Massive scale of corruption in Russia revealed

The study, by the independent Indem think-tank and the respected Romir Monitoring Centre, revealed that the cost of the average bribe has rocketed by a factor of 13 in the past four years and Russians now pay $319bn (£183bn) a year in backhanders.

The average bribe for an ordinary person now stands at about $100 but businessmen are forced to pay much more. In 2001, the average bribe in the business world was $10,200 but in 2005 the report said the figure was $135,800.

Officials have "price-lists" for bribes and the report's authors accused the Russian state of being "the country's biggest racketeer" and said the sheer quantity of cash involved was more than two-and-a-half times greater than the annual state budget.

Many of the bribes are for services supposed to be free but where professionals are so poorly paid that they turn to bribery as a way of topping up their meagre incomes. Top of the list of "everyday bribes" are those paid to university professors and officials to get places in some of Russia's most prestigious educational institutions. They get $583.4m a year to provide university places.

Next at $401.1m came bribes to doctors and medical professionals to secure treatment that is supposed to be free. Buying your son a conscription exemption from the notoriously brutal army also remains popular, with parents spending $353.6m a year on bribing military officials to dream up an imaginary health defect for their offspring.

Making sure a judge rules in your favour in court also carries a price tag: Russians spend $209.5m a year on making sure the scales of justice are tipped in their favour. Lower down the bribery league came sweeteners to traffic police ($183.3m a year), backhanders to get jobs ($143.4m) and " inducements" to gain places in the country's best schools ($92.4m).

Experts said officials had become more greedy because they feared they would soon lose their jobs in President Putin's administrative reforms and therefore wanted to "make hay while the sun shone".

Georgy Saratov, Indem's president, said: "The stable growth of corruption is being fed by the extra pressure the authorities are putting on ordinary people to make them pay bribes." But most of the annual $319bn in bribes is paid by businessmen whose backhanders account for $316bn of that.

Anti-corruption specialists said the report showed how spectacularly bad Mr Putin's administration had been at stamping out corruption despite repeated promises in his annual address to do just that.

"Now we know exactly what the authorities have been doing for these past four years," Elena Panfilova, of Transparency International Russia, told reporters. "These findings are not just an analysis of corruption but a litmus test of the authorities and the efficacy of their reforms."

Indem said the government's anti-corruption task force appeared to have achieved little and noted with irony that the initial head of the organisation, the former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was himself now being investigated over corruption allegations.

Everyday expenses


Ensuring you get treatment varies from $7 (£4) to hundreds of dollars. Annual spend: $401.1m


If your son wants to avoid serving in the army for two years, it can cost $1,000. Annual spend: $353.6m


Persuading a judge to rule in your favour costs from $500 to tens of thousands of dollars. Annual spend: $209.5m


Entry level price in Moscow $7 rising to $200. Annual spend: $183.3m


A bribe to secure a place at university varies from $9,000 to $35,000; law costs the most. Annual spend: $583.4m


Or avoiding being fired, costs from $500. Annual spend: $143.4m


To get a child into a good school and make sure they do well there: starting price $1,000, or more. Annual spend: $92.4m

The prices of bribes are estimates based on anecdotal evidence.