unfortunately I don’t know the price, since they hide all their plans from me now.”

Moscow State Institute of International Relations: Admission: $20,000

Anna, student: “My whole family graduated from MGIMO, and it was very important to my parents that I study there too. People don’t get in by chance. Either children of teachers or important people in the country, people who can buy a spot, or a very few geniuses, who were able to get in on their own. My parents found out that none of the regular teachers could do anything to help me. So, we had to have friends go straight to the dean to recommend me. It fell upon my mother to have coffee with some peoples’ wives and to set up formal lunches and invite all the relevant actors up the chain, who we needed to be acquainted with. In the end, we found a family that paid for one admission ‘scholarship’ and ‘recommended’ us. We paid $20,000 for me to take the entrance exams with everyone else. While they were grading my test, my money was collected by the teachers, who were alerted of the situation.”

State University of Land Management: Term: 1,000 rub. per grade; Diploma: 60,000 – 80,000 rub.

Anatolii, former student: “We have a simple list of prices: 1,000 rubles for an exam grade, 1,000 – 2,000 rubles per final. If you want an A, you pay 5,000 rubles. All the deals go straight through the teachers, so it’s cheaper. If a group of students gets together on a deal, then the teachers give them a discount. You can also make negotiations through the teacher's union, but then it will cost you three times more. Physical education, which everyone has problems with, goes for 7,000 rubles. A diploma is about 60,000 to 80,000 rubles. Last year my friend got one for 70,000.”

Grammar School: admission 70,000 rub.

Elizaveta, pharmacist: “We lived in Germany during my son’s first years of school. When I was transferred to Moscow for work, I decided to send him to a reasonably good high school near our home. We arrived in April, which is practically at the end of the school year, and it was obvious that the school wouldn’t accept us that easily. With flowers and candy, I set off to visit the director. She listened to the successes of my son in the German school and then let out a sigh. She said that there was no space and that it would have to wait a year. I told her that that wasn’t an option and that I was prepared to help the school. If I needed to give money, I would do it with pleasure. She nodded. Later, she called and said that for 70,000 rubles they would put my son in the fifth grade. We met in a café and I handed her an envelope. Nothing more was said.”

Kindergarten in Southern Moscow: Bypassing the waiting list to get in: 150,000 rub.

Alena, housewife: “As soon as I gave birth to my child, I put him on the waiting list for a kindergarten. But when it came time to send him to school, we moved to a different district and had to get in line all over again. I went to the person in charge of the nearest kindergarten to find out how to skip the formality. She told me that I would have to wait three years. As my son was already four years old now, that meant he would get in when he was seven. At that point it would just be easier for him to go to school. Having told her that, she named a price of 150,000. I had altogether decided to give up on the idea of sending him to kindergarten when we moved again. This time it was to the center of town, where kindergarten is less of a problem. There are fewer kids there, and the majority of them go to private kindergartens.”


Victor Panin, Assistant to the Chairman for the Consumer Education Services Protection Society:

“The annual turnover of corruption in the realm of education is $6.5 billion. This not only includes bribes for admission and final grades, but also the embezzlement of state funds. Even the money allotted for schoolchildren’s’ food is embezzled. There are abuses of official power, unlawful commercial activity, and counterfeit diplomas.

The introduction of the Unified State Exam has only increased the amount of bribes: in 2009, the number of corrupt acts doubled. In Russia, there are about 2,000 institutions of higher education and 60,000 schools where they offer the USE. What’s harder to check? Corruption with the USE happens at every stage, from drafting of the exam to distributing boxes of tests from the Ministry of Education to the schools. There was even a case in which university students were hired by the exam committee to present themselves as local high school children and to take the USE for them. Universities don’t care about their reputation: they don’t fall into the world’s university rankings, and so what? They make up their own rankings, in which they are in the top three. Nobody fights for the title of best university in the country: it is simply given. These crimes in education have grave social consequences. Children hear their parents’ conversations about how much it costs to get them into school, and they grow up with the conviction that giving and taking bribes is normal. Here, people know that it’s always possible to make a deal.”

120 Bales of Hay

The financial police have caught an unusual bribe: in the Almaty region, the Deputy District Head asked for hay in exchange for a gas station. In return for the 120 bales of hay, the official promised to sign a document allowing the construction of a new service station.” Magazine National Security, 23 November 2006.

A Year of Free Cafeteria Lunches

An employee of Udmurtia’s State Inspection for Road Traffic Safety (GIBDD) was offered an unusual bribe. A woman offered the traffic cop a year of free lunches in the cafeteria where she works, if he would not record her traffic violation.” Newspaper Novye Izvestia (New Reports), 23 August 2010.


Average Costs:

An operation in a “good” hospital: 100,000-200,000 rubles.

24-hour nurse services: 1,000 rubles per day

Emergency dispatch to a “good” hospital: 1,000-3,000 rubles

Consultation with a specialist: 1,500-3,000 rubles

”Gratuity” for the hospital doctor: 1,000-50,000 rubles

Pre-natal care: 20,000-60,000 rubles

Elbow Surgery: 5,000 rubles + a bottle of cognac

Yuri, translator: “I had a fractured ulna with displacement. The doctors gave me a choice between free metal plates, which would later need to be removed, and buying titanium ones myself. I bought the titanium ones (for 25,000 rubles) and after the surgery, on the recommendation of another doctor I know, I gave 5,000 rubles to the surgeon and a bottle of expensive cognac to the anesthesiologist.”

Tumor Removal: 15,000-22,000 rubles; consultation: 3,000 rubles.

