Observing the Effects of Everyday Corruption – A Conversation with Professor William Reisinger
On Tuesday, May 23, William Reisinger, Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa, will deliver a seminar at the HSE School of Political Science entitled ‘The Impact of Petty Corruption on Political Support in Post-Soviet Societies’. Ahead of his seminar, Professor Reisinger spoke with the HSE News Service about the topic of his research, how his impressions of Russia and the post-Soviet world have changed since he began visiting the region, and the changing interest in Russia that he has observed among Western students over the past several decades.
— Post-Soviet countries became the focus of your attention many years ago. What has changed significantly here in recent years? Are there any trends that you’ve observed as it relates to developments in democratization?
— I began studying this part of the world when it was the Soviet Union. Of course, many things have changed since then: politics, economics, federal relations, foreign affairs, etc. I have been fortunate to visit Russia regularly and observe the continuing changes.
— You travel to this part of the world often. What has your experience been like? Can you share any of your reflections?
— I have been in Russia at times when our countries’ relations were both bad and good. My first visit began days after the crisis over the shooting down of the Korean Airlines flight in 1983, when tensions were even higher than now. But even when relations are bad, Russians have always been very hospitable to me. They frequently express a belief that, as peoples, Americans and Russians are very similar.
— You are giving a seminar on 'The Impact of Petty Corruption on Political Support in Post-Soviet Societies'. How did you go about collecting data for your research? What methods did you use? And what is the main message of your seminar?
— My colleagues and I organized surveys of public opinion in Russia, Georgia and Ukraine, and in my presentation, I statistically analyze the patterns of everyday or petty corruption. For example, about one-fifth of Russians reported that in the last 12 months they had dealt with a bureaucratic official where some sort of corruption was involved: either the official asked for a bribe, gift or favour or the citizen offered one. The same figure is 27% in Ukraine and only 5% in Georgia. My main message is that widespread corruption, even at a low level, causes people to view political authorities less favourably.
— How much interest in post-Soviet countries do students at the University of Iowa have? What is the driving force for that interest?
— Student interest declined in the 1990s and early 2000s in favour of rising interest in China. Now, more students are becoming interested in Russia again. Among the reasons is the competition between our countries, which has caused business and government agencies to want more people with expertise about Russia.
— Can you recommend any books or papers on modern Russia that may help the international community better understand the country?
— I recommend Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). Garrels is an American journalist who made many visits over two decades to Chelyabinsk. She presents the viewpoints and experiences of Russians who live outside of Moscow and who come from many different social backgrounds.
— You've been to Moscow many times. Are there any special places in the city you like and would like to visit this time?
— I like all the well-known tourist destinations: the Kremlin, Red Square, the Tretyakovskaya, Novodevichy, etc. They are famous for good reasons. But I also like many lesser known places in the city, those that preserve the city’s history. I might mention the Church of St. Nicholas in Khamovniki, not far from Park Kultury metro station, and the Kolomenskoye estate.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service
On May 17, Dr Jorge Emilio Nunez, a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Law School (UK), delivered a lecture at HSE on the themes from his latest book, ‘Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics’ (Routledge 2017). While addressing members of the HSE community, he explored a solution of egalitarian shared sovereignty, evaluating what sorts of institutions and arrangements could, and would, best realize shared sovereignty, and how it might be applied to territory, population, government and law.
Better nutrition can have a lot to do with the transition to democracy: the more protein-rich, high-quality foods appear in a society's diet, the higher the likelihood of democratic reforms. Apparently, a richer diet is associated with an increase in the middle class, which tends towards economic and political independence and democracy-fostering values. Andrey Shcherbak has found, based on a cross-country comparative study using data on 157 countries, that a change in people's eating habits can serve as a predictor of impending political change. His findings are published in the paper 'A Recipe for the Democracy? The Spread of the European Diet and Political Change'.
EU MPs are increasingly negative on Russia, and their positions are largely defined by their national interests – rather than by their ideological affiliation to any particular political grouping in the European parliament. The researchers believe that this indicates that national interests trump ideological stance for EU MPs. Their research was presented in the article: National or European Politicians? Gauging MEPs Polarity when Russia is Concerned.
From October 5 to 11, the Summer School of the International Laboratory of Decision Choice and Analysis was held at the Higher School of Economics, where Professor Allan Drazen (Department of Economics, University of Maryland, USA) served as the speaker. In a recent interview, he spoke not only about the importance of legislative politics in modern democracies but also about why he was struck by HSE students, why gut instincts are so important, and why theory is more important than practice.
On Tuesday, May 26, Franziska Keller, Ph.D. candidate at New York University and visiting researcher of the HSE International Centre for the Study of Institutions and Development, presented a report called ‘Shaking hands in public. What elite co-appearances tell us about the politics behind the scenes’. This seminar marks the 9th joint Research Seminar on Diversity and Development hosted by the International Centre for the Study of Institutions and Development and NES Centre for the Study of Diversity and Social Interactions.
Building the Largest Database on Sustainable Development and Conflict Transformation to Make the World More Peaceful and Just
On 20th May 2015 Dr Michael Minch, Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University, gave an open lecture at HSE Nizhny Novgorod. A specialist with a unique combination of interests ranging from theological ethics to politics, Professor Minch brings together what at first glance appear to be irreconcilable — politics and ethics.
On 12 January, Chares Demetriou presented his book The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational and Comparative Perspective at a seminar of the Laboratory for Economic-Sociological Research. His main research interests are in issues of legitimacy and political violence, social movements and nationalism. In his lecture, Demetriou presented new ways of analysing the radicalisation of political groups.
On December 23 2014, the inaugural lecture by Vladimir Lukin, Professor of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs took place at HSE. The former Commissioner for Human Rights spoke about politics, diplomacy and why Russia remains a European country.
On the threshold of a new year HSE experts are predicting what could be the main trends in economics, the social and other spheres of life. What changes do we expect to see in the culture? This is what Alexander Archangelsky, HSE Tenured Professor, has to say.
Baltic Practice International Summer School: From Local Identity in a Global World to Organizing Next Year’s School ’Europe in Russia’
On November 18, the HSE International Summer School ‘Baltic Practice’ held a presentation about the results of the 13th School and announced the theme for next year’s School.