Keynote BASEES 2019: Crime and Corruption in the Russian Federation
Friday, 13 April, 17:30-19:00, Robinson College, University of Cambridge
Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Open Russia)
Mark Galeotti (European University Institute)
Chaired by BASEES President Judith Pallot (University of Oxford / University of Helsinki)
The Friday evening plenum considers one of the less welcome features of the post-Wall changes in the communist successor states. Mikhael Khdorkovksy and Mark Galleotti come together to exchange their views on crime and corruption that have become hallmarks of Russia’s transformation symbolically set in train by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. One from the point of view of someone who has, for a long while painfully, lived through the consequences of post-Soviet political change and the other from the standpoint of the impartial analyst, will debate when and why things went wrong in Russia. Both speakers will be asked to comment upon why crime and corruption have become such a prominent process in Russian politics, is it right to define Russia as a mafia state, how dangerous is corruption in the present government and what needs to be done to combat corruption.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky is the founder of the Open Russia movement. A successful businessman, Khodorkovsky was head of YUKOS, one of the world’s largest oil producers, where he established international management codes of practice, and substantially increased production. A pioneering philanthropist, he established the Open Russia Foundation in 2001 with the aim of building and strengthening civil society in Russia.
An early supporter of democratic change, at a televised meeting with President Putin in early 2003, he criticised endemic corruption. Later that same year he was arrested, and jailed on charges of tax evasion and fraud, charges, which he denied and vigorously defended. Khodorkovsky was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. He was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International; and finally released in December 2013.
In 2014, the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Russian Government had violated international law by taking YUKOS from its shareholders, for political purposes, described as a “full assault on Yukos and its beneficial owners in order to bankrupt Yukos and appropriate its assets while, at the same time, removing Mr. Khodorkovsky from the political arena.”
Today, Khodorkovsky advocates an alternative vision for his country: a strong and just state, committed to observing human rights, free and fair elections, and the rule of law.
Mark Galeotti is an Honorary Professor at UCL SSEES, Senior Associate Fellow at RUSI, and a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague. He also runs his own small consultancy, Mayak Intelligence. He read history at Robinson College Cambridge and took his doctorate in government at the LSE, and has since been head of history at Keele University, a Senior Research Fellow with the Foreign Office, professor of global affairs and departmental chair at New York University, and a visiting professor at Rutgers-Newark (Newark, NJ), Charles University (Prague) and MGIMO (Moscow). A specialist in Russian security and international politics, he is also a prolific author, and his most recent books are ‘We Need To Talk About Putin’ (Ebury, 2019), ‘Russian Political War’ (Routledge, 2019), ‘Kulikovo 1380’ (Osprey, 2019) and ‘The Vory: Russia’s super mafia’ (Yale, 2018), the last of which has now been licensed for translation into 13 languages.