Monday, December 13, 2010

Corruption and crime in rural Russia

This story from the Sunday New York Times tells of a massacre in southern Russia. The headline is "A Massacre Shows Power of Gangs in Rural Russia," and the dateline is Kushchevskaya, where twelve people were murdered at a holiday gathering in November. Michael Schwirtz describes Kushchevskaya as a "small farm town," with a population of about 35,000.

Here's the part of the story that suggests the link between the size of the place and the nature of the corruption.
The community’s distress at the brutality was compounded when investigators said that the suspects in the killings were members of a local gang that had sown terror here, unchecked, for years and, worse, had forged close relationships with the local government. Some of the suspects were even current or former elected officials.

As a result of the killings, Kushchevskaya has become a symbol of the epidemic of lawlessness in provincial Russia, a problem rooted in the collusion of bandits and corrupt bureaucrats.
President Dmitri A. Medvedev is quoted as warning "local law enforcement officials not 'to hide in offices and observe as criminals grow and become insolent on their territories. Unfortunately, there have been a series of tragic events in which our citizens have died or were killed ... The reasons for this include laxity in the activities of law enforcement and other government agencies and, frequently, their direct merger with criminals.”

This story has me wondering if there is a common denominator among "small"/rural places that fosters corruption--perhaps a lack of checks and balances that permits and thus encourages this sort of behavior.

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