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Anna Korhonen
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Visiting Fellows 2014-2015

Yuliya Zabyelina, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York (CUNY), USA

Why Does Corruption Persist in Putin’s Russia? Political Will and Controlled Corruption in Authoritarian Regimes
(May-June 2015)

Biography:
Dr. Yuliya Zabyelina is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, New York. Her research interests include various topics in international criminal justice, and particularly, transnational organized crime and corruption.

Before moving to the United States, she held a postdoctoral position at the University of Edinburgh and has completed several visiting fellowships in North America and Europe, including, the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI) (2013), Moscow Carnegie Endowment for Peace (2010), and Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at George Mason University (2010). Her scholarly work appeared in Trends in Organized Crime, Global Crime, Crime, Law and Social Change (with Jana Arsovska), Journal of Peacebuilding and Development,Cooperation and Conflict (with Irina Kustova), and Jane’s Intelligence Review.

Abstract of current research:
According to orthodox perspectives in political science, the relationship between democracy and corruption is grossly negative: the less democracy, the more corruption. Although this conventional perspective on corruption has been the mainstream in research for decades, a small body of revisionist and critical studies has emerged to question this position. Some of these studies suggest that the correlation between authoritarian modes of political rule and corruption may have positive outcomes (Nye 1967). Studies on authoritarianisms, for instance, suggest that some authoritarian regimes can control levels of corruption and the scope of informal distribution mechanisms (Andvig et al 2000: 53). By doing so, they may boost political efficiency and increase not only personal but also public wealth (Coolidge and Rose-Ackerman 2000: 58-59). The consequences of the so-called “controlled corruption” have thus far remained debated and demand further research.

The project Dr. Zabyelina is going to pursue as an Aleksanteri Visiting Fellow investigates the hypotheses about the costs and benefits of corruption in Putin’s Russia. In particular, her emphasis is placed on studying the political will to fight corruption and corruption‘s functional necessity/benefits. Has the Putin administration been willing to implement anticorruption projects? Or has been rather that the Russian government, being unable to reorganize itself, adopted a blind eye approach to informal exchanges of power and benefits (tangible and intangible) where they saw there was a functional necessity to do so in order to achieve particular goals?

In answering these questions two cases are going to be studied. The first is the case of the construction of Olympic sites in Sochi. The second is the reconstruction of the Chechen Republic. Both cases are likely to support the argument that the Putin administration has adopted a cost-and-benefit approach towards corruption, thereby engaging in anti-corruption initiatives selectively and unwillingly. Altogether, the research project covers some of the most problematic areas of Russia’s modernisation and promises to provide a counter-intuitive but, nevertheless important insight into the study of corruption.

Email: yzabyelina [at] jjay.cuny.edu

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Anna-Liisa Heusala and Hanna Smith