Nina Aleksandrova, doctor: “When my tumor was excised, I decided to give the doctor 22,000 rubles. I chose the price myself, I wasn’t asked for anything. But after my friend’s surgery for removing a malignant tumor on her skin, they asked for 15,000 rubles. As far as I know, oncologists and psychiatrists ask the most money for consultations: a minimum of $100.”

House Call by an Oncologist: 3,000 rubles

Appointment at a Clinic: 1,000 rubles

Nina, teacher: “My husband has stage IV cancer. But the oncologist at the district clinic, who is in charge of his case, continues to milk us dry. A house call costs 3,000 rubles, but even if he has to limp all the way to the clinic, they’ll still charge 1,000 rubles for an appointment. There’s no other way.”

Sick Leave Certificate: 2,000-3,000 rubles

Certificate for use of Public Swimming Pools: 500-800 rubles

Nikita, pediatrician: “There’s no room for bribes at the clinic. The most that a pediatrician can do for money is write out a slip for temporary work leave for childcare or a pool certificate. A false certificate for sick leave costs around 2,000-3,000 rubles, and a certificate for use of public swimming pools costs around 500-800 rubles.”

Operation and Post-op Care: 12,700 rubles.

Polina, hairdresser: “I ended up in a standard hospital with stomach inflammation. After my surgery, they left me lying in the hospital for a week and a half. I felt awful, and the nurse, who bathed me, asked why they weren’t giving me antibiotics. I didn’t know. Then she asked if I had paid for the surgery, and to my surprise she mentioned a ‘hospital price.’ In the end, I gave 5,000 rubles to the surgeon for the operation, 200 rubles a day to the nurse (7 days total) so they wouldn’t forget about me, 500 rubles for each bath (12 days total), and 300 rubles for one clinical procedure (post-op recovery).”


Aleksandr Saverskiy, president of the Russia-wide social organization “League of Patient Defenders”: “Low-level corruption in the public health sector is like a many-layered cake. Each person takes money for their own layer: the nurse takes money so that each patient is given effective medicine, the janitor, so that the windows of each room are washed, the chief doctor, for supplying equipment and other paid services, the doctor, for operations, births, and ensuring the best conditions. Some doctors also earn extra money from pharmaceutical company dealers. In this case, company reps will run around to doctors and offer them pills with some kind of compensation – pens, robes, overseas trips, or money. Then, in the doctor’s office, a full auction is on display: The doctor is no longer guided by the interests of the patient, but by his own material gains.

There is no way to judge the full scope of corruption in medicine; we can only estimate. Take childbirth, for example: a woman enters a maternity clinic with a maternity certificate paid for by the government. She also has mandatory medical insurance (OMC), which is paid for by the government as well, but out of a different budget. Then on top of that, she gives a bribe to the doctor. In the end, a single service is paid for many times, and we have no way to determine exactly how many services are run this way.”

GIBDD – State Traffic Safety Inspectorate

Average Cost:

Vehicle inspection: $150 -200

Driver’s license test: $300 – 500

Driver's license: 40,000 – 60,000 rub.

For crossing a double line: 50,000 – 60,000 rub.

For driving while intoxicated: €2,000 – 5,000

Return a license awaiting court review: 90,000 – 100,000 rub.

Daniel, mechanic: “In the regions, you pay 1,000 to 2,000 rubles directly to the inspector at the state inspection station. But in Moscow, it all goes through middlemen: this washes away the responsibility. The middleman is not an official, so it’s difficult to catch him. Thus, in Moscow, a technical inspection certificate is 3,000 to 4,000 rubles. A couple of years ago they integrated a line into the technical inspection station that stated that the vehicle inspection process should be photographed, which would eliminate the possibility of such a corrupt scheme. Yet in reality, they get along without the photographs. They either take photos of vehicles from previous years, or they ask people to drop in for five minutes to be photographed.”

License: 24,000 – 35,000 rub.

Maria, technician: “I’m just now going to take the exam for my license. They offered through the instructors to have me pay 18,000 rubles with the written test and 14,000 without. The cops take another 10,000 rubles. The rest goes to the driving school. Yet, if you pay for the written test, more money goes to cops who approve the license.” 

Ekaterina, public relations expert: “I got a driver’s license for my husband in June of 2010. I went to the local police officer, who did everything through a friend in the driving school. My husband didn’t pass any tests. He simply took the documents, went to the State Vehicle Inspection, and got his license.”

Returning a License before Court Proceedings: 60,000 rub

Ekaterina, assistant: “My friend crossed the double lines, so they took away her license. If she had made a deal on the spot, it would have been cheaper. But instead it cost her 60,000 rubles to get it back from the police. While they are finalizing all of the protocol on the infraction, there are three to four days before it gets sent to the court. My friend managed to get help from one of the department commanders.”

Accident Report: from 3,000 rub.

Maxim, editor: “Sometimes it happens that there is damage to your car, but there’s no police report to file for the insurance company to fix it. For example, when I messed up my bumper on a pillar in the parking lot, but I didn’t have time to wait for the traffic police. In that case, a corrupt inspector, who I found through a friend, helped me. You go to him, tell him the story of the accident, call the traffic police, and tell them what happened with your car. A young woman registers the call and promises to send along the ‘traffic police,’ so your policemen ‘take’ the call and ‘come’ dashing to you. One inquiry about an accident will cost anywhere starting from 3,000 rubles.”


