The talks about corruption in Russia have become particularly annoying. I am more annoyed by those talks rather than by corruption per se. When they speak about corruption, they describe the phenomenon as the all-pervading, permeating worm that eats all power structures from within, from top to bottom. I'm annoyed when an adult sane person tries to prove it to me that the level of corruption in modern-day Russia has long surpassed the one observed during the 1990s.
It's a widely-spread issue. "The myth saying that Putin established law and order in Russia and consolidated state power gets shattered when it comes to reality," the authors of the opposition report "Putin. Corruption" wrote. They illustrate their report with Russia's position on the list of world's most corrupt countries.
The list is impressive indeed. In 1996, Russia's "rating" from Transparency International was 46, in 2010 - 154, and then the country keeps sliding down below. Here, they usually put the question bluntly: "What has Putin done during these 12 years?" Personally, the trick drove me in a controversial deadlock. Listing "trivial" things is strange, and it's hard to recall them outright - do they matter at all, in the long run?
A couple of those "little things" comes to mind if you think for a while. Here you are. Overcoming the crisis of non-payment of salaries to state employees; the Far East does not freeze every year as it used to; the press has forgotten about the problem of fuel deliveries to Russia's North. And by the way, Russian military aircraft fly, naval vessels navigate and military drills are conducted. The problem with the permanent absence of fuel at the Army has sunk into oblivion. But all that comes to mind only afterwards.
"The level of corruption in Russia places the country on the 143rd place on the list of 183 countries. This information was provided by influential international organization Transparency International in 2011. Backward African countries (Tonga, Nigeria, Uganda) are next to Russia," the authors of the opposition report wrote. "Putin's defenders often say that the corruption of the 1990s was not lower than it is today. But facts tell a different story."
When an adult and sane person begins to mindlessly repeat these points - yes, it's annoying.
To be honest, I bought my first passport for traveling abroad. To be more precise, I would not have received it, if I had ignored the price that was specifically indicated for me. I had to pay for my second passport too, although it was a payment in a more civilized form: "for legal assistance in urgent issuance." This year I changed the document strictly according to the law. I just filled the form on the website, took the questionnaire to the office, received a card, took the passport. I said thank you and heard a thank you back. Just thank you.
Something to compare. I heard the following dialogue at the Ukrainian border, with a Ukrainian customs official, in 2012, soon after Euro-2012 football championship, at Kiev's airport:
"How much currency do you have?"
"Are you sure? Well, let's fill in the declaration ... "
And then you realize that there is something unshakeable in the world, entirely made of rock, like the Kremlin wall. This is a very old scam that comes straight from the 1990s. The customs officer becomes obsequious and helpful. He helps to fill in the declaration for the "round" the amount, and withdraws the rest that has not been declared. People do not carry perfectly round sums - people need to have small money for small expenses. Very few people remember that declaring such amounts is not required at all.
Such things used to happen in Russia, but they only used to be.
Note that I said nothing about Berezovsky, Aeroflot, the missing tranches of the IMF and the disappearance of impressive amounts from the budget as "other expenses". I only share personal impressions, like a common person.
In the end, Transparency International calls its rating "the corruption perception index." The organization makes the index on the base of opinion polls and interviews. In other words, they ask people what they think about the level of corruption in their countries.