Demographic, Temporal, and Spatial Patterns of Homicide Rates in Russia

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  • Demographic, Temporal, and Spatial Patterns ofHomicide Rates in Russia

    WilliamAlexPridemore

    Interpersonal violence increased dramatically in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Unionin the early1990s. In this article, newly available arrest data from theRussianMinistry of the Interiorand vital statistics data from the Russian State Committee for Statistics are employed in order toexamine the demographic, temporal, and spatial patterns of homicide rates in the country. Amongother ndings, analyses reveal (1) homicide victimization rates in Russia are comparable to and/orgreater than the high rates in the United States for at least the last 35 years; (2) a sudden decrease inhomicide rates in themid-1980s, followedby a sharp increase in the late 1980s andearly 1990s result-ing in a Russian homicide victimization rate that is 15^20 times higher than in most Europeannations; (3) a strikingly dierent age pattern of homicide victimization rates as compared to theUSA; and (4) awide range of variation in homicide rates throughout the country, including a curiouspattern of increasing rates fromwest to east.

    IntroductionThe collapse of communism and the shift towardsdemocratic rule and a free-market economy haveexacerbated many old and created many new socialproblems in transitional Russia. One major negativeresult has been a dramatic increase in rates of inter-personal violence in the country. In 1998, forexample, the homicide victimization rate of 23.9per 100,000 persons in Russia was more than 3.5times higher than in the United States (Ministry ofHealth,1999;Murphy, 2000), which is often referredto as the most violent industrialized nation in theworld.This increase in violence is reected in the

    concern of Russian citizens about their safety andthe governments response to rising crime rates. Arecent public opinion poll conducted by theROMIR Group (ROMIR, 2000), for example,shows that two-thirds of those surveyed weremuch more concerned about crime rates than theyhad been ve years earlier, and that 60 per cent werevery much concerned and another 30 per centmuch concernedabout high crime rates.The same

    survey reveals nearly universal dissatisfaction withthe Russian leaders response to the issue, with 95per cent stating that the government was handlingthe problemnot very wellor not well at all.

    Despite the media attention given to the highrates of violence in Russia, very little scienticwork on this subject has been undertaken, withmost of the research conducted thus far focusingon the topics of organized crime and political cor-ruption (see for example, Center for Strategic andInternational Studies, 1997; Coulloudon, 1997;Kryshtanovskaia, 1996; Lucky, 1997).1 While thetopic of interpersonal violence has received sensa-tional coverage via news media, it has been givenlittle scholarly attention in the West, and althoughRussian social science journals are increasingly pub-lishing research on this issue, only a handful ofarticles have appeared in Western journals. Thissituation is largely the result of data-related issues.First, until the late 1980s and early 1990s, data onhomicide and other forms of violence and crimewere rarely made public, and the data that were

    European Sociological Review 19/1 & Oxford University Press 2003; all rights reserved.

    European Sociological Review,Vol. 19 No. 1, 41^59 41

  • released were often falsied. Secondly, although thevalidity, availability, and presentation of the Russiandata are all improving, linguistic dierences andsometimes-reluctant government ocials make itdicult for Western social scientists to locate andcooperate with potential Russian colleagues and toacquire and fully understand the appropriate datanecessary to carry out their research.This article takes advantage of newly available

    vital statistics data from the Russian State Commit-tee for Statistics (Goskomstat) and the RussianMinistry of Health and, to a lesser extent, arrestdata from the Russian Ministry of the Interior inorder to examine patterns of homicide rates inRussia. There are several reasons for the focus onhomicide. First, homicide is obviously a graveoence with many and varied social costs and con-sequences. Secondly, measures of homicide areconsidered the most trustworthy of all measures ofdierent types of crime, especially for internationaland comparative research on crime (see for example,Archer and Gartner, 1984; Lynch, 1995; Riedel,1990). Finally, and especially important in the con-text of questionable crime data in Russia, homicidecan also be measured utilizing vital statistics data.These new data are exciting because they permit usto draw a picture of violence in Russia that has beeninvisible for several decades. Furthermore, analysesof these data castdoubt on a fewcommonlyacceptedideas about violence in general, and in Russia speci-cally (see Pridemore, 2001), and lead to intriguingnew questions for future research.Given the long history of empirical examination

    of social structure and homicide in theWest, we takegeneral patterns for granted and allow theory todirect our research when attempting to explainthese distributions. In Russia, however, reliabledata have simply been inaccessible up to this pointand therefore we know little to nothing about pat-terns of lethal violence in the country. Thus,although descriptive in nature, these observationsare a necessary initial step towards developing atheory to explain these patterns.

    Homicide Data in RussiaThe diculty of gaining access to valid data oncrime in Russia during the Soviet era is well

    known. Raw data were not published and the num-bers released by the government were usually vagueand often falsied (see Butler,1992, for a general dis-cussion of Soviet crime data).This situation began tochange in the late1980s, and today data on homicidein Russia are available from both crime and vitalevents statistics.

    Crime data are collected for each city and town byregional oces of the Russian Ministry of InternalAairs (MVD).This information is then aggregatedto the regional level and forwarded to Ministryheadquarters in Moscow, where it is reportedannually in Prestupnost i pravonarusheniya and otherMinistry publications. As with many other nations,the homicide category in ocial crime data fromRussia includes both attempted and completedhomicides. Unfortunately, given the nature of thedata publishedby theMVDthere is noway to extractthese attempted homicides from the overall number.A colleague at the Research Institute of the RussianMinistry of the Interior who has access to unpub-lished data estimated that attempts make up 5^10per cent of the total number of reported homicidesannually (personal communication, Vitaly I. Kva-shis, August, 1998). Furthermore, the percentage ofconvictions for this category of crime that are forattempted homicide has fallen from about 9 percent at the beginning of the decade to 6.3 per centin 1995 (Ministry of the Interior, 1996). Althoughattempts represent a relatively small proportion ofthis category, it must be kept in mind that these Rus-sian crime data are not directly comparable to crimedata on homicide from some countries, since thecorresponding gures do not include attempts.

