James Heinzen is a specialist in the history of the Soviet Union, about which he has written widely. He received his B.A. from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Heinzen's research interests include Stalinism, the late Soviet decades, the history of crime and corruption, and the cultural history of Russia. He is the author of The Art of the Bribe: Corruption, Politics, and Everyday Life in the time of Stalin, which is forthcoming from Yale University Press. His first book was Inventing a Soviet Countryside: State Power and the Transformation of Rural Russia, 1917-1929 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004).
Practices of official corruption, in part inherited from the Soviet era, have continued to touch nearly every sphere of Russian life since the collapse of the USSR. The project explores the phenomenon in the Khrushchev and Brezhnev periods (1950s-1980s), It will argue that by the Khrushchev years, corruption was already an integral part of an unofficial yet essential series of relationships upon which much of Soviet society relied in order to function. Indeed, bribery could be considered the quintessential crime of late socialism.The new project extends the study from the unsuccessful reforms of Khrushchev to the mid-1980s. The book will explore the gradual transition to an environment in which the party increasingly tolerated corruption, which honeycombed the system and, ultimately, contributed to its implosion. The book will highlight a key paradox: corruption both helped the Soviet system function and, simultaneously, undermined it. The fight against corruption (then as now) was highly politicized and selective. Such unofficial, criminal relationships continue to be a ubiquitous phenomenon in the Russian state and in everyday life in “Putin’s kleptocracy," of course, though in different forms.