Thursday, June 11, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s MVD Officers Well-Schooled in Corruption, Sociologist Learns at a Price

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 11- A sociologist who for seven years had taught professional ethics to future interior ministry officers in Tyumen has been denounced by a court in that Siberian city for research he conducted concerning the extent to which students at his MVD academy used bribes to get into that institution or to receive higher grades.
According to a report in today’s “Russkiy reporter,” Tyumen courts have found that Igor Groshev’s 2006 study, which was based on a survey of 413 students at the Tyumen Juridical Institute, offers conclusions which “do not correspond to reality and [thereby] harm the professional reputation” of the interior ministry (
His study showed that the future MVD officers did not work very hard at their studies, misused the powers that were given them, and both gave and took bribes. But the worst thing, the “Russkiy reporter” journalist said, was his finding that “the majority of students – the future officers of the militia – did not consider any of this out of order.”
As a militia officer himself, Groshev told the paper, he took his findings to the leadership of the institute “in order that he could take measures to correct the situation. But after [his] conversation, the situation in the institute in no way changed” -- except for one thing: Groshev was no longer admitted to the offices of the higher ups.
Several months later, the officials removed Grozhev from his classroom, but they did not limit themselves to that. After Groshev published the results of his study, they took him to court and they won: “the sociologist was required to pay 2,000 rubles (60 US dollars) for court costs and to publish a retraction. That decision has [now] been confirmed by the oblast court.”
Groshev has not published a retraction not only because he is appealing the sentence to the Russian Supreme Court but also because the sociologist says he isn’t sure what it could possibly look like and Tyumen judges have not given him any instruction. Should he write that “the students, when talking about corruption, were not right”?
Groshev’s former colleagues are supporting his appeal, and experts in Moscow are doing so as well. Renald Simonyan, a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the paper that “only scholars themselves” could determine whether a study “corresponds” to acceptable sociological rules.”
And he added that “however that might be, to change the opinions of people as expressed in survey forms is something a researchers simply does not have the right to do.” To challenge the findings of a study, a new poll would be needed, but that is impossible in this case: those who provided Groshev with his data have all graduated and are working for the MVD.
The “Russkiy reporter” article concluded that this “local history” nonetheless represents “a great danger. If the absurd decisions of the Tyumen courts are not reversed, then a precedent will be established under the terms of which any sociologist who publishes poll results the authorities don’t like can be accused of being a slanderer.”
If that happens, the paper continued, such a precedent could easily be extended to journalists as well. If that were to happen, the only beneficiaries would be those involved in such corruption who will be only too pleased to “turn to the courts to defend their right to take bribes in the future without being disturbed.”
Appended to this article are some of Groshev’s results. Among the more interesting are the following: 38 percent said they had used connections or paid bribes to get into the institute, with 8.9 percent saying that they were “afraid to answer” how they had gotten in. Moreover, 54 percent said they had bribed MVD officers, and 97 percent said they had bribed instructors.
Asked how they felt about making such payments, 30 percent said it was “inevitable,” 25 percent said it was “necessary,” and 2 percent said it was “a good thing,” while 39 percent said they were opposed to such things even when they acknowledged in their responses to other questions that they had taken part in them.
And perhaps equally disturbingly, 60 percent of students surveyed by Groshev said they had seen the misuse of power by officials at the institute, 69 percent said they had observed the cultivation of people willing to make denunciations, and 42 percent said that all these actions had contributed to an unhealthy atmosphere.
Given this schooling, it is hardly surprising that the newly minted MVD officers will see nothing wrong in taking bribes or, when necessary, giving them, an attitude that will only further undermine popular confidence in the militia and put off the day still further when Russians might trust their police rather than look upon them with fear or disdain.

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