    Prestupnost i pravonarusheniya annually includes theabsolute number and rate of criminal homicidesrecorded by the police in each region. The MVDalso provides various other homicide-related data,such as the proportion of recorded homicides occur-ring in urban and rural areas, the number of malesand females arrested for homicide, the number ofoenders within each of three broad age categories(younger than18 years old, 18 to 29, and 30 years oldand older), the number of arrested oenders whocommitted murder in a group, the number ofhomicide arrestees under the inuence of alcoholor narcotics, and the number of arrestees convictedof a previous crime. Although general referenceis made to these ocial crime data in selected

    42 PRIDEMORE

  • parts of this analysis, given the persistent questionsregarding the reliability of these gures, most of thehomicide data presented here make use of mortalitydata, and thus represent homicide victimizations.Mortality data are commonly considered to pro-

    vide a better representation than crime data of thetotal number of homicides (see Fox and Zawitz,1999; Rokaw, Mercy, and Smith, 1990), and this istrue for Russia, as well (see Pridemore, 2003, for amore detailed description of the Russian crime andmortality reporting systems and for temporal andcross-sectional comparisons of the homicideestimates they provide). For example, even thoughcrime data include attempts, they annually show asignicantly lower number of homicides in Russiathan mortality data. In 1999, for instance, the MVDreported 31,140 homicides (Ministry of the Interior,2000), while the Ministry of Health reported 38,225(Ministry of Health, 2000).Throughout most of the1990s, this discrepancy was even greater, withannual crime data often reporting less than 75 percent of the number of homicides recorded by vitalstatistics data. Given the idiosyncracies of eachdata-collection agency and the specic categoriesof homicide included in each measure (i.e. criminalhomicide versus all purposely inicted violentdeaths), small dierences in the estimates providedby these two systems are to be expected. Such alarge disparity, however, is dicult to explain anddeserves further research attention.Death certicates contain information on the

    cause of death, including homicide. These data arecollected in Russia by the vital statistics reportingsystem, known as Zapis aktov grazhdanskogo sostoyaniya(or Registry of Acts of Civil Status, commonlyreferred to as ZAGS). The Soviet enumerationsystem was employed in Russia until 1999, but thecauses themselves corresponded to theWorldHealthOrganizations International Classication ofDiseases codes (Andreev, Scherbov, and Willekens,1995; Kingkade and Arriaga, 1997).2 As with crimedata, the mortality data from various towns andcities are aggregated by local oces at the regionallevel before being forwarded to Moscow.3

    Data on cause of death were limited during theSoviet years, and between 1974 and 1986 thegovernment did not make public any mortalitydata (Shkolnikov and Mesle , 1996). Furthermore,from 1965 to 1989, deaths due to homicide (as well

    as deaths resulting from suicide, certain types ofdangerous infectious diseases, and occupationalinjuries) were recorded on a special form (called5B). Although these deaths were tallied duringthis period, their number remained classied andin publicly available reports were placed in theother and unknown causes category (Andreev,Scherbov, and Willekens, 1995). This policy chan-ged in 1989, however, and mortality data(including those that were classied in the past)are now readily available from both Goskomstatand the Ministry of Health annual, Smertnost nasele-niya Rossiiskoi Federatsii (Population mortality of theRussian Federation). Shkolnikov and his colleagues(see, for example, Mesle et al., 1996) have usedformerly classied vital statistics data to reconstructthe number of deaths due to specic causes (includ-ing homicide) back to 1965. They employ theoriginal underlying death records to remove homi-cides from the other category and place them intothe homicide category.4

    Although this is not a comparative studyofRussiaand the United States, US data are employed as areference point in several places throughout the ana-lyses, and comparisons are made to illustrate keysimilarities and dierences. This is done becauseRussia and the United States are both large industri-alized world powers with homicide rates that aremuch higher than most other industrialized nationsand since homicide rates in the two nations havebeen remarkably similar in magnitude and trendsfor about three decades until the sharp increases inRussia during the transition years. Data related tohomicide victimization in the United States aredrawn from the National Vital Statistics Report(see, Anderson, Kochanek, and Murphy, 1997) andfrom the National Center for Health Statistics(2000). As with the Russian victimization data,homicide data from the US represent ICD codesE960^978.

    Demographic Variation

    This section presents homicide rates for dierentdemographic groups in Russia in 1995. Both victim-ization and arrest data are employed to describe sexand age dierences.

    PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 43

  • SexAccording to mortality data from the Ministry ofHealth, there were 44,069 homicide victims in Rus-sia in 1995, for an annual rate of 30.2 homicides per100,000 residents. This is more than three timeshigher than the victimization rate of 9.4 in the Uni-ted States in 1995. Of these, 33,507 were males,representing 76 per cent of all victims.This is similarto the distribution of male and female victims in theUnited States, where 77.5 per cent were male in 1995(Anderson, Kochanek, and Murphy, 1997).The cor-responding male homicide victimization rate inRussia is 48.3 per 100,000, which is more than 3times the 1995 male rate of 14.7 in the United States.With10,562 homicide victimizations, women repre-sented 24 per cent of all homicide victims, resultingin a female rate of13.8 per100,000, which is 3.5 timesthe 1995 female rate of 4.0 in the United States.5

    According to data from the Ministry of theInterior, there were 24,350 people arrested for com-mitting or attempting homicide in Russia in 1995.Males represented 86.7 per cent of all those arrestedfor homicide in that year.There were 3,250 femalesarrested, representing 13.3 per cent of all homicidearrests. In theUnited States, there were16,701arrestsfor homicide in 1995. Of these, 90.5 per cent weremales and 9.5 per cent females. Thus, females appearto comprise a slightly higher percentage of allhomicide arrestees in Russia than in theUnited States.

