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Regular version of the site

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


See also:

‘Political Science Is a Lifestyle and Way of Thinking’

The English-taught Master's programme 'Comparative Politics of Eurasia' at the HSE Campus in St Petersburg trains specialists in the internal and external politics of post-Soviet countries. Students learn how to combine qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis with theoretical approaches from various social sciences. The programme has three educational tracks: one in research and two applied ones. Andrey Starodubtsev, Academic Supervisor of the programme, explains which subjects students will learn and where they will be able to undertake internships.

Advice from Above: Sociologists Have Assessed the Impact that Priests Have on How Their Parishioners Vote

Political preferences of at least 21% of Orthodox voters in Russia may be influenced by the clergy and their fellow believers. Based on an online survey of 2,735 respondents, HSE University sociologists Kirill Sorvin and Maksim Bogachev concluded that religion has a considerable impact on people’s political choices. The scholars assume that the share of those who vote ‘in an Orthodox way’ may be higher: many respondents were under 34, and young people are a minority among Orthodox believers in Russia.

Authoritarianism as the Opposite Pole of Postmaterialism

On April 10, Ronald Inglehart, founder of the World Values Survey and the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research, delivered an honorary lecture at the LCSR’s 9th international seminar  held as part of HSE’s XX April Academic Conference. The lecture addressed the roots of authoritarianism, its relationship to other widely investigated phenomena and its empirical linkage with contemporary politics.

HSE's Programmes in Political Science Receive International Accreditation

Bachelor’s programme ‘Political Science’ and Master’s programmes ‘Applied Politics’ and ‘Politics. Economics. Philosophy’ have been granted international accreditation by Central Evaluation and Accreditation Agency (ZEvA), based in Hannover, Germany.

English Graduate Chooses to Pursue Doctoral Studies in Political Science at HSE

Ever since he was a teenager, Judas Everett has been interested in politics. A new postgraduate student in HSE’s Doctoral School of Political Science, Judas says he owes a lot of his continued interest to the teachers he’s had over the years, the right encouragement and the right reading suggestions.

International Law Expert Explores Solutions to Sovereignty Conflicts

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.

How Food Affects Political Regimes

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'.

What Shapes EU MPs Views on Russia?

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.

Professor Drazen: HSE Students Give Food for Meditation

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.

Understanding Politics behind the Scenes from the Public Appearances of Elites

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.