Opinion

Felix Salmon

Lawless Russia

By Felix Salmon
December 16, 2009

Just in case you were feeling all happy about the book giveaway, let me bring you down to earth by pointing you to Law and Order in Russia, a website set up by Hermitage Capital Management in memory of their noble Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Do read his story, it’s horrific, and I hope it shames the Russian government to do more than simply fire major general Anatoly Mikhalkin of the Moscow Interior Ministry (although that’s a good start).

It’s quite amazing, the way in which the Russian police — with full impunity — managed to steal a whopping $230 million which Hermitage had paid in taxes in 2006. Magnitsky seems to have been unexpected collateral damage. Do spread this story: it shows in the most visceral way just how lawless Russia really is.

(Many thanks to Jesse Eisinger for the heads-up.)

Comments
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What is so horrifying is that this is not a case of a few bad apples. This is a case of moral rot that has permeated Russian society. I am of an opinion which would be unpopular with ivory tower liberals, that this is what you get from several generations of planned religious eradication.

Even if I am not a believer I would much rather live a society where people believe that there is an absolute right and wrong. The large numbers of people complicit in this have shown lack of a basic sense of right and wrong, as morality was unintentionally nearly eradicated under communism.

Russia is full of intelligent people, and is one of the most resource-rich nations on Earth. The only way to explain their utter lack of success is a failure of ethos.

Posted by DanHess | Report as abusive
 

So Russia was a thriving and just society before communism?

Posted by SBa | Report as abusive
 

RE: “Thriving society before communism”

A question of state rather than evolution. As a byzantine civilization it was behind, but it had begun to catch up with europe. So, it was becoming a thriving society, if it was not one yet. Under the Tzars they had labor unions, and an elected parliament, and were converting from peasantry to industry. The war undermined the entire society and they overthrew the Tzar because of it. The west, having destroyed it’s Sparta, germany, as the army of europe, was faced with a Russian army of europe, which, absent communism, we might have tolerated and brought russia fully into the west and modernity.

But Russian nihilism appears to be ancient. They have an eastern value of human life, with a western militaristic social ethos. I love them, and spending time with them as individuals. Moscow and St. Petersburg are a pleasure too few have experienced. But they suspect that everyone is trying to take advantage of them. And it’s true.

Russian men are a serious problem. While women in europe took out their anger on the church, and american women took out their anger on men, eastern block men simply checked out of society in vast numbers. I have heard men in Hungary and the Czech republic and in Russia state ‘if women want to work let them, but I am not doing the housekeeping”. While women use empathy to understand the world around them, dominance is how men develop caring about the world, and if you frustrate it, they will simply abandon reality. Western men have taken up video games. Japanese men simply stay home with their parents. Russian men turn to drugs, alcohol and nihilism.

We tend to think, as economists, trade solves all ills. But institutions make trade possible, and institutions are very hard to build.

Until the government spends two decades absolutely CRUSHING corruption, the civilization will not change. Most of the soviet block was ruined. Look at east germany. The west did this initially through military enfranchisement, of all things.

it may take eight hundred years for a civilization to cook a philosopher or artist. I am not sure it doesn’t take just as long to cook a common man who does not see his position in the bureaucracy as a bit of property to be exploited, rather than a civic duty to be performed.

Posted by CurtD59 | Report as abusive
 

I have no problems with CurtD59′s comments, but they highlight the utter stupidity of Reuters’ current blog format: I see the full text of his lengthy comment on the front page, but only a lead-in on your main commentary.

This is really unacceptable.

Posted by Lilguy | Report as abusive
 

Wait a minute. Russia is not a place to do business? I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

What moron could realistically conclude at any point in time that Russia is a place where laws are followed? Russia is today, has always been, and will always be a fetid cesspool of uselessness.

Posted by Unsympathetic | Report as abusive
 

You should also see the video documentary – it is very well made and easy to understand:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok6ljV-Wf Rw

Posted by Developer | Report as abusive
 

What happened to Sergey Magnitsky is an unimaginable tragedy. The rampant lawlessness in Russia is truly unconquerable if even lawyers are not safe from the reprisals of crooked politicians. Hopefully the steps by the Hermitage foundation to shed light on this sad situation will bring some awareness and possibly some change which is desperately needed.

Jack
http://www.accidentinjurydirect.co.uk

Posted by jacktrip | Report as abusive
 

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