Review of Christoph H. Stefes Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions: Corruption, Collusion and Clientelism

Review of Christoph H. Stefes Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions: Corruption, Collusion and Clientelism, in Slavonic & East European Review, 2007.

THERE is no reason to suppose that the centuries-, not to say millennia-old relationship between the small neighbouring communities of Armenians and Georgians south of the Caucasus mountain-range will ever have been other than it is today, namely one of intense, universal rivalry. Who were first to adopt Christianity? Whose is the older script? Into which language was the Bible first translated? Did one nation's style of ecclesiastical architecture derive from that of the other, and, if so, who lent and who borrowed? If these bones of contention represent the noble end of the scale, Christoph H. Stefes plumbs its nadir by contrasting the two in terms of the nature of corruption in their post-Soviet states.

Of the former Soviet republics the three Baltic states are judged the most successful in freeing themselves from any legacy of corruption following fifty years in the Kremlin's shackles. Transcaucasia suffered an additional two decades of Soviet rule, which, after a brief period of independence, followed over a century of Tsarist domination. Stefes takes for his case-study Armenia and Georgia, two states of comparable size with many historical and cultural links, both of which are close to the West, albeit in different ways: Armenia, thanks (in part at least) to notorious developments in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, has a large and influential diaspora in both Europe (France) and America; Georgians, though they do not speak (unlike the Armenians) an Indo-European language, see themselves as more European than Asian, and from March 1992 to November 2003 the republic had as head of state Eduard Shevardnadze, the West's blue-eyed boy for the role he was perceived to have played as Gorbachev's Foreign Minister in helping to bring down both the Berlin Wall and subsequently the USSR itself.

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