Vasilii K., head of the investigation department of a Moscow district: “On average, a traffic cops’ informal rate is 50% of the official fine; although, there are exceptions. For instance, if drivers are caught driving under the influence, the traffic police can ask the driver for up to $10,000. The bribe all depends on the ‘client’s’ ability to pay. At the end of every shift, each officer should give their immediate superior a ‘target’ goal for the day, about 5,000 rubles. Anything more than that goes into the officer’s own pocket. Most of the financial dealings concern accidents with serious consequences or fatal outcomes. So as to not go to prison for a long time, the accused party in the accident is usually prepared to pay any amount of money. Yet, it depends on the officer and how accurately the accident is documented, which can affect the decision about the degree of the driver’s blame. The maximum rates go from $10,000 – 50,000.”

Sergei Kanayev, chairman of the Federation of Russian Drivers’ Moscow branch: “It’s better to not give bribes. But if we are talking about the loss of driving rights for four to six months, that costs 5,000 to 15,000 rubles in Moscow, depending on the value of the vehicle. If you are caught behind the wheel drunk, then the bribe might be, if you are lucky, 15,000 rubles, but on average anywhere from $1,000. Some give $2,000. I know that some drunk drivers pay 80,000 rubles. Where it occurs makes a big difference:  within the boundaries of the Third Ring, it can be more expensive. Past the Moscow Ring Road, the price can drop. Many drivers understand that going to court won’t be cheaper. The traffic police know this too. If a person goes to a lawyer, then at a minimum he’ll pay 15,000 rubles. The traffic police always take bribes that are a little bit lower than the sum that drivers would have to give a lawyer.

In general, returning drivers’ licenses is done by high-ranking officials, who can take the driver’s license from the station. Their bribes are much lower than they would be through a middleman, but certainly no less than 100,000 rubles. According to my information, you can buy a license without the exam for 50,000 rubles. The exam now isn’t less than 15,000 rubles. 20,000 if you want it quicker.”

Originally Published in Russian in Bolshoi Gorod #1 (267)


Average Cost:

Dodging document checks on the street: 100 – 1,000 rub.

Drugs: $2,000 – 10,000

Dropping charges for hooliganism: 1,000 – 10,000 rub.

For not Being Sent to the Conscription Board: 20,000 rub.

Dennis, assistant: “I ignored the summons to the conscription board and did my best to run from the commandant’s office, which was searching for me. I lived with my girlfriend, then at the dacha. But then one time I got mixed up in a drunken fight at the dacha and had to be sent to the station. The local police officer began to express his willingness to ship me off to the conscription board. We made a deal for 20,000 rubles.”

Dropping Charges for Hooliganism: 7,000 rub.

Stephan, unemployed: “One time a friend and I didn’t split a thing with another guy and decided to teach him a lesson. The guy figured out that we were getting ready to work him over and so he hid from us in a car. We pelted the car with bottles, pulled the guy out, and beat him up. They arrested us because the dude reported us and they wanted to charge us with hooliganism. But we made a deal with the cops – we kinda liked each other – we looked and dressed like skinheads. So, the cops were able to be brought around because we found a common language. We agreed on 7,000 rubles. My friend and I pooled our money, gave it to them, and the cops acted as though they had opened a case.”

Alexander, junior detective, criminal investigations, Moscow: “Any cop is first and foremost a psychologist. A cop will ask questions, which, it seems, aren’t to the point. He will ask about your grandma and calculate your legal knowledge, to see whether or not you are in a hurry. He will do everything in his power to shake you up, and while you are thinking that he is just stupid scum, he estimates your ability to pay with minimal error. These are the principal sources of “income” of typical polices officers that we meet on the street.

Minor Administrative Violations: 100 – 3,000 rub.

For drinking alcohol in the streets or for lack of registration, bribes are taken for up to 1,000 rubles, and for disturbing the peace, anywhere up to 3,000 rubles. In every district there are squares, yards, and parks, with apartment buildings all around. The cops know about these places and pass through them regularly. Residents also often call the dispatcher’s office, and say that drunk people are yelling outside. Then the money is split between the squad and the dispatcher.

Drugs: On average, from 3,000 rubles for a joint; from 20,000 rubles for cocaine

Bribes for a dime bag of marijuana or a gram of hashish found during a search range from 5,000 rubles, a joint from 3,000, and cocaine from 20,000. But with drugs there is a lot of variability: the type of drug, its weight plus its storage, for use or sale. When necessary, it can be destroyed. Or, just the opposite, more can be planted. If you don’t have any money, it’s easier for you to sit and do “the stick” for the statistics. So, it could happen that a police patrol will arrest three guys on suspicion of committing a crime, and they have 3 grams of heroin and 320,000 rubles on them. They are released at the scene of the crime.


Vasilii K., head of one of the Moscow district’s investigation divisions: “The smallest bribes are taken by the local police, traffic police, and beat officers. It has nothing to do with their modest requests. It’s just that those they ‘work’ with can't pay much. So the local police collect a tribute from illegal immigrants, minor dealers, and apartment owners, who rent out apartments without the knowledge of the tax inspection. The carefree life of a migrant can cost 500 rubles per month as a minimum. Illegal trade on the metro or in yards costs 100 to 500 rubles a day. Apartment owners, that don’t want to pay their taxes to the government, are forced to pay a “tax” to the local police. Depending on the area of the living space, it can average 1,000 – 3,000 rubles a month. To take more would make no sense. Otherwise you are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. If you take into account that these officers will have at least a few dozen rented apartments in their precinct, then they will accrue some decent incomes. In some cases, the local police begin to work with apartment thieves, participate in their scams or sell them information about alcoholics, addicts, and lonely old folks. In that case, the earnings are disproportionately larger, but the risk is higher.

