Bribery is alive and well in the F.S.U. I’ve written an article about my own experience bribing my way past an airport official to get a bottle of wine on my flight, but that was only one story. Since then, others have come in.
A reader in Vladivostok told me about his run-in with a traffic cop. He has a Russian driver’s license and all the necessary documents. As far as he could tell, he wasn’t doing anything worthy of being pulled over, but the cop standing on the side of the road nevertheless waved him over. As soon as the cop heard his British accent, the slot-machine sounds of hitting the jackpot must’ve been ringin in the cops ears. For the apparent violation of not adhering to the correct lane (although there are no lane divisions on that particular road), this guy had to pay an on-the-spot fine of 200 rubles. Such a fine breaks ones morale more than one’s wallet.
Another reader, let’s call him Michael, said he walking out of a bar in Simferopol, Ukraine when three cops jumped him and hauled him down an alley to a makeshift interrogation room. They made him empty his wallet on the table and helped themselves to all but a five-spot enough for bus-fare back to his flat. As far as he could make out, he was being fined for not having his immigration card with him, though most ex-pats don’t carry it with them. The safest place for this vital document is either locked in your apartment, or in a safe at the bank. In any case, it’s clear these uniformed hooligans were simply looking for some quick drinking money and found an easy target.
A third reader, an older man from Texas, told about the time taking the train from Kiev to Moscow. When Russian border agents came on the train at the crossing point, this Texan was told he’d have to leave the train because he didn’t have the right type of visa. His was a multiple-entry business visa, and they claimed he was obviously traveling for pleasure because American businessmen always travel by plane. The Texan’s fine was a hefty 400 rubles.
I still think these are isolated incidents. I’ve been living for over a year safe and sound here in Sevastopol, Ukraine, and that one bribe I made was of my own choosing. It was indeed my fault for not checking the bag that had the wine. These other guys who knows. Three or four samples does not make for sound, statistical evidence. But if you have your own stories of having to pay impromptu fines to Russian authorities, please send them in.