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Ukrainian and Russian "friendship" and corruption. Causal relations 02/03/2016 10:07:57. Total views 1758. Views today — 1.

The peculiarity of Ukrainian post-Soviet corruption is its unusually rapid development thats distinguishes Ukraine sharply from other countries. The resistance of the local corruption is obvious and high to any measures taken to combat it.

It should be noted that the analysis of Ukrainian corruption, as a rule, is in the plane of the day, covering the recent history of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the activation of the historical approach to the subject would enable a better understanding of the domestic corruption, the root causes of its expanded reproduction, and, therefore, to find effective ways to combat it.

1. "Reunification" of Ukraine and Russia and its implications for both

A careful study of history shows that the taste for systematic corruption of the tops the Ukrainian society was grafted in the second half of the 17th century, during the long and controversial process of "reunification" of Ukraine and Russia. To understand the features of our national corruption it is needed to take a closer look at this "reunification" and its consequences for both sides involved.

The Ukrainian society is divided, depending on the ideological preferences in relation to the Pereiaslav Rada, into two parts: one approve it, others condemn. Some talk about benefits for Ukraine, which the reunification with Russia would bring, others depict the horrors of being under the power of the empire. But nobody seems to have thought of Russia itself: how was it for it? What social and economic processes were launched there with the accession of Ukraine? How did they affect the well-being of Russians?

There is a very important fact in the history of the so-called reunification of Ukraine and Russia in the XVII century, which remained unnoticed. After the famous Pereyaslav Rada growth of serfdom in Russia increased sharply. In general, the growth of feudal relations in Russia itself in the second half of the XVII century is a recognized scientific fact but no one connected it with the accession of Ukraine. The connection exists, a direct one.

Military and political goals, that Moscow State set, clearly exceeded the real possibilities of its troops. Noble militia of the Russia wasn’t militarily good and it was difficult to organize them. Therefore, Moscow desperately needed additional troops in large amount of combat-capable cavalry, which it received during the rule of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the face of the Cossack troops. We can say, Moscow paid Zaporozhye army and then other communities of the Ukrainian Cossacks, for example, the left-bank and Sloboda regiments. However, such a move led to a huge increase in the fiscal burden on the Russian treasury. Problems of the treasury, as usual, were transferred by the Russian government on Russia's population and, above all, on its most dependent part - the Russian peasantry. This triggered the accelerated development of serfdom in Russia.

If we consider the dates of the introduction of the basic laws and practices of serfdom in Russia, we can see that most of them date back to the time after the Pereyaslav Rada but not before. After 1654 Russia started large-scale development of the class limited rights of Russian peasants, primarily through their limitation of the right to ownership. Then Russia canceled the peasants' right to freely leave for crafts and introduced the concept of "registered soul" - the unit to count serfs. After the launch of the accession process of Ukraine, Russia authorized to sell peasants without land by decrees of 1675, 1682 and 1688. Soon families were separated during the sales and accompanying heartbreaking scenes build an imagine of Russia as a country of inhumanity and barbarism for a long time.

At the same time, there was a high level of personal freedom and the tax burden was minimal in Ukraine, more precisely, in the part that after Andrusov truce in 1667 became a part of Russia. Standard free life for the rest of the social classes was assigned by Cossacks, who won the privilege during the wars of Bohdan Khmelnitsky and received recognition of Russia. Cossacks almost did not pay direct taxes and learnt how to get money on the indirect ones. In almost all the Cossack villages, hundreds and regimental cities they made wine and vodka, as well as were engaged in other highly profitable activities: mills, pot-house keeping, salt trade and commerce of all kinds. The position of Ukrainian peasants was better than in Russia. Of course, serfdom got from Russia  to the Ukrainian land over time but in the first few decades after the Pereyaslav Ukrainians had more privileged position than most of the Russians themselves.

It is not an exaggeration to say that those liberties and privileges which Ukrainians enjoyed in comparison with taxed population of Russia were, to some extent, paid by suffering and oppression of the Russian peasantry. Because of the aggressive foreign policy in the southern and south-western strategic directions, Moscow government bought the loyalty of new Ukrainian citizens due to increase in exploitation of the population of their old domestic territories.

