Please tell me everything you know about the Russian Mafia
April 1, 2008 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm craving detailed information about the Russian Mafia/Eurasian Gangs that operate in Russia and abroad. I would appreciate any information no matter how small or large.

I watched a little of Eastern Promises the other day and now I'm jonesing for any information about the Russian mafia/ Eurasian Mafia. Any information no matter what form would be great and thank you in advance. It seriously can be anything I'm all eyes.
posted by carefulmonkey to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Russian mafia.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:08 PM on April 1, 2008

Russkaya Mafiya
posted by amyms at 5:28 PM on April 1, 2008

It's funny you posted this... I became interested the past few days in them myself. The Wikipedia article is useful, although surely not the most authoritative source out there. (I'll lurk and hopefully pick up some more useful links...)

An interesting digression is the Russian Business Network, although it seems somewhat unclear whether or not it's a part of the Russian Mafia.

I've heard two passing allusions to the Russian Business Mafia in connection with theft in the Boston area. Not so much that elite Mafia agents are involved, or that there's any targeted program here, as much as that they've supposedly come up as the intended recipient of stolen goods periodically. (Obviously, this is circumstantial at best...) But that's what piqued my interest—Russian Mafia, here??
posted by fogster at 5:38 PM on April 1, 2008

Russian prison tattoos
posted by doublesix at 6:44 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is an excellent article on the Russian Mafia in Southeast Asia. It's unfortunately 12 years old, and from what I saw when I was living in that region, their involvement there has grown much deeper and wider since 1996. Still very much worth reading if you're interested in the topic. It's quite well written.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:58 PM on April 1, 2008

Best book I read on the subject (academic study of the problem in early 1990s):
Violent Entrepreneurs: The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism by Vadim Volkov. Review.

You'll learn more about the internal organisation of Post-Soviet organised crime from this book than from all the breathless but vague websites and newspaper articles combined.
posted by claudius at 7:06 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

The most important thing is to stop thinking about the "Russian Mafia" as anything at all resembling the Sicilian Mafia--that is, a strictly hierarchical, monolithic organization that has the potential ability to supplant "legitimate" state control of a region.

The Russian mafia, such as it is, consists of rival gangs and businesses (though rarely anything as cohesive as a "family"). Most of these do normal white market business much of the time, and black or gray market business the rest of the time. It's not primarily about the crime; it's about making money. In many cases, Russian businessmen are forced into organized crime because the competition is already involved, and the risk of getting whacked (or just harassed out of existence) is too high. This was much more of a problem in the 1990s, before Putin started making a serious effort at mopping things up.

In many ways, organized crime in Russia developed as a kind of replacement for the substructure of the Communist state. Businesses and organizations that operated under communism had to have a cell of the Communist Party, which mostly ran things no matter what the board of directors looked like. After the USSR fell, the advantages that that system provided were no longer available, and organized crime became a kind of analogue to Party support. The transition was made easier by the fact that many of these crime organizations developed during the 1980s privatization projects, which all operated under a fog of cronyism, nepotism, and corruption--and hence many of them are probably run by people who were children of Party bigwigs. That is certainly the impression the Russians have.

The important thing to remember is that there is not a huge abyss of difference between a legitimate Russian businessman and a businessman involved in organized crime. First, no business can be done in Russia, period, without tax dodging and massive bribery (for a long time, and maybe this is still true, business taxes were levied on revenues rather than profits, which would have made it literally impossible to do business if not for widespread dodging). Second, the underlying infrastructural services--many of the banks, etc.--are involved with organized crime in some form or other.

In other words, the "Russian mafia" is just a natural outgrowth of a poorly regulated business sector. Don't fall into the trap of thinking about it as some kind of malevolent organization with a mind of its own. That's an American nationalist myth dreamt up in the '90s to replace the Soviet Union as a big scary threat. (Russia is a great source of propaganda and fear-mongering because it's easy to get called a racist if you target Arabs, but Russians are fair game).
posted by nasreddin at 1:16 AM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Misha Glenny is doing the interview rounds in the UK at the moment pushing his new book McMafia, so there are a few current articles on the subject:


In summary though, nasreddin has it right.
posted by Bodd at 2:42 AM on April 2, 2008

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