    AgeFigure 1 shows age-specic homicide victimizationrates in Russia and the United States for 1995. Asidefrom the strikingly high rates in Russia, the gurereveals a distinctly dierent pattern in the age ofhomicide victims in Russia than in theUnited States.In the United States, the victimization rate peakswith the 15^24 year old age-group and descendssmoothly as age increases. In Russia, however, thevictimization rate jumps sharply from the 15^24 tothe 25^34 year old age-group. It then rises slightly,but essentially plateaus at this level for both the35^44 and 45^54 age-groups, before beginning todecrease. However, the homicide victimization rateis still higher among the 55^64 age-group than the15^24 year old category, and for those 65 and older

    the rate is nearly as high as for those 15 to 24 yearsold. Although middle-aged Russians have fairedthe worst in terms of overall mortality rates duringthe transition (see Shkolnikov and Mesle , 1996), thepattern of age-specic homicide rates over time dis-cussed in the next section reveals that thisdistribution of homicide victimization by age is notan artefact of the transition, but that nearly the samepattern has held in Russia for the last three decades.

    According to the RussianMinistryof the Interior,there were 24,350 arrests for completed andattempted homicide in Russia in 1995. Of thosearrested, 6 per cent were younger than 18-years old,33 per cent were between 18 and 29, and 61 per centwere older than 30 years of age.6 Data from the Fed-eral Bureau of Investigations Uniform CrimeReports (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 1996),reveal16,701arrests for homicide in theUnited Statesin 1995. Of those arrested, 15 per cent were of per-sons younger than 18, 55 per cent of the arresteeswere between 18 and 29, and 29 per cent were over30 years of age.Thus,70 per cent of those arrested forhomicide in the United States are younger than30-years old, while in Russia this total is less than40 per cent. Table 1 illustrates this age dierenceamong arrestees in Russia and the United States.Although these are arrest data and thus may notaccurately reect oending rates, when taken

    44 PRIDEMORE

    Figure 1. Age-specic homicide victimization rates per 100,000persons inRussia and the United States,1995Note: Data are from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federa-tion (1996)

  • together with the homicide victimization rates fromabove, they suggest that both victims and oendersof homicide in Russia tend to be older than theircounterparts in the United States. In 1997, for exam-ple, the median age of Russian homicide arresteeswas 35 years old (Chervyakov et al., 2002), while themedian age of American homicide arrestees was 23(Federal Bureau of Investigations, 1998). From ourresearch inWestern nations, we have come to acceptthe age ^crime curve as a given. This nding fromRussia may thus have important theoretical ramica-tions since it appears to run counter to this notion,suggesting that the age ^crime curve may be acultural artefact.7

    Sex and AgeFigure 2 presents the sex- and age-specic homicidevictimization rates for Russia in 1995, highlightingthe dierences in the patterns of homicidevictimization between men and women within thecountry. For males, rates are relatively low amongthe three lower age categories, then jump to over40 per 100,000 for the 15^24 age-group, and thennearly double again to almost 80 per 100,000 formales in the 25^34, 35^44, and 45^54 age-groups.The rate decreases for the 55^64 age-group, but itis still higher than the 15^24 category. For females,the pattern is similar butwith a slight and interestingdierence.The increase in rates that begins with the15^24 age-group continues all the way through tothe 45^54 age-group, which has the highest victim-ization rates among females. The rates decreasesomewhat for the 55^64 and 65+ age categories, butare still higher than the15^24 and 25^34 age-groups.Table 2 compares the sex-specic rates among

    males and females in the United States and Russia.First, when compared with the age-specic

    homicide victimization rates of women in the Uni-ted States, the rates for Russian women are muchhigher. Again, however, the pattern of the age dis-tribution of female victims is just as interesting. Inthe United States, infant females less than one yearold have the highest homicide victimization rate ofany female age category. In general, however, femalevictims tend to be slightly older, on average, thanmale victims, and their victimization rates peak notin the15^24 age-group, but instead in the 25^34 age-group. After this, US female victimization ratesdecrease consistently. As shown above, this is notthe case with Russian women. Again, this pattern isradically dierent from what we are accustomed toin the United States, and the potential causes of thisdisparate distribution of female homicide victims byage demands further attention. One plausiblehypothesis is that the higher rates among the olderage groups are due to these women becoming vic-tims of homicide at the hands of their husbands(Gondolf and Shestakov, 1997; Horne, 1999), whohave themselves been part of the hardest hitsex^age-groups in terms of income, employability,health, and alcohol consumption during thetransition (Shkolnikov and Mesle , 1996).

    The nal two columns of Table 2 reinforceother ndings from this analysis. Although the

    PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 45

    Table 1. Age of homicide arrestees in Russia and the United States,1995 (%)

    Age of arrestees Russia United States. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    518 years old 6 1518^29 years old 33 5530+ years old 61 29

    Note: Russian data are fromMinistry of the Interior (1996) andUS data arefrom Federal Bureau of Investigations (1996).

    Figure 2. Sex- and age-specic homicide victimization rates per100,000 persons inRussia,1995Note:Russian data arefromMesle et al.(1996)and theMinistry ofHealth (various years) andUSdata are fromtheNational Center forHealth Statistics

  • male ^female homicide victimization ratios in theUnited States are slightly higher than the corre-sponding Russian male ^female ratios in ve of thenine age categories, the two countries are relativelysimilar in this regard.This conrms the nding pre-sented earlier in regard to the sex distribution ofmale and female victims. It is interesting to note,however, that three of the four age categories inwhich the Russian male ^female ratios exceed thosein the USA are the age-groups for which homiciderates are highest in Russia: 25^34, 35^44, and 45^54.In sum, beyond the veryhigh homicide victimiza-

    tion rates among all sex- and age-groups in Russiarelative to the United States, one major issue standsout in terms of the demographic variation of homi-cide rates in the country: the dramatically dierentage pattern. On average, both homicide victimsand oenders appear to be much older in Russiathan in the United States. In fact, the highest victi-mization rates in Russia are found among the 35^44and 45^54 year old age-groups.This dierent patternis evenmoremarked for females, wherewomen aged45^54 have the highest victimization rates. Further,females 55^64 and 65 years old and older are more atrisk than the 25^34 year old age-group,which has thehighest victimization rate in the United States.