However, processes, developing in the "reunification",  weren’t entirely positive for Ukraine. Taking class privileges and Moscow money as a troop salary from the hands of Moscow, Cossacks of Ukraine lost their former independence and moved further away from the idea of ​​building an independent state on the banks of the Dnieper. Moscow government, after subjugating church organization in Ukraine and deriving the most important cities of Ukraine from the Cossack "regiment", destroyed cleverly and insidiously ties of Cossacks with other political elites in Kiev land and Ukraine in general. As a result, it was impossible to create independent Ukrainian state at that time.

2. Cash flows of Russian-Ukrainian friendship and corruption schemes of the XVII century

Polish government agreed in negotiations with Bohdan Khmelnytsky the maximum number of the Cossack registery of 40 thousand but really could finance even less - not more than 20 thousand, which was reflected in Belotserkovsk agreement that was unfavourable for Cossacks. At the same time, Muscovy did not have any problems even with a huge register of 60 thousand people. Khmelnytsky’s choice seemed a mystery or a tragic mistake for many generations of Ukrainians but, in fact, everything is quite simple. Hetman Khmelnytsky preferred Moscow as a large customer of his military service.

In other words, the Hetman preferred a large military order to a smaller one. Religious considerations, that historians usually give salience to when covering issues of Ukrainian political preferences, did not play such a significant role in the choice of foreign policy vector. Especially when you consider that then religious differences between Kiev and Moscow Orthodoxy were significant and comparable to the difference between Kiev Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

So, if we consider the accession of Cossack Ukraine to Russia as a large-scale contract between the elites, much of our history will become clear. As a result of this contract, one party (Russia) received additional military resources of numerous and well-trained Cossack troops and the troops got regular cash salary and product allowance. Besides, a set of class privileges, specific to certain categories of military servile nobility of that time. This contract can be described by the formula: allowance in exchange for military service in favour of Russia.

What were the quantitative parameters of the contract and the amount of cash flow that served it? In 1687 the total number of troops at the disposal of the Muscovite state was 164.8 thousand and 50 thousand of them were Ukrainian Cossacks led by Hetman Ivan Samoilovich, and 15.5 thousand were other Cossacks of Ukraine. In other words, the number of Ukrainians in the army of Muscovia was 39.7% of the total. So, they had to feed, pay and supply with military equipment almost 40% of the troops. Huge supply of goods and money, gunpowder and lead, cloth and expensive fabrics for Cossacks became one of the primary tasks of the Russian treasury.

As a result, the Russian state was rebuilt in the way that it followed the path of growth of obligations of the peasantry and strengthened serfdom. It reinforced the tax burden on the merchants and burghers. Russian tsars began even to think about the secularization of the church lands to improve their financial position due to the monasteries.

Tsarist salary of Ukrainian Cossack, issued during the XVII - XVIII centuries, can be divided into 4 types. Depending on the form, it can be divided into cash and product, and, depending on the regularity of payments, into ordinary and extraordinary (or bonuses as we would say today). Researchers have made even tables describing amount of troop salary, ranging from the ordinary soldier to Cossack hetman.

The Russian and Ukrainian agreement on the amount of salary was called "articles" that is very similar to modern budget terminology. There are, in particular, Pereyaslavs, Glukhov and other "articles". Their parameters varied depending on the relative strength of the contracting parties and other historical circumstances.

These "articles" also defined amount of the natural allowance for Cossacks and related tables of product distribution are available. Thus, the hetman was supposed to receive a certain amount of expensive fabrics of the certain type and price from the tsar treasury. Each rank of the military hierarchy corresponded to a certain amount of such fabric.

