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Article

Informality, crime and corruption in Russia: A review of recent literature

Theoretical Criminology. 2015. Vol. 19. No. 2. P. 278-288.

Informality appears to be a systemic trait of Russian society: it intrudes into all major social institutions and shapes the economy, politics, legal system and people’s daily life. As a result, a peculiar mismatch emerges between formal norms and laws and the actual operation of institutions. To understand what is going on in Russia and other states in the former Soviet Union knowledge of this “dual reality” is necessary; it is not enough to know just the visible institutions but also their informal functioning. Of course, informal relations and practices are fundamental features of any functioning society. However, the Russian case is notable, because as much research shows informality largely overtakes the formal institutional setting and shapes behavior within formal roles. In this capacity, informality subverts and shifts the initially declared goals of institutions and policies and these then instead serve the ends of certain powerful actors and policymakers. Informality can in this way act as a catalyst and a breeding ground for corruption and deviant behavior thus hampering political and economic development and institutional dynamism.