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Corruption comparisons in Soviet and modern Kazakhstan

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Corruption comparisons in Soviet and modern Kazakhstan

At this point of the discussion of corruption in Kazakhstan, I explain the relationship between corruption in Soviet Union and its offspring - the newly independent FSU countries. Several authors argue that modern corruption in Kazakhstan had its roots in the Soviet past (Simis 1977; O’Hearn, 1980; Kaufman and Siegelbaum, 1996; Nickols, 2002; Rigi, 2004; Temple & Petrov, 2004). However, none of them provide empirical data to support this view. My search of perceptional data on the comparisons of corruption in the Soviet Union and modern Kazakhstan has produced only one study that described the results from Kazakhstan which indicates that people in Kazakhstan do not make the connection between Soviet and post-Soviet corruption in the country. Dzhandosova et al. (2002) present survey data where they interviewed career bureaucrats and elected officials. The Sange Research group (Dzhandosova et al., 2002) administered a face-to-face survey among 118 high-ranking civil servants and elected representatives in 14 government agencies. All participants were asked closed-end questions about various corruption related issues in Kazakhstan, among which were questions asking respondents to compare corruption in Soviet and modern Kazakhstan. Chart 6 below presents the responses of the survey participants that reflect their perception of Soviet and post-Soviet corruption in Kazakhstan.
Chart 6. The perceptions of corruption in independent Kazakhstan and Soviet Kazakhstan

Source: Dzhandosova et al., 2002
Chart 6 shows that 69% of social workers stated that corruption increased in modern Kazakhstan, while only 23% said it was the same level; 80% of security and army employees stated that corruption in modern Kazakhstan became higher, while among the economists and financiers 61% of the respondents argued that corruption in modern Kazakhstan became higher. Similarly, among elected representatives 84% of the respondents stated that corruption in modern Kazakhstan grew higher. Almost none of the respondents said that corruption was higher in Kazakhstan under Soviet regime. Given the proximity of the respondents to the “crime scene,” their rejection of corruption under Soviet regime is in a sharp contrast to the groundless statements of politicians and politically engaged researchers. Dzhandosova et al. concluded, “it seems like corruption has become an acute problem of modern society and the scale of corruption has significantly increased in postSoviet Kazakhstan” (2002, p.10). The data provided the respondents’ perception of increased corruption in Kazakhstan after the transition.
Not only Kazakhstan and other FSU countries went through political and economic transition and developed uncontrollable corruption, but China also experienced in the 1980s very severe corruption when its government started the economic transition reforms (Wei Li, 2001). Although China has not rejected the communist ideology, market reforms drew the country into a deep corruption crisis. I maintain that market reforms and economic transition are the first culprits of corruption growth in Kazakhstan. Van Roy’s (1970) evolutionist theory help describing and explaining mental and behavioral adaptation of Kazakh people to the new economic and ideological reality.
Further, I develop the argument that the power of money has the potential to overwhelm old value systems and spur corruption. Market ideology equates happiness and wealth. To achieve wealth, one needs to be rational and efficient. Moral considerations apart, I argue that corruption is a rational and efficient instrument that enhances business opportunities, reduces competition, and leads to wealth. I maintain that the promotion of predominantly economic motivations elevated money above all other values, distorted traditional value system, and led to systemic corruption.

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