An important element of product allowance of Ukrainian Cossack troops from Russian imperial treasury was sable. It should be noted that in those days sable fur was widely used for gifts for ambassadors, monarchs and other important figures. They, like gold, had a direct value and served as a cash equivalent, and therefore, were often transmitted as a tribute from the dependent countries to the dominant. So, Muscovy once paid tribute of furs to the Tatar Khanate and hordes  and later it collected tribute in furs from peoples of the Volga region and Siberia. A part of fur tribute from Russian people was then partially given to Ukrainian Cossacks as salary.

Sable furs were collected in bundles of two types, called bunt and soroka for the convenience of distribution across Europe. The bunt usually comprised15 furs and soroka had 40 pieces (sorok means 40). It is important to emphasize that the "soroka" as the name of the unit in commerce of sable furs came to Europe from the east, from Ukrainian and Russian lands, as the Polish authors are puzzled about this strange, in their view, name mistakenly believing that it has something to do with the same name of the bird (soroka also means magpie). And only those, who know Russian or Ukrainian numbers, understands that it has nothing to do with the bird.

However, descriptions by Polish authors give valuable information how a bunch of gift sables looked like. "Three dozens of sable furs were tied with a silk lace, which passed through green satin bag..." - wrote one of them. A silver bell was attached to the bag and rang each time the furs were taken out of the bag. These bunts and sorokas repeatedly passed from hand to hand circulating in the market or being used as gifts.

To get an idea of ​​the relative amount of salary for Ukrainian Cossacks, you can compare it with other salaries of that era. The old Polish documents mention that the Polish King Stefan Batory sent a gift of two sable sorokas to the Duke of Mantua and King Sigismund III gave one bunt of sable furs, which were equal to 500 Italian escudos, to one of the cardinals in 1596. At the same time, natural allowance of a Cossack hetman in Ukraine from Russia was 5 sorokas of sable furs a year, i.e. 200 furs, the total value of which was 375 rubles. So,  Cossack hetman received 2.5 times more sable furs than the documented gift of the Polish king to the Italian Duke. An annual sable "salary" of a Cossack colonel was almost equal to such a gift.

By the way, taking into account this information, it is easier to understand the sources of the incredible wealth that was concentrated in the hands of Cossacks. Do you remember how one of the "richest captains" of Gogol's story Viy offered Homa Brut a thousand ducats? A staggering amount even for a wealthy Great Russian landowner, a fortune in those days ...

Cossack salary can be compared with another number of the time - compensation which Poland received from Russia for Kiev. According to Hrushevsky,  Rzeczpospolita received financial compensation of 200 thousand rubles from Russia for abandoning the city of Kiev and surrounding area under the terms of the Eternal Peace in 1686. If we count, taking into consideration the exchange rates of that time, we get the amount from 600 thousand up to 1 m zloty. At the same time, the annual amount of troop salary with opaque payments (in fact, institutionalized bribery) of Cossacks cost 1.5 million zloty a year for the Russian treasury. In other words, Russia could have bought one and a half  Kiev from Poland for the amount spent annually on salaries of Ukrainian Cossack troops.

Getting such a large salary on troops, it was hard to resist the temptation to inflate the number of Cossack registery on paper in comparison with its real amount. And Cossack officers, including Hetman, consistently misled the Russian government about the real size of the Cossack registry.

For example, getting natural and monetary allowance for nominal registery of 60 thousand Cossacks, the foreman actually paid salary to much lower number of beneficiaries. The difference in the form of tens thousands of chervonets and hundreds of sable furs went to hands of hetman and foreman. It was like that during the entire history of Hetmanate, from the first to the last of its hetmans. "Bohdan Khmelnytsky continued to commit... a kind of state crime and received the consent of the tsar to high number of the Cossack registery of 60 thousand men but never made the registery. When it came to salary of Cossacks, the Moscow government demanded the lists, there were none. No one knew how many Cossacks were in Ukraine and it was unknown who was a Cossack, and who was a man. This problem was usually solved by the personal discretion of foremen,"- wrote the Russian researcher and publicist of the beginning of XX century Nikolay Ulyanov.

