Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Igor Fedyukin (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia) and Elena Korchmina (NYU Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)

Extralegal Payments to State Officials in Russia, 1750s- 1830s: Assessing the Burden of Corruption

This articles uses the expenditures records from a set of estates that belonged to the Golitsyn family to assess the level of ‘routine corruption’ in Imperial Russia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The data from these books allow us to identify individual cases of unofficial facilitation payments made by the estates and by peasant communes to the district-level officials; to delimit key types of payment situations; and to calculate the sums expended for payments by a given estate in a given year. The resulting numbers are compared to the overall volume of obligations born by the serfs to the state and to their landlords. Our conclusion is that while the facilitation payments were ubiquitous and accompanied any interaction with the state, their volume was quite low and they did not put significant burden on the peasants. Rather, by the last decades of the eighteenth century Russian Imperial officials at the district level appear to have switched from a tribute-like extortion from the population at large to making fortunes by collecting unofficial payments in more targeted ways.