Corruption has been a constant factor in Russia’s political economy. From one era to another, the multifarious forms of corruption continue to pervade Russian politics despite sincere and insincere efforts to fight it. The election of Vladimir Putin as president in 2000 brought a new effort at consolidating and organizing authority in the country. However, far from eliminating corruption, politics of the Putin era have merely changed the form of corruption, integrating corruption into the “power vertical” through which Putin governs.
In recent years, corruption has played an ever larger role in the regime’s stability. It serves as a force to co-opt and control the political elite and to replace formal institutions with something more flexible and more amenable to the needs of a consolidated authoritarian regime. Only deep changes, such as higher levels of political competition, have a chance of reducing corruption in the long run. The approaching fourth term of President Putin will continue to increase the role of informal institutions in Russian politics, in which corruption plays an increasingly large role in the Kremlin’s management of the political process.