Migrants, illegal merchants, and minor felons usually become the victims of beat cops. They can earn some money, for example, by catching petty thieves in a store. The police make deals with the rent-a-cops protecting large supermarkets to send them any shoppers trying to smuggle products past the cashiers. By law, theft of up to 1,000 rubles – more than 1,000 is an administrative offence punishable by a fine – is already a criminal offense which can result in real jail time. Most people don’t know this and the police will aggressively use this. Not long ago, I got investigated an event, where a woman stole two bottles of shampoo from a store and, as a result, the police managed to get 30,000 rubles from her by frightening her with criminal charges.”


Prompt Documentation: 20,000 rub.

Nikolai, manager: “When you bury someone, you don’t give a damn about all those people involved in the process. Not about the funeral agency, not the cemetery’s manager, not anyone. But they have a very refined system. When I was burying someone, the cemetery’s administration said to me, we will handle it for you, for your nerves. If you want, we will do everything very promptly, and for this payment you will receive a plot close to a birch tree. Add on 20,000, and we will formalize all of the papers without waiting.”


Anatolii Avdeyev, head of the Union of Burial Service Workers: “The Moscow city government issued a decree about family graves in closed cemeteries. So now, what used to be handled through bribes, but with smaller sums, now costs ten times more without bribes. Previously, a place in the cemetery “cost” $500. Now, in Khimki Cemetery, it costs 400,000 rubles. In Khovanskoye, 180,000 – 360,000 rubles.  A contract is signed that says that they will give you a site for your upcoming funeral, and you will compensate them for the cemetery expenses for preparing the land. Where the rest of the money goes off to, I don’t know. Funeral bribery has risen to commercial levels. If they don’t have the money to buy a place via contact, then they are furnished a plot for free – at Mytishchi Cemetery.”

Identification Documents

Average Cost:

Processing a Russian international passport in about two days: $1,000

In about two weeks: €300

For citizenship: from €5,000

Expediting the Replacement of a Russian International Passport: from 1,000 rub.

Lydia, Federal Migration Service (FMS) employee: “Instances occur where it’s impossible to wait 10 days for a replacement passport. The typical mistake of citizens wishing to expedite the reissuance is that they go to the migration service, without first reporting to the passport officer from the public utilities office: they think it’s faster. Sadly, that’s wrong. The passport officer in the public utilities office should record the documents for the passport reissuance and submit them to the FMS. The passport officer often visits the FMS once or twice a week on set days. So, to speed up the process, you need to go talk to her. Then, she'll quickly prepare the documents and run to the FSM herself, inform the FMS by telephone and send the passport holder themselves, or they go there together. A bribe in that case is offered to both authorities, to the local passport officer and to the FMS office.”

Simplified Acquisition of a Russian International Passport: 14,000 rub.

Daniel, mechanic: “I needed to get a Russian international passport, but because of work I didn’t have time to stand in line at the Department of Visas and Registration. Through some friends I went to this low-level employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I met with her near the ministry building on Smolenskaya. We went around the corner, and I handed over my passport, military ID, and an envelope with 14,000 rubles. I received my passport in a week.”

Residential Registration in Moscow: 100,000 rub.

Olga, employee of a registration processing firm: “We do registrations according to owners' requests, owners who come to us and offer their apartments. Although our client is then registered there, he doesn't own the apartment. He has no rights. The money is divided between our firm, the owner, and the official. There are some instances to which the latter should just close their eyes. Without bribery, for example, it would be impossible to have 20 people registered to one apartment. The people who process the registration know that all of this is on done on a commercial basis, and they can invent a thousand reasons for denial. The owner receives 30,000 rubles for every registered person, while the rest is profit to the firm. But when there starts to be an inappropriate number of people registered in the apartment, then part of the leftover 70,000 rubles goes towards bribes.”


Svetlana Gannushkina, chairmen of the Civil Assistance Committee: “The law concerning the legal status of foreign citizens is one of the most lucrative for officials, although it was intended to protect the labor markets.  This law introduced quotas regarding how many work permits an official can give. The quota is small, roughly 50,000 – 55,000 per year – so, the official granting them will sell all of them. The chain of corruption looks like this: a person arrives from Uzbekistan to earn some money, he applies at the migration service, and they tell him that the quota is full. He then finds some firm connected with the migration service, or a private agent (they have advertisements hanging in the metro and on the streets), and for an additional fee they provide a spot in that quota. The prices for a position in the quota vary – ranging from 2,000 or 3,000 rubles to 10,000. So, the quota is sold off, the bribes taken, and the foreigners work. The inspection board investigates an employer, who has hired illegal workers. The inspectors say, ‘You’ll pay us this much for these two, but you don’t need to pay for the rest.’ Here's another place that bribes are given. And on the other hand, the foreigners themselves give the bribes to police, so they won’t deport them. Bribes are given in every instance.”

A Rug and Some Knives

“The Ponomarevsky district court of the Orenburg Region sentenced a citizen of the Russian region of Moldavia to a heavy fine. According to investigators, he attempted to bribe a police officer with an unusual offer of a rug and a set of knives.” RIA “Novosti,” October 7, 2009.


“Last year in Chelyabinsk, a teacher was convicted for accepting a bribe of firewood.” Portal “Economic Security,” June 7, 2010


Average Cost: from a box of candy to €10,000 for a military ID

Military ID: $4,000-7,000

Aleksei, public relations expert: “When I started looking for ways to dodge the draft, a friend gave me a phone number. I called, and on the other end of the line there was a really nice guy, a former military man from the last Afghan war. He openly told me that yes, he could help, and asked me which draft office I was registered to. He explained that the cost ranges from $4,000 to 7,000, depending on the ‘meanness’ of the enlistment office. For mine, he said straight off that it was ‘anything but simple’ and named a price of $6,000. I came to his house with the money. As I understood, he would receive a part of the money as the producer, and the rest he would give to his people at the central recruitment office, and they would then disperse it to all the others.

