In Ukraine, the word “bribe” was entering hard in daily life. After all, it was not included, because it consisted of too much of negativity and bad associations. The word “bribe” was replaced by another word – “gratitude”. The phrases “to show gratitude” and “to return the favor” for every Ukrainian were synonymous with the phrase “to give a bribe”. Eventually, it sounded nice.
Since 1999 Ukraine has passed through several stages of adapting to corruption:
1. When one feared “to give a bribe”;
2. When one “gave a bribe” but feared that “gratitude” would offend a person;
3. When one “gave a bribe”, and his/her “gratitude” was assessed and could be even bargained;
4. When without “a bribe” it was impossible to achieve any positive solutions;
5. When the officials became so spoiled by “bribes”, they took them and did not do anything.
By 2004, “bribes” had become the norm in the daily lives of the Ukrainians. In every state structure there were its own prices. The official’s signature cost a certain “bribe”. For comparison, in 2004, I bought the land with the dilapidated carpentry workshop in the urban village to build there a small hotel with a restaurant; I paid about 5 thousand dollars. The sales transaction at the notary took two hours. However, in order to change ownership of the land, I spent more than six months and paid about 10 thousand dollars of bribes! In each authority I was forced to pay for the chief’s signature, which included any approvals, permits, certificates. If I refused to pay, my documents were not even touched by the officials. The government officials took bribes and smiling. Putting the envelopes with “bribes” in a pocket or a table, the official said: “We must earn our living, we have a family!”
Every day the top state officials reported on the fight against corruption on television, the reduction of the number of state officials and inspection bodies, the reduction of the officials’ wages. The Ukrainian officials really received meager wages, often lower than the workers in the enterprise. These salaries did not afford them to support a family. So, none of the officials lived on their wages. All of them had additional income: from the family business or in conjunction with the third party, the flows of “bribes” or wages “in the envelopes”.
Despite the insignificance of their wages, the Ukrainian officials could not be called poor. Even businessmen were surprised by their expensive houses, cars, phones, clothes. The state officials lived due to their positions, businessmen – due to their daily work and the need to pay taxes and wages to their hired workers in time. The top-level officials lived a hundred times richer than businessmen, because in their pockets there were the flows of “bribes” brought by not only from businessmen, but also from their subordinates. The State officials were earning their millions just on that they occupied the right position that was a “plum job”. Their heads were not filled with thoughts about the state, and only how longer to hold that position.
Between people giving and taking “bribes”, communication established quickly. Ones quickly got used to pay bribes and achieved their goals; others quickly got used to take bribes and satisfied their living needs. People, who giving and taking “bribes” committed a crime, but when a crime was committed by everyone and everywhere in the state, starting from the President and the top officials, from the category of bad manners it became routine and began to be perceived as a prerequisite for communication.
In Ukraine forms of giving and taking bribes was constantly improved. For comparison, in 1861, a rich Russia aristocrat, philosopher and playwright Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin based on his life experiences in the drama “The Case” (Russian: “Delo”) (1861) wrote: “There are different types of bribes. For example, there is a rural bribe, so to speak, pastoral, arcadian. It is taken mainly in the form of agricultural products and from each according to his mug. It isn’t really a bribe. Then there is an industrial bribe, which is taken out of profit, a contract, or an inheritance, in short out of some acquisition. It is based on the axiom “love your neighbor as you do yourself”; he acquired something – let’s divide it up. But, this is not still a bribe. There is the criminal or snare bribe. It is taken until there is nothing left to take, until a person is stripped bare!”[Sukhovo-Kobylin, 1861]. In 2014 (after 153 years) a form of bribe changed. In Ukraine a range of bribes depended on the level of an official and complexity of a solving problem. Here is the range of bribes:
– expensive strong beverages;
– “packages” with a standard set: a box of chocolates + a coffee can + a jar of red caviar + a sausage or a bottle of cognac (or a bottle of champagne for female);
– phones, home appliances;
– office equipment;
– building materials;
– “envelope” – an usual envelope with national or foreign currency put in it;
– “card” – a bank card that included a certain amount of money. It could be either a one-time sum, or a certain sum of money that put on the card monthly;
– “box” – a cardboard box for home appliances. I know that into a box for a DVD 10 thousand dollars could be easily got. One day I saw how a “box” for a plasma TV was presented. One said 500 thousand dollars were inside.
– gold – gold bars of different weights.
I do not know why, but the Ukrainian officials did not like to take bank cards as a form of “gratitude”. They preferred to take bribes in US currency, in the old reliable way. Bribes in euro began to take just before the Revolution of Dignity. I do not know why, but before the revolution, the officials did not prefer to take Euros.
Those who took bribes, they also tried very hard as they could. For example, in medicine, when one came to see a doctor, one could often see a calendar on the table, printed as an image of 200-hryvnia banknote. This meant that a doctor service was 200 hryvnia. If on the table there was a calendar with an image of 100-hryvnia banknote, it meant a service cost 100 hryvnia. If a patient did not understand a hint, he asked: “How much should I pay?” and the doctor pointed to the calendar on the table, and everything became clear.
Concerning education, when my youngest daughter studied in the college in Kyiv, their supervising professor ordered different gifts to her birthday: from blankets on a double bed to a laptop. Particularly last case outraged the parents. On the eve of the birth 30 students gathered each 50 hryvnia and bought her instead of the requested laptop, a touch pad. The supervising professor did not like her gift (as the previous group of students had already presented it to her); she was offended and returned the gift. The Parents were outraged, but anyway they added money and bought her a laptop that she wanted. I note the college was under the university where I was Head of the Department. I have never given money to such events, but as far as I know, my daughter did not want to stand out in the group and gave her pocket money.
From the monograph: “Corruption in Ukraine: Rulers’ Mentality and the Destiny of the Nation. Geophilosophy of Ukraine.”