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Russia Table of Contents


Crime in the Soviet Era

Because the Soviet Union did not publish comprehensive crime statistics, comparison of its crime rates with those of other countries is difficult. According to Western experts, robberies, murders, and other violent crimes were much less prevalent than in the United States because of the Soviet Union's larger police presence, strict gun controls, and relatively low incidence of drug abuse. By contrast, white-collar economic crime permeated the Soviet system. Bribery and covert payments for goods and services were universal, mainly because of the paucity of goods and services on the open market. Theft of state property was practiced routinely by employees, as were various forms of petty theft. In the last years of the Soviet Union, the government of Mikhail S. Gorbachev (in office 1985-91) made a concerted effort to curtail such white-collar crime. Revelations of corruption scandals involving high-level party employees appeared regularly in the Soviet news media, and many arrests and prosecutions resulted from such discoveries.

The Crime Wave of the 1990s

In the first half of the 1990s, crime statistics moved sharply and uniformly upward. From 1991 to 1992, the number of officially reported crimes and the overall crime rate each showed a 27 percent increase; the crime rate nearly doubled between 1985 and 1992. By the early 1990s, theft, burglary, and other acts against property accounted for about two-thirds of all crime in Russia. Of particular concern to citizens, however, was the rapid growth of violent crime, including gruesome homicides.

Data as of July 1996