Apparently the practice of "dead souls" and not credible registries was so firmly established in the Ukrainian life that it is till there till present. I wonder if Nikolay Gogol’s Dead Souls was based on the topic of financial fraud of the hetman registery? Didn’t he disappear because someone did not want to destroy a beautiful picture of disinterested "reunification" of the two "brotherly nations"?

It is interesting to ask the question: what did the tsarist government do? But the tsarist government, knowing well that it was cheated, usually turned a blind eye to financial frauds of its Little Russian nationals as wanted to buy their loyalty by its condescension. After all, the situation in the south-western borders of the Russian state was always troublesome and defense of the entire region depended on the position of the Cossack elite. By the way, the Russian federal authorities show the same condescension now but in relation to the Kadyrov's Chechnya.

As a result of this policy of connivance on the part of Russia, Ukrainian colonels and Cossack hetmans generally accumulated substantial surpluses of sable furs, clearly exceeding the personal needs of the recipient. They needed to sell then somewhere and they sold mainly to Poland, that at that time had two large sable trade center: Lublin and Poznan. Lublin was more preferable for Cossack, because it was located much closer to Ukraine and, consequently, transportation costs for the delivery of goods to the place of sales were lower.

Sable market in Lublin was usually held on the feast of St. Simone. You can imagine this picturesque sight: intermediaries and wholesale merchants flocked there from almost whole Poland, Hungary, many German, Austrian and Italian lands, and the market area was swarming with dapper and elegant nobles. In their turn, furs from Lublin and Poznan were further brought to the west of Europe: Germany, France, Italy and even distant Spain.

So, Muscovy, being at that time already "the owner" of Ukraine, oddly enough, paid a tribute to its new province not only in money, but also in fur and scale of Moscow’s voluntary tribute in favour of Ukraine was so significant that they became the main channel of supply of valuable furs from the east of the European continent to its west. It was a kind of geopolitical bribe. Empire bribe from one of its newly acquired provinces with valuable military resources and strategic location. 

In their turn, the individual members of the Cossacks began to use in time wealth concentrated in their hands to bribe Russian officials. It is believed, for example, that Ivan Mazepa secured his elections as the Hetman gave a giant bribe of 10 000 chervonets to the Russian Prince Golitsyn, appointed by the tsarist government to observe the hetman elections.

There were other examples of this kind, when large and small troop positions were distributed in exchange for bribes, i.e. were actually sold by tsarist officials, bypassing the Cossack prescribed custom and electoral procedures. So, the circle of corrupt money in the joint Russian-Ukrainian state closed: the geopolitical bribe paid by Russia to Ukrainian Cossacks partly returned back to Russia in the form of bribes of another kind. In general, the friendship grew stronger day by day ...

I think that since then a corruption of ruling elites of the two countries and mutual corruption of these elites to each other have become an important part of the merger process between Ukraine and Russia. Corruption has become a kind of adhesive binder for such a merger. In its turn, the Russian empire building over the XVII-XVIII centuries was cover for institutional corruption of mutual administrative elites. And at the level of ideology, the processes were covered with beautiful print of the Russian-Ukrainian friendship.

3. Corruption as glue of the Russian Empire

This social technology of the empire dissolution, conjugated with mutual corruption of the elites of the imperial center and "Little Russian" province, proved to be extremely tenacious and was transported from Cossack times to later epochs, including the Soviet one. After hetmans and sables there was a new era in which, however, the main Russian-Ukrainian corruption outline remained, albeit in a somewhat modified form. The tsarist government gave new geopolitical bribe to Ukrainian Cossacks - this time in the form of the status of the Russian nobility, and received in return hundreds of thousands of new, loyal to the Empire officials, who directed a portion of their corruption money to Petersburg. The stifling bureaucratic atmosphere of Little Russian officials, greedy for bribes and ready to give them further up to the Russian curators, has been well described by many writers.

And still later, in the era of Bolshevism the Communist elite of the red empire again gave geopolitical bribe to "Ukrainian comrades". At this time the bribe was given due to the so-called Ukrainisation in 1930s and attributes of statehood of Soviet Ukraine, up to its membership in the UN. In its turn, the red empire received additional millions of "true Leninists", who sacrificed themselves and whole Ukraine to communist totalitarianism.

