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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Dilemma of Corruption and State Reforms

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In response to "Beloved Bookstore Shared Yukos' Fate," a comment by Mary Duncan on June 9.

I am writing in response to Ekaterina Goudina's letter from last Thursday's paper, in which she discussed her views of the causes of corruption in Russia and its effects on small businesses like Duncan's bookstore.

My experience of Moscow is from a few one or two week visits over the past 12 months, so I can hardly be called an expert. However, my fiancee is Russian and her knowledge and experience gives me some insight into these issues.

Basically, from the information I have, I cannot agree with the tenet of Goudina's arguments. It seems to me that Russia is a long way from waking up to the idea of the rule of law administered by an impartial judiciary. However, since she is a Russian citizen and a lawyer, I'm sure Goudina is better informed than I.

That having been said, she does make one assertion that in my eyes is very revealing of the prevalent psyche, and displays why Russia still has huge problems with corruption. Goudina states that extorting bribes under the cover of fines "only works in a society where people prefer to give a bribe, rather than pay a fine." This is where I have constant heated discussions with my fiancee.

To my Western logic, it is the other way round: Such practices only work is a society where the authorities are ritually permitted, and even encouraged, to do so by their superiors. Until this is eradicated in the judiciary and executive, corruption will be a constant problem for business and general community.

Paul Witts
East Sussex

Reorienting Reform

In response to "A Road Map for Reform," a comment by Grigory Yavlinsky on June 17.

Grigory Yavlinsky's article is absolutely the most insightful and rational I have seen from a modern Russian writer to date. His analysis of the existing conditions and lingering problems is as accurate as any I have seen.

The biggest mistake he and the Russian political establishment as a whole have made, however, is this: It is unreasonable to expect the people to began respecting the government so that the government can obtain legitimacy and then reform itself.

Only once the government is open and transparent will the people trust and respect it. By Yavlinsky's definition of reform, only then can true reform begin to evolve.

For Russia to reach its true potential, it must first clearly and openly define the rights of the individual and the limitations of the government.

From this first step, it must establish a government that represents minorities and majority alike, is subject to inspection and review by the people, and is balanced between those who write the laws, those who review and interpret the laws in light of the Constitution, and those who enforce the laws.

Patrick Fleming
Houston, Texas

Rage Against Izvestia

In response to "Gazprom's Media Strategy Is Full of Holes," a comment by William Dunkerley on June 9.

Calling Izvestia one of Russia's largest and most respected newspapers is a lot like calling Mary Pierce one of France's best and most loved female tennis players. In other words, it is utterly ridiculous.

Similarly, even before the obscene effort, on which you report, by the regime of President Vladimir Putin to take over Izvestia, it was a newspaper in name only. Most Russians really have no idea what a true newspaper is -- or what news itself is for that matter -- and this is nobody's fault but their own.

That the Putin regime would feel it needs even more control over the squalid backwater that was journalism at Izvestia only goes to show how rightfully lacking in confidence the regime truly is.

But incompetent regimes have persisted for decades in Russia before and will do so again, mostly because the benighted populace chooses to remain that way.

Alexis Doubleday
Springwater, Ohio

Karabakh Compromise

In response to "No Compromise in Nagorny Karabakh," a comment by Adil Baguirov on April 5.

The completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and unusually high oil prices are evidently creating in Azerbaijan a bubble of nationalist sentiment.

Once again, Baku is hard at work, trying to attract attention to Azerbaijan's cause in Nagorny Karabakh and even apparently trying to enlist Russian assistance.

The comment by Adil Baguirov, a U.S.-based Azerbaijani, purported that all these years the mediators who seek a solution to the Nagorny Karabakh dispute based on mutual compromises have been wrong, and an Azerbaijan strengthened by new oil wealth will soon have enough leverage not to allow a compromise to take place.

Baguirov's claims are oft repeated by Azerbaijani ideologues, and it is too tempting to dismiss them as a far-fetched mix of cynicism and propaganda.

However, if Baku's nationalist bubble is allowed to grow further, it will burst, plunging the region into a new war, which, after causing much damage, will do nothing more than to reconfirm the present-day status quo.

Only genuine reconciliation -- negotiated through official contacts, confidence building measures and second track diplomacy -- can deliver a stable peace.

Compromises are unavoidable, and that is the official position of the Nagorny Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Armenia.

Valery Senderov