David Graber says in this interview on The Real News,

My favorite example is Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 10 years between, I think it was 1991 or two, and 2002, the total number of bureaucrats went up by 25%. So, if after the Soviet Union they still end up with more bureaucrats during shock therapy. The economy was like 30% smaller, and the number of bureaucrats was 25% bigger. [...] That's the thing, the 25% is the number of civil servants. Since all this stuff was privatized, a lot of those bureaucrats were still there doing the same things, so they were theory not bureaucrats anymore. The total number in the public sector still went up. So, God knows how many more bureaucrats there really were under capitalism then there were under state socialism.

Is it true that capitalism brought more bureaucrats after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  • 5
    +1: I'm concerned that your final line seems to attribute the cause to capitalism, but I am not sure that Graber intends that. In particular, there is a confounding factor of having 15 economies/regulatory bodies covering the population rather than one.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 7:37

2 Answers 2


The previous version of this answer was deleted by the moderator because of lack of references. So I added a few references (one of them, unfortunately, in Russian, but I translated a relevant part).

The increase in the number of "civil servants" (if there was such) was not due to "capitalism" but had a simpler reason. During the years of USSR the huge bureaucratic apparatus ran the USSR, but it was copied in each of the Soviet Republics, including Russia. After the fall of the USSR, the bureaucrats of the Russian republic kept their job and started to actually run Russia. But the former Soviet bureaucrats also needed jobs, and they could not do anything else except being bureaucrats. So jobs were created for them as well. Thus if we count only the bureaucrats in Russia before and after the fall of the USSR, we have to add former Soviet bureaucrats. So the total number could have increased by 100% or more. I do not have exact numbers and/or links to Web sites describing the situation. But this interview (in Russian newspaper "Kommersant", December 2001) contains several interesting examples. One of them:

В ЦК КПСС трудилось более тысячи чиновников. Из них в 1992 году не у дел оказалось лишь несколько десятков стариков и совершенно никчемных людей. Остальные отсиделись и оказались в новых структурах.

My translation:

In the Central Committee of the Communist party there were thousands of bureaucrats. Among them, in 1992, only a few old people and totally useless people became unemployed. The others are in new power structures.

  • We can also add here the whole Party 'apparat', which also shadowed all the 'soviet' (i.e. civil) bureaucracy, from workshops to the top government.
    – Zeus
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 7:35
  • The citation in Russian is about party apparat. But I heard that many of these people eventually became businesmen and stopped being bureaucrats. This especially true for younger folks like komsomol leaders. Some of them (Khodorkovsky) became very rich.
    – user56345
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 2:39

Proving the causality question would be complex, but his numbers check out by a healthy margin. In the article "Runaway State Building: How Political Parties Shape States in Postcommunist Eastern Europe" by Connor O'Dwyer it says that the administration in Russia grew by 53 percent from 1993 to 1997. I believe the original data is available only in Russian which I don't read.

There are other cases which might support Graber's argument as well. In a book the same author states:

both Slovakia and Poland saw a very dramatic increase in the number of state administrative personnel. Between 1993 and 2000, the Slovak state administration expanded by 71 percent and the Polish one by 55 percent. If this is taken as the baseline, the Polish state administration has more than doubled during the transition to democracy, with an increase of 137 percent. The number of central state officials in Poland—excluding those in the provincial administration—tripled over that period.

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