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­­­Factors of career trajectories of bureaucratic elites, informal institutions, and provision of public goods

Priority areas of development: economics

Goal of research: analysis of characteristics and performance results of the Russian bureaucratic elite and the study of the institutional environment that dictates its performance framework and determines its norms and values.

The object of the research was formal and informal institutions and public norms and values in Russia as well as their comparison to those in China.  This year we concentrated on the study of social capital and culture – the topics that only recently have started to attract attention of political economists but are crucial to the understanding of economic processes. Moreover, although Russia and its regions remained the center of our research, some of this year’s papers focused more closely on Russia-China comparison. 

Methodology: methods of new institutional economics and adjacent disciplines – political science and sociology; methods of data collection and data processing designed to solve problems of endogeneity and causality;  field and natural experiments.

Empirical base of research: data collected since the establishment of the International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development in 2011, and also new data gathered in 2015. Sources of the data are varied: statistics, archives, ICSID own databases. They include socio-economic indices of the Russian regions and biographies of the Russian bureaucratic elite (the open part of the databases can be accessed via http://iims.hse.ru/csid/databases) that are being constantly updated and extended and that have played a key role in much of the ICSID research; data on the history of Russian institutions from archives; surveys of Russian attorneys and of homeowners associations in 2014 and 2015, as well as other data collected for specific ICSID projects.

Results of research: allowed to make a significant contribution to theoretical and empirical research into political elites, social capital, collective actions and social policy; they also let us expound and update theories applicable to transition economies and developing countries. The results of the research are undoubtedly new and up-to-date thanks to the unique data we used in our research.

Analysis of the bureaucratic elites was developed further to include a comparison between Russia and China that helped us understand differences in governance and in business-government relations in these two countries. These variations that create different incentives for bureaucrats (growth-oriented in China unlike those in Russia) have a decisive effect on economic growth. We also found that differences in levels of administrative decentralization and local government competition help account for differences in business-government relations in the two countries and the more dynamic business environment overall in China.

In addition to that, we studied in some detail a problem of electoral accountability of bureaucrats in a competitive authoritarian regime. Using data on the outbreak of wildfires across Russia in 2010, we learned that voters in especially fire-stricken areas  punished the ruling United Russia party for its incompetent response to the disaster in the proportional representation system.

We also analyzed characteristics of the institutional environment that dictates performance incentives for bureaucrats. We defined and investigated mechanisms that explain the effect of cultural norms on economic performance; we empirically tested the impact of shocks on trust for institutions, namely, government; we identified the effect of economic, social and human capital of attorneys on their independence and their work as full members of civil society. We could propose a synthetic theory of collective actions that unites a theory of group interests with a theory of defensive organizations. The group theory is now given priority by researchers; it suggests that groups lobby their interests and create institutions for a limited number of people. However, the theory of defensive organizations corresponds more with the features of transition economies, such as Russia, where institutional deficiencies facilitate a development by the groups of good institutions for everybody.

Furthermore, in 2015 we continued the study of redistribution of taxes. This is particularly important in the time of the crisis and the necessity to increase the efficiency of public spending. We could find a link between support for more redistribution and tax evasion opportunities. This is possible in the context of weak institutions and it should be taken into account when planning government redistribution policies.

Finally, a separate task of our work in 2015 was creation and extension of databases. An important result is a development of four databases using both the already existing data and new data collected in 2015. ICSID now has the following databases: 1) socio-economic indices of the Russian regions; 2) historical roots of modern institutions in Russia; 3) biographies of the Russian bureaucratic elite; 4) vocational education in Russian.

Additionally, we achieved some results as far as advancement of methodology is concerned. Notably, we were able to modify the methodology of field experiments with regard to transition economies and developing countries where constructing correct samples and measuring results of experiments are often problematic. We also specified methods of collecting data about vocational education, characteristics of elites and historical roots of modern institutions

Level of implementation,  recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

Comparison of government systems in Russia and China allowed us to recommend policy measures to facilitate coordination between regional governments and local branches of federal government agencies and to link performance evaluation of the latter with economic growth and social development of the region. These provisions could help design growth-oriented incentives for bureaucrats and thus promote economic growth in the Russian regions.

We also proposed some guidelines to strengthen independence of the community of Russian attorneys so that they could become full-fledged members of civil society. This means more demand for legal services from business, improvement of the system of higher education in legal profession as well as more efforts on the part of attorneys to develop their professional associations and to foster integration of isolated members into the legal community. These factors, and not only the status of law, have a great impact on the independence of attorneys.

Finally, the study of redistribution policy in the context of weak institutions tells us about the need to take into consideration (when planning this policy) a link between required redistribution and opportunities for tax evasion. Groups that have more opportunities to evade taxes favour more redistribution.

The results of the research might interest not only the academia and researchers (that is demonstrated by ICSID papers being presented at the leading international conferences and accepted for publication by Russian and foreign peer-reviewed journals) but also different governmental institutions, the expert community and representatives of civil society. Scientists from different international universities have taken a keen interest in the research conducted at the Center and in our unique databases.

International cooperation: An important part of work of theInternational Center for the Study of Institutions and Development was devoted to the development of international cooperation. The center organized two international events: a conference “Institutions, Elites and Collective Action in the Developing World” in Moscow and a workshop “Comparative Studies of Regional Governance in China and Russia” in Hong Kong. ICSID researchers also participated in a number of well-known conferences abroad. We launched a successful Visiting researchers program that allowed 15 researchers from different countries and universities to visit the center in 2015.


Yakovlev A. A., Frye T. M. Elections and Property Rights: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Russia // Comparative Political Studies. 2016. Vol. 49. No. 4. P. 499-528. doi
Yakovlev A. A., Frye T. M. Elections and Property Rights: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Russia / Высшая школа экономики. Series PS "Political Science". "WP BRP". 2015. 
Frye T. M. Property Rights and Development, in: Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource. Stanford : Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, 2015. С. 26-52. 
Kazun A. Violent Corporate Raiding in Russia: Preconditions and Protective Factors // Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization. 2015. Vol. 23. No. 4. P. 459-484. 
Казун А. П. Рейдерство в регионах России: индикаторы и факторы // Мир России: Социология, этнология. 2015. Т. 24. № 3. C. 33-60. 
Remington T. F., Cui X. The impact of the 2008 labor contract law on labor disputes in China // Journal of East Asian Studies. 2015. Vol. 15. No. 2. P. 271-299. 
Rochlitz M., Kulpina V., Remington T. F., Yakovlev A. A. Performance incentives and economic growth: regional officials in Russia and China // Eurasian Geography and Economics. 2015. Vol. 56. No. 4. P. 421-445. doi
Yakovlev A. A., Kazun A., Khodzhayeva Y. Wer steht auf Seiten der Verteidigung vor russischen Gerichten? // Russland-Analysen. 2015. No. 296. P. 12-17. 
Адвокатское сообщество России. Санкт-Петербург : Институт проблем правоприменения Европейского университета в Санкт-Петербурге, 2015. 
Борисова Е. И., Кулькова А. Ю. Культура, имена и экономическое развитие // Вопросы экономики. 2016. № 1. C. 81-106. 
Remington T. F. Regional Variation in Business-Government Relations in Russia and China // Problems of Post-Communism. 2016. Vol. 63. No. 2. P. 63-74. doi
Frye T. M., Gehlbach S. G., Marquardt K., Reuter O. J. E. Is Putin's Popularity Real? // Post-Soviet Affairs. 2017. Vol. 33. No. 1. P. 1-15. doi