Crime and Corruption in the Former Soviet Union CEES4090

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or 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 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 and the police play in producing (in)security for citizens of post-Soviet countries? How has corruption affected state-society relations in the post-Soviet context? How effective have anti-corruption drives been? How and to where do post-Soviet organized criminal and corrupt practices travel?


1 X 2 hour class per week.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements.

Entry to CEES Honours normally requires the following:

(a) 40 credits at a grade point average of 15 (Grade B) or above over CEES 1A and CEES 1B (40 credits) as a first attempt

(b) 40 credits at a grade point average of 12 (Grade C) over CEES 2A and CEES 2B (40 credits) as a first attempt OR

(c) 60 credits at a grade point average of 15 (Grade B) or above in CEES Level 3 if the above set of requirements are not attained; and

(d) meet any further requirements set out in the degree's supplementary regulations; and

(e) meet any additional requirements set by the College of Social Sciences

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. They will also be expected to attend and participate in an interactive session on anti-corruption in the last seminar.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

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 Russia. It focuses particularly on organized crime and political corruption and aims at providing 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 and policing in regulating economic activity;

- the pervasiveness of corruption and attempts to fight it;

- 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 issue 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.

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

- place 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

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

- demonstrate knowledge of strategies to fight corruption and their pitfalls, providing post-Soviet examples of these

- demonstrate familiarity and 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.