Crime and Corruption in the Former Soviet Union CEES5085

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Crime and corruption are significant social and political issues across the post-Soviet region. The course will highlight the historical legacies left by the Soviet Union in framing crime and corruption in the present day. The course focuses on Ukraine and Russia, but we will discuss other countries in the region throughout. Questions the course addresses include: why did many forms of crime increase rapidly after the Soviet Union collapsed? Why did mafias emerge and how do we define them? What role do violence-wielders such as organized criminals, private security firms, the police, and military actors play in producing (in)security for citizens of post-Soviet countries? What has been the relation between state sovereignty, crime, and corruption in the region? How has corruption affected state-society relations in the post-Soviet context, what role has it played in the region's integration into global capitalism? How effective have anti-corruption drives been? How and to where do post-Soviet organized criminal and corrupt practices travel, and how has crime and corruption in the region been made possible by the legal infrastructures of global capitalism?


1 x 2 hour class per week

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





60% written assignment: a 3000 word essay; students will be provided with essay questions during first week of class


30% policy report. Students choose one country in the former Soviet Union. They will analyse national anti-corruption strategies in the chosen country and report on the strengths and weaknesses of these utilizing internationally accepted measures of corruption and case studies of criminal cases involving corruption.


10% class participation: students will provide a couple of short discussion questions (totalling no more than 100 words) prior to seminars.

Course Aims

The course provides students with an introduction to the evolution of certain forms of crime and corruption from Soviet times to the present day with a particular focus on Ukraine and Russia. It focuses particularly on organized crime and political corruption and aims to provide a solid grounding for understanding and applying these terms analytically when reading or researching post-Soviet realities.


The course further aims to provide an understanding of:

- legacies of the Soviet second economy and criminal subculture in certain forms of crime and corruption in the present day;

- theories purporting to explain the huge increase in crime across the post-Soviet republics in the 1990s;

- violence and the market: the role of organized crime, private security, policing, and the military in regulating economic activity;

- the pervasiveness of corruption, and the limits of the dominant approaches to fighting it;

- the relations between state sovereignty, corruption, and organized crime;

- the cultural production and transplantation of post-Soviet organized crime.


At a higher level of abstraction, the course aims to maintain a focus on the issues of crime and corruption within state-society relations in post-Soviet countries. Thus, a theme throughout the course is to reflect on the way in which crime and corruption relate to trust, attitudes to law, and the state's monopoly of violence, in particular under the conditions of rapid social change.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


- utilize analytically useful definitions of organized crime and various forms of corruption

- analyse the problem of pervasive crime and corruption in the post-Soviet period in its historical context

- critically evaluate competing theories of links between the dynamics of crime and corruption and the evolving political and economic systems of post-Soviet countries

- analyse the main trends in the evolution of security provision by both legal and extra-legal actors in post-Soviet Russia

- critically evaluate strategies to fight corruption and their pitfalls, providing post-Soviet examples of these

- develop critical awareness of how we measure crime and corruption and where to find sources with such measures for post-Soviet countries

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.