On a Moscow market there stood a stall selling all kinds of odds and ends operated by an invalid. This man was prepared for a certain price to obtain any young person desirous of enrolling at the university admission to any faculty…. [Because of the difficulties of getting into the university] this disabled veteran, who disposed of magic powers and abilities to procure admission, enjoyed an enormous business from doting parents who, trembling with eagerness, pressed into his hands the requested sum. The disabled veteran followed the most scrupulous business principles and always warned his clients that he was not omnipotent, that, naturally, he would do all in his power but could not guarantee success: in case their daughter or son failed to gain admission, he promised to refund the money. And indeed, whenever he did fail, the parents received their money back. But he was often successful, succeeding time and again, and in this manner secured a wide clientele willing to pay.
And what did he do for it? Nothing! He did nothing at all, sought out no one and spoke to no one; he had no contacts with any faculty or school administrators. But he earned well, proceeding on the following premise: If the parents were so eager for their child to study, they would not rely exclusively on his support but explore also other channels, possibly seeking to acquire, with an appropriate gift, another helper, one high up. And one of these pulleys would grab-which one, they would never find out. Secondly, it was quite conceivable that the youth would be seized with such ambition that he would prepare thoroughly for the [entrance] examination and, despite all difficulties, clear the hurdle. And if all went amiss, he would refund the money.
I recently finished a book on Communism
I took out from the library because I know next to nothing about world history between the post-WWII era and my own life (thanks, public education system), and this story was one that stood out to me that reflected just the level of corruption that was going on in the Soviet Union at its height.