Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Russian Mafia appears to be organized in similar ways to the legendary Italian mafia. However it is believed to be a very loose organization with internal feuds and murders, which are often brutal, being commonplace.
Despite seeming to arise during the Fall of the Soviet Union, organized crime had existed throughout the Imperial and Communist eras as a form of open rebellion against the systems in the form of the "Thief's world". During this time they were fiercely honor based and often attacked and killed traitors among their ranks. Nevertheless, during World War II, many enlisted in the Russian Army resulting in the Suka Wars which killed many of the thieves who were branded as government allies as well as the original thief underworld during Stalin's reign. The criminals, seeking a new survival strategy, began to ally with the elite in the Soviet Union as a means of survival, creating a powerful Russian black market.
Despite the Kremlin's attempts to reform, the criminals continued to grow in power. Nevertheless, the real breakthrough for criminal organizations occurred during the economic disaster of the 1990s that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Desperate for money, many former government workers turned to crime and the Mafia became a natural extension of this trend. According to official estimates, some 100,000 Russians are hard-core mobsters, with a large, but unknown number engaging in these criminal practices on and off.
Many of the bosses and main members of the Russian mafia are believed to be ex-Soviet Army and ex-KGB officers who lost their posts in the reduction of forces that began in 1993 after the end of the Cold War. It is also believed that many of the groups' enforcers are ex-Russian Spetsnaz special forces, an organisation renowned for its brutality. Russian mob recruited a lot of sportsmen - boxers and other martial artists, and weightlifters, as funding for sports had decreased sharply, and they could offer decent income to strong men.
Since the mid-90s the Russians have been trying to expand into America, most often via the trafficking of drugs and illegal weapons. This has led to some brutal wars with the organizations already present, including the Italian Mafia and the Japanese Yakuza. The group is believed to have links to Colombian drug smugglers and many smaller gangs as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union. Some also believe they are at the heart of gangs smuggling illegal workers west to the European Union and often Britain, though no proof has been offered for this at the time.
Over the last few years, the FBI and Russian security services have cracked down hard on the Mafia, though the impact of this has yet to be measured. Many mafioso have become rich in America and have begun to imitate the Italian Mafia in lifestyle. This has led to the apparent softening of the mafia, though in reality they may well be as dangerous as ever.
The term Russian Mafia is considered offensive by many ethnic Russians, since a large percentage of the alleged "Russian" mafiosi, especially in the United States, claim to be ethnic Jews from the former Soviet Union. Due to strong anti-semitic feelings in parts of Russia, many Russians do not feel that Jews are authentically Russian. In fact, the Russian mafia is sometimes described as "the Russian mafia, made up of Jews and Chechens". The predominance of Jewish-identifying Russian mobsters can be explained by the fact that many immigrants from the former Soviet Union were ethnic Jews. However, it should also be noted that many Russian gangsters claim Jewish descent in order to get an Israeli passport, as the activities of the Russian mafia are particularly concentrated there - by one 1998 estimate, the Russian mafia had put some $4 billion into the Israeli economy. The former Soviet Republics of Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Moldova have their own mafias, with extensive links to the mafia of Russia.
The oligarchs such as Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky and other prominent Russian Families of Jewish ethnicity such as the Vicefield/Litvinoffs , have all had alleged links with the Russian Mafia. Their connections with the state of Israel are extensive.
References and further reading
- James O. Finckenauer & Elin J. Waring , Russian Mafia in America: Immigration, Culture and Crime, Northeastern University Press Boston, 1998, ISBN 1-55553-374-4.
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