Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 181

A senior Interior Ministry official said yesterday that Russia’s murder rate is the world’s second highest, behind South Africa’s. General-Major Vladimir Gordienko, deputy head of the ministry’s main criminal investigation department, told reporters that more than 22,500 murders were committed during the first eight months of this year. Last week, the Interfax news agency reported that 24,800 murders had been committed during the first seven months of this year–a rate of 29.6 per 100,000 people (Itar-Tass, RIA Novosti, October 2). In 1998, Interpol, the international crime-fighting agency, reported that South Africa’s murder rate was 59 per 100,000. According to a more recent report, the South African murder rate, which hit a high of 70 per 100,000 in 1994, dropped to 49 per 100,000 last year (Sunday Independent [Johannesburg], June 10). The murder rate in the United States has been declining steadily, hitting 5.7 per 100,000 in 1999 (AP, October 16, 2000).

Gordienko said that Russia’s murders were largely the result of domestic disputes or “hooliganism” motives–meaning street fights and the like–but that contract killings carried out by criminal groups remained a serious problem. He said, however, that the police were getting better at solving contract killings, and had solved seventy-five such murders during the first eight months of this year (, October 2). Whatever the case, high-profile contract killings remain a fairly common feature of the Russian business world. For example, on September 27, the head of security for the powerful and politically connected St. Petersburg bank, Promstroibank, was shot to death in what the authorities suspect was a contract killing (,, September 27; see also the Monitor, August 10).

The Interior Ministry reported last week that in the first eight months of this year, the number of murders overall had increased 13 percent and the number of kidnappings had increased 23.5 percent compared with the same period last year (Interfax, September 25). Some regions are apparently experiencing a crime wave: Over the week of September 21-27, for example, Vologda Oblast registered five murders, seven rapes, seventeen robberies, twenty-three cases of auto theft and 231 cases of larceny (SeverInform, September 27).