The Russian Mafia

The Russian Mafia

Private Protection in a New Market Economy

Oxford UP, 2001




  • Innovative


Running a business in Russia is every bit as unsavory as you might imagine, according to Federico Varese's thoroughly researched look at that nation's organized (but not very organized) criminals. Even the lowliest shopkeeper faces shakedowns from drug addicts and teenage thugs, as well as bribe demands from tax collectors and police. In this chaotic climate, the protection racket thrives. Pay the right person, and not only will the shakedowns end – you might even gain a business partner and a fishing buddy. But the penalties for making the wrong move can be severe. One shopkeeper who refused to pay up was burned to death in his store. Varese offers an intricately detailed look at the realities of the Russian Mafia. His excellent reporting is undermined only by his frequently academic writing style. getAbstract recommends this guide to those who are doing business in Russia or who hope to. Caveat entrepreneur.


Organized Criminals Fill a Power Vacuum

Russia's rocky shift from communism to capitalism in the early 1990s created a climate in which organized criminals thrived. For starters, the end of the planned economy created instant property owners, and those new capitalists suddenly had to worry about having their property robbed, pilfered, swindled or otherwise taken against their will. Fueling this fear was the chaos that followed the Soviet Union's collapse. Public safety plummeted. The number of recorded crimes in Russia increased 70.2% from 1989 to 1995; in the city of Perm, east of Moscow, crime climbed 113.4% in the same period.

As Russia changed and society staggered, people lacked recourse from threats. During the Soviet era, the state monopolized public protection. At the same time, communism bred widespread distrust among Soviet citizens. Every Russian viewed every neighbor as a potential spy or informant. When communism collapsed, a fractured society followed and the state could no longer protect its citizens, nor did it. Russians had little choice but to turn to private protection rackets to ensure their property rights. People saw the courts as a glacial, ...

About the Author

Federico Varese, Ph.D., an academic expert on organized crime, is a professor of criminology at the University of Oxford. He has taught at Williams College and Yale University.

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