When the summons to the draft office came, I went for the medical exam. The head doctor was clearly warned about me, and asked me about all possible diseases. When he could not find a single one, he got upset. Finding nothing, he wrote me a referral for an outpatient examination. After that, a woman called me, introducing herself as the coordinator. At the hospital, I went to each of the offices that she had named on the phone. They checked my heart, I pedaled a bike, did some exercises, and then they hung this thing the size of two iPhones around my neck and ordered me to walk around with it for several days and even to sleep with it. And I was forbidden from using a cell phone or microwave. The machine took a reading of my heart. At the end of the “screening” they drew the conclusion that I had congenital heart disease. A couple weeks later, I received a military ID as a private in the reserves.


Sergey Krivenko, member of the Presidential Council of the Russian Federation for the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights: “Citizens do not know their own rights. If a draftee brings his medical papers to the enlistment office that records his diagnosis (he has the right be screened wherever he wants, as long as the organization has a government license), the diagnosis corresponds to the unfitness of the person’s health. But the enlistment officers “don’t believe it” and endlessly send a person to get additional tests. They “lose” certificates from the university. They send you to a screening at a psychiatric hospital (although by law, only voluntarily). They send police officers to a guy’s house and they break into an apartment at 5-6 in the morning and bring you by force to the draft office (police officers only have the right to search a draftee, and to deliver him only with a summons). They constantly misinform draftees, threaten them with the prosecutor's office, and the list goes on. They spread rumors that this year’s military service is for one year, and next year will be for two or more, so go now. And consequently, the atmosphere of fear, hysteria and aggression is inflamed. There was information about bribes given to get into the army this year, ‘while the term of service is one year,’ for fear that next year it would increase. Another recorded instance was a bribe to be left to serve in Moscow, for about €3,000.”

Courts and Prosecutors

Average Cost: To close a case (depending on the charge) – from 100,000 rubles to ∞

Reclassification of a Criminal Case: €26,000

Gennadiy, architect: “Last year, I took part in a fundraiser to save a friend from prison. He had gotten really drunk and gone to the supermarket “Zvyozdochka (Little Star),” where he decided to steal a can of meat and two transformers. He shoved them into his jacket and left the store. The security guard was suspicious of him and decided to watch him. He shot at the guard with a gas pistol and started running, but he crashed into a door and fell. He started running again, but another guard caught up with him, so he shot again, but they overtook him and brought him down to the station. They put him in a cell, where he spent 5 days. They were planning to give him 7 years for planned armed robbery with a group – with a group because his drunk friends were watching everything that happened. Basically, while this guy sat in jail, his friends and family gathered up money. We collected €26,000, of which €6,000 went to an attorney, and the rest to the court and all involved parties. The attorney led the negotiations. They agreed that they wouldn't put him into a pretrial detention center and they closed the case. He was released with a warning not to leave, but the cops ripped us off – the case was not closed. In the end, he waited half a year for trial, in which he was sentenced to a year of probation instead of 7 years.”

Anatoly, employee of the Investigative Committee, Moscow office: “The investigator alone decides how to interpret the event under investigation, which article to charge the suspect with, how to carry out the investigation and exactly which experts to assign. Getting the investigator “interested” can affect any of his actions, even to the point of the final judgment.

The high princes among the uniformed corrupt are the prosecutors, due to their special legal status. In their position as government representatives, they oversee compliance with all laws across all spheres. Only the prosecutor decides whether to send a case to court or to return it to the investigator to address violations. He can also choose whether or not to authorize detainment and investigation of a person. If the prosecutor tells me that the case needs to be reclassified to a lesser charge, I’m not going to argue with him. On average, my investigators serve for one year and after they leave, their cases are incomplete and have many violations. The prosecutor knows this extremely well. If I don’t cooperate with him and if I refuse to fulfill his request, he will simply refuse to accept any further incomplete cases and will constantly send them back to pre-investigation. And why a prosecutor would ever call for a case to be closed or reclassified, one can only guess.”

Having an Investigator Reclassify or Close a Criminal Case: $3,000-1,000,000

There’s no fixed rate for these services. Everything depends on the gravity of the crime, whether it is a high profile case, and the accused’s ability to pay. Theoretically, the penal code allows us to interpret each case with completely different charges. For example, taking bribes can alternately be given a lesser charge – fraud. The logic in this situation is very simple: an official took a bribe promising to do something, but his position couldn’t allow him to fulfill this promise, and therefore his action can be interpreted as fraud. For this, it must be sufficiently proven to the investigator that within his position, the official could not have fulfilled these promises. And, for example, a serious enough charge like “the use of violence against a law enforcement officer” can easily be converted to an administrative infringement: let’s say the hooligan stumbled, and as he fell he brushed against the officer in question. You can close practically any case starting from theft and ending in murder. As court records show, an investigator in Moscow asks from $3,000-10,000 to close a petty case. Reclassification of a more serious charge costs from $10,000 to 20,000. Closing a major case can range from $100,000 to 1 million.

Various Prosecutor “Services”: $5,000-5,000,000

To reclassify a criminal case through a prosecutor costs from $10,000 to 200,000. To wrap up a case that is constantly being sent back to preinvestigation costs from $100,000 to 300,000. To order a serious injunction against an administrator costs from $5,000. The degree of corruption among prosecutors was revealed in the case of Vyacheslav Trofimov – a deputy prosecutor of the Northern Moscow district, who was sentenced in December for extorting $3 million to close a criminal smuggling case, although he had already managed to take in 9 million rubles, a luxury Bentley Continental GT supercar costing $180,000 and a motorboat worth $160,000.”