    Temporal PatternsThis section presents overall homicide victimizationrates in Russia from 1965 to 1998, followed by an

    examination of sex- and age-specic victimizationrates during this period.

    Overall Homicide Rates

    Figure 3 presents the homicide victimization rates inRussia and the United States from 1965 to 1998.Before describing the trends in the Russian rates, itis interesting to make a brief comparison with theUSA. During the Soviet era it was commonlyaccepted that, despite other misgivings about thetotalitarianUSSR, at least crime rates in the commu-nist bloc were lower than in the United States.Thisnotion was buttressed by falsied data and ellipticalreports on crime published by the Soviet govern-ment.8 It may be that rates for other types of crimewere lower in Soviet Russia, but these data indicatethat annual homicide victimization rates in Russiawere comparable to or greater thanUSvictimizationrates well before the signicant increases of the late1980s and early 1990s. In fact, except for a slight dipinUS rates in the mid- to late 1970s and the brief butsharp decrease in Russia in the mid- to late 1980s,homicide victimization rates in the two nationsseem to follow the same general patterns from themid-1960s to the late 1980s.9 The high homiciderates in Soviet Russia during this era may necessitatea partial re-examination of commonly acceptedideas concerning low rates of crime and/or violencein totalitarian nations.

    46 PRIDEMORE

    Table 2. Age- and sex-specic homicide victimization rates per100,000 persons inRussia and the United States,1995

    Males Females Male^female ratio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Age-groups Russia USA Russia USA Russia USA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    51year 7.9 8.9 9.9 7.2 0.80 1.241^4 years 1.9 3.1 1.1 2.6 1.73 1.195^14 years 1.6 1.9 1.2 1.0 1.33 1.9015^24 years 40.9 33.9 9.3 6.0 4.40 5.6525^34 years 76.0 23.7 16.5 6.5 4.61 3.6535^44 years 79.2 14.6 19.6 4.9 4.04 2.9845^54 years 77.7 9.6 22.0 3.0 3.53 3.2055^64 years 53.8 7.2 17.4 2.1 3.09 3.4365+ years 28.8 4.3 17.9 2.4 1.61 1.79

    Note: Russian data are from Mesle et al. (1996) and US data are from the National Center for Health Statistics (2000).

  • Annual homicide victimization rates in Russiaover the last 35 years show an interesting pattern.Therewas a slowbut steady increase in the homiciderate from 1965, when the rate was 5.9 per 100,000,until 1978, when the rate hit a high of about 13.0 per100,000.The homicide rate remained constant from1978 until 1981, and then began a slow decline to arate of 10.6 per 100,000 in 1985. Following this slowrise and fall, therewas a sudden drop in the homicidevictimization rate from 10.6 per 100,000 in 1985, to7.5 per 100,000 in 1986, representing a 30 per centdecrease in the homicide rate in a single year. Thisabrupt change is made more dramatic by the slowand steady trend of the previous 20 years. The rateremains at this low level in 1987, but is back up to9.2 per 100,000 in 1988, and rises even higher in thefollowing years.The sudden decrease, followed by ajust as dramatic increase two years later, coincideswith the beginning and end of the anti-alcohol cam-paign instituted by Soviet leader MikhailGorbachev during this time.10 Further researchshould be undertaken in order to examine more clo-sely the eect, if any, of the reduced levels of alcoholconsumption during the campaign on the concomi-tant decrease of homicide rates.In the late1980s and early1990s, the homicide rate

    quickly rose above previously high levels.There wasan especially sharp surge upward beginning in 1992,with the homicide rate more than doubling from

    1991 to 1993 and then hitting a high of 32.6 per100,000 in 1994. The rate then began to drop andthen stabilized somewhat, though recent data showsmall increases again at the end of the 1990s.11Thus,between 1988 and 1994, the homicide rate rose 350per cent. Even following its reduction and relativestabilization, the rate at the end of the 1990s wasstill twice as high as at the beginning of the decade.

    The major political, economic, and socialchanges experienced by Russia during the 1990s arewell-known. It is likely that these reductions insocial and economic well-being, the concomitantworsening of other social problems (e.g. increasesin divorce rates and in aggregate levels of alcoholconsumption), and the general level of social dis-organization in the country resulting from therapid social change have all played a role in the dra-matic increase in the homicide rate during the1990s.It should also be noted that the uctuation of thehomicide rate during this period corresponds withchanges in these social factors. For example, thedebilitating shock to Russias economy in the early1990s was followed by a period of relative improve-ment and stability in the middle years of thedecade. Unfortunately, the nancial crises aroundthe world in the late summer of 1998 had an espe-cially negative impact on Russia, erasing the gainsof the small recovery. Again, further researchshould be undertaken to examine whether or not

    PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 47

    Figure 3. Homicide victimization rates per100,000 persons inRussia and the United States,1965^1998Note: Data are fromMesle et al. (1996) and theMinistry of Health (various years)

  • these structural factors did in fact play a role in therise and fall of homicide rates throughout the decade.