It is strange that until now no one has raised the question of the relationship of the Soviet Communist management practices with the traditions of Cossack Ukraine. But long before the Bolsheviks, Ukrainian Cossack army sergeant commonly called themselves "comrades" (valued comrades, honoured military comrades and so on). This secretive decision-making mechanism of these comrades of the17 - 18 centuries with the external observance of the principle of democracy, as well as their mutual responsibility and irresponsibility are remarkably similar to the technology of the government party and the bureaucratic elite of Soviet Ukraine and the USSR as a whole. Though there is a 200-year gap between the Ukrainian Hetmanate and USSR.

Besides geopolitical corruption, the most ordinary corruption flourished in all these periods, which under the cover of Russian-Ukrainian friendship enriched bureaucratic elites of both parts of the empire. Minor cash flows branched off in capillaries and small vessels from the main path of corruption, penetrating the whole society from top to bottom. So, in unhealthy conditions of the empire the good concept of international friendship turned paired with corruption, and, therefore, began to cause a skeptical smile in all who knew the falsity of the official ideology.

It’s no coincidence that the most strident advocates of friendship with Russia and pro-Russian foreign policy are the most corrupt and murky circles of Ukrainian ruling elite today in Ukraine. In the modern history of Ukraine for a long time they have been represented by the "regionals", whose leader (also not by accident) was a man with a criminal past.

So, one can make the following conclusion from the history of our country, sounding also as a warning for Ukrainian reformers. Start the fight against corruption in Ukraine and you will meet fierce resistance of supporters of "friendship with Russia", i.e. supporters of the pro-Russian course. Start the fight against the pro-Russian course for integration with Europe and you’ll get furious resistance of corrupts of all types.

4. How to break the major corruption circuit?

In our time, the time of quite different technological structures, sable furs do not play a determining role in the offerings and bribes, and a knighthood is irrelevant. Interstate corruption uses today other relationships and other equivalents. The tribute is paid with the help of very different financial mechanisms. The main place of the Russian-Ukrainian corruption after 1991 was taken by gas and opaque to the public scheme, based on trading.

A characteristic feature: periods of peak gas trade between Russia and Ukraine strangely coincide with periods of maximum opacity of trafficking, the maximum flourishing of corruption in our country, as well as mutual corruption of Russian and Ukrainian ruling elites. By the Yanukovych’s time the degree of energy dependence of Ukraine on Russian, as a consequence, the political distance of Ukraine from Europe reached their peak along with opaque trade. However, there is nothing strange if you know and understand the history.

Considering formulated laws, as applied to our time, we can say that the movement of Ukraine towards Europe should go hand in hand with the reduction of energy dependence of Ukraine on Russia, as well as a decrease of whole gas trade between Ukraine and the Russian Gazprom, that is happening now.

This situation is, oddly enough, the resultant of the actions of both sides. On the one hand, Russia is trying to use the energy dependence of Ukraine in its geopolitical interests, inflating gas prices and trying to impose unprofitable transactions on Ukraine, thereby encourages our country to look for alternatives.

On the other hand, the government of Ukraine, as in no other issue, demonstrates the will to the replacement of Russian gas to energy from other sources, and in the extreme case - the complete refusal from the service of Gazprom. As a result, the volume of the gas trade between the two countries decreased dramatically over the past 2 years. So, the major corruption outline of shadow cash flows, that once firmly soldered the Russian and Ukrainian power elite, started to break down

Needless to say, the Russian authorities perceive such a turn of events as unfriendly actions of Ukraine. I believe that the Russian aggression against Ukraine in Crimea and Donbass can be seen as desperate attempts of the Russian authorities, losing influence in Ukraine, to save the Russian-Ukrainian "friendship". However, the friendship that seems to corrupts on both sides of the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Yevgeniy Sytnik, Ph.D., assistant professor, for OstroV