Recognition of an Heir without a General Jurisdiction Court Hearing : $2,000-5,000

Cost to Appeal in a Court of Arbitration: $20,000-25,000

A Favorable Verdict in an Appellate Arbitration Court: $100,000

Olga Dvoryanchikova, attorney: “All the cases I know of I heard about from my clients. There are people, so-called solicitors, who say: we know people, who can release you from liability. The solicitors can be secretaries or people who carry food to the courtroom. And secretaries sometimes ask for bribes for simply guessing the outcome of a case. The higher the court, the more middlemen are involved. The highest judges get 20-25%, the majority remains with the middlemen.

In twelve years of work I haven’t heard of one case where a judge was brought to justice for taking a bribe. It’s the crime that's most covered up. Even bringing a case against a judge is practically impossible due to his special status, which is defined in the law ‘On the Status of Judges.’ But his position according to this law directly contradicts Article 19 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which states that all are equal before the law and the court, regardless of their official capacity.”


Nikolai, employee of the Investigative Committee, Moscow office: “Typically the role of middleman for the high-ranking security services is played by a lawyer. Every investigator has a ‘courtier’ lawyer, who handles all issues of extortion and bribery. The investigator usually answers any question by saying, ‘Here’s the card of a good lawyer, he will help you.’ This kind of ‘defender’ doesn’t waste time with investigations and judicial processes and often doesn’t even have sufficient legal knowledge to do so. His job is to quickly separate the client from his money and give a cut to the investigator, police operative, or judge. These types of lawyer-middlemen are informally called ‘camels.’ Even members of the legal community are aware that among them, a third to a half are working as ‘camels.’

Many corrupt deals that go through lawyers are ordinary fraud. A lawyer promises to help a client, takes money from him, supposedly to bribe the investigator, and pockets it. I once summoned an individual accused of charges from a different episode, and it really surprised her. She even started yelling that I, allegedly, had brazenly taken the money but wouldn’t close the case. As it turned out, the lawyer received 300,000 rubles from her supposedly as a bribe for me after I promised to close the case.”

Kirill Kabanov, chairman of the National Anticorruption Committee: “Corruption in the legal process occurs in two forms: direct financial bribery and professional pressure. The size of a bribe starts at $50,000 and at times reaches up to several million dollars, for handing down a favorable ruling, for pre-trial detensions, or for corporate raids. Non-guilty verdicts rarely come about, so people take the corrupt path.

On top of that, the court is controlled by some of the intelligence agencies, and as a result, they will approach the judge and say, ‘Either you’ll be promoted, or you'll get nothing.’ In these cases, people are not defending public interests, but rather private interests.

A Sheep Carcass

“The chief enlistment officer of Kalmykia (in southwest Russia) is suspected of accepting a bribe of a sheep carcass from a draftee. Lieutenant Colonel Gennady Shestopalov, the chief enlistment officer of the Sarginsky and Maloderbetovsky regions of Kalmykia, was arrested by police officers after receiving a sheep carcass valued at 2000 rubles from the draftee, who brought it to him at the service office.”, 28 June 2008;

Tape Recorder

“In Tyumen a criminal case was opened in connection with a teacher at the Tyumen State Academy of Architecture and Construction, who was suspected of accepting bribes from students. He suggested that students “buy” useless things from him: a certificate for purchase at a fishing store, a tape recorder, books, a typewriter, a telephone, shorts.”, 3 July 2009


Average Cost: for “a service,” depending on the jail or remand prison: 1,000 – 200,000 rubles.

Olga, journalist, husband in prison for the third year: “Serving time in prison is expensive. Prices vary even in Moscow: at Matrosskaya Tishina, one price is found; in Butyrka, they are a bit higher; in Medvedkovo, the prices are average; in Kapotnya they’re very cheap; and in Pretrial Detention Center #6, they are very expensive.

A Visit: 60,000 rubles

I bought illegal visits in one Moscow jail, because I wasn’t allowed to meet with my husband. It cost 60,000 rubles for 1.5-2 hours and to give him a bag of groceries. They wrote me a permit, where I was identified as a member of the church choir.

Bag of Groceries in Jail: 500-5,000 rubles

Dinner in Court: 1,500-2,000 rubles per minute

If the list of groceries in the bag more or less matches what is allowed in the prison, then paying 500 rubles at the little window is enough. I packed up a bag of homemade cutlets and potatoes – that kind costs 3,000-5,000 rubles. To bring dinner to court, when a prisoner is being guarded, costs 1,500 rubles per minute. You have to feed both your husband and the two gaurds, because if you just send food for one person it’ll get eaten by the guards. I brought the food and money and talked to my husband for 5 minutes. At the court in central Moscow, a minute of that kind of meeting costs 2,000 rubles. The farther the court is from downtown, the less expensive the cost.

Just like in prison, you can also set up food delivery from restaurants to the court. The cops will bring a menu from a nearby restaurant, order and deliver the food, and at most will cost 3,000-5,000 rubles. If you order food to be delivered to the court for a person in a cell, then you order for everyone in the cell.

Belongings: 10,000-20,000 rubles for 10 kg

Prohibited Item: 3,000-5,000 rubles

Officially, a transfer of belongings is permitted once every six months according to the season. A package can be up to 10 kg, including food. My husband was arrested in the summer, so I quickly gathered his summer things. According to the schedule, the next transfer would only be in January-February – he would die before that point. Each package costs 10,000-20,000 rubles.