    Sex-Specific Homicide RatesFigure 4 shows that long-term patterns of sex-specic homicide rates have been similar duringthe last three decades. For example, the male homi-cide rate started at around 9 per 100,000 in 1965,gradually rose until it peaked at about 20 per100,000 in the late 1970s and early 1980s, thendeclined again to around 11.5 per 100,000 by 1987.It then more than quadrupled, to a high of 50 per100,000 in 1994, before pulling back and stabilizingin the low 40s. The female homicide victimizationrate was around 3 per 100,000 in 1965, crested a littleabove 7 in the late 1970s and early 1980s, thendeclined to about 4.5 per100,000 in1987.The femalerate then tripled over the next seven years, reachingof a high of nearly 14 per 100,000 in 1994, beforedeclining to less than 11per 100,000 in 1997.Although the patterns for male and female homi-

    cide victimization are similar over time, there is aminor but interesting dierence to point out. Ratesof homicide victimization obviously increased dra-matically for both males and females during thetransition, but it appears as if males were moreadversely aected during this period. For example,

    between 1965 and 1987, the annual proportion ofhomicide victims thatwere male consistently rangedfrom 67 per cent to 71 per cent, with females repre-senting 29 per cent to 32 per cent of allvictimizations. From 1989 to 1998, however, therange for males shifted upwards, with the propor-tion of homicide victims that were male rangingbetween 75 per cent and 78 per cent, while femalescomprised 22 per cent to 25 per cent of the annualvictimizations during this period. This nding isconsistent with other research on Russia during the1990s that has shown that males, especially thoseaged 35 to 54, have been the hardest hit in terms ofmortality and other health outcomes (see Kingkade,1997; Shkolnikov and Mesle , 1996).

    Age-Specific Homicide RatesFigures 5a and 5b display age-specic homicide vic-timization rates in Russia from 1965 to 1998 (notethat the latter graph is twice the scale of the former).The information is broken into two gures forclarity of presentation, and the age-groups arebased on categories commonly examined in theUnited States.

    The same general pattern for most of the age-groups that is displayed in the overall homiciderates during this time period is also recognizable

    48 PRIDEMORE

    Figure 4. Sex-specic homicide victimization rates per100,000 persons in Russia,1965^1998Note: Data are fromMesle et al. (1996) and theMinistry of Health (various years)

  • here, showing that the markedly dierent age distri-bution relative to the United States is not a periodeect resulting from the transitional forces of the1990s, but has been recognizable for the last threedecades. For example, though on dierent scales,all age-groups older than 15 are similar to eachother and to the overall pattern. Each rises slowlybut steadily from a low point in 1965 until crestingaround 1980. Each then declines for several yearsbefore hitting a trough during the years of the anti-

    alcohol campaign.They then rise sharply, especiallythe 25^34, 35^44, and 45^54 year old groups, untilhitting highs in 1993 and 1994. Finally each thendrops slightly and levels o by the mid- to late1990s.

    There are two exceptions to this general pattern,however. First, Figure 5a reveals that deaths dueto homicide for infants less than one year old inRussia show a pattern that departs from other agecategories. The rate peaks at around 10 per 100,000in the late 1960s, slowly and steadily declines to a

    PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 49

    Figure 5a. Age-specic (525 years old) homicide victimization rates per100,000 persons inRussia,1965^1998Note: Data are fromMesle et al. (1996) and theMinistry of Health (various years)

    Figure 5b. Age-specic (425 years old) homicide victimization rates per100,000 persons in Russia,1965^1998

  • low of 3.6 in 1989, and then quickly climbs back toaround 10 per 100,000 in the mid-1990s. Secondly,the homicide victimization rates for the 1^4 and 5^14 age-groups also exhibit patterns that are dierentfrom the rest, but similar to each other. Both remainwithin a relatively low and narrow range for most ofthe period under study. In one respect, though, therates for these groups are similar to the other cate-gories: they bottom out in the mid- to late 1980sand then rise to new highs in the early 1990s.12

    In sum, there are several important aspects of thetemporal patterns of homicide rates in Russia duringthe last three decades.The rst are the general trendsover this time: the slow and steady rise and fall fromthe mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, when there was asharp drop during the anti-alcohol campaign, andthen the dramatic increase after the cessation of thecampaign, especially following the breakup of theSoviet Union. Secondly, as expected, male victimi-zation rates are much higher than female rates, andthis is reinforced during the transition years of the1990s, when male rates increased more than femalerates.Thirdly, there are three general patterns for thevariation of homicide rates over time for dierentage categories: the rate for infants less than one year old began

    high, slowly decreased for twenty years, thenagain hit high levels in the 1990s;

    the 1^4 and 5^14 age-groups are similar to eachother during this period, both in terms of theirlow rates and the narrow range within whichthey vary; and

    although on somewhat dierent scales, those inthe 15^24, 25^34, 35^44, 45^54, 55^64, and 65and older age-groups all follow the generaloverall pattern during this period.

    Though dierent in absolute levels, the correspond-ing categories for males and females follow similarpatterns throughout. Finally, these data show thathomicide victimization rates in Russia were gener-ally comparable to or higher than those in theUnited States throughout this entire time-period,even before the break-up of the Soviet Union.

    Spatial PatternsThis section presents data on the spatial variation ofhomicide rates inRussia. It rst examines the pattern

    of homicide victimization rates in the 12 large eco-nomic regions of Russia and then discusses thedistribution of victimization rates among thesmaller administrative regions.

    Economic RegionsThe 12 economic regions of Russia are made up ofseveral smaller administrative regions groupedtogether for record-keeping and descriptive pur-poses. Table A1 in Appendix A lists the EconomicRegions, the administrative regions of which theyconsist, and their respective homicide victimizationrates in 1995; the map in Appendix B display a mapof these Economic Regions.13

    Table A1shows the high homicide rates in each ofthe Economic Regions, ranging from 14.5 per100,000 persons in the Central Chernozem regionto nearly 55 per 100,000 in Eastern Siberia. Figure 6reveals a distinct pattern of ascendinghomicide ratesamong these Economic Regions moving across thecountry from west to east. For example, the sevenEconomic Regions with the lowest homicide victi-mization rates are all inwestern Russia.Moving east,we see the Ural region and part of the Northernregion, both of which have higher homicide victi-mization rates than all the western regions.Continuing east, Western Siberia has even higherrates, followed by the Fareast region and, nally,Eastern Siberia.

