Vadim Nikitin writes:
I remember the first time I paid a bribe. It was the summer of 1993, and I was standing at the ticket counter of the Aeroflot office in Voronezh; I was nine years old. My parents had just handed in their passports at the window. ‘Biletov nyet,’ a voice barked from behind a brown computer console labelled ‘Robotron’. The rest happened quickly. I saw my father pick up my passport and – perhaps hoping I wouldn’t notice – silently insert a \$20 note before instructing me to go up to the counter and ask the lady to check again. This time, the only reply was the sound of computer keys being punched, followed by the screech of a dot matrix printer. Three tickets to Murmansk were thrust into my hand. The elation of having beaten the system dissipated as soon as I boarded the plane: the blue and white Tupolev aircraft was all but empty.