Russian Mafia

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The Russian Mafia (Russian: Русская мафия, Russkaya mafiya), Red Mob (Красная мафия, Krasnaya mafiya) or Bratva (Братва; slang for "brotherhood", which applies to all gangs, including rivals) — often transliterated as Mafya or Mafiya — are names designating a diverse group of organized crime syndicates originating in the former Soviet Union (Russia and the CIS). Since the 1991 fall of the USSR, these groups have amassed considerable worldwide power and influence.[1]


[edit] History

Organized crime existed in Russia since the days of the Tsars and Imperial Russia in the form of banditry and thievery, known as Vory v zakone or "thieves in law". This class of criminal had to abide by certain rules in the prison system. One such rule was that cooperation with the authorities of any kind was forbidden. During World War II some prisoners made a deal with the government to enlist in the armed forces in return for a reduced sentence, but upon their return to prison they were attacked and killed by inmates who remained loyal to the rules of the thieves.[2][3]

During the Leonid Brezhnev era when the Soviet economy took a downhill turn, the Vory would take control of the black market with the help of corrupt officials, supplying products such as electronics which were hard to reach for the ordinary Soviet citizen.

The real breakthrough for criminal organizations occurred during the economic disaster and mass emigration of the 1990s that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Desperate for money, many former government workers turned to crime, others joined the Soviet citizens who moved overseas, and the Mafia became a natural extension of this trend. Former KGB agents, sportsmen and veterans of the Afghan and Chechen Wars, now finding themselves out-of-work but with experience in areas which could prove useful in crime, joined the increasing crime wave.[4] Widespread corruption, poverty and distrust of authorities only contributed to the rise of organized crime. Contract killings reached an all-time high with many gangland murders taking place, a substantial number remaining unsolved. The new criminal class of Russia took on a more Westernized and businesslike approach to organized crime as the more code-of-honor based Vory faded into extinction.[5]

The former Soviet Bloc's opening up to the world and the internationalization of its economy also gave the Russian mafia connections to other criminal organizations around the world such as the Chinese Triads or the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. Connections with Latin American drug cartels allowed the Russian mafia to import cocaine into the country.[6]

Widespread emigration in the 1990s allowed Russian criminal organizations to spread themselves further around the world. Prior to the collapse of communism Russian Jews were allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union, and many criminals took advantage of this if they were themselves Jewish, or if not, acquiring a Jewish passport to be granted permission to leave. In the United States a key location for Russian organized crime was the Russian-Jewish community of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York. Vyacheslav "Yaponchik" Ivankov was the first major Russian organized crime figure prosecuted by the U.S. government, running his extortion operations out of Brighton Beach.[7] Russian organized crime has spread to many other countries as well including Israel, Hungary, Canada, South Africa and Spain.[8]

[edit] Major gangs

  • The Solntsevskaya bratva, or Solntsevskaya brotherhood (Russian: Солнцевская братва, the Solntsevo District gang), was one of—if not the—most powerful organized crime group operating in Moscow.[citation needed]
  • Dolgoprudnenskaya (Долгопруденская) was a Russian mafia organization and was considered one of the largest groups of organized crime operating in Moscow. It was really named after Dolgoprudniy, which is a Moscow suburb. It was founded in 1988 and was allegedly very influential.[9]
  • The Obshina (Община, "community" in Russian), or Chechen mafia, was a formidable organized crime group in the Russian underworld. According to experts, ethnic Chechen criminal gangs formed the most dominant minority criminal group in Russia. It is believed some gangs may have ties to Chechen militant factions.
  • The Orekhovskaya gang (Ореховская банда, again, from Orekhovo) was a powerful criminal group in between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

[edit] Notable Russian mafiosi

[edit] Foreign businessmen and the Russian mafia

An unknown number of foreign businessmen, believed to be in the low thousands, arrived in Russia from all over the world during the early and mid 1990s to seek their fortune and to cash in on the transition from a communist to a free market/capitalist society. This period was referred to by many of the businessmen as the "second great gold rush".

Generally, 1990 to 1998 was a wild and unstable time for most foreign businessmen operating in Russia. Dangerous battles with the Russian Mob occurred, with many being killed or wounded. The Mafia welcomed the foreign businessmen and their expertise in facilitating business and making things happen in a stagnant and new economy. The Mafia considered them as a good source of hard currency, to be extorted under the usual guise of "protection money". Many different Mafia groups would fiercely compete to be able to "protect" a certain businessman; in exchange, the businessman would not have to worry about having more than one group showing up demanding tribute from him. Many foreign businessmen left Russia after these incidents.