    This pattern of ascending homicide rates as wemove eastward acrossRussia raises interesting issues.Perhaps there are cultural reasons for the lower ratesin the west (e.g. the high proportion of Muslims liv-ing in the Northern Caucasus region might be onesource of the relatively low homicide rate in thatarea) and/or the higher rates in the East. Alterna-tively, preliminary research suggests that theregions vary on key social structural factors thatmight partially determine levels of violence(Pridemore, 2000). Factors such as poverty, single-parent households, and ethnic heterogeneity, forexample, appear to be related to regional homiciderates, though signicantly lower homicide rates inthe Northern Caucasus and signicantly higherrates in the regions east of the Ural mountainsremain even after controlling for these structuralfactors. These patterns correspond to the spatial

    50 PRIDEMORE

  • distribution of overall mortality rates in Russia, andShkolnikov (1987) argues that these patterns areassociated with varying levels of socioeconomicdevelopment throughout this vast nation. More in-depth analyses should be completed, however, totest the ecacy of these preliminary ndings.

    Administrative RegionsThere are 89 administrative regions in Russia, whichare analogous to states or provinces in other nations.Map 2 in the Appendix displays a map of theseregions.Given their small size andgeographic place-ment, data for nine of these areas are traditionallyincluded as part of the larger regions within whichthey are located. Further, neither crime nor vital sta-tistics data on homicide are available for theChechen Republic. Thus, 79 regions are examinedhere. The median regional homicide victimizationrate in Russia in 1995 is 29 victimizations per100,000 persons, the mean is 31.5, and the standarddeviation is 19.0.Table A1 shows the homicide victimization rates

    for each of the administrative regions in Russia in

    1995. The lowest regional homicide rate that yearwas 5.6 per 100,000 persons in Voronezh Oblast,which is located in the Central ChernozemEconomic Region. Other low rates include, Kabar-dino-Balkaria (7.0), Dagestan (9.1), NorthernOssetia(10.1), Karachai-Cherkessia (11.3), and Ingushetia(13.9). All of these regions with comparatively lowhomicide rates, with the exception of Voronezh,are located in theNorthern Caucasus, whereMuslimpopulations are high compared with the rest of thecountry. Finally, although low when compared toother regional homicide rates in Russia, it shouldbe stressed that with the exception of Voronezh,Kabardino-Balkaria, and Dagestan, every adminis-trative region in Russia had a rate higher than thehomicide victimization rate of 9.4 per 100,000persons in the entire United States in 1995.

    The highest regional rate is in the Republic ofTyva, which had 135 homicide victimizations per100,000 persons (representing 416 actual homicides)in1995,meaning that therewasmore than one homi-cide for every 1,000 people in the region that year.Throughout the 1990s, the homicide rate inthe region was above 90. The Tyumen Oblast, at83.9 per 100,000 population, also has a very high

    PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 51

    Figure 6. Homicide victimization rates per100,000 persons in the Russian Economic Regions,1995

  • homicide victimization rate.14 Other administrativeregionswith high homicide rates include PrimorskiiKrai (43.6 per 100,000 persons), Sakhalin Oblast(48.6), Khabarov Krai (52.2), the Altai Republic(60.0), and the Magadan (60.3), Chita (61.1), Kemer-ovo (66.4), and Irkutsk Oblasts (66.6). All of theseregions are in eastern Russia: Altai, Kemerevo, andTyumen inWestern Siberia; Chita, Irkutsk, andTyvain the Eastern Siberian Region; and Khabarovsk,Magadan, Primorskii Krai, and Sakhalin in theFareast.In sum, there are several important points to note

    in regard to the spatial variation of homicide rates inRussia.The rst is the generally high rates through-out Russia. There are several entire regions, forexample, that have higher homicide victimizationrates than many of the most violent large cities intheUnited States. Secondly, the pattern of ascendinghomicide rates as we move eastward across Russiapresents interesting theoretical considerations to beaddressed, such as the possible structural andcultural sources responsible for this spatial distri-bution. Finally, although the regional homiciderates are generally high, they are widely distribu-ted ^ ranging from a low of 5.6 to a high of135.1 ^ and vary considerably from region toregion.The generally high rates and the north-eastgradient may be attributable, in part, to anotherinteresting story told by these newly available data:homicide rates in rural areas of Russia are compar-able to or higher than urban rates in the country(Chervyakov et al., 2001). Future research shouldfocus on attempts to explain this variation, muchthe same as research on social structure and homi-cide in the United States has attempted to explain thevariation of homicide rates among states and cities.

    Summary and ConclusionsThis article employs newly available vital statisticsand crime data to examine the demographic, tem-poral, and spatial patterns of homicide rates inRussia. The analysis of demographic variation pre-sents unexpected ndings in terms of the agedistribution of homicide victims and oenders.Theevidence suggests that both homicide oenders andvictims in Russia are markedly older than theircounterparts in most other industrialized nations.

    Those most at risk of homicide victimization, forexample, are in the 35^44 and 45^54 age-groups,and this pattern is even more exaggerated forfemales, with even those 65 and older more at riskof becoming victims thanwomen age 25^34.

    The temporal analysis reveals interesting trends inthe homicide victimization rate from 1965 to 1998.The mid-1980s and the transition years of the 1990sproduced dramatic movements in the homicide rate.This analysis also shows that annual homicide rateshave been comparable to and sometimes higher thanrates in the United States, which is commonlyreferred to as the most violent industrialized nationin the world, for at least the last 35 years.

