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How to Stem Ukraine’s Corruption

In terms of economic growth, the Polish and Ukrainian experiences in the decades since the fall of communism have been a portrait in contrasts. Whereas Poland embraced the power of democratic civil society and grew wealthier, Ukraine remained trapped by kleptocratic institutions that bred a culture of corruption and destroyed public trust.

CAMBRIDGE – In the euphoric moment immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, few would have guessed that Ukraine – an industrialized country with an educated workforce and vast natural resources – would suffer stagnation for the next 28 years. Neighboring Poland, which was poorer than Ukraine in 1991, managed almost to triple its per capita GDP (in purchasing power parity) over the next three decades.

Most Ukrainians know why they fell behind: their country is among the most corrupt in the world. But corruption does not emerge from thin air, so the real question is what causes it.

As in the other Soviet republics, power in Ukraine was long concentrated in the hands of Communist Party elites, who were often appointed by the Kremlin. But the Ukrainian Communist Party was very much a transplant of the Russian Communist Party itself, and regularly operated at the expense of indigenous Ukrainians.

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