[edit] Non-Russians associated with the Russian Mafia

  • Paul Tatum: American joint owner of Radisson-Slavanskaya Hotel (Гостиница Рэдиссон-Славянская) in Moscow; was shot 11 times in the head and neck (his attacker knew he was wearing a bulletproof vest) and killed in a sensational shooting in a Moscow Metro station in November 1996 for refusing to pay "krysha" (крыша, "roof" in Russian, in slang meaning "racket money") and to be squeezed out by a silent partner. Tatum was surrounded by his own bodyguards when attacked; however, they made no attempt to save him and allowed his attacker to escape unharmed. Tatum had, only weeks before this, taken out a full-page ad in a local newspaper denouncing his Chechen partner Umar Dzhabrailov (Умар Джабраилов) for trying to squeeze him out of their hotel joint venture. Tatum, a multi-millionaire, had connections to the then U.S. President Bill Clinton and many high ranking Moscow politicians. His murder has not been solved.
  • Ken Rowe: Canadian businessman and joint owner of Moscow Aerostar Hotel; threatened by the Russian mafia in an attempt to force him out of a joint hotel-airline venture. Mafia at one point entered the hotel with armed men and forced all employees out. Rowe later fought back and seized an Aeroflot aircraft in Montreal to recover his award in a Russian court.

[edit] Popular culture references

[edit] Films

Though not as prominent as their Italian-American counterparts, Russian or FSU mobsters have appeared in a number of Hollywood films usually as villains or antagonists. These include GoldenEye, 25th Hour, Ronin, Be Cool, The Italian Job and Bad Boys II. Recently, the David Cronenberg film Eastern Promises dealt vaguely and inaccurately with the Russian mob in London.

There have of course been many Russian films on the subject, probably the most well-known of which is Brother (Брат) and Brother 2 (Брат 2). The anti-hero protagonist, Danila, is a Chechen war veteran who becomes a contract killer in St Petersburg. The film and it's sequel became wildly popular amongst the Russian youth.

[edit] Video games

The Russian mafia are present in many video games, mostly as enemies to the player, including Max Payne, Stranglehold and the Grand Theft Auto series. They appear as an ally in Mercenaries: Playground Of Destruction.

[edit] Comics/anime

[edit] Fiction

[edit] Television

  • The Russian mafia (or "Bratva") plays a prominent role in the season 2 episode "Honor Among Thieves" of the crime drama Criminal Minds.
  • The Russian mafia appear in several episodes of The Sopranos, most memorably in the episode "Pine Barrens".
  • Other American television series have also made use of Russian gangsters, such as the characters of Yuri Kosygin, Nikolai Stanislofsky, and Alexander Vogel in the TV series Oz.
  • The Russian miniseries The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed and Brigada explore the Russian mafia post-World War II and post-communism respectively.
  • Award-winning TV show The Shield makes several references to the Russian Mob, who are known among the detectives by the acronym R.O.C (Russian Organised Crime), and are a distinct entity from the Armenian Mob who feature prominently after the money train heist.
  • In the 7nt season of "CSI:Miami, the team is hunted by the mob

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Glenny, Misha (2008), McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, passim.
  2. ^ Varlam Shalamov, Essays on Criminal World, "Bitch War" (Shalamov's essay online (Russian)) in: Varlam Shalamov (1998) "Complete Works" (Варлам Шаламов. Собрание сочинений в четырех томах), vol. 2, printed by publishers Vagrius and Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, ISBN 5-280-03163-1, ISBN 5-280-03162-3
  3. ^ A. V. Kuchinsky Prison Encyclopedia, (Кучинский А.В. - Тюремная энциклопедия, a fragment online (Russian))
  4. ^ BBC News - The Rise and rise of the Russian mafia
  5. ^ Vory v Zakone has hallowed place in Russian criminal lore
  6. ^ MSNBC- Russian mob trading arms for cocaine with Colombia rebels
  7. ^ FBI Official Website - Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov
  8. ^ BBC News - Spain raids 'major Russian gang'
  9. ^ Oleg Liakhovich, "A Mob by Any Other Name", The Moscow News.
  10. ^ B. Ohr, Effective Methods to Combat Transnational Organized Crime in Criminal Justice Processes, U.S. Dept. of Justice.
  11. ^ Домашняя библиотека компромата Сергея Горшкова (Home library of Sergei Gorshkov)
  12. ^ US, COMM, PERM, p. 201.
  13. ^ Russian-Armenian organized crime 'like the 1930s New York mob', Los Angeles Daily News.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  15. ^ The HUMINT Offensive from Putin's Chekist State Anderson, Julie (2007), International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, 20:2, 258 - 316, page 309.
  16. ^ Wise guys, tough guys, dead guys] John Silvester, The Age December 14, 2003
  17. ^ Why gangland's bloody code is hard to crack John Silvester, The Age April 20, 2003
  18. ^ Kavkaz Center - Georgian Police Seize House of Top Russian Mafiosi
  19. ^ Jürgen Roth, Die Gangster aus dem Osten, Europa Verlag Publishers
  20. ^ Bandits, Gangsters and the Mafia (Martin McCauley)
  21. ^ Hughes, James, Chechnya: The Causes of a Protrated Post-Soviet Conflict, 2001
  22. ^ BBC News- Alleged Russian mafia boss cleared
  23. ^ Semyon Mogilevich, the 'East European mafia boss', awaiting his trial in Moscow jail
  24. ^ Glenny (2008), Op. cit., pp 72-73.
  25. ^ Aleksandr Zhilin, The Shadow of Chechen Crime Over Moscow, The Jamestown Foundation 1999
  26. ^ BBC article, with information on Alexander Solonik
  27. ^ BBC News, So Who are the Russian Mafia?, BBC Online Network, April 1, 1998
  28. ^ CNN:Russian organized crime implicated in skating scandal

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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