    The description of the spatial variation of homi-cide rates in Russia shows a distinct pattern ofascending rates from west to east. It also shows thatmore than 95 per cent of the Russian regions havehomicide victimization rates higher than the 1995rate for the United States, and that several entireregions have rates greater than those found in manylarge American cities ^ such as Detroit, Houston,and Washington, DC ^ that traditionally exhibitthe highest rates of violence in the USA. Further,even though homicide rates are elevated throughoutRussia, the discussion reveals that there is still awiderange of rates and that they vary considerably fromregion to region.

    Although descriptive in nature, this discussion ofthe patterns of homicide rates in Russia is an impor-tant rst step in understanding the nature ofinterpersonal violence within the country. It is nowpossible to examine the variation of theoreticallyrelevant structural features over time in Russia ^such as poverty, social disorganization, and aggre-gate levels of alcohol consumption ^ in order tosee how they correspond to changes in homiciderates, especially during the transition. Given the var-iation of these social conditions among the dozensof regions throughout this vast nation, it is alsopossible to examine these relationships cross-sectionally in an attempt to explain the spatialpatterningof homicide rates in the country. Further,work should be undertaken in an attempt to under-stand the age ^violence relationship, the comparablerates between urban and rural areas, and thepotential impact of culture on the generally highrates in the nation and on the dramatic variation ofrates across the country.

    52 PRIDEMORE

  • Finally, unlike manyof the nationswhere detailedresearch on homicide has been completed thus far,Russia has a distinctly non-Western history and cul-ture. The country is also experiencing a transitionthat is arguably unique inworld economic, political,and social history.Thus an in-depth study of socialstructure and violence in such a nation could resultin important theoretical ndings that go wellbeyond the connes of Russia.

    Notes1. A great deal of attention, especially in the popular

    press, has been given to the large number of contractkillings in Russia carried out by organized criminals.Using police data, Chervyakov and colleagues (2002)show that about 5% of all murders leading to convic-tion in 1997 were determined to be the result oforganized crime activity. Given the nature of thistype of oence, this gure likely underestimates thetrue number of organized-crime-related homicides.Yet they are still a small proportion of the totalnumber of murders committed in the country. Theimportance of these types of crimes certainly shouldnot be understated, since the roots of organized crimerun to the highest levels in Russia and since theseassassinations, by design, are meant to send ominousmessages well beyond the individual victim.However, the attention aorded these crimesexaggerates their proportion relative to all otherhomicides and has detracted from the scienticstudy of interpersonal violence in Russia.

    2. ICD items E960^E978 contain deaths due to homi-cide and injury purposely inicted by other persons,including legal interventions and executions. Thecorresponding code in the Russian classicationsystem is 174.

    3. This manner of data collection makes it dicult toobtain homicide (and other types of crime, social,economic, and health) data in Russia at a level ofaggregation lower than the administrative region.City-level information does exist, but collecting itrequires contact with city ocials or the dozens ofregional oces of the respective Ministries.

    4. Given past Soviet machinations, and the sudden andtremendous variation in Russian mortality during thelate1980s and early1990s, the data onoverall mortalityand on violence-related mortality have been the sub-ject of several validation studies.With a few specicexceptions for certain types of death in specicgeographic locations, scholars have concluded that

    these data are reliable and valid (for examples of thisliterature and validation procedures, see Andersonand Silver, 1997; Leon et al., 1997; Wasserman andVarnik, 1998).

    5. Aside from the generally higher homicide rates, theelevated victimization rate among females in Russiamay be due in part to the suspected high rates offemale victimization by current or former husbandsor other partners (see Gondolf and Shestakov, 1997;Horne, 1999).

    6. Unfortunately, these are the only age categories forhomicide arrests regularly published by the Ministryof the Interior.

    7. Even given its extremely high rate in Russia, homicideis still a rare event, and thus may not be an appropriatemeasure to employ when discussing the age ^crimecurve. In fact, Zimring and Hawkins (1997) suggestthatwe shouldmake a distinction between lethal vio-lence and crime in general.The mean age of Russianarrestees for all crimes, however, was 31 years old in1997. This is still much higher than in the UnitedStates, and the age pattern of these arrests is relativelysimilar to that of homicide (Mikhlin, 1999).

    8. MostWestern observers realized, of course, that o-cial crime data from the Soviet government weresuspect and that they under-reported rates. In gen-eral, though, most considered rates of violence tobe lower in the Soviet Union than in the UnitedStates. In any case, we simply had noway of knowingfor certain until the increased transparency duringthe transition resulted in the public release of thesecrime and mortality data.

    9. In fact, data produced by research focusing on Scan-dinavia a half-century ago (Verkko, 1951, especiallythe map on p. 47) also shows a much higher rate ofviolence in Russia than in most European countriesas far back as the early 1920s. (My thanks to JanneKivivuori of Finlands National Research Instituteof Legal Policy for providing me with this obscurebut illuminating publication.)

    10. Although home production of alcohol (called samo-gon, in Russian) partially oset the drop in ocialproduction and distribution of alcohol in the coun-try, a growing literature makes it obvious that levelsof consumption did in fact drop substantially duringthis period (see Leon et al., 1997; Nemtsov, 1998;Shkolnikov and Nemtsov, 1997;Treml, 1997).

    11. Although it is especially important to examine 1999and 2000 in order to see how the homicide rateresponded to the economic crisis of August 1998, Ihesitate to include these data here.This is because atthe very end of the decade and in 2000, the RussianMinistry of Health was switching its vital statistics

    PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 53

  • registration system from the old Soviet system andnomenclature to the World Health OrganizationsInternational Classication of Diseases, 10th Revi-sion, coding scheme. Although the homicidecategory denition remained the same, I am reluc-tant to compare these data with those before thechange before validation procedures have beenundertaken. For informational purposes, however, Iwill note that the crude death rate due to homicidedid increase from 1998 levels, raising to 27.3 and28.4 per100,000 population in1999 and 2000, respec-tively.

