Staunton, October 17 – Vladimir Putin and his regime love to draw comparisons between his time in office and “’the wild 1990s’” in order to show that the Kremlin leader has brought improvements across the board, including by cutting the amount of crime. But unfortunately, official statistics show that crime actually rose during his first decade in power from the 1990s.
Ilya Vasyunin and his investigative journalists at the Project Media Center have drawn on official sources to document the number and kinds of crimes for every year since 1991. They found that the number of crimes committed in Russia rose from the 1990s to the first decade of this century before declining since 2010 ( ).
No crime statistics are perfect. Police have reasons for increasing or decreasing their number and victims may be more inclined to report crimes at some times than at others, Vasyunin acknowledges. But the Russian numbers over this period are instructive, he says, because they call into question what the Kremlin has succeeded in getting people to believe.
The total number of crimes registered in the RSFSR and then Russia between 1990 and the end of 1999 amounted to 25.6 million. In the succeeding decade, there were six million MORE – for a total of 31.3 million. Then the number began to decline: in the last eight years there have been only 18.3 million.
Crime was rising at the end of “the wild 1990s,” with some three million committed in 1999, the year Vladimir Putin came to power. But it continued to rise in the first years of his rule: the greatest number of crimes in any year of this period was in 2006, when 3,855,000 crimes were recorded.
The number convicted and sent to prison followed the same trajectory, Vasyunin says. In the 1990s, almost nine million were incarcerated; in the first decade of the 2000s, 9.4 million, and in the years since six million, as Moscow has tried to reduce the use of expensive and often counterproductive jailings.
Most crimes, the Project team reports, followed the same pattern, rising from the 1990s to the 2000s and then declining. They provide data on murders, other violent crimes, and property crimes to support that conclusion. Rape was highest in the 1990s and has declined since, in part because the “traditional” values Putin backs make it less likely women will report it.
Some crimes, like those involving extremism and terrorism, truly exploded in number after Putin came to power, the result of new laws and a new willingness to report these crimes, Vasyunin says. Recidivism too increased from the 1990s to the 2000s and continued to do so in the 2010s.