They check everything carefully for the presence of metal objects. As a rule, they won't take half: for example, I sent jeans, but with buttons and a zipper, and they pulled them out, handed them back, saying, what are these jeans for? That's why you pay, so that they won't give you a hard time. The simplest items are the hardest to send through. I fought for eight months over an ordinary plastic nail file, and during all that time my husband filed his nails on the wall. Hair clippers were also hard to send. They are iron, damn it. It cost 3,000-5,000 rubles.

Doctor: from 1,000 rubles

If you get a toothache, then you call a doctor, and in a week they look at you, and at best they'll give you (the pain killer) Analgin and say, be patient. They'll do everything for 1,000 rubles.”

Andrei, sales consultant, spent a year in jail: “In the cell you can get anything you want. Some prisoners have a ‘way out’ – a trusting relationship with some of the officers of the jail or prison colony. A prison worker, who brings things from ‘freedom,’ is generally an agent, called the ‘legs.’ This summer I saw an iPad for the first time, one of those agents had it. They weren’t officially being sold in Russia at that time.”

Mobile Phone: 5,000 rubles.

All the prisoners keep in touch. There’s a traditional “road:” wires, tightened along the windows of the cells. You can exchange letters with whomever you need to in any “hut.” But today you can also resolve many issues by telephone. People that are familiar with prison life can connect you with a person who has “legs.” He tells you who you need to meet up with on the outside. Your friends send a phone and money to the guy, and he sends the phone to an employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service.

Heroin: 5,000 rubles

Delivery goes by the same system as for the phone: they buy heroin on the outside, and send it through the special person. They bring it along with other items.

“Trip” to another Cell: 500-600 rubles

A “trip” isn’t very expensive, so you can pay the amount via mobile telephone or by electronic payment – today a prisoner can manage it with the help of a mobile phone.

Meeting with a Woman: 5,000-15,000 rubles

If there is a women's sector in the prison, then a meeting “in the yard” is relatively inexpensive. Prisoners get acquainted through letters, and then pay for a meeting. This can be done by a man or a woman. You can also order a prostitute in prison. In Moscow or the Moscow area, this costs from 15,000 rubles, but here everything depends on the specific office and agreements.

Switch Cells: 5,000-6,000 rubles

For money, you can move to a different cell, so as not to stay with unpleasant people. You can choose a specific cell if you know who you want to serve time with. Or, alternatively, you can pay for another person to be moved to your cell.

Choose a Camp or Colony: 150,000-200,000 rubles

Ending up in a colony where there are good living conditions is called “buying a step.” You can find out the best place to serve time from prisoners. Or, for example, you can call people who are serving time. And you can choose between regular and maximum security.”


Valeriy Borschev, human rights advocate, member of the Moscow Helsinky group: “There are enormous possibilities for corruption in prison. For example, as long as the mechanism for cell to cell transfers is not described in legislation, then a huge path for lawlessness emerges. Or for a person who falls ill in prison, it turns out that we are hopelessly dependent on what the doctors diagnose. Or, for example, a prisoner by law has the right to a television in his cell, and some put one in: the relatives come to an agreement, bring the television, and they set it up. Sometimes it is necessary to be insistant: Sergey Kovalevy and I struggled for two months to have a refrigerator and television set up for Platon Lebedev in Matrosskaya Tishina.”

Originally Published in Russian in Bolshoi Gorod #1 (267)

Small Business

Rates “by Expert Estimates:”

Opening a ready-to-operate business (except for difficult cases with liquor licenses etc.) – 10,000-100,000 rubles.

For inspections from various agencies: from 5,000 rubles to  ∞

Bribes to open a restaurant: 300,000-2,000,000 rubles

Egor, financial director of a Moscow restaurant chain: “Bribes will cost 300,000 rubles to open a restaurant in Moscow if all the documents are in order.. If there’s some kind of discrepancy, it can go up to one or two million. There are shops I know of that are opened without money. But there are also places you can’t open without a bribe. For example, if you have a place with one entry, where there’s no way to create a second – that’s where bribes are unavoidable.

Health Service Certificate: from 30,000 rubles.

Theoretically, you don’t need authorization from the Health Service to start work right away. The health service is only necessary for a liquor license. The Health Service can’t come and check “just because” at this time, it can only check once every three years, just as any other government agency can if there haven't been any complaints. And before Health Service can come for an inspection based on a complaint, it needs authorization from the public prosecutor’s office. But the public prosecutor’s office won’t give authorizations right now if there’s no danger to life: if no one is being poisoned and no one is dying, complaints like “it’s noisy there” or “we found a worm in our cup” are completely ignored by the prosecutor’s office after Putin said “enough harassing small business.” Now, the public prosecutor’s office refuses from the other side: it doesn’t authorize any inspections whatsoever.

Liquor License: $2,000-20,000

Theoretically, by law, a license takes a month so long as you meet five requirements: you must have the lease agreement, a Technical Inventory Bureau (TIB) certificate, a Health Service certificate, a fire safety inspection certificate, a cash register, and an alarm button installed. But the distribution of licenses is one of the most corrupt process in Moscow. Two years ago, we were offered a license for $20,000 without any guarantee that it would actually be given. The problem is that in all of Moscow, licenses are currently issued by one office. It can do whatever it wants: a TIB discrepancy, for example, is one official reason for refusal. On average, a license costs 50,000-60,000 rubles, if your documents are all in order. If someone opens an individual restaurant, the cost is lower than for a restaurant chain. But a large-scale restaurant chain, like “Rosinter” for example, won’t have to pay at all. It has its own agreements and specially paid people, who keep all the papers in order, take care of the premises, and work with the Health Service etc., because it’s a big threat to the business as a whole: if a chain has 300 restaurants and they are all not in compliance, it’s a catastrophe.