    12. An examination of the joint distributions by sex andage do show marked dierences in homicide ratesbetween males and females (e.g. homicide ratesreach the extremely high rates of 80 and even 90 per100,000 for males between 25 and 54 in1994), but thetemporal patterns for the age groups are similar andthus are not presented here in order to conservespace.

    13. The lack of space here precludes an outline of thesocial, economic, and political conditions in each ofthe regions throughout the country. Detailed andeasily accessible information on the characteristicsof these regions is available, however, in theGoskomstat annual publication (in Russian) entitledRegiony Rossii (Russian regions) and (in English) inOrttung, Lussier, and Paretskaya (2000).

    14. Tyva is located in Eastern Siberia, borderingMongo-lia to the north. It is largely rural (there are no cities inTyva with more than 100,000 people), and nearlythree-quarters (73.2%) of the populationwere livingbelow the poverty line in 1995 (raw data from Gos-komstat, 1998). The proportion of single-parenthouseholds is also well above average in Tyva, andthe rate of alcohol consumption in the region ismore than 1.5 times the Russian mean. Tyumen islocated in Western Siberia and is home to largereserves of fossil fuels, resulting in levels of povertyand unemployment in the region that are well belowaverage. However, the large number of relativelywell-paying jobs in the extraction industry also prob-ably plays an important role in the heightened levelsof migration to the region (nearly 3.5 times thenational mean in 1995), diversity (more than 1.5times the mean), and alcohol consumption (1.5times the mean) inTyumen.

    AcknowledgementsAn earlier version of this paper was presented at the1999 Annual Meetings of the American Society of

    Criminology, Toronto, Canada. This project was sup-ported in part by Grant 1999-IJ-CX-0009 awarded by theNational Institute of Justice, Oce of Justice Programs,US Department of Justice, and by Contract 817^13awarded by the National Council for Eurasian and EastEuropean Research, under authority of a Title VIII grantfrom the US Department of State. Points of view in thisdocument are those of the author and do not necessarilyrepresent the ocial position or policies of NIJ or NCE-EER. The author thanks Vladimir Shkolnikov (MaxPlanck Institute for Demographic Research), EvgeniiAndreev (Russian State Committee for Statistics), andNina Andrianova (Russian Academy of Sciences, Institutefor Economic Forecasting) for their generous assistancewith the Russian mortality data. I would also like tothank Colin Loftin for helpful comments on earlier draftsand Jason Scott for his assistance with the map thatappears in this article.

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    Appendix ATable A1. Homicide victimization rates per 100,000 persons forthe economic and administrative regions of Russia,1995

    RegionHomicide

    Rate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Russia 30.2Northern Economic Region 32.4Karelia 38.5Komi 42.8Arkhangel 35.0Vologda 22.8Murmansk 24.6

    Northwestern Economic Region 27.3Sankt-Peterburg (federal city) 24.9Leningrad Oblast 31.6Novgorod 32.0Pskov 24.2

    Central Economic Region 28.3Bryansk 13.9Vladimir 23.0Ivanov 28.1Kaluga 19.0Kostroma 22.4Moscow (federal city) 26.1Moscow Oblast 36.2Orlov 17.3Ryazan 28.3Smolensk 21.0Tver 31.9Tula 31.7Yaroslavl 29.3

    Volga^Vyatka Economic Region 23.3Marii El 40.2Mordovia 23.0Chuvashia 15.1Kirov 25.2Nizhegorod 20.9

    Central Chernozem Economic Region 14.5Belgorod 14.1Voronezh 5.6Kursk 16.5Lipetsk 16.5Tambov 24.7

    Povolga Economic Region 24.1Kalmykia 29.7Tatarstan 30.3Astrakhan 13.9Volgograd 22.5Penzen 16.3Samara 20.8Saratov 28.3Ulyanov 21.8

    Northern Caucasus Economic Region 16.8Adygei 21.1Dagestan 9.1Ingushetia 13.9Chechnya ^Kabardino-Balkaria 7.0Karachaevo-Cherkessia 11.3Northern Osetia 10.1Krasnodar 25.2Stavropol 18.8Rostov 14.4

    Ural Economic Region 36.5Bashkortostan 20.4Udmurtia 38.2Kurgan 33.1Orenburg 34.7Perm 41.4Sverdlov 44.4Chelyabinsk 40.5

    Western Siberia Economic Region 40.2Altai Republic 60.0Altai Krai 34.5Kemerov 66.4Novosibirsk 27.4Omsk 30.9Tomsk 35.3Tyumen 83.9

    Eastern Siberia Economic Region 54.2Buryatia 47.9Tyva 135.1Khakasia 37.6Krasnoyar 42.4

    56 PRIDEMORE

  • Irkutsk 66.6Fareast Economic Region 42.4Sakha 25.6Jewish Autonomous Republic 49.1Chukot Autonomous Republic 21.8Primorskii 43.6Khabarov 52.2Amur 35.8Kamchatka 33.7Magadan 60.3Sakhalin 48.6

    Kaliningrad 19.1

    Notes: Rates for Economic Regions represent overall homicide rate withinthe several administrative regions that constitute each of the economic re-gions.Kaliningrad Oblast is on the Baltic Sea, separated from Russia proper bythe Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania. For this reason, it stands alone asits own economic region.Source: Data are from Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation (1996).

    Authors AddressUniversity of Oklahoma, Department of Sociology,

    Kaufman Hall 329, Norman, OK 73019, USA. Tel.:405-325-2793; fax: 405-325-7825; e-mail: pridemore@ok.edu

    Manuscript received: July 2001.

    PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 57

  • 58 PRIDEMORE

    App

    endix

    B.RussianEconomicRegions

  • PATTERNS OFHOMICIDE IN RUSSIA 59

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    C.RussianAdm

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