No one butts heads with the licensing office, everyone prefers to resolve the issue. What would you take them to court for? Then you'd never open any restaurant ever in Moscow.

Fire Inspection: from 30,000 rubles to ∞

Passing a fire inspection is mandatory for receiving a license. But the nuance is that the license is issued by Moscow and the fire inspection is federal, and to them it’s basically all the same. There are no laws that require them to give a restaurant a passing inspection. After the Lame Horse (a club which caught fire and killed scores of people) they simply stopped issuing them, and as a result, over a two month period, not a single business received a license.

Until the Lame Horse, if everything was safe and if you knew a fireman, you could get the permit in exchange for a bottle of cognac. But immediately after the Lame Horse, we called our fireman acquaintance who usually helped us out, but he couldn’t even speak – so much alcohol and cash had been poured over him for two weeks.

Not a single restaurant can abide by all of the fire standards, just as it can’t abide by all the Health Service standards: several of the provisions have been there since 1937. For example, all wooden constructions should be coated with a special flame retardant solution – literally everything, including tables, chairs. Naturally, this is absurd. Ordinarily, the firemen will come, and look at what you can abide by as much as possible, and then suggest that you set up a fire protection system with their company, from which they get kickbacks. The costs are instantly 3-4 times higher than market prices: from 300,000 rubles for 150 square meters.

Police: 250,000-500,000 rubles

The cops will check passports and medical records. An unregistered foreigner at work is a 500,000 ruble fine. Naturally, a bribe for each of these employees is not a great deal lower. In our restaurant we got rid of foreigners: it’s cheaper to raise a janitor’s wages than to hire a Tajik.

Consumer Protection Bureau: $2,000-50,000

The organization, created by Luzhkov, exists solely for the purpose of putting pressure on restaurants and retail businesses. Formally, it is a public organization, whose workers usually come and check “something,” although there’s no kind of authorization before this, and the most they can do is write to the city government. If the Health Service should also grow suspicious of your good intentions – so that no one is poisoned, the firemen – it’s clear why they dreamed it up. It’s an organization founded only for putting pressure on business.

Architectural and Technical Inspection and the Department of Advertising: from 30,000 rubles to ∞

If a restaurant is located in a historic building, then you will have endless problems with the shop front, signs, etc. It will be 30,000-50,000 rubles, if it's not officially bothering anyone.”

To an Agent for Business Inspection: $50,000-2,000,000

Anatoly S., employee of the Investigative Committee, Moscow office: “In Russia it’s impossible to get involved with business without violating the law, because the security services always come up with a reason for inspection. The standard way that agents descend on a company is to assert that they have enough material to start a criminal case, and then ask for money so that they don’t further magnify the case. There’s no standard price for that kind of blackmail. One case might take a really minor bribe, another could tax evasion committed by a major bank. An agent might ask ‘only’ $50,000 or might ask for half a million dollars.

The simplest way to shakedown a company is by inspecting its activities. Agents seize financial documents and computers, and the company’s work comes to a halt.  Businessmen are ready to pay any amount to ensure that they don’t incur any losses. To resume work at a midsized company in Moscow costs from €20,000.

On the eve of holidays, like New Years, agents really love to seal up the warehouses of companies with perishable goods, like fish, meat, and fruit, forcing their owners to pay big ransoms. Banks and big firms might pay the police anywhere from $100,000 to 2 million. Agents will also gladly take on contracted deals, when a merchant wants to eliminate their competition. Last summer, I investigated a case in which agents received such an order and shook down the client for €80,000 and tried to get the same amount from the ‘victim,’ so that they wouldn’t start a criminal case against them.


Ilya Handrikov, leader of the all-Russia movement “For an Honest Market,” and owner of the company “Formica”: “A young entrepreneur who has found a space, who should be creating jobs, couldn’t even guess at the massive amount of paperwork and problems there are. And, just in case they come to him for an inspection, he should study volumes of documents.

For instance, a fire inspector comes to you, and you know nothing about fire safety. The inspector comes up to you in your office and says: “So, the door here opens the wrong way.” As it turns out, a door should open in the direction of the exit. All doors. But in your office, it opens inwards. Here, the fire inspector is being cunning. It’s a bluff to check your knowledge. In truth, if the room seats less than five people, then there’s no difference which way the door opens. But now he already knows he's stumbled on easy prey, and he's guaranteed to shake you down. And if you really went too far with risky things: the window bars don’t open, or you have no fire alarm system, or the walls aren’t treated and are flammable – you run the risk of having a court decision brought against you and might even be shut down. The same thing is done by the Labor Inspection and the Health Service, but less often. Our remarkable inspection services are so sensitive to these things, that when a business started to absolutely languish from the serious problems, Dmitry Medvedev said his famous, “Who drinks the blood of small business,” and after that the Attorney General was supposed to run an inspection of the inspection agencies. This all happened last fall, and to this day I can’t find one closed report from the Attorney General on any inspections of the inspection services. That is to say, the majority of these agencies were investigated, and as it became known from a leak from the report, the statistics there were so terrible, that no one can find the report.

Originally Published in Russian in Bolshoi Gorod #1 (267)

Information about incidences of corruption at Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Moscow State University, Plekhanov Russian Economic Academy, Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics, and Informatics, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and the Moscow Technical University of Communications and Informatics has been refuted. The editorial staff of Bolshoi Gorod was unsuccessful at verifying information about other cases of offers and acceptance of bribes mentioned in the article